Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

Originally published September 28, 2018

“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

Originally published December 4, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to read a fascinating and thought provoking Twitter discussion among some brothers in Christ about what constitutes a false teacher, and whether or not some false teachers might actually be genuinely regenerated Christians.

My working definition of a false teacher is someone who unrepentantly, despite biblical correction, consistently teaches, either implicitly, explicitly, or via his or her behavior, doctrine that is in direct conflict with clear cut Scripture.

It’s not a perfect definition, and I’m sure we can all think of exceptions, but that’s the general guideline I follow before referring to someone as a false teacher. But could someone who, despite correction, persists in teaching things and behaving in ways that contradict Scripture truly be a born again Christian?

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This passage is in reference to the Judaizers, who were preaching a false soteriology. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says twice, of such a teacher, “let him be accursed.” The Greek word anathema, translated “accursed,” means “devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.”¹ Is this something the Holy Spirit would say about someone who is a Christian?

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Verse 2 as well as the phrase “teachings of demons” would seem to indicate that at least some false teachers are not saved. I think it’s fair to say that someone who is a Christian would not be marked by the Holy Spirit as a liar, or someone whose conscience is seared, or someone whose teaching is demonic.

Also notice the false teachings mentioned in verse 3: the forbidding of marriage and the requirement to abstain from certain foods. Some would say that only deviant soteriology qualifies a person as a false teacher, but here the Holy Spirit says false teachings on marriage and food (what most would probably call secondary or even tertiary theological issues) are leading peple to “depart from the faith.” How can someone whose teachings lead people away from the faith not be considered a false teacher? Would someone who is genuinely born again knowingly teach things that lead people away from Christ?

2 Peter 2

Here, Peter gives us a twenty-two verse description of false teachers, their characteristics and their fate. He uses words like destruction, sensuality, greed, condemnation, willful, and blasphemous. Can you think of any passages of Scripture which describe believers with these sorts of words? Read 2 Peter 2 with Galatians 5:22-23, and the character and eternal destiny of believers in mind. Does it sound like Peter is talking about Christians or non-Christians?

1 John

The book of 1 John is practically a checklist for determining whether a person is saved or not. Does the teacher you’re listening to deny her sin (for example, preaching to men) and continue in it, or confess it and repent? (1:8-10) Does she keep God’s commands or walk in disobedience? (2:3-6) Does she hold to apostolic teaching (4:1-6) or leave it behind (2:19)? John draws a very clear line as to who is genuinely saved and who is not.

Jude 4, 18-19

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…[The apostles] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The whole book of Jude deals with false teachers, and can be read and compared with what we know to be true of believers as we did with 2 Peter 2. The false teachers described in Jude do not sound like they bear the characteristics of believers.

Verse 4 seems to deal with those who teach a false soteriology (“pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master…) and says they are ungodly and designated for condemnation. Christians do not fall under condemnation. Verses 18-19, however, describe people who are scoffers, have ungodly passions, cause division in the church, and are worldly (all of which can fall under the umbrella of non-soteriological false teaching). Verse 19 says such people are “devoid of the Spirit.” Notice that “Spirit” is capitalized, which indicates the Holy Spirit. All born again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only non-Christians can properly be described as “devoid of the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

This passage describes false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.”  Verse 15 describes false teachers as servants of Satan. Their end (their eternity) will correspond to the fact that they serve Satan. Christians are defined as servants of Christ, not Satan, and they spend their eternities in Heaven, not hell.

Romans 16:17-18

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

While this passage does not specifically use the term “false teachers” it is clear that people who cause division, create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine, and deceive the naive, “do not serve our Lord Christ.” Christians, by the Bible’s own definition, are servants of Christ, and do not willfully or habitually deceive people, cause division, or create obstacles to sound doctrine.

