The Hard Heart and Unbelief

by Mike Ratliff

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24 ESV)

Compromise and tolerance in our day are seen as ultimate virtues. While our flesh-bound reason agrees with this, there is the problem of our Lord’s own words from Sacred Scripture which say the very opposite. In these first few decades of the 21st Century, the mindset seems to be that we must never take a stand if it can be criticized by anyone. Several years ago I was writing some doctrinal things on this blog which caused many to no longer read or comment here. One of the comments I received at that time caused me to pause and reflect on my motives for doing what I was doing. The comment went something like this, “If you take stands in your articles, like you are doing now, in which you say this or that is the truth then you are opening up yourself to criticism.” Now, what was this person really saying?

It would be so easy to simply write sweet and/or challenging devotions here to be positive and tolerant of everyone, even those who deny the deity of Christ. Yes, it would be much easier, but would I be obedient in that to the calling God has given to some of us to stand in the gap and proclaim what is true even to those who demand compromise and tolerance at all costs? It can be quite discouraging to strike the anvil a full blow, but find a heart that is harder than flint, full of darkness and unbelief, even though quite religious.

Unbelief is a product of both a hard heart and deception. The person in this horrible state has been deceived with idolatry and has incurred a form of spiritual blindness that can only be broken through by God. These folks can be quite religious and appear to be Christians, but they are really all about serving their idols instead of God. For instance the idols of the emergents and Neo-Evangelicals are usually people. The alternate form of the gospel that serves this idolatrous form of Christianity is the Social gospel or the positive, feel good gospel. It is the man-loving gospel that makes it all about people instead of God and His glory. It is Christianity on ones own terms.

Debating these folks is quite an experience. They demand that we stop exposing their doctrinal errors. They call those who won’t stop doing this“hypocrites” by taking Jesus’ command to Judge Not out of context. I saw an article on a friends blog once in which someone blasted him for warning his readers about a false teacher. What was the argument the commenter used? She said, “You are a hypocrite, after all you are not perfect so how can you judge this person?” Well none of us are perfect, but we must judge because our Lord tells us too. We are not to judge hypocritically, but it is commanded that we discern what is true and what is false. We are to shun those who preach what is false and we are to warn our brethren as well. The Word of God gives us the standards of what is true and what is false and all genuine believers have the Holy Spirit.

What creates a lot of this contention is the false view that all professing Christians should just try to get along despite huge doctrinal differences. Unity is the cry. However, this is a call to unify what is true with what is false. My brethren, we cannot do this. We must not do this. Jesus warned us of what would happen when we preach and teach the truth as the truth.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter- in- law against her mother- in- law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

The genuine gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ divides people. It does not bring everyone together. The peace that is preached is peace between God and those whom He saves, not between them and those who reject the truth. Jesus said that when we obey Him in standing on His truth that it will cause conflict in every sphere of our lives. However, what is His command to us here? We are to love Him more than those whom are offended against us. We are to love Him more than the possible peace would have if we unified with those who do not hold to His truth. We are to die to self, take up our crosses and follow Him despite the high cost of this conflict.

There is nothing wrong with debating those who express doubts. However, it is a complete waste of time to continue to cast pearls before swine. Who is this? These are those in unbelief. We must give them the truth, the Gospel, but when they reject it, it is time to move on. Did our Lord do this?

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24 ESV)

Sounds pretty rough doesn’t it? We don’t have Jesus walking amongst us today doing the mighty works of healing, raising the dead, and preaching the Kingdom. By the way, this should silence those who claim that the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was primarily to do these works and we should be doing them as well. No, these mighty works were evidence of who He is. What happened? Did those people believe? The vast majority did not believe. Only a few did believe. Nothing has changed here my brethren. Most people do not believe the gospel as preached in the Bible. Why? It is a narrow gate that few find. Only the few find it while most either reject it outright or try to get into the Kingdom some other way. That other way is works or a false gospel or religiosity, et cetera.

The Reformers from the 16th and 17th Centuries gave us a method of understanding this exclusive gospel. The Five Solas are the polemic, divisive, markers that are evidence of the genuine gospel. They state that it is from Sacred Scripture alone that we learn that Salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone to the Glory of God Alone. Any emphasis outside of this marks that form of the gospel as false. No part of it can be removed and used instead nor can they stand apart from the rest. These Five Solas together with nothing taken away and nothing added seems quite narrow doesn’t it? That is because the gospel is narrow for it is the narrow gate. Christ is the only way to God and those whom He saves come to Him on His terms, not theirs. These terms do not include religiosity. No, there is nothing added. We come empty handed to the cross.

Therefore, I can fellowship with Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Reformed, not Reformed, or any other believer who holds to the Five Solas. This is what is essential to our understanding of the Gospel. The differences in denominational groups outside of the Five Solas is not a barrier to this fellowship. What will divide us? We divide only from those who refuse to accept the Five Solas in whole or in part. For example, if works are added as a requirement for salvation then we should not be united with those who hold to that. If some believe that the gospel is for the benefit of the Earth or mankind as a whole, et cetera, then they have corrupted the gospel and we should not consider them as our brothers.

What we must never forget is that God is Sovereign. He is going to save His people, not by our efforts, but as we obey Him in making disciples wherever He has us. He saves His people from first to last. He preserves them eternally. He has graciously given us the opportunity to be part of this great work of bring people into the Kingdom. Let us obey Him in doing this while never forgetting that it is the preaching of the Word of God that He uses to accomplish this. Yes, we will encounter those who are hard of heart and full of unbelief. We must pray that God will open their hearts to the truth. We must not give people the false view that the fulfillment of their faith will be here on Earth by them being religious. Instead, we must teach everyone that we are to serve Him here as He wills, but the fulfillment of our salvation will be when we meet our Lord face to face.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “The Hard Heart and Unbelief

  1. What you say is true! We have a small group on Sunday evenings reading through Andrew Miller’s Church History and we are in the mid-16th century. Martin Luther and the Council at Marburg. Zwingli and his il standing firm on the truth about the Lord’s Supper, Luther being wooden-headed with his Roman Catholic view and while Zwingli and the others tried to reconcile and were willing to call Luther a brother, he reviled them and refused to shake hands with them, and told they were children of Satan. The “good guys” in this scene held to the 5 Solas but also persecuted credo-baptists and killed a few of them. Each of us is capable of such evil – hence we must pray without ceasing, rejoice always, and give thanks in all circumstances, lest our flesh win out in a given battle.

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