Author: Ron Graham
—Elymas and others like him
It is a very serious thing to be a hinderer of any good cause, let alone to hinder the gospel of Christ. "Woe unto you! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye have entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Luke 11:52). Jesus was addressing the religious leaders of His day.
Paul's efforts to convert the proconsul of Cyprus to Christ were being frustrated by Elymas the sorcerer. Paul struck this hinderer blind for a season (Acts 13:6-12).
Hinderers are not uncommon today. They meet with the same divine displeasure as those hinderers of the first century. "Ye did run well," said Paul to the Galatians, "Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal. 5:7-8).
The persuasive influence of the hinderer spreads insidiously among God’s people as yeast in a loaf of bread being baked. It is not of God, but of the devil. It was men who hindered Paul on yet another occasion. But he did not say, "men," he said, "Satan hindered us" (1Thessalonians 2:18).
Having noticed the grave identification of the hinderers with Satan, let us study the cause: what makes one a hinderer of the gospel?
Firstly, there is worldliness. "Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul ..." (1Peter 2:11-12). From the rest of this passage it may be inferred that other souls are involved besides our own. If our fleshly lusts are made manifest in evil works, those who behold will be hindered from obeying the truth.
2 Stirring up Strife
Secondly, there is strife and division. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members?" (James 4:1).
Needless to say, the connection between this and the previous point is so close as to make those who cause and foster strife among God’s people hinderers and servants of Satan together with the worldly. The tongue that is down on those who commit errors of intemperance, immodesty, lasciviousness, fornication, adultery, etc., is often the very tongue that stirs up strife.
3 Abuse of Liberty
Thirdly, there is abuse of our liberty in Christ. "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak." (1Corinthians 8:9).
The Christian is a free agent, bound by nothing more restrictive than the word of God. But he must avoid the appearance of evil when exercising this freedom before others. In their weakness, their consciences may bind them tighter than the word of God, making them susceptible to offence. If we are inconsiderate in this respect, we make ourselves hinderers.
Fourthly, there is sectarianism or denominationalism. "Mark them which cause divisions and offences [or hindrances] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but... deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17-18).
When people cling to their divisive creeds, or when people sever themselves from other churches of God in a sectarian spirit they become hinderers. Almost everyone recognises the fact that the disunity resulting from the above is a hindrance to the gospel.
Finally there is modernism. "There be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-8).
The influence of modernistic theology has been a great hindrance to the gospel. Some even extend themselves to denying such things as the integrity and the verbal, plenary inspiration of the scriptures, the resurrection, supernatural miracles, the virgin birth of Christ, and even the existence of a Personal God and his laws of morality.
We have seen that to be among the hinderers is to be seriously identified with Satan. Among those who hinder the gospel of Christ are the worldly, the troublemakers, the inconsiderate of weak consciences, those possessed of a sectarian spirit, and the modernists.