Who are you to judge another’s servant?
To his own master he stands or falls.
Indeed, he will be made to stand,
for God is able to make him stand.
I recently heard a teacher use this verse as a reason why we should not correct someone publicly, even when what they believe is demonstrably incorrect according to scripture. It was all in the context of one person thinking they knew better than the other and that such things must not be so. The bottom line, it's not for any of us to correct anyone on the nebulous "non-essentials."
But where are those "non-essentials" listed? I have not seen them.
But wow, Romans 14:4, we shouldn't judge another servant?
Does Romans 14:4 apply to that teacher's opinion regarding correction?
Well, the context for Romans 14 deals with people's conscience that Paul calls "weak" or easily offended.
Matters of foods, days, feasts etc. Paul says the mature should take into account their weak conscience and
defer to them so as not to stumble those with a weaker conscience.
So, the chapter is clearly misapplied to doctrine, should one try to use it that way.
Now, as far as doctrine is concerned, do we let it ride so as not to offend those with wrong doctrine? Can we make the leap from conscience to doctrine using Romans 14? Not hardly. In the very same book of Romans, Paul tells the same readers (not pastors) in 16:17:
Now I urge you, brethren,
note those who cause divisions and offenses,
contrary to the doctrine which you learned,
and avoid them.
He has a much different standard for doctrine as opposed to conscience. If a doctrinal view is unscriptural,
it needs to be addressed. Doctrine is the dividing line that triggers the identification of the one peddling
bad doctrine and then emploring the healthy to avoid the unhealthy doctrine. Pretending there are not
differences or avoiding their discussion is not unity, it's ignorance. Especially those who are teachers
and love the flock God has entrusted to them. If they do not warn that flock, then who will?
That is why Paul also told Timothy in II Timothy 3:16 that correction and reproof
is one of the reasons Scripture was provided.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness...
It begs the question, can a person (a pastor in Timothy's case) teach Scripture and not correct and reprove?
Is not most all of Paul's writing for the purpose of correction of doctrine in the early church?
Should we ever have an opinion, then find a passage that sounds similar and then claim scripture agrees with me? The answer is, of course, no. Scripture is the arbiter of truth and we need to agree with it.
How could it be any more simple?
People like using Ephesians 4:16 to show why we need to forget about divisive doctrine and fighting over
non-essentials. Here is what it says:
16 From whom the whole body, joined and
knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which
every part does its share, causes growth of
the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Pretty compelling, right? Wrong. Look at Verses 14-15
14 that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about
with every wind of doctrine, by the
trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness
of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may
grow up in all things into Him who is
So which is it? The answer is yes.
For the body to be knit together and functioning properly there must be a knowledge of what is true and correct doctrinally.
Nowhere does Paul mention essential and non-essential.
That is an error of modern pragmatism within the church.
Paul was no such man.
The Christian church is in a time of deep peril. A steady, yet gradual, movement away from Biblical truth has been underway in the modern churches for decades. Churches are becoming a place where people can identify with a brand (Christianity) and not The Savior (Jesus Christ). Church has all too often become a place to be dazzled by visually stunning, program-oriented, highly entertaining productions, all designed to appeal to the senses and emotion.
Seeing that all of this is going on, shouldn’t we ask, where is the message of Salvation? Where is the message of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ? Where is the weighty message of the innocent Son of God, paying the price for our guilt caused by our sin? People are made to feel comfortable, rather than being told the truth. People are entertained and moved along their way, without ever having been confronted with their most desperate need, the available forgiveness for their sin. Should any of this come as a surprise? Not really because we have been warned. Paul told us in I Corinthians 1:18,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing”
And so we see churches avoid the foolishness they see in The Cross, as Paul put it. But there is more to this story and it is the second part of Paul’s message to the Corinthians
“...but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
A friend recently brought something to my attention and it was chilling to read. What I read was written in the late 60′s and the copy I had in my hand was from 1971. It was prophetic in ways that were profound to me. Our current state of affairs in the church is so thoroughly predicted that it could have been written yesterday instead of 40 years ago.
Here is a portion of what I read.
With increasing frequency the leadership of the denominations will be captured by those who completely reject the historical truths of the Bible and deny doctrines which according to Christ Himself are crucial to believe in order to be a Christian. In some of the largest Protestant denominations this has already taken place. The few remaining institutions which are not yet dominated by the disbelievers will go downhill in the same manner.
There will be unprecedented mergers of denominations into “religious conglomerates.” This will occur for two reasons: first, most denominations were formed because of deep convictions about certain spiritual truths. As more of the truths are discarded as irrelevant because of unbelief in Biblical authority, there will be no reason to be divided. Unity is certainly important to have, but never, according to the teachings of Christ, at the expense of the crucial truths of Christianity.
Secondly, as ministers depart from the truths of the Bible they lose the authority and power that it has to meet real human needs, and as many ministers who are not truly born spiritually themselves and are consequently without the illumination of God’s Spirit, they no longer will be able to hold their present congregations, much less attract others. So they resort to “social action gimmicks,” super-organization, and elaborate programs as a substitute.
As Paul predicted concerning these ministers in the last days: holding to a form of godliness [literally religion] although they have denied it’s power….. And again he says
“they are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth." II Timothy 3:5 & 7
The Late Great Planet Earth Pg. 182
Hal has had his share of ridicule by his sceptics, since this book was published. However, regardless of one’s view of the entire book, he seemed to have had a firm grasp on the direction and inevitable destination of the modern seeker-friendly and emerging/emergent church movements.
