by Mike Ratliff
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)
I do not receive Tweets from Mark Driscoll, but I have friends who do. I received the following from one of those friends today: “Done preaching in Africa & managed to not punch the guy who was sleeping w/5 women & claiming to be a XN as a competition for him but bewildered why I was in his face with my finger in his chest. Unreal.” Was what is “unreal” the fact that Mark was able to restrain himself or that this fellow was sleeping with 5 women and claiming to be an XN (tweet shorthand for Christian) as a competition for him or that the fellow was bewildered why Mark, “was in his face with my finger in his chest”? I meditated and prayed about how or even if I should respond to this. My initial response was to view both Mark and “the guy” from a pastoral perspective. However, this post-modern world is clueless about morality and personal holiness. In fact, its mindset is against all who attempt to point out sin or error in anyone. Their first response seems to be something along the lines of, “nobody is perfect!” I have even been condemned for doing this and the reason “I was being straightened out” was that everyone could be wrong so how can any of us judge anyone else?
Actually, the biblical answer to this is neither tolerance nor condemnation. We are not to allow professing Christians “a pass” just because they claim to be a XN. However, neither are we to become violent with them with a finger in their chests. As the passage above says, “everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” This also tells us that no one who practices unrighteousness has been born of him. Here is v29 in Greek.
29εαν ειδητε οτι δικαιος εστιν γινωσκετε οτι πας ο ποιων την δικαιοσυνην εξ αυτου γεγεννηται (1 John 2:29 WHNU)
If (εαν) you know (ειδητε) that (οτι) right (δικαιος) he is (εστιν), you know (γινωσκετε) that (οτι) all (πας) the (ο) one doing (ποιων) the (την) rightness (δικαιοσυνην) from (εξ) him (αυτου) has been born (γεγεννηται). (1 John 2:29 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
“Everyone who practices” in the ESV is πας ο ποιων in the Greek. Ποιων in v29 is a present, active participle. This is describing continuous or repeated action, in other words, the way one lives or walks day in and day out. Since this is a participle, it is relative to the main verb, which in this case is γεγεννηται, which, in this context, is a perfect, indicative passive verb. Think of John telling us that when a believer is truly born of Christ it is a finished, completely done, work by the Saviour, not by the one who is born again. It is a work of Christ. This work is complete; therefore, the believer is a new creation and will not live a lifestyle that reflects the ways of the flesh nor enslavement to this world and its ways.
As we meditate on these truths and think of Mark Driscoll encountering the man who claimed to be a XN, but lived as the world lives, according to the flesh, we should see clearly that he should have known just from that that he was dealing with an unregenerate, false believer. Therefore, he should have dealt with him along those lines instead of from physical anger. Let us say that Mark was still convinced that this man was a true Christian brother. What should his reaction have been? Let’s look at 1 John 5:14-18. We will start with v14.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:14 ESV)
14και αυτη εστιν η παρρησια ην εχομεν προς αυτον οτι εαν τι αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα αυτου ακουει ημων (1 John 5:14 WHNU)
And (και) this (αυτη) is (εστιν) the (η) boldness (παρρησια) which (ην) we have (εχομεν) toward (προς) him (αυτον) that (οτι) if (εαν) what (τι) we might ask (αιτωμεθα) by (κατα) the (το) will (θελημα) of him (αυτου) he hears (ακουει) us (ακουει). (1 John 5:14 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
This statement is meant to be an encouragement to us to pray, however, many have turned this around to say that it is a total waste of time to pray about anything unless you know what God’s will is and then pray that. Is that what John meant here? No, this is telling us to ask according to what the Bible teaches about God’s will for His people. If we pray this way, we are praying according to His will (Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 5:17).
