by Mike Ratliff
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)
It has been put forth that the apologists for the Seeker-Sensitive movement in the visible church insist that they are justified in what they do because God is blessing their ministries with explosive growth and so it is wrong for us to oppose them. They cite Acts 5:33-39 to support this thesis. Carefully read the following passage. The bold section contains Gamaliel’s advice, which the Purpose Driven, Missional, Seeker Sensitive, and/or Emergent folks cite.
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, (Acts 5:33-39 ESV)
If we blindly follow this reasoning then it would appear that it was wrong for Jesus to oppose the Pharisees, Paul to oppose the Judiazers, the early Church to oppose Gnosticism, Athanasius to stand firm against Arianism, and Augustine to oppose Pelagianism. We are not being told in Acts 5:33-39 that the right way for the Church to deal with apostasy within the Church is to tolerate it hoping God will stop it as we silently observe. No, we are given plenty of commands in the New Testament on how to deal with judging those inside the Church who are guilty of things that are not to be named amongst the Brethren.
On the other hand, we are also commanded throughout the New Testament to be Christlike in our dealings with others in all things. Therefore, let it be known to all that God is not in any way blessing a work in the visible church that is being carried out deceitfully, that is, with any motives contrary to the godly character of Christ Himself.
Rick Warren admits that the Seeker Sensitive or Purpose Driven or Emergent or Missional paradigms may be contrary to what is understood to be according to theological orthodoxy, but that is okay because those leading this are simply being childlike in their faith while those of us who oppose them on biblical grounds are being made fools of by God who has blinded us. We are saved if we have a childlike (trusting) faith, but nowhere are commanded to remain childish in our understanding and knowledge of God and His ways.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:6-17 ESV)
The bold part is v17. Here it is in Greek.
17δια τουτο μη γινεσθε αφρονες αλλα συνιετε τι το θελημα του κυριου (Ephesians 5:17 WHNU)
Through (δια) this (τουτο) not (μη) become (γινεσθε) foolish (αφρονες), but (αλλα) understand (συνιετε) what (τι) the (το) will (θελημα) of the (του) Lord (κυριου). (Ephesians 5:17 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
Unlike Rick Warren and those who support the Seeker Sensitive or Purpose Driven or Emergent or Missional paradigms, we cannot take scripture out of context, twisting it to support what we are trying to sell. No, we go to God’s Word using only sound exegetical methods to exposit Sacred Scripture to learn and understand the will of the Lord, το θελημα του κυριου. There is no divining of the will of God through feelings or extra-biblical visions or pictures that appear in our minds or voices we hear. God will never violate the truths He has given to us in His Word. However, we must also not err by trying to use excerpts from His Word out of context to try to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say to support something we are trying to do or say. Those who do that have γινεσθε αφρονες, become foolish. This passage makes it clear that we can know the will of the Lord and it is through what Paul has shared in this passage that we put ourselves in position to learn it.
- We let no one deceive us with empty words
- We do not partner with liars
- We are to walk as children of light instead of being deceived in darkness
- We are to seek to discern what is pleasing to the Lord
- We are to not take part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them
- Walk carefully in the wisdom of the Lord making the best use of the time
- Be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is
The word αφρονες, foolish, means to be unthinking or undiscerning. The word συνιετε, understand, describes the action of putting facts together to make sense out of them. In other words, we are to reason within the wisdom and grace of God in learning His will. This is not leaving alone a “movement” that calls itself Christian, but proves it isn’t through its methodologies, to wait to see it if thrives or not. No, we oppose and expose it. Here is v11.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11 ESV)
11και μη συγκοινωνειτε τοις εργοις τοις ακαρποις του σκοτους μαλλον δε και ελεγχετε (Ephesians 5:11 WHNU)
And (και) not (μη) be co-partner (συγκοινωνειτε) in the (τοις) works (εργοις) the (τοις) fruitless (ακαρποις) of the (του) dark (σκοτους), more (μαλλον) but (δε) also (και) rebuke (ελεγχετε). (Ephesians 5:11 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
How do we know what is τοις εργοις τοις ακαρποις του σκοτους, the unfruitful works of darkness? The answer to that is given to us in vv6-10. We learn what God’s will is by knowing Him and obeying Him and seeking to know what is pleasing to Him. We do not seek our own. We do not listen to deceiving spirits. We do not follow men, but follow the Lord. We follow His leaders as long as they follow Him and work to keep us on the narrow path, but as soon as these depart from the truth to the wider, easier way that is pleasing to the world, we discern this and do not partner with them any longer, but expose them. The word translated in the ESV as “expose them,” ελεγχετε, means to reprove with conviction upon the offender. This means, we point out to them their error and if they do not listen and repent, we prove to the Body of Christ that this is so using the Word of God to show how they are not being obedient to God.
A true movement of God will never be carried out deceitfully. It will not be accomplished by lying to people, keeping them in darkness until it is too late to stop the movement. It will not be based on taking bits and pieces of God’s Word out of context to “prove” the basis of what is being done. There is no “new” way or “new” focus of the Church. Christians are in Christ and the only reason they are still here instead of being in Heaven with Him is to continue to preach the Gospel to everyone on Earth. We are here to be sanctified and obedient to the Great Commission. We are not here to accomplish either of these things using the ways of the world or with our focus on being appealing to the world. These pragmatic approaches to Christianity are not Christian, but are based in unbelief. Christians lose their way when they try to be “culturally relevant” to the point that the culture determines what the Gospel is and what the purpose of the Church is. Neither of these things is negotiable. Therefore, any form of Christianity that is based in compromise in these areas is out of the will of God and is on the way of apostasy.
Soli Deo Gloria!