2 John 9

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Does the teacher you’re listening to “abide” – live in, stay in, walk in – the teaching of Christ, or does she habitually deviate from, or “go on ahead” of it? This verse describes those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ as not having God. Christians are those who abide in the teaching of Christ.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In the first section of this passage, Jesus says we will be able to recognize false teachers by their fruits. Does the teacher you’re following bear fruit in keeping with repentance? What about the trajectory of her life and teaching? Are her teachings, hermeneutics, affiliations, and behavior getting better and more biblical over time, or is she on a downhill slide? What about the fruit of her ministry? Is she producing genuine converts who grow to spiritual maturity, correctly handle and understand God’s word, share the gospel, and disciple others? Jesus says that diseased trees that don’t bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s not imagery the Bible applies to Christians.

The second section of the passage makes it clear that there will be people in hell (non-Christians by definition) who looked every bit like Christian teachers to us on earth. They will do lots of Christiany looking things “in Jesus’ name,” but only those who do “the will of my [Jesus’] Father” are known by Christ (Christians). Are teachers who knowingly twist God’s word, even on secondary and tertiary theological issues, doing the will of the Father? What about those who deliberately walk in disobedience to His word in their own behavior or by their affiliation with those who teach another gospel? Christians are characterized by obedience to Christ and submission to His word.

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Aha! Here’s a false teacher who was a Christian! Or was he? Apollos is actually a great example of someone who was not a false teacher, yet was wrong, initially, in what he was teaching.

Look back at the Scripture reference: Acts 18. Apollos came along during the transition time between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which was in its infancy. The New Testament Scriptures, as we know them, didn’t exist for Apollos to study. There were no Christian seminaries to train him in the full gospel. What Apollos knew and taught was correct, but it was incomplete due to the era and circumstances in which he lived.

So, while Apollos taught inaccurate doctrine at first, he was categorized as a believer (as evidenced by verses 27-28 in which the brothers and disciples endorsed and encouraged him, and he was considered a great help to the church). Why? Because when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained things to him accurately, he readily received correction and immediately began teaching the complete gospel correctly. Receiving correction and upholding and proclaiming the truth of the gospel are hallmarks of a Christian.

These are just a few of the Scriptures that deal with false teachers and false doctrine. All of them seem to at least lean toward calling unrepentant false teachers unbelievers. So the verdict is in, right? People who teach false doctrine are unsaved. Period. Case closed.

Nope. You and I don’t get to make that pronouncement (except in cases in which the person openly denies an imperative soteriological doctrine, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Then, we can agree with God’s word that the person is not saved). We sit on the jury. We look at the preponderance of the evidence. In certain cases we might even believe there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular false teacher is an unbeliever. But, ultimately, it’s not our job to render the verdict or hand down the sentence. In this court system, that’s the job of the judge- God – the only One who can see into the person’s heart and know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he or she is saved.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – even if we personally believe the person is actually saved – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

A large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing us to stay away from false doctrine and those who teach it. Second Timothy 3:5 and Romans 16:17 say we are to “avoid such people.” First Corinthians 5:9-13, speaking about unrepentant sinners who call themselves believers, says that we are to judge those in the church, and we are “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty…not even to eat with such a one.” Second John 10-11 goes so far as to say, “do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

The bottom line is, it’s up to God to say whether or not someone is saved. It’s up to us to prayerfully and biblically determine whether or not her teachings match up with Scripture – regardless of our opinion about her salvation – and, if not, remove those teachings from our churches and our study of God’s word.


1. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV translation, notes on Galatians 1:8, p. 1741.
Trust

In God We Don’t Trust: 3 Ways Bible-Believing Christians Don’t Trust God

“This really is actuallyliterally true,” I found myself urging the ladies to whom I was teaching a Bible lesson.

It was a surreal moment. There wasn’t a woman in that room who would have denied the Bible’s inerrancy or trustworthiness. All of them wholeheartedly agreed with the passage we were discussing and, if asked by anyone, would have said unequivocally that they believed the truth of it.

But there was just this…this thing…nagging at the back of my heart. Why…why did I get the feeling I needed to dig down under their profession of belief in God’s Word and convince them of the gut-level truth of the passage?

