If one is filled with the love of God and therefore is filled with indignation at the perpetration and defense of sin, what will he do?
He might run away from it; and in certain circumstances certainly ought to run away rather than take part in it. The words of Paul in II Corinthians 6:14-18 apply then. Righteousness can have no fellowship with unrighteousness. Light can have no communion with darkness. Christ has no concord with Belial. And faith hath no part with the infidel. The believer is told to come out from among these unbelievers and be a separate people. The faithful—as we pointed out before—are called out of the church at Laodicea where Christ is no. longer preached. Likewise the Israelites are told not to marry the heathen or allow their idols to be kept in the land. Physical separation from people and, from objects may in some circumstances be quite mandatory. And a man may have to leave his job and place of employment when sin is practiced and demanded in that job and at that place of work. This often becomes a very real and necessary step.
But this is not necessarily the first step or required immediately. Often that righteous indignation and wrath ought to take a different course. Especially, although by no means exclusively, when that sin or false doctrine is perpetrated by a brother in Christ, the first step is not to run away from him and sever all connections with him. It becomes quite mandatory to cut out the cancerous tissue when it is found. But all abnormal conditions in the members of our bodies do not call for this extreme remedy. One does not at the first sign of heart trouble advocate cutting it out! Nor does one as soon as nearsightedness develops in an eye demand that it be plucked out! No, you first try to cure that diseased member. And in the Church as well, exactly because wrath and anger need not be the opposite of love but are in the Church rooted in the love of God, we seek to cure, to correct the brother rather than cut him off.
For this Jesus gave to the Church the keys of the kingdom. Although ultimately, if the member is not cured and the disease reveals itself after all as being cancer, or his disease is a very contagious one and there is fear of it spreading through the whole church, he may have to be “quarantined” or even cut off, the idea of the keys of the kingdom is not quickly to get rid of the member. Those keys are to keep in as well as keep out. Often that which is in and shows desire to get out actually belongs in. And the key power when applied brings him to his spiritual senses so that he considers the awfulness of being outside and repents of &l ways. Jesus did that with Peter when he wanted to walk in his own strength. He warned Peter of what was coming. He even told Peter that He prayed for him because Satan wished to silt him as wheat. But it was also only in the way of Peter’s cursing and swearing that he did not know the man and that he did not belong to His kingdom that Peter was brought to the consciousness of the awfulness of being outside.
There is therefore also with the individual member in the Church the calling to rebuke, to exhort, to admonish and point out the better way.
Men do not want that as far as their flesh is concerned. Few there are that appreciate this medicine. Usually we find the “patient” spitting it out in our faces and hating us for it. This is nothing new. Cain hated Abel for pointing out to him the better way. John tells us that he slew Abel because his brother’s works were righteous and his own were evil. Abel spoke in very reserved and brotherly language. There was no pride in his speech. He meant no evil but sought his brother’s good. And he was hated for it to the point of murder! The Israelites repeatedly told the prophets to keep still. Many prophets were put in prison and killed for their good testimony and admonitions. Jesus was despised because He pointed out the evil of the scribes and Pharisees. Men who hated the truth hated those who hated the lie. It has ever been thus. It is that way today. Point out the error of a church or denomination. Plead with individuals or churches to cast away their philosophies that insult the living God and liken Him to a weak and changeable man. Most likely you will be hated for it.
Luther had all the good intentions of the world to open the eyes of the church to evils that were practiced and heresies that were taught. He saw the beautiful and comforting truth of justification by faith and not by works. He wanted the whole church to share in that comfort. He had a tremendous personal struggle with his sins and with a guilty conscience. It was as water to a dry and thirsty land. It was peace for a troubled soul when he found the truth of God’s Word. He wanted all God’s people, all his fellow clergymen, the priests and bishops and even the pope himself to see this glorious truth and have its joy. What did he get for it? Hatred, ridicule, persecution and danger for his life I But we know that he did right. We know that he meant no destruction of the church. We know that he sought the good of that church and had no intention whatsoever of separating from it.
On a smaller scale this has happened repeatedly through the ages since that great reformation. Men have seen the light. They have spoken and sought to convince others, to exhort, admonish and share the truth but received only hatred for their efforts.