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:15 ESV)
15και εαν οιδαμεν οτι ακουει ημων ο εαν αιτωμεθα οιδαμεν οτι εχομεν τα αιτηματα α ητηκαμεν απ αυτου (1 John 5:15 WHNU)
And (και) if (εαν) we know (οιδαμεν) that (οτι) he hears (ακουει) us (ημων) what (ο) if (εαν) we might ask (αιτωμεθα), we know (οιδαμεν) that (οτι) we have (εχομεν) the (τα) requests (αιτηματα) which (α) we have asked (ητηκαμεν) from (απ) him (αυτου). (1 John 5:15 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
What a blessing it is to know that God hears our prayers! The goal of prayer is to be in communion with God. God is not a vending machine and we must not approach prayer with that mentality. Instead, we should pray continually, seeking His will, that is, to line our will up with His. A quick reading of v15 would make it appear that Christians get everything from God that they ask for in prayer. Is that what John is teaching? We have already seen in v14 that we must pray according to God’s will not ours. Other passages in God’s Word give us more insight. Not only must pray according to God’s will, we must pray in faith (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6), with patience (Luke 18:1-8), in obedience (Psalm 66:18; 1 Peter 3:12), and in submission to God’s greater wisdom (Luke 22:42; Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 4:19). In other words, we must put a passage like this into the context of what the Word of God teaches us throughout about how to pray correctly.
Now we come to the pertinent passage to Mark Driscoll’s encounter with the man sleeping with 5 women while professing to be a XN as if it was some sort of competition.
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1 John 5:16 ESV)
16εαν τις ιδη τον αδελφον αυτου αμαρτανοντα αμαρτιαν μη προς θανατον αιτησει και δωσει αυτω ζωην τοις αμαρτανουσιν μη προς θανατον εστιν αμαρτια προς θανατον ου περι εκεινης λεγω ινα ερωτηση (1 John 5:16 WHNU)
If (εαν) some (τις) might see (ιδη) the (τον) brother (αδελφον) of him (αυτου) sinning (αμαρτανοντα) sin (αμαρτιαν) not (μη) to (προς) death (θανατον), he will ask (αιτησει) and (και) he will give (δωσει) to him (αυτω) life (ζωην), to the ones (τοις) sinning (αμαρτανουσιν) not (μη) to (προς) death (θανατον). There is (εστιν) sin (αμαρτια) to (προς) death (θανατον); not (ου) about (περι) that (εκεινης) I say (λεγω) that (ινα) he might ask (ερωτηση). (1 John 5:16 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The only way to understand this correctly is to keep it in context. We have already seen that we must pray according to God’s will in the way He has specified. But, what is this “sin leading to death” stuff? The following is an excerpt from the MacArthur Bible Commentary for v16.
Such a sin could be any premeditated and unconfessed sin that causes the Lord to end a believer’s life. It is not one particular sin, like homosexuality or lying, but whatever sin is the final one in the tolerance of God. Failure to repent of and forsake sin may eventually lead to physical death as a judgment of God (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 5:5; 11:30). No intercessory prayer will be effective for those who have committed such deliberate high-handed sin, i.e., God’s discipline with physical death is inevitable in such cases as He seeks to preserve the purity of His Church… The contrast to the phrase “there is sin leading to death” with “there is sin not leading to death” signifies that the writer distinguishes between sins that may lead to physical death and those that do not. That is not to identify a certain kind of mortal or non-mortal sin, but to say not all sins are so judged by God.
What should Mark Driscoll have done when he encountered the unrepentant man who professed to be a XN, but was fornicating with 5 different women as some sort of competition? Whatever it was, he should have begun with prayer. He should pray for the man’s repentance and then show him why what he was doing was sin all from the perspective that this man is probably not a genuine believer for God will not allow His people to continue to do this.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:17-18 ESV)
Instead of pushing his finger into the man’s chest about his sin, he should have sought the Lord’s will first. He should know about these passages and that the will of God is for His people to not live this way, but to repent. However, he should also know that a person who can live this way and not experience the conviction of God for doing so is not of God. This is why I would have prayed for the man’s salvation then given Him the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Trying to rebuke unbelievers for their sin is a total waste of time outside of the context of giving them the Gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria!