Updated: Mar 30, 2022
One of a number of tactics that preachers or others often utilize in order to remain above reproof and discipline, is the misapplication and abuse of Scripture. Matt 18:15-20 is very popular but has absolutely nothing to do with preachers publicly preaching or teaching. Its Biblical use is limited to personal offence between professing believers of the same local church. For instance, when a professing believer slanders and talebears against a brother in the same church he attends, thus transgressing against him, this passage would come into play. It doesn’t even apply between professing believers of different churches.
Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed (1 Sam 24:10).
One of the attacks on the necessity and command of exercising spiritual discernment and warfare frequently employed today, is the clever “one-liner” of “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” (or something like it) which is lifted completely out of its context and meaning in 1 Sam 24. More often than not, it tends to encourage what God’s Word has forbidden, or discourage what God's Word has commanded. The “Lord’s anointed” are allegedly pastors and “Christian” leaders that are above reproof. Time and again the cry is heard (typically in conjunction with 1 Tim 5:19) as a counter to censor and inhibit those who attempt to alert the unsuspecting of dangerous and unbiblical error or of false teachers or particular ministries. As a result, these highly exalted pastors or religious figures or anyone else for that matter, fall into a category that is apparently safe from scriptural examination and testing, reproof, rebuke, exposure and public warning. Since they‘re so great and all, perhaps having hundreds in their churches or thousands influenced by their ministry, they must be God's anointed—so don't you dare "touch" them! This is serious man-centred heresy and a major cause of the pastoral/church corruption noted on every hand today, dovetailing with the astronomical amount of unchecked scripture corruption and false doctrine (as foretold in 2 Tim 4:3-4).
This misused and abused phrase is lifted from 1 Sam 24:10, where David said: “Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord [king Saul]; for he is the LORD’S anointed.” This was about not killing, physically and literally, an anointed king of Israel, same implication as Ps 105:15, to do “[God’s] prophets no harm.” It implied swift judgment for pagans who would come against God’s chosen people. Apparently some evangelical and Baptist preachers (and their loyal followers) think they are earthly kings or OT prophets! And apparently they think that someone who tests and reproves them is trying to physically harm or kill them!
But even Israelite kings could be reproved by preachers! And so can evangelical and Baptist and Mennonite pastors, or anyone else for that matter. Read Pr 12:1; 13:1; 15:32; 24:11-12, 23-25; Ac 17:11; Rom 16:17; Eph 5:11; 2 Tim 3:9; Ti 2:15; Ju 1:3-16 for instance. Matter of fact, not doing so is actually unBiblical and rebelliously disobedient to Gods Word (carefully read Pr 24:11-12; Rom 16:17-18; 2 Cor 5:11-20; Eph 5:11; Ac 17:11).
A look at the actual context from which this phrase is lifted provides clear-cut proof that scriptural reproof and rebuke does NOT constitute "touching God's anointed" at all. In fact, God made sure that Saul was forced to face up to his disobedience. Samuel certainly didn’t draw back but “touched the Lord’s anointed," if by that you mean sharply reproving (1 Sam 15:22-23) Sauls disobedience (1 Sam 15:20). God had told Saul to "Smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not” (1 Sam 15:3), but under a pretext of “pious” intention, he "spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord” (v 15). Partial obedience is stubborn disobedience and wicked rebellion, tantamount to witchcraft and idolatry (vv 22-23)! It’s evil and revealing of the true heart condition, something also extremely prevalent today (as Scripture warns it will be, in 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:5-13; 4:3-4).
This present subject is a good example of this, of the age of apostasy we live in. Instead of testing and exercising discernment of all things and reproving error and exposing false teachers, etc—while piously giving lip service to it of course, as long as its not us or our friends or favourites—people use this clever one liner (“touch not the Lords anointed”) to forbid what God repeatedly and clearly commands. In this manner the truth is suppressed and error propagated, quite the opposite of what Scripture demands, and the result of that we can see on every hand today, not just in the churches, but in the world in general. Scriptural reproof and rebuke of disobedience and doctrinal error is not "touching the Lord’s anointed." It is compliance with God's order. The king of Israel was judged according to the Lord's commandments, and no man today is exempt from this same kind of biblical scrutiny.
David refused to harm or kill the Lord’s anointed (Saul), even though in doing so, he would rid himself of his arch enemy, and also clear the way for his own ascent to the throne (1 Sam 24:1-15). God, not David, would remove Saul in His time and way (1 Sam 26:8-10).
