Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
1Co 5:1 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….1Co 5:6-7 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (7) Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
One of the most common scenarios which is so hurtful and maddening to those who have been oppressed by wicked ones who parade as eminent Christians is that such evil people are permitted to remain in the local church. And to not only sit in the pew, but often appointed to committees, to church offices such as elder, deacon, or even pastor. All of this while the victim of such wicked “saints” are expelled, formally (ex-communicated) or informally. Many of you have experienced this very thing.
As we see in the Scriptures quoted above, and in many others, there is a bent, a tendency, for evil to be excused, minimized, and tolerated by professing Christians. Jezebel (or often a man) is tolerated in the church’s midst even though she leads Christ’s servants astray. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians for not only letting a gross sinful man (who claimed to be a Christian) remain in the church, but for their boasting about doing so!
Why? Why this very common disobedience to the Lord’s command to put evil out from among us and be separate from it? Wouldn’t you think that it is a biblical “no-brainer” that evil people who are fake Christians, barren fig trees (Luke 13) must be expelled from the fellowship of Christ’s people? Jude soundly rebukes the “creeps” who creep in among us, shamelessly participating in the Lord’s table. Paul tells us that if anyone claims to be a Christian but walks in unrepentant sin, we are not even to eat with such a one (1 Cor 5).
And yet, it has been my experience these 40 years as a pastor that there is typically a very strong resistance to such expulsion. You see it on church signs – “Everyone is welcome.” You hear it in the preaching in such places – “God loves everyone” (He doesn’t, by the way. See my teaching series online “Does God Love Everyone?”). Or “God accepts you just as you are.” Or, “We are all sinners, who are we to judge?”
Paul minces no words with the Corinthians and neither did Jesus in His rebukes of the churches. “1Co 5:2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” “Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”
To sidestep such plain commands and rebukes in the Word of God is rank disobedience to the Lord. It is unbelief. It is cowardliness. It is the fear of man, love for the world and a craving for the approval of man instead of that of God. And this disobedience (sin) hurts Christ’s true sheep.
Why? Why is this disobedience so typical? Well, there are a number of reasons:
- Prideful arrogance. Boasting in the “greatness of our love for all,” instead of hating the things God hates.
- The craving for popularity with the world.
- Embracing a false gospel which does not call for repentance
- Unwillingness to pay the price of following Christ.
- And, probably far more often the case is this – the “church” is led by and filled with false brethren who are not Christ’s people at all. They are not born again.
I have, on numbers of occasions, opened my Bible and pointed to the Lord’s commands in cases where professing Christians are commanded to put evil out from among them. And very typically the response has been, “well, pastor, I just don’t agree with what you are saying.” What?? It isn’t ME who is saying it! It is the Lord! Such a response evidences an unregenerate heart. Jesus said (Matthew 10) that following Him will result in being hated, even by the closest relationships (father, mother, sister, brother). And He went on to say that anyone who is not willing to pay the price cannot be His disciple. He won’t have it. “But they are family!” That is the statement of people who worship family above Christ. They worship a false god. They love this present world.
This bent toward disobedience also works to short circuit Christ’s own method of dealing with professing Christians who are walking in habitual, unrepentant sin (see Matthew 18). That church discipline process is not only designed for the protection of the church, it is given as Christ’s means of working to call the sinner to repentance and restoration. But I cannot think of one single case of church discipline we have practiced in which one or more professing Christian/church members did not balk, criticize, or even leave the church. They pronounce themselves to be more “loving” and call us too “harsh.” So many churches and church leaders are simply not willing to pay this price, so they instead sacrifice the victim and retain the evil one. After all, to stand with the victim is costly. The evil one generally is more popular, his lies are believed and the foolish are deceived, and he typically has fare more influence and resources than does his victim.
How many professing Christians have sacrificed the innocent in order to keep in with the Baal crowd?
Now, one final point. If we were to tell these things I have just written to most professing Christians, they would adamantly deny that they are guilty. The sinner is a master at devising excuses. They will shift the blame. They will project the wicked one’s evils upon us and upon the victim. They will pronounce themselves more merciful and kind. And they will demonstrate their ignorance of the Word of God. Believe it or not on numbers of occasions I have suggested to a professing Christian that church discipline be enacted upon an evil counterfeit, and the response has been “that is something I have never heard.” “I just don’t know about such things.” I can see right now in my mind a church board member of a large evangelical church sitting in my living room asking for advice as to how to deal with a pastor who was fornicating with a woman in the church. His response to my showing Him Matthew 18 and 1 Cor 5 was just that. With a perplexed look on his face, he said, “That is something I have never heard before.” Apparently reading and studying his Bible was not part of his religion!
These things are not uncommon. They are typical and widespread. What is going to be the obvious result of such disobedience to the Lord? Well, it leads toward Him departing from among us, and it creates – rather quickly – a synagogue of Satan where perhaps a church once was. Recently one of our elders and myself were talking about these very things and we concluded that for at least the first 20 years of our ministry here, we were fighting battles in a synagogue of Satan instead of shepherding a flock of Christ. All because for decades evil was tolerated in the church, Christ’s clear commands were not obeyed, and spiritual dark ages swept in.