I believe these ladies and I were a representative sample of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians. But when I look out across the landscape of denominations and churches and ministries made up of average, genuinely regenerated, Bible-believing Christians, there’s a disconnect between what we say we believe – even what we’re convinced in our hearts we believe – about God, and the way we do life and church.

We’re not living out what we say we believe.

We don’t truly trust who God is, how He works, or what He has told us to do (or not to do) enough to simply take Him at His word and do things His way. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

We trust profession over fruit

If someone has walked the church aisle, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, been baptized, attends an organization that calls itself a church, or simply declares herself to be a Christian, we trust that she’s truly been born again – despite the fact that she follows a myriad of false teachers, gets angry at or argues against the plain reading of God’s Word, lives as a practicing homosexual, runs her life by her own feelings, opinions, and experiences rather than obedience to Scripture, or her behavior is otherwise completely indistinguishable from that of a non-Christian. When it’s our grown children or other deeply loved ones, we cling even more desperately to the belief that “she’s saved because _____”, and she’s safe from an eternity in Hell, regardless of everything we can see in her life to the contrary.

But that is not God’s way. God’s way is that if it walks like a lost duck and quacks like a lost duck, we are to treat it like a lost duck. Yet, we don’t do that. We hide behind “Only God knows the heart,” or “Maybe she’s just backslidden or a ‘carnal Christian’,” when the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. Yes, God is the judge of whether or not someone is ultimately saved, but God has not called us to be the final arbiter of salvation. He has called us to lovingly urge sinners to repent and believe the gospel regardless of their church pedigree or claims of being a Christian. Those who repent and pursue holiness, though imperfectly, are the ones who are genuinely saved.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:16-21

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do we trust the profession faith of someone whose life screams, “LOST!” over God’s Word that teaches us that saved people bear fruit in keeping with repentance and pursue holiness?

We trust man-made solutions over
God’s prescribed methods

Nowhere is this clearer at present than in the social justice movement. Even professing Christians are dreaming up all sorts of ways to right real and perceived wrongs against sexual perversion minorities, blacks (What about other ethnic minorities?), and women. It’s only natural that the world would come up with man-made solutions to these problems, but the church is embracing the ways of the world instead of applying the ways of God.

The world’s solution to the “problem” of sexual perversion not being embraced and celebrated is to socially and legally force dissenters to comply. Financial reparations from people who never owned slaves to people who have never been slaves is the solution to racism. Replacing men in power with women in power will end sexism. Many in evangelicalism are aping these humanistic ploys by accepting the idea of “gay Christianity,” insisting on fabricated “diversity” in congregations, ministries, and denominational leadership, and allowing women to serve as pastors and in other positions of teaching or authority over men in the church.

Again, coming up with our own solutions is not God’s way. God’s way is for us to understand what is sin and what is not, and how to biblically deal with sin.

We need to trust God’s word that there’s a difference between sinfully hurting someone and hurting someone who’s sinning. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt doesn’t mean she has been sinned against. If I call someone names or treat her unkindly because she is a homosexual or a certain ethnicity or a woman, I am sinfully hurting her. If people are hurt when I humbly, lovingly, and kindly teach what the Bible says about homosexuality or repenting for the sins of my ancestors or the biblical role of women in the church, and call to repentance those who believe and act unbiblically in these areas, they are hurt because they are sinning.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

We also need to stop viewing sin as systemic – as though racism, “homophobia”, and sexism were living, breathing beings we need to conquer – and start trusting God’s way of holding individuals responsible for their own sins. What is God’s way for us to deal with an individual who is, according to God’s Word, sinning?

