Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Jesus told the Jews that they had turned His Father’s house, the temple, into a den of robbers. Here, John the Baptist confronts and exposes the religious leaders in that temple system. He addresses them as a pack of snakes.
Many local churches are robbers’ dens and a gang of snakes. Many of you have experienced such places. Domestic abusers love those kind of hangouts. They find the leaders willing allies and the pews a comfortable place to practice their hypocrisy. Just think of trying to get justice from poisonous snakes or greedy thieves. Not gonna happen.
So how does a local Christian church become such a place? Let me show you one primary way. It is a plague today that infects most all of evangelicalism. Here it is, stated by a prominent theologian in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel [Daniel Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary, Vol 1 p. 378]
The church is a society of sinners.
Three times he repeats this phrase in just a few paragraphs. The church is a society of sinners. Really? Where in all of Scripture do we ever read such a thing? Think on this very carefully. You are bombarded today with preachers and writers and all sorts of supposed “Bible scholars” telling you that we Christians are all “sinners.” But I dare anyone to pick up their Bible and show us where the Lord calls His flock, His children in Christ, a society of sinners.
Do you see how easily we get swept up in false teaching? I mean, this idea sounds so…humble, so “godly,” so…whatever. But it is not. It is a lie. Absolutely false. And I want to show you how this teaching turns local churches into a gang of vipers.
Think first of all about what the body of Christ really is. It is a fellowship of saints. People who once were lost in their sin, without hope and without God in the world. But now… –
1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Think about who a Christian is. Someone who has been born again. Not of their own doing, but by faith alone in Christ alone. Nevertheless, they are now new creations, indwelt by the Spirit, led by the Spirit, having God’s law on their hearts, loving God and one another. If any of these things are NOT true of a professing Christian, then they are not a Christian.
But Doriani and so many others are telling us that a Christian is a sinner. Note that word IS. It is a verbal equal sign. A Christian, he says, is a sinner. He does not mean that a Christian still commits sin sometimes. No. If that is what he meant, he should have said so. What he means is that a Christian continues to walk in sin. And in that sense is not really any different at all from the unbelieving worldling. The only difference, he would say, is that Christ “covers” the “Christian sinner’s” sin. That is a lie. Christ radically changes us! A Christian is a brand new person! Not fully sanctified. Not yet glorified. But a person whose mind (see Romans 8) is set upon the Spirit, not upon the flesh.
Now, what does this teaching, “the church is a society of sinners,” do? What results does it produce. I can tell you. It excuses sin. It permits a counterfeit to mix it up with the genuine. It permits people who claim to be Christians but who walk habitually in sin just as they always have done, without repentance, to be pronounced members of the church. It turns the church into a den of vipers.
Think this through some more. What is the typical pattern we see when a woman who is the victim of domestic violence reveals what is going on in her home at the hands of her “saintly Christian” husband? What happens? What does the pastor or some other church member tell her? Answer: “Well, you know, we are all sinners. The church is a society of sinners. You are a sinner too. So we must be gracious and forgiving to him.”
In other words, the teaching that the church is a society of sinners is an outright reject of the truth of God’s Word:
1Co 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you….1Co 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
I cannot tell you how many times I have pointed to this scripture and heard the response, “well, pastor, I just don’t agree with you.” Really? Are you saying that I wrote 1 Corinthians?? This is the Word of God! And you are refusing to obey it.
This is the primary reason why evil is lurking in the churches. It is why wicked abusive people are able to keep up their unholy charade. It is why, if you have grown up in church, you have just accepted it as normal that there is constant fighting and arguing and bickering among “the saints.”
Because they aren’t saints at all. They are counterfeit sheep.
If churches would obey God’s Word, if they would put the wicked out from among them, if they would stop teaching that a Christian is a sinner and therefore God understands that we aren’t perfect and still live like we always have, guess what? The same thing that happened at our church over the years would happen there as well. There would be a lot more empty spaces in the pews. There would be accusations that such a church is “judgmental.” But something else would happen too. The snakes and thieves would be gone. Peace would reign. Jesus would be worshiped in Spirit and in truth.