Yes, the early Church faced powerful leaders who made use of “hate speech” accusations and their own power to try to enforce their will. Yet the believers would have none of it, and this is how they prayed:
Acts 4:29: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants” – what? that the Church should cave in to these evil demands and quit preaching and teaching as the Word of God commanded? No! – “that with all boldness they may speak thy word”! What? Even when it is illegal? Yes! – even then.
Yes, it takes great boldness. It takes immense courage. But the Lord is able to supply these, and believers are not to give in one inch to what the evil ones of this world demand of them.
Acts 5:27,28: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine…”
Quite obviously, the apostles did not obey the “hate speech” commandments their leaders had laid down! They continued to preach wherever they went. And let us take note of their thrilling reply:
Acts 5:29: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
This is the commandment to all God’s people throughout all ages: we ought to obey God rather than men. Yes, we are to obey the authorities; but when those authorities command us to say or do something which the Lord has not commanded, or not to say or do something which the Lord has commanded – then we are to disobey men in order to obey God! This is crystal clear, and there is simply no getting away from it. There is no excuse which can be made, no justification whatsoever, for obeying men rather than God, when what men command is at variance with what God commands.
And again, this is precisely what those faithful believers did. The Scripture goes on to say:
Acts 5:40-42: “when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go…. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
It could not be plainer: “they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus”; yet “they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Acts 6:10: “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he [Stephen] spake.”
This is precisely the problem for so many wicked men, and the reason why they enact “hate speech” legislation: they simply cannot resist the truth of the Gospel. They cannot give an adequate reply to it. They cannot defeat the servants of the Lord in the “open market” of beliefs; in the free speech arena. The only way, then, for them to shut down the truth, is to outlaw it! And so we read:
Acts 6:11: “Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.”
It was a lie; but it was an effective lie. There is nothing so dangerous to the true faith as a false one. Today we hear wicked men saying, “God is a God of love and compassion! He doesn’t condemn homosexuality; it is just another form of sexual love, which he himself has created. We are the tolerant and loving ones; but those Evangelicals, those raving Fundamentalist Christians – they’re hate-filled, intolerant bigots! They must be stopped!” Or they say: “There are many ways to God. God is love, God is companionate, there is no hell, and sin itself is in the structures of society, not in the human heart. These Evangelicals must be stopped! They are dangerous fanatics, motivated by hate.”
Acts 6:12: “And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council.”
And in this modern day? These haters of the truth, of God, of Christ and His Word, have turned vast swathes of western society against the Bible and the preaching of the true Gospel; so that when a Christian is taken into custody for so-called “hate speech”, the people of these countries, once so favoured with the blessed Gospel, say, “He deserves it. He’s a fanatical Fundamentalist. He’s a danger to society. We can’t have people going round saying men are sinners, or that certain practices are sinful. It’s offensive. It’s hurtful. He must be stopped!”
Acts 13:10: when the preaching of Paul was withstood by a man named Elymas the sorcerer, Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to him: “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”
Today the response to such words would be: “Hate speech!” Many ministers would not dare to preach with such language, for fear of being dragged before the courts for “hate speech.” But was it hatred for Paul to say these things? Not at all. It is not hatred to tell the truth, even when the truth hurts or offends. If a man really is full of subtilty and mischief, a child of the devil and an enemy of righteousness, it is not hatred to say so. It is love! For love tells the truth even when it might offend. As Gal. 4:16 says, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
Paul did not hate the man, nor did he wish to harm him physically. But he told the man the true state of his heart. This is not “hate speech”. It used to be called plain speaking, in a better day.
And here is another point that needs to be made, with regards to the use of so-called “hate speech” legislation:
Acts 13:45: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”
First, note that the apostles did not oppose their enemies with anything but the Gospel. They did not threaten them physically; they did not compel them by force; they simply preached. Second, it is most interesting, is it not, that those who today scream, “Hate speech!” whenever Christians preach the truth, never apply the same condemnatory expression to their own words, even though they so often speak with great hatred against Christianity and Christians! They are rude, they contradict and oppose, they swear and scream and call the Christians names; but they are not motivated by hate – oh no, not they! They constantly assure everyone that they are compassionate and tolerant. Yet they are only compassionate towards their own! They tolerate every deviant behaviour, every disgusting and sinful sexual act, every religion and religious practice – except Christianity, Christians, and the holy commands of Christ. To these they show the utmost intolerance.