Over a century ago, William P. Merrill wrote the words to the challenging hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God!”1 Back then, the modernist movement within churches and Christian colleges was capitulating to Darwinian evolutionary philosophy, rejecting the clear creation message of Genesis, and sweeping the doctrine of inerrancy into the garbage bag of “textual criticism.” But even as the fundamentalist movement fought back with evangelistic fervor, much ground was lost in Western Christianity as the gap theory tried to solve the scientific issues with an imaginary solution of a pre-Adamic age that supposedly occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The scoffers Peter warned about in 2 Peter 3:3-4 largely had free reign until the middle of the 20th century, when ICR’s founder and a handful of others rose up and led a resurging challenge to those who “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
Over the past 20 years, however, a growing tolerance for compromise with the teachings of Scripture has spread among Christians—so much so that no less a media personality than Bill O’Reilly challenged the Christian community to stand up for moral and ethical behavior! Where has the courage of godly men gone? What happened to holy boldness? Have we grown so accustomed to intellectual debate that we cannot confront those who scoff at the Word of God? Are we so enamored with the love of God that we have forgotten God hates sin and “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3)? Have we forgotten that He placed clear warnings throughout Scripture? We are accountable to the whole Word of God—not just our favorite verses.
Yes, God does love the world, and we are the ambassadors who are to plead with the sinner “on Christ’s behalf, [to] be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The gospel is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16), and we are never to neglect the opportunity to preach, teach, speak, share, and otherwise declare the glorious news “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But we must never forget that while those who trust in Christ receive His gift of eternal life, those who do “not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
Surely we must remain aware that the broad way leads to destruction and many follow that road straight into the pit of hell (Matthew 7:13-14). Those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) are becoming more and more articulate and defiant and are gaining open access to our universities, politics, and media at an alarming rate. Suppressing the truth is evil no matter how eloquent the speaker. Edmund Burke has been quoted as noting: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”2
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
There is a time to confront evil men who place their human judgments above the Word of God. Fallen men do not have the right to judge the Word and tell others what it means to them; human opinions and expectations are not revelations from God.
Peter warned that there would be “false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). Paul insisted that the last days would encourage a litany of godless behavior of those who would maintain “a form of godliness” but deny “its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus insisted that we should not give “what is holy to the dogs” or throw the “pearls” of God’s words to “swine.” The reality is that those dogs and swine would only trample the precious revelation of God “under their feet” and then “turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
Godless men hate God, and that hatred spews out in hatred for God’s people. Some indeed are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). There are those who deserve the “perfect hatred” of a holy heart that loves the words of God and loves the message of the Kingdom:
Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:21-22)
Those who love the Kingdom do not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly” or stand around “in the path of sinners” or sit down with “the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). But withdrawal from the lifestyle of the godless is not enough! We must actively engage the enemy and seek to stop the impact.
Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Engaging the enemies of God is not a simple task—nor is it a private war. One of Paul’s great enemies was Alexander the coppersmith. He did “much harm” to Paul and “greatly resisted” the words of the apostle (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Nehemiah endured a constant and ever-increasing effort on the part of Sanballat and Tobiah to undermine, discourage, and even murder him (Nehemiah 2–6). There are many such examples in Scripture. Opposition to the cause of Christ is an absolute given! Please recall the warning of the Lord Jesus:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21)
But this should never be taken as a fearful thought! While the enemy may well seem to have the upper hand from time to time and through various seasons in history, his winning is only just that—a brief time and a season that ends when he ends! “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36). Our tasks and our responsibilities may be exercised during time and history, but the great Church of the Lord Jesus is an eternal entity, the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23).
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!
Goliath of Gath was that huge Philistine who terrified the armies of Israel and disdained little David. Goliath only saw the ruddy shepherd teenager and the cringing army of Israel. David said to him:
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
The boldness necessary to confront the many enemies of God and resist their widely varied efforts to undermine and defy the work of Christ does not lie in the human strength of any of us. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3). The objective of this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12-18) is not to destroy the human instruments of the great Adversary but rather to bring their “thoughts” captive!
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The battle we fight is an intellectual one (2 Corinthians 11:3), just as the transformation we must make to our lifestyle starts in our minds (Romans 12:1-2). If we are to capture “every thought” as we fight against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), then we must “rise up” in the confidence that “[we] are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
– William Pierson Merrill (1867–1954), author of numerous books and hymns, was a graduate of Rutgers College and Union Theological Seminary who pastored Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. He wrote the verses to “Rise Up, O Men of God” while on a steamship, when, as he later wrote, “suddenly this hymn came up, almost without conscious thought or effort.”
– Edmund Burke (1729–1797) was a British statesman and influential political thinker.
By Dr. Henry Morris III who is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Henry Morris III, D.Min. 2015. Rise Up, O Men of God!. Acts & Facts. 44 (6).