We should all stay on guard,
It’s a term we hear thrown around in church constantly, usually so as to benefit the ministry or minister who speaks of it. In fact, it is used so often, people might not fully realize what it means, nor could they find examples of it in the pages of scripture.
Genuine “revival” comes when people see the sin around them, seek God in a place of humility, acknowledge their offense and turn from what they have become. Some may call that repentance, but saying sorry is not repentance. There needs to be a change of conduct, life and focus.
One of the best examples anywhere in scripture is found in II Kings 22 and 23. It tells of Josiah, the king who followed Manasseh (after the brief two year reign of Amon who, like Manasseh, was wicked) Manasseh and Josiah ruled Judah for a total of 87 years (55 and 32 years respectively.) One was the epitome of wickedness and the other, Josiah, a man who was tender toward the things of God. For a full look at Manasseh, look at II Kings 21.
As for Josiah, he is a better figure to study. He began his reign at age 8 and the reforms he instituted did not begin until 18 years into his reign. That was when he instituted the repair project to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the time of the repairs, a scroll was found (it was the book of The Law) and they were astonished to have found it. Think of that! To find THE Law in THE Temple was news worthy? How bad must things have become to make that the reaction?
There are two interesting, immediate reactions when the scroll was found. First, a simple reading caused a deep grief and sorrow in Josiah. Second, he sought to know what will happen next (wanting to know if there was hope left) and he inquired of God through Huldah. What he did with that information would determine the future of Judah during his reign.
The message he received back from Huldah was encouraging, to say the least, and God acknowledged the heart of a repentant man. Revival was not possible without his repentance and the reforms which were immediately implemented.
The twenty second chapter of II Kings serves as a model for what is needed after repentance. A matter of the heart is followed by swift and decisive action. He immediately dismantled those things that were offensive to God throughout the land. He removed those in power who were leading God’s people in rebellion through pagan idol worship. The heartbreak of chapter 22 is softened by the beauty of a nation who returns to their God in chapter 23.
The Old Testament book of Hosea offers another perfect example of a man God used to identify the spiritual problem of his day. However, in his time, there was no hope of repentance in their future, so only judgment would follow. Chapter 4 of Hosea identifies the outward problems of the inward disease, and it’s why no hope was coming. The chapter begins in the first two verses like this:
Hear the word of th Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
By chapter 4, their spiritual infidelity was already identified along with the worship of graven images that were part of it. (4:12) By the time verse 2 concludes, seven of the ten commandments have been identified as being violated. The response to Hosea’s message was indifference and ignorance, quite the opposite of Josiah and Judah. God holds them accountable in 4:6 and then identifies their dire condition in what is a truly iconic and breathtaking verse.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
They refuse knowledge, so they are rejected by God and so will be their posterity as well. (“your children”) Are the people alone to blame? No. This is a problem that begins with the priests (leaders and pastors of today) and then finds its way to the people. The leaders decay spiritually and then the people suffer under the leaders (4:9.)
And it shall be: like people, like priest.
It is a repeating cycle in both the Old and New Testaments. A lack of knowledge of God and His Word leads to people who are carried away in error, all the while thinking things are fine. The leadership is biblically illiterate, so that illiteracy is then passed along to the people. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Note the reforms of II Kings 23, how they are completely God-centered, with no mention of what’s in it for me. They saw their offense and sought God’s forgiveness. They put away the gods of self-gratification and indulgence. They opted for a life of self-denial and consecration to God. They familiarized themselves with God’s Word and lived accordingly.
Contrast that with the Hosea and the northern 10 tribes. How highly was God’s Word esteemed? How familiar were the priests with all that God commanded? Did they know it well enough to instruct from it, even if they believed it?
Contrast that with the 21st century church. How highly is God’s Word esteemed? How familiar are the “pastors” with the entirety of scripture? Do they know it well enough to instruct from it? Do they relegate much of the bible to “history?” So why bother, besides, we need to be intentional, missional, relevant, etc. That is pastoral malpractice and invites God’s wrath upon the hirelings that would pedal that poison to unsuspecting sheep.
It is astounding how “me-centered" the church has become, but is not the leadership to blame? Everything seems centered around making people feel comfortable. From the pews to the message, we are looking for ways to get people in the seats. The mere mention and study of God’s holiness and our penchant for sin are sorely missing. They are replaced by feel good production, slick marketing and a live for now as we build a kingdom for God.
If we neglect speaking about His holiness and if we avoid speaking about sin, we will then avoid speaking about repentance and true revival will never come. For the record, I see no such revival in our future. This may sound pessimistic, but I am of the opinion that no such time is coming to us as it did to Judah under Josiah. Why? I think the answer is simply that people are unaware of their condition. They have no real understanding of God’s holiness and how He deals with such indifference.
I don’t see a church looking for genuine revival for these reasons, as I don’t think the church knows the meaning and mechanism as I have already discussed. I see the church consumed with self more today than at any other time in my almost 30 years of being a believer. The need for the church to fall to its knees before a holy God in repentance is essential, but not likely. As a worldwide body, we are uneducated in His Word, we have no fear and we are self-absorbed. I personally believe we are that generation Jesus addressed when He said in Luke 18:8
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Watching and waiting Luke 21:28