It seems that almost every day we hear of behaviors that are amazingly foolish or downright bizarre. We think that we have now seen ultimate craziness, only to be surprised by something that is even stranger. Unfortunately, this seems to be taking place in the church as well as culture. Perhaps you have heard of the recent prayer breakfast in South Carolina. There, congresswoman Nancy Mace was to give her testimony and to introduce Senator Tim Scott. In the course of her introduction, she shared how hard it was for her to get to that prayer breakfast on time. Why? Because her fiancé wanted her to stay in bed with him. She assured him that she would return and there would be plenty of time for their extra-curricular sexual activities. One ought to immediately wonder why a professing believer would make public (at a prayer breakfast!) her sexual immorality. Culturally fornication is no big deal as evidenced by secular commentators, but the Bible condemns it. Doesn’t she realize that her behavior goes contrary to God’s standards? Is she guilty of ignorance of the Scriptures or has she blindly accepted the cultural norms?
Today, living together by unmarried men and women (including those who claim a relationship with the Lord Jesus) is culturally acceptable and even encouraged. Much of the blame goes back to the churches. For example, churches in large numbers are departing from the plain teaching of the Bible on sexual matters, including homosexual relations. Instead of addressing such matters from the biblical perspective, the emphasis is that we are to love them as they are. Such teaching, however, is declared to be unhealthy, unsound teaching and contrary to the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10-11). People are, of course, to be loved, but never their sin. When it comes to holding to unbiblical positions that disregard God’s righteous standards, the Apostle Paul is pretty direct that there are serious consequences to holding such a position (Rom. 1:18-32). Many of the culture’s views on human life, human sexuality and human marriage are seeping into churches and are now heard as positives (or at least not negatives) in pulpits. In an attempt to be “relevant”, “loving” and “open”, the church is losing any real impact on this world. How can people claim a relationship with Christ and yet leave the standards of Christ found in the Bible, and apparently do so without hesitation?
The Perspective of the Apostles. Directed by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul’s writings provide so much of the doctrinal and practical framework of our Christian faith. Peter was his fellow apostle and placed Paul’s writings as part of the Scriptures. Once Peter talked about the difficulty in understanding many of Paul’s writings and noted that the “untaught and unstable distort” Paul’s writings as “they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16). Certainly, a truth for today. Paul’s letters were identified as inspired scripture and as authoritative as the writings of Moses, the Prophets or the authors of the gospels.
Paul once wrote to the Galatian churches when it seemed that they were turning away from the doctrines that he had taught them. He made a critically important statement in Galatians 1:6 when he said: “I am amazed that you are so quickly (suddenly/impulsively) deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel”. It is important to observe that Paul did not say that the Christians of Galatia were quickly leaving the truth Paul had taught them. That was true, but his point was that they were suddenly deserting the Lord Himself. This emphasis is often overlooked, but is so very important. God and His truth are inseparable. To walk away from one is to walk away from the other. To disregard God’s Word on a matter is to simultaneously disregard God Himself. So, today when a Christian chooses to set aside the principles of Scripture on any given matter, that believer is also separating himself from the God of the Word in spite of their claims. The Apostle John agrees with Paul’s point. John said, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God…” (2 John 9).
In our current church climate, we do see many in the church who claim to be in fellowship with Jesus Christ but are living in immorality, or embracing the world’s views about same-sex marriage, or support the “un-aliving” of babies in the womb (aka “abortion”), or promoting “Christian disciplines” which are really occult practices that have come from Buddhism (such as “contemplative prayer”), and so many more unscriptural philosophies and ideas. Their claim of fellowship with Christ cannot be true if Christ’s principles are not followed. The Apostles are abundantly clear that you cannot turn away from God’s laws and principles without turning away from God Himself. This biblical truth of the inseparableness of God and God’s truth is one of the most insightful truths that give us aid in evaluating fellowship claims; first, in our own lives, and secondly in the lives of other believers. And yes, we are to be evaluating fellowship claims, which is part of responsibility as believers.
Our Response to the Current Church Climate. To view ourselves as spiritually superior to these fellow believers is not the right response. It remains for us to “walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8b). Walking with such humility is only possible when we “fear the Lord”; that is, when we see God correctly which results in us seeing ourselves correctly.
However, we nevertheless must be fiercely loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ and His word. We are seeing very real slippage within the “evangelical” church. And perhaps none is more disturbing than to see this slippage on the matter of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. This leads to the kind of compromise with the culture that we are speaking about. We must not give an inch on the matter of the inspiration, authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures. Our task is to come to a greater understanding of the Scriptures and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to apply it to our own life and then to employ it in our relationships.
Our Responsibility to These Believers. We do have a responsibility to other believers who, because of ignorance of God’s truth or hypocrisy, are departing from the Lord God and His truth. Hebrews 3:12-13 teaches that believers can indeed have hearts that become evil and unbelieving of God’s truth and that this can lead to sin that hardens them. It also says that fellow believers are tasked with encouraging them to change their ways. To do this, it would require that we have a working understanding of God’s Word, and approach them with grace and an unshakable loyalty to Christ and His word (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Our Evaluation at the Judgment Seat. This loyalty to the Word of God will have a significant role at our future appearance before Jesus Christ. Loyalty to the Word of God will impact the future as well as the present. The New Testament is clear that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). One of Christ’s main criteria in evaluating us will be how our lives aligned with His Word (1 Cor. 1:18–3:15). Did we live and serve Christ according to the principles given in God’s Word? To those who do, there will be great reward. But as the Apostle Peter taught, damage comes to the one who neglects or sets aside God’s standards.
God and His Word. God has spoken and He has not stuttered. Since He does not lie, all He has said is true. He will fulfill everything that He has promised and that He has warned about, exactly as He said He would. He has promised great blessing to those who follow His Word, and He has promised significant negative consequences to those who neglect or disregard His Word.
GOD AND HIS WORD ARE INSEPERABLE, and a person cannot depart from the principles and commands of the Word without simultaneously departing from God Himself. This vital truth gives us insights into relationship claims that are made by believers. And it gives great clarity in evaluating what is going on in the church and in the world, as well as our own lives. This is not “bibliolatry” (Bible worship) as some claim, but rather reflects a crucial reality found in the Scriptures themselves. May we be people of the Book…growing in our understanding and appropriation of His inerrant, authoritative Word.