The Hebrew word for “anointed” in 1 Sam 24:10 is “mashiyach,” meaning messiah and translated twice as such. It refers to one that is consecrated. The kings and prophets of the OT were anointed, so as to receive the Holy Spirit Who would be with them but not necessarily permanently. In many of his sermons, Reg Kelly claims to seek after the unction and anointing of the Spirit, teaching that one may Him or one may not, yet be saved if he doesn’t have Him (e.g. sermon “Saved by Grace”). No, that is unscriptural and man-centred heresy, an attempt to put the “man of God” on the podium onto a pedestal that doesn’t exist. In this present age EVERY saved person is anointed and has the unction (1 Jn 2:20, 27). The anointed (the saved) have the Anointing, the Holy Spirit, dwelling in them permanently (1 Jn 2:27; 1 Cor 6:19-20), NOT just pastors or some other leader. “But ye [the saved who John was writing to] have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things. . . . But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 Jn 2:20, 27). If you don’t have the “unction,” then you’re unsaved. And everyone in the NT church is EQUAL before God (Col 3:11-13), hence why the Pauline church epistles are written to all the people of the particular congregation, not to pastors specifically.
To wield 1 Sam 24:10 like a saber at a sincere saint alarmed at error and false doctrine smacks of spiritual tyranny, cowardice and dishonesty. In spite of clear debunking this unscriptural philosophy some still claim there is a "secondary application" found in this text which would bar any negative comment about someone’s teaching, for this, too, would constitute speaking against one of God's servants and is, in essence, "touching the Lord’s anointed." Is this a viable application? Absolutely not! When the Bible speaks of wresting Scripture, this could certainly be considered an example of that.
Accuse Not an Elder (1 Tim 5:19).
This passage is frequently brought into the fold but it’s likewise misused and abused. Hammered also with 1 Tim 5:19 (and others), a concerned watchman is usually bullied into silence or into leaving the church. This is true. The “accusation” against an elder has nothing do with exposing compromise, sin, error or false teachers but rather accusation against his character and life, which is what the context of 1 Timothy 5 is teaching. 1 Tim 5:20 is conveniently ignored in their abuse of scripture: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” That means to expose before all, as Paul did leading by example in naming ten professing Christians in 1 and 2 Tim, and as he did with Peter before the entire church of Antioch and for the rest of the world to read (Gal 2:11-15).
UnBiblical and Unsaved People Don’t Like Negativity or Reproof
It is a rebellious and stiff-necked people that won’t listen to the Word of God but manipulate scripture, because they despise reproof and rebuke, and hate error and sin exposed. But God commands, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” (Ti 2:15). To despise means to detest, feel contempt for, scorn, hate, loathe, shun, to depreciate, etc. That sounds familiar. I’m to however let no man despise me, when I speak, exhort and rebuke. If I say something that is wrong, tell me; otherwise you have a responsibility to listen. The saved servant of Christ is commanded to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim 4:1-2). That happens to be 2/3 negative.
Did you know that negativity happens to be a trait of the Holy Spirit, Who inspired scripture, a lot of which is negative? The ten commandments are essentially all negative. The Holy Spirit, God the Spirit, is the Author of Holy Writ, of which is also 2/3 negative. When the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in and through a believer, the believer will be negative too. Very often, people who are often negative are assumed to be unspiritual. Spirituality is many times seen almost entirely as chipper and upbeat and positive.
John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Lk 1:15). How positive was John the Baptist? Not very. His preaching consisted of one theme: repentance. He was very often as negative as someone could be. Practically everything that was written as to what he said, is negative. That manifested the Holy Spirit in Him. The sermons preached with boldness by the Apostles and others in Acts were very “negative” and sharp. But that was a manifestation of being “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Ac 4:31), since it is the Spirit of God that gives man the ability to speak “the word of God with boldness”
I'm not saying that you should go out of your way to be negative because now you see the Holy Spirit to be negative. No, it will just occur in your life if you are regenerated and filled by the Spirit. You will see error or sin or scoff or scorn or foolishness and you will say something negative about it. It's what the Holy Spirit does. Some may confuse boldness for pride, because proclamation of truth lacks the nuance that some expect of a fake humility.
God's Word tells the faithful servant to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim 4:2) because of unsound doctrine that will come while most people will love to have it so, following “after their own lusts” and “heap[ing] to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim 4:3-4). So no surprise that scripture is manipulated to encourage what God’s Word has forbidden, or discourage what God's Word has commanded, which is one of them fables that the ears of modern “Christians” itch after. Rather, you should not be “as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Cor 2:17).