Lost sinners: We share the gospel with that person. When God raises a sinner from death in her trespasses and sins to new life in Christ, He breaks the power sin has over her and enables her, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to obey His commands. He changes her from a creature who loves sin into a new creature in Christ who hates sin. If you want someone to stop being racist, sexist, or unkind to sexual perversion minorities, plucking leaves off the weed isn’t going to do it. You need the Master Gardener to pull that pernicious plant up by the roots and plant a rose bush in its place. If we really trusted God to transform the heart of a sinner like He says He will, we’d be out there sharing the gospel with everyone we know and we would stop relying on man-made solutions to sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-5,10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

✢ Saved Sinners: When a Christian sins, we go to her in love, humility, and kindness, and gently point out what God’s Word says about her sin and her need to repent. If she doesn’t immediately repent, we continue praying for her and calling her to repentance until she proves that she loves her sin more than she loves Christ. Then we regard her as a lost person in need of salvation and preach the gospel to her (see “Lost Sinners” above).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

God has never asked us to brainstorm solutions to these issues. He has already laid out in the Bible how we’re to handle problems and hurt and wrongdoing. We often give lip-service to His instructions, but we don’t trust that they will “work”, because, fundamentally, we don’t trust God to do what He says He’ll do in the heart of a sinner or a Believer.

We trust our own efforts over the power of God

It’s a good thing – a godly and biblical thing – to want unsaved people to know Christ and avoid an eternity in Hell. All of us who claim the name of Christ should have this burden for the lost.

But we have to sit down and really come to grips with the fact that salvation is all of God. If a person gets saved, it ultimately does not matter what lengths you went to in order to “get her saved”. Your efforts didn’t save that person. God drew her to Himself and gave her the gift of repentance and faith in Christ. He saved her. He knows whom He will save and when and under what circumstances. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing when it comes to salvation.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:63-65

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The vehicle God has chosen to deliver the message of salvation to the lost is the preaching of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14,17

We have the joy and the duty to share the gospel with the lost, but our faith should not be in our ability to share, or our method of sharing, but in the power of God working through His Word that is shared.

Every Christian I know would agree with that statement. But do we really believe it? Instead of simply presenting the gospel to people as we go about our daily lives (as the Great Commission instructs us), pastors preaching the gospel, and elders and teachers teaching the gospel, we trust in our own efforts more than we trust God’s sovereignty in salvation.

We change our church services to be “seeker sensitive,” trusting in cool music and coffee bars and skinny jeans to make Jesus appealing to haters of God. We join cultural causes – like the aforementioned social justice movement – to get the world to like us, thinking, “If we can compromise with the world just enough, we can get them to like us, and then we can introduce them to Jesus, and they’ll like Jesus too.” Wives of unsaved husbands nag-vangelize – undoubtedly out of love and concern – thinking if they just keep trying, they’ll manage to come up with the exact right combination of words at the exact right time, and their husbands will get saved. We offer a dumbed-down gospel, simplistic sinner’s prayers, mood-altering music during the altar call, urgency, scare tactics, guilt – anything, anything, anything…as long as it’s the magic formula to get them through the gates of the Kingdom.

It is wonderful and godly to have that kind of zeal for people to know Christ, but zeal becomes the sin of presumption if it leads us to trust in our own efforts to save someone – especially if those efforts conflict with Scripture or alter the gospel – rather than presenting the biblical gospel, stepping back, and trusting God do His amazing work of salvation. Do we really trust God to be able to save someone through the simple proclamation of His Word?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

If we truly took God at His Word, the visible church would look very different today. We say we want to see God at work in our churches, families, and the world, but, somehow, we think we’ve got to push Him along to make that happen. We over-complicate things and get lost in the weeds of programs and movements and methods and efforts instead of opening our Bibles, believing what God says to believe, doing what God says to do, and trusting Him to do everything else – in His power, in His way, and in His time.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Can a False Teacher Be a Christian?

false teacher christian

I recently had the opportunity to read a fascinating and thought provoking Twitter discussion among some brothers in Christ about what constitutes a false teacher, and whether or not some false teachers might actually be genuinely regenerated Christians.

My working definition of a false teacher is someone who unrepentantly, despite biblical correction, consistently teaches, either implicitly, explicitly, or via his or her behavior, doctrine that is in direct conflict with clear cut Scripture.

