At the end of Part 1, I was about to say that we are all in this together, but the problem with that statement is that it is false. All those who truly belong to Jesus cry to Him that “the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:19, 24-25). And yet there are those who “have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord” (Jude 4), who “went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). How can we tell them apart? Jesus answers: You shall know them by their fruits.
But practically speaking, how are we to know by their fruits those who are never challenged in their alleged walk with Jesus? The unregenerate man cannot and does not desire to live his whole life for Jesus, so somewhere in there, his dead heart will make itself known. He may preach some semblance of the Gospel, be a churchman, stroke the right egos, and keep up a good appearance as a Christian college president, but then maybe he’ll lie extensively and publicly about his past, then use Bible-y words to justify himself when called on it. He’ll appeal to Bible-y-sounding words like “authority” and “submission” to cow those around him who might be concerned about his behavior and attitude. If no one loves such a man enough to go to him, will this deception not continue unchecked?
It is loving to confront a brother or sister who is sinning, even if you think the sin is small or insignificant. Yes, of course, confront them with love and grace and kindness. Of course. That goes without saying. But do confront them. What if they are a false convert? What if they are mired deep in self-deception? How will that self-deception be exposed, otherwise? Shall we wait around and hyper-Calvinistically hope that the Holy Spirit will magically snap His fingers, or shall we do what we ought to do and step forward to be used as His prescribed means for resolving this issue? If they are servants of the enemy who are bringing reproach and blemish upon the Bride of Christ by their presence, their poor choices, their unenlightened minds and hearts, their worldly comments in Sunday School or Bible Study, their stirring up strife, etc, then they are heaping up judgment and further wrath on themselves. Far better for them if the cancer be exposed now (Eph 5:11) than that they never hear the law and Gospel applied to them. Perhaps they will turn and repent. Perhaps they will stop bothering the church. Either way, the outcomes are all better for the confrontee than if they were to be left alone.
It is loving to the church to do this as well. How can your church fail to be negatively affected if, fellowshipping with you, there are those who are in rebellion to the God you love, worship, and serve? Do you not have the same view as the apostles and prophets, who wrote so strongly against the “false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage” (Gal 2:4), who “are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13)?
Those who do not love the Lord Jesus must be removed from among the community of the faithful if they will not repent. Division for the sake of truth is holy and righteous, which is why Jesus sowed division in John 6 after promising He would do so in Matthew 10. Are you going to wait until your friend has already gone so far into his sin that he has fornicated with his girlfriend, or will you ask him now how he’s doing with his purity, his computer habits, and the fact that there seems to be an awful lot of physical contact between him and her? Will you wait for your deacon to molest five children before you talk to him about his strange behavior and, yes, his computer habits? Will you wait for your cousin to split a church by her evil words before you talk to her about her gossip?
Will you wait for your pastor to embezzle thousands of dollars or wrongfully excommunicate godly members before you ask him about his arrogant heart and invulnerability to correction?
When we are properly settled in our convictions on this matter, we can love the brethren more effectively and more effusively. When our minds are set on the proper identification of this category of the Christian life, we will not be moved even when Christian men, street preachers, or pastors suggest or even declare that there are certain categories of Christians who are not to be reproached if in sin, or who are not to reproach certain others given this or that reason. We will not be dissuaded by empty reasonings from loving our neighbor as ourselves in this way, for we will recognise wholeheartedly that we would desire to be corrected if we were on a path that leads away from the loving Savior who bought us with His own precious blood.
Which brings me back to the friend I mentioned earlier. When I approached him, his response in repentance was immediate, and it turns out he had been languishing in a spiritual doldrum for some weeks or even months, when at times he had even nearly despaired of his own salvation and relationship with the Lord. No man can keep hiding these things forever, and he was no exception. My coming to him in loving concern was, by God’s grace alone, the means by which my friend was encouraged anew, convinced again of the Father’s loving discipline upon His legitimate children (Heb 12:4-11), and strengthened to take up his cross and run the race so as to win. He was glad that I reached out to him.
I invite you to examine yourself and your church as I am seeking to do the same. Will you let your brethren simmer in iniquity, when it is in your power perhaps to agitate them to be free from sin? Will you do as Jesus did and get to the heart and root of the issue with those who along with you profess the matchless Name?
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