by Mike Ratliff
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11 ESV)
Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is serious business. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord. Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable.
Hebrews 4:11-13 is an exposition of Psalm 95:7-11, which I placed at the top of this post. The writer of Hebrews, in these 3 verses, emphasizes the accountability which comes to those who have heard the Word of God.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11-13 ESV)
The books of the Old Testament are replete with examples of those who heard the truth from God and obeyed it while others, who heard the truth as well, did not obey it. The Israelites who refused to obey God in the wilderness were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. They did not enter into God’s rest because of their disobedience. The writer of Hebrews brings these truths and warnings to the Church. He lays it out there in plain language. We must not do as those who came before that did not obey the Word of God. The Word of God must be believed and obeyed and it will also judge the disobedient. (1 Corinthians 10:5-13)
While the Word of God is a comfort and a nourishment to those who believe, it becomes a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. What does it mean to commit to Jesus Christ. Christians love their Lord and Saviour. However, they are also to love and obey His Word. There are many these days who claim to be Christians who love Jesus. They even claim to love His Word. However, they also see no reason to obey it. In fact, they will become enraged with those who teach otherwise. They claim that preaching obedience is causing disunity in the Body of Christ. In their arguments, they claim that the need for unity far outweighs the need for obedience to God’s Word. This is a lie and a teaching from the pit of Hell. Unity at the cost of the compromise of the truth of God’s Word is something we must fight, resist, rebuke, and curse.
In v12 above we see that the Word of God is living and active. It is God’s Word that has been Spirit breathed to those who wrote it down. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts right through our fleshly arguments, our false assumptions, and our deeply hidden secrets. God uses it to discern the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts. When we tell the truth to those who refuse to obey it, they are actually building up wrath against their rebellion. When they are judged, these acts of rebellion will be used against them. This is why we must rebuke them via the Word of God, not our emotions, not our intellect, not our learning. Instead, we must exegetically show the truth to them. If they repent then praise God! If they don’t then they are actually building the case against themselves in God’s court. They have become accountable to the truth they have heard. When we obey God it is costly to those who observe us or hear us or read what we have written. Why? God’s truth always forces a decision on our part. Either we believe and obey or we disbelieve and disobey. Fortunately, God is gracious.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32 ESV)
The words of our Lord are all centered around this point of contention. Either we believe and obey or we don’t. Those who believe and obey are those who are on the narrow way that leads to life. Those who refuse to obey are those on the way to destruction. Obedience is a key marker of a regenerate heart. If a Christian teacher or preacher or writer says otherwise then we must rebuke them. They are deceivers. This passage from Matthew tells us that many are religious believers, but they don’t really believe because they don’t obey despite that they look real. Then there are those who hear, but don’t obey because they are in their sins. However they repent and obey later. That would be those who God found and called from their sin. They may not be anyone the Christian elite would have anything to do with, but God has drawn them from darkness into light, therefore they love and obey their Lord.
What will it be then? You have heard the truth from God’s Word. You are accountable to that truth. I don’t care what “Christian” writer, preacher, or leader has told you that obedience to God’s Word is not required. They will be held accountable for their own disobedience. However, God is telling you that you must repent, turn from your rebellion, draw near unto Him, seek His face, and come into the light as He cleanses you of your uncleanness, which is your rebellion. What will it be then?
Soli Deo Gloria!