Today is one of those nasty, winter days when it’s not cold enough to snow, not warm enough to be outside, too wet to want to get out of your car, and too windy to keep your umbrella over your head. Yuck.
And so I wasn’t surprised to feel a cold shiver as I drove to work this morning. I was pondering the state of the Churches of Christ as evidenced by this Quail Springs thing, when I realized that the lessons I’ve been posting come together to produce a bone-chilling conclusion. I’d been in my car for a while, and it was actually quite warm in there. The chill was from the thought, not the air.
This is kind of hard to explain. You’ve got to start by reading the last two posts on Galatians.
Now, I’m quite serious. You can’t read any further without having read those two posts, because if you do, what I’m about to say won’t make any sense. In fact, it’ll make me seem mean spirited. And that’s just not the case. So click and read both posts.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul says that the world without God is perverse and filled with many obvious sins because “God gave them over” to such wickedness. Just in case we weren’t paying attention, he says it three times. I’ve only quoted the last of the three.
Why did God do this? Why would God want the lost to act so horribly? Obviously, God’s desire is that the lost be saved; but so long as they are lost, it serves God’s purposes for the futility and self-destructiveness of their existence to be manifest. It serves God’s purpose for the lost to be obviously different from the saved.
Now, here’s the point. When a community of people has rejected God’s grace, sometimes God gives them over to sin, not because he wants them to sin, but because he wants everyone else to see them as sinners.
Consider the list of sins Paul gives us –
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, … and depravity. They are full of envy, … strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Now reflect for a moment on the mindset of those who spent $12,000 to publish an ad in the Oklahoman advising those outside the Churches of the decision of three ministers to “disfellowship” another minister of the gospel.
There in verse 30 is the word translated “slanderers” in the NIV but as “backbiters” in the KJV. Barclay says backbiting “describes the open loud-mouthed attack, the public vilification of some person whose views are different.”
Finally, do a quick Google on “Oklahoman” and “Church of Christ” and “music.” A precious few condemn the ad. A few others dance around the issue, denying having paid for it but failing to say it was wrong. But most of the hits are websites sponsored by a Church of Christ member praising the ad — approving of the practice!
I’m old enough to be certain that 40 years ago very few, if any, would have approved taking our disputes before the world, especially through such an ad. I can’t imagine B. C. Goodpasture or Guy N. Woods condoning — or ignoring — such sin. It’s unthinkable that Gus Nichols or G. K. Wallace would have blessed such behavior. But the Churches are changing.
I hope I’m wrong. I pray that I’m wrong. But I’m wondering if we’re seeing a sign of God’s judgment on our legalism. I’m wondering if God is withdrawing his Spirit so that those who so press us into a works salvation are shown to be opposed to God. I’m wondering whether God is “giving over” some within the Churches of Christ. And if he is, I’m wondering if the rest will heed the warning.
K. C. Moser’s commentary, The Gist of Romans, published in 1957 (as revised in 1958) says as to this passage,
Now, what did the Gentile world need? How could the Gentiles be saved? Did they need the law of Moses? Did they need any legal system? Law simply cannot cope with the problem of sin. Law can neither furnish an atonement for sin nor provide a basis for holiness. Sinners need a Saviour, a sin-offering, a propitiation, and mercy. “Schemes” and “plans” legalistically conceived avail nothing. Sinners need Christ.
p. 8 (emphasis in original).
Reflect back on the two lessons on Galatians linked to above. Now consider this also from Moser –
When, therefore, are believing in Christ, repenting, and being baptized obedience to the gospel? The gospel is Christ crucified for our sins. (I Cor. 15:3,4.) The above conditions, therefore, constitute obedience to the gospel when they are responses to, and express reliance upon Christ crucified. To obey in the above respects simply because one has been commanded to do so, is to ignore the cross and render it void. Faith in Christ, is faith or trust in him as the sacrifice for our sins. Merely to believe in him as God’s Son with no thought of the cross is not enough. See Rom. 10:9. Likewise, to repent with no thought of Christ crucified, and to be baptized, except as a response to his death for our sins, are not enough. Luke 24:46,47 and Acts 2:38 definitely relate each to the cross. And Paul in Rom. 6:3,4 connects baptism with the death of Jesus. In all of his obedience the sinner should know that he is responding to the blood of Christ, not merely recognizing the right of Christ to demand obedience.
p. 9 (italics in original; boldface is mine).
As Paul wrote in Galatians,
(Gal 5:6b) The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
His point is that faith in Jesus counts, and love counts — if coming from faith in Jesus, and nothing else does. That’s what “only” means. Therefore, adding circumcision, holy days, or even a cappella singing as tests of salvation is to teach a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all (Gal 1:6-7).
(Gal 5:4) You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
We must come to Jesus and seek grace by his sacrifice — only. As soon as we claim merit of our own works, as soon as claim our obedience separates us from the lost, well, we’ve made the gospel void.
And if we void the gospel, there comes a point when God will give us over to disgraceful sin — allowing us to prove to the world and, hopefully to the church, that such teachings lead down a very, very dangerous path. Such disgraceful sin is a warning: walk along this path and you’ll suffer this fate.
Now, I say again, I pray that I’m wrong. Nothing would make me happier than to get an email or a comment showing how I’ve misread God’s word. I’m not trying to score debating points. Rather, if I’m right (and I hope to God I’m wrong) I have to sound the warning. Someone does.
Please, if I’m wrong, show me. But if I’m right, help me sound the alarm! I just pray it’s not too late. You see, I’m truly, deeply scared for many of us. And it chills me to the bone.