It’s not a perfect definition, and I’m sure we can all think of exceptions, but that’s the general guideline I follow before referring to someone as a false teacher. But could someone who, despite correction, persists in teaching things and behaving in ways that contradict Scripture truly be a born again Christian?

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This passage is in reference to the Judaizers, who were preaching a false soteriology. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says twice, of such a teacher, “let him be accursed.” The Greek word anathema, translated “accursed,” means “devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.”¹ Is this something the Holy Spirit would say about someone who is a Christian?

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Verse 2 as well as the phrase “teachings of demons” would seem to indicate that at least some false teachers are not saved. I think it’s fair to say that someone who is a Christian would not be marked by the Holy Spirit as a liar, or someone whose conscience is seared, or someone whose teaching is demonic.

Also notice the false teachings mentioned in verse 3: the forbidding of marriage and the requirement to abstain from certain foods. Some would say that only deviant soteriology qualifies a person as a false teacher, but here the Holy Spirit says false teachings on marriage and food (what most would probably call secondary or even tertiary theological issues) are leading peple to “depart from the faith.” How can someone whose teachings lead people away from the faith not be considered a false teacher? Would someone who is genuinely born again knowingly teach things that lead people away from Christ?

2 Peter 2

Here, Peter gives us a twenty-two verse description of false teachers, their characteristics and their fate. He uses words like destruction, sensuality, greed, condemnation, willful, and blasphemous. Can you think of any passages of Scripture which describe believers with these sorts of words? Read 2 Peter 2 with Galatians 5:22-23, and the character and eternal destiny of believers in mind. Does it sound like Peter is talking about Christians or non-Christians?

1 John

The book of 1 John is practically a checklist for determining whether a person is saved or not. Does the teacher you’re listening to deny her sin (for example, preaching to men) and continue in it, or confess it and repent? (1:8-10) Does she keep God’s commands or walk in disobedience? (2:3-6) Does she hold to apostolic teaching (4:1-6) or leave it behind (2:19)? John draws a very clear line as to who is genuinely saved and who is not.

Jude 4, 18-19

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…[The apostles] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The whole book of Jude deals with false teachers, and can be read and compared with what we know to be true of believers as we did with 2 Peter 2. The false teachers described in Jude do not sound like they bear the characteristics of believers.

Verse 4 seems to deal with those who teach a false soteriology (“pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master…) and says they are ungodly and designated for condemnation. Christians do not fall under condemnation. Verses 18-19, however, describe people who are scoffers, have ungodly passions, cause division in the church, and are worldly (all of which can fall under the umbrella of non-soteriological false teaching). Verse 19 says such people are “devoid of the Spirit.” Notice that “Spirit” is capitalized, which indicates the Holy Spirit. All born again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only non-Christians can properly be described as “devoid of the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

This passage describes false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.”  Verse 15 describes false teachers as servants of Satan. Their end (their eternity) will correspond to the fact that they serve Satan. Christians are defined as servants of Christ, not Satan, and they spend their eternities in Heaven, not hell.

Romans 16:17-18

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

While this passage does not specifically use the term “false teachers” it is clear that people who cause division, create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine, and deceive the naive, “do not serve our Lord Christ.” Christians, by the Bible’s own definition, are servants of Christ, and do not willfully or habitually deceive people, cause division, or create obstacles to sound doctrine.

2 John 9

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Does the teacher you’re listening to “abide” – live in, stay in, walk in – the teaching of Christ, or does she habitually deviate from, or “go on ahead” of it? This verse describes those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ as not having God. Christians are those who abide in the teaching of Christ.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In the first section of this passage, Jesus says we will be able to recognize false teachers by their fruits. Does the teacher you’re following bear fruit in keeping with repentance? What about the trajectory of her life and teaching? Are her teachings, hermeneutics, affiliations, and behavior getting better and more biblical over time, or is she on a downhill slide? What about the fruit of her ministry? Is she producing genuine converts who grow to spiritual maturity, correctly handle and understand God’s word, share the gospel, and disciple others? Jesus says that diseased trees that don’t bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s not imagery the Bible applies to Christians.

