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 would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB)
Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is nothing to trifle with. 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 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 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:11-13 (NASB)
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 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he 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 that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get 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 prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him. Matthew 21:28-32 (NASB)
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. You, however, have a choice. 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!