Today it is considered love and mercy to let one continue in his sin. If we speak one word of disagreement with his beliefs and practices, we are branded as evil critics, narrow-minded faultfinders. We are considered to be obstructionists in the great and wonderful ecumenical calling to establish one church on this earth. Well, you may say something about the Roman Catholics. But even then you must grant them the right to their opinion and respect their beliefs.
This is not according to the Word of God. First of all, as we pointed out before, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.”Hebrews 12:6. It was always to Israel that He sent His prophets and not to Egypt or Assyria. When the ten tribes departed after the gods of the land, He raised up an Elijah and an Elisha to these erring brethren. Through these prophets He exhorted, admonished and came with scathing rebukes. He arranged that whole tremendous display on Mount Carmel with the Baa1 prophets and the fire that came down from heaven to consume the water and the sacrifice to point out to His people the error of their ways. He raised up a John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord so that men might receive the Christ when He came. And John minced no words in calling the attention of that generation to the evil of their way. Did he lack the love of God? Was he an obstructionist who stood in the way of many true children of God coming to the light and believing in the Christ? Nothing is farther from the truth. He was sent to prepare the way for Christ; and he did prepare that way to such an extent that Jesus said that he was the greatest of those that were born of women. And did not Jesus Himself drive the wicked out of God’s temple? Did He not tell them in so many words that they intended to kill Him? Was all this lack of love?
No, Jesus loved God, and consequently He was filled with righteous wrath against all that which denied God. And in that righteous wrath He admonished, He warned, He rebuked and exhorted. O that the love of God in us would be so great that we would not be such small people as to flare up in unrighteous wrath when we are rebuked for our heresies and evil works! It is the small man who cannot stand to have sins exposed for correction. Jesus had a word for it when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” And again when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Ah, indeed! Sin and evil, false doctrines and the lie do not enter that kingdom. God grant us meekness and a humble opinion of ourselves so that we do not want to hold on to our sins after they are shown to us! We shall never enter that kingdom with our sins. Nor will pride ever open that kingdom’s doors for us to enter.
When our sins and our untenable doctrines, our inconsistent philosophies and fleshly theories are made plain to us, let us not be filled with unrighteous wrath against the one who makes it plain to us. Let us rather be filled with righteous wrath against these evils and by God’s grace determine to put them away as far from us as we can. And let us thank God that there are brethren who are concerned with our spiritual wellbeing and take the time to point out to us the errors of our ways. Listen to the wisdom of Solomon, that wisest of all mere mortals, in Proverbs 13:1, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction; but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” And again in Proverbs 19:20, 25, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.”
The men at Berea were a case in point. Paul came with a new doctrine. He showed them that Christ was come as the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Scriptures. Did they drive him out of their city and in an unrighteous wrath persecute him as did many of the Jews? They did not. They searched the Scripture daily, whether these things were so. Acts 17:11. And it makes no difference whether one is, reproved for an evil walk and practice or for defending and holding on to heresies. Search the Scripture and heed its instruction; and you will be wise in the fear of God’s name.
That church that refuses to admonish, that allows first this evil and then that evil to remain in its midst, sanctions this corruption and that corruption because to discipline would cut too deeply into the membership, is inviting all kinds of future trouble. Early in life the child ought to be taught td be filled with righteous indignation at all appearance of sin. Dull his senses by letting evil grow in the church unreproved and covered up in a false pretense of love, and you will reap the whirlwind. Similarly it is with the truth. It is one whole. Attack it anywhere and let a crack appear in that wall of truth, and the whole wall will eventually fall down. It makes no difference where we begin to question the doctrine once delivered to the saints. Ultimately we will always end up by denying God. And one of the prevalent ways of the day to, destroy the truth is exactly to present it as love to let a man continue in his wrong beliefs and sinful practices. That is the lukewarm age in which we live. You cannot get people interested in discussing the differences even. Anything goes. You believe what you want and let me believe what I want to believe. Treat me in love by letting me have my opinion; and I will do the same to you. That is today’s attitude. O, for more righteous wrath!
O, for that love of God whereby we hate sin and in His fear become angry with our own flesh!