The second section of the passage makes it clear that there will be people in hell (non-Christians by definition) who looked every bit like Christian teachers to us on earth. They will do lots of Christiany looking things “in Jesus’ name,” but only those who do “the will of my [Jesus’] Father” are known by Christ (Christians). Are teachers who knowingly twist God’s word, even on secondary and tertiary theological issues, doing the will of the Father? What about those who deliberately walk in disobedience to His word in their own behavior or by their affiliation with those who teach another gospel? Christians are characterized by obedience to Christ and submission to His word.

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Aha! Here’s a false teacher who was a Christian! Or was he? Apollos is actually a great example of someone who was not a false teacher, yet was wrong, initially, in what he was teaching.

Look back at the Scripture reference: Acts 18. Apollos came along during the transition time between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which was in its infancy. The New Testament Scriptures, as we know them, didn’t exist for Apollos to study. There were no Christian seminaries to train him in the full gospel. What Apollos knew and taught was correct, but it was incomplete due to the era and circumstances in which he lived.

So, while Apollos taught inaccurate doctrine at first, he was categorized as a believer (as evidenced by verses 27-28 in which the brothers and disciples endorsed and encouraged him, and he was considered a great help to the church). Why? Because when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained things to him accurately, he readily received correction and immediately began teaching the complete gospel correctly. Receiving correction and upholding and proclaiming the truth of the gospel are hallmarks of a Christian.

These are just a few of the Scriptures that deal with false teachers and false doctrine. All of them seem to at least lean toward calling unrepentant false teachers unbelievers. So the verdict is in, right? People who teach false doctrine are unsaved. Period. Case closed.

Nope. You and I don’t get to make that pronouncement (except in cases in which the person openly denies an imperative soteriological doctrine, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Then, we can agree with God’s word that the person is not saved). We sit on the jury. We look at the preponderance of the evidence. In certain cases we might even believe there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular false teacher is an unbeliever. But, ultimately, it’s not our job to render the verdict or hand down the sentence. In this court system, that’s the job of the judge- God – the only One who can see into the person’s heart and know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he or she is saved.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – even if we personally believe the person is actually saved – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

A large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing us to stay away from false doctrine and those who teach it. Second Timothy 3:5 and Romans 16:17 say we are to “avoid such people.” First Corinthians 5:9-13, speaking about unrepentant sinners who call themselves believers, says that we are to judge those in the church, and we are “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty…not even to eat with such a one.” Second John 10-11 goes so far as to say, “do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

The bottom line is, it’s up to God to say whether or not someone is saved. It’s up to us to prayerfully and biblically determine whether or not her teachings match up with Scripture – regardless of our opinion about her salvation – and, if not, remove those teachings from our churches and our study of God’s word.


1. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV translation, notes on Galatians 1:8, p. 1741.
Forgiveness, Hell, Justice, Old Testament, Salvation, Sin, Sunday School

Follow Up Week ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-1-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 22 ~ May 25-31
Psalm 131, 138-139, 143-145, 127, 111-118, 37, 71-72, 94, 119:1-88; 1 Chronicles 26-29; 1 Kings 1-4; 2 Chronicles 1

Follow Up Week

Last week, we had a lot of great questions that I didn’t feel we had the opportunity to discuss thoroughly enough. This week we’re going to take an in depth look at three of those questions.

Follow Up: Zeruiah
Last week, we saw David repeatedly refer to Joab and Abishai as “sons of Zeruiah,” and a question arose as to what he meant by that. Was it an insult? An identifier? Here, briefly, is some clarifying information:

Zeruiah was David’s sister (1 Chronicles 2:15-16). Her sons were Abishai– one of the chiefs of David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:20), Joab– commander of  David’s army, and Asahel (Asahel was murdered by Abner, commander of Saul’s army (2 Samuel 2:8), at the battle of Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:18-24). Abishai and Joab later took revenge on Abner for killing their brother (2 Samuel 3:24-30).)

images

 

Abishai, Joab, and Asahel were brothers and also David’s nephews. Therefore, calling them “sons of Zeruiah” may have had one of several meanings:

1. “Sons of Zeruiah” was just another way of saying “my nephews.” It is possible that this was to distinguish them from other men close to David who had the same names. (For example, in this week’s reading, we saw a man named Shimei (1 Kings 1:8, 4:18) who was a different person from the Shimei we studied about last week.) Adding such an identifier to someone’s name was common in biblical times before surnames were in general use (eg. Joshua son of Nun, Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus of Nazareth, etc.)

2. It is possible David had a close relationship with Zeruiah and had great respect for her. Perhaps when David called his nephews “sons of Zeruiah” he was reminding them to live up to their mother’s good character.

3. It is possible David had a contentious relationship with his sister and had little respect for her. Perhaps when David called his nephews “sonsof Zeruiah” when annoyed with them, he was implicitly saying, “What else can you expect when they had a mother like that?”

Since the Bible provides very little information on Zeruiah, we can’t definitively say why David would use this phrase; we can only speculate. Click here for more information on Zeruiah.

 

scales of justice

Follow Up: Shimei, David, and Solomon
Last week, we studied the story of Shemei cursing David, and David’s subsequent sparing of his life (2 Samuel 16, 19). This week, we saw the death of David and Solomon’s accession to the throne (1 Kings 1-2). We also saw David, from his deathbed, give instructions to Solomon regarding Shimei, and we saw how Solomon carried them out (1 Kings 2). Was David sinning by going back on his word to Shimei? Let’s take a look.

Two Different Justice Systems
In order to understand the dynamics of the situation between Shimei and David and Shimei and Solomon, we first have to step outside our 21st century United States understanding of “the justice system” and step back in time into the Old Testament monarchial justice system.

The American System:
In the American justice system, justice supersedes leadership and is a separate entity from leadership. We have the judicial branch of government (courts, judges, jails, lawyers, etc.) and the executive branch of government (the President, state governors, etc.). They each have their own powers and responsibilities, and, for the most part, are separate from, and not dependent on, one another. For example, if someone is acquitted of a crime during one person’s presidency, he cannot later be convicted of that same crime solely because someone else becomes President and thinks he should be convicted. (Obviously, there are exceptions and corruptions to this system, but, generally speaking, in a nutshell, this is how it is supposed to work.)

Old Testament Israel’s System: 
In Israel (and other monarchial or dictatorial nations), there was no separation of powers. Legislative (making the laws), judicial, and executive powers all resided in one man: the king. And, the rules could change every time a new king took over. Your verdict, conviction, and sentence lasted only as long as the reign of the king who handed them down unless the next king chose to honor those decisions. This is one of the reasons the death penalty and maiming (cutting off someone’s had for stealing, for example) were more prevalent during those times. If you were the king and wanted to make sure someone was punished long term and that your verdict would not be overturned, death or maiming were your main options.

Shimei’s Sentence (1 Kings 2:8-9, 2 Samuel 19:23, 1 Kings 2:36-46)
As we saw in this week’s reading in 1 Kings 2:8-9, David did not put Shimei to death himself or during his own reign. Additionally, because of the way Israel’s justice system worked, it would have been impossible for David to swear to Shimei that he would never be put to death, because David had no control over what the next king would do. David’s oath was only good for the duration of his own reign. Thus, he did not break the oath he made to Shimei in 2 Samuel 19:23.

David did, however, take full advantage of Israel’s system of justice, the fact that Solomon had made no such oath to Shimei and the fact that Solomon was his son and would be likely to do as he asked. In 1 Kings 2:8-9, David didn’t come right out and tell Solomon to execute Shimei, but he hinted pretty strongly at it.

Solomon, perhaps wishing to honor the spirit of David’s oath to Shimei in 2 Samuel 19, while still carrying out David’s desire in 1 Kings 2 that Shimei be punished, did not condemn Shimei to immediate death, but, rather, put him under “house arrest” (1 Kings 2:36-37). Shimei could not leave Jerusalem or he would be executed, but as long as he stayed in Jerusalem, he was free to live his life as he wished. Shimei agreed to this (2:38) and made an oath to the Lord that he would obey (2:43). Shimei could have lived out the rest of his life peacefully in Jerusalem if he had just abided by the rules of his sentence. He broke the rules; he knew the consequences (2:39-46).

 

deathbed-2

Follow Up: Can a Christian be forgiven for a sin he commits on his deathbed and doesn’t have the opportunity to repent for before dying? Will he go to hell for this? 
This question arose last week as we briefly touched on David’s deathbed instructions to Solomon regarding Shimei. Although it doesn’t appear that David was actually sinning in that particular case, this question is a very good one that I wanted to address more fully because it has application for all of us since we all sin and will all die one day. In order to answer this question, we need to take a look at several things regarding sin, forgiveness, and salvation.

The soteriology of the question (John 10:26-29, Romans 8:1-2, 33-39, 1 John 2:1-2) 
Soteriology is the field of theological study that deals with salvation: what it is, what it isn’t, and how it happens. We know that in order for a person to be saved and spend eternity in Heaven he must turn from his sin (repent), and place his faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on his behalf as payment for his sin.

John tells us that, for those who have truly been born again, no one is able to snatch them out of Christ’s or the Father’s hand. This includes Satan. Romans tells us (8:33-34) no one has the authority to condemn or to bring charges against God’s elect, because God is the one who has justified them and He has already said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1-2). Satan no longer has the authority even if we sin, to drag us off to hell, and God has promised that he will not condemn us to hell if we are in Christ. And if/when we do sin, 1 John tells us that Christ has already stepped in between us and the wrath of God as our advocate, offering His righteousness on our behalf.

Bottom line: If you have truly been born again, God’s got you and there’s not anyone or anything that has the authority to change that.

The hamartiology of the question (Hebrews 10:11-14): 
Hamartiology is the study of sin. We sin before we’re Christians. We sin after we’re Christians. We will never be completely free from temptation and the effects of sin this side of Heaven. The truth is, unless you are capable of knowing every single sin in your life (Remember all those sins you committed when you were three? Neither do I.) and you die immediately after repenting of the last one, you’re going to die with unconfessed sin in your life. That’s pretty much every Christian. We sin so much that there are sins we don’t even realize or remember we’ve committed. How can you repent of something you’re not even aware of? So, no, a true Christian will not go to hell for failing to repent of an individual sin committed right before death.

As the old hymn says, “Jesus paid it ALL.” Hebrews tells us that Jesus died “once for all”– one time to pay for all sin, from the creation of the world until its destruction at the end of time. When we come to Christ for salvation, while we may repent of individual sins that are heavy on our hearts, what we are really doing is confessing that we are, and repenting for being, a sinner. If we had to repent of every individual sin no one could ever be saved because no one could remember all the sins he’s ever committed. For those who are in Christ, every sin in our entire lives, from birth to death, is forgiven.

Daily repentance and forgiveness:
So, if the sins we have forgotten about, and the sins we aren’t aware of, and the sins we don’t have a chance to repent for before dying are all forgiven anyway, why is any other sin any different? Why do we need to repent of our sin and ask for forgiveness every day when we pray?

Obedience (Matthew 6:12):
We do it out of obedience. Jesus tells us in the Lord’s Prayer to daily ask God to forgive us for sinning. So, we do.

Awareness and thankfulness (Psalm 32:1-2)
When we spend time in prayer daily repenting of our sin it reminds us of the greatness of God and His grace in forgiving our sin. It humbles us by reminding us of the great cost of our sin. It reassures us of God’s love and mercy towards us. It gives us an opportunity to give Him praise and thanks for forgiving us.

Restored relationship (1 John 1:6-9)
When we have unconfessed sin in our lives, it creates a rift (of our own making) between us and God. When we confess our sin to God and ask Him to cleanse us from it, that sin is no longer a hindrance to clean, unfettered communion with God.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.