Jan. 11, 2006
But They Are So Wicked!
Last fall I was visiting a neighbor of ours who was concerned because a relative of hers was about to die and she was not confident of his salvation. He had made a profession of salvation in his youth, but he never lived like a saved man. I mentioned the verse ...by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:20 She agreed, but pointed out that the Bible also says that some will be saved yet as by fire. (1Corinthains 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.)
I think that sometimes we are too quick to judge someone's salvation. We see some things or hear some things and we assume, "That person can't be saved."
In my evening Bible reading I recently came across this passage, which caused me to stop and think:
Psalm 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. 35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. 36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. 37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. 38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
This Psalm recounts God's dealings with Israel. First of all, we see that God did chasten them. Hebrews 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. So, we know that if a professing Christian is never chastened they are not truly God's child.
But, notice that even though they returned to God for a time, Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. Also, ...their heart was not right with him...
When we see a professing Christian living like the devil or totally engrossed in the traditions of man or cares of this life, we are sometimes inclined to think, "How can they be saved?" Yet here we see under the Old Testament covenant that God chastened His children, yes, and they returned to Him; but they then proceeded to lie to Him, and their heart was not right with Him! Could this not happen under the New Testament covenant as well?
In these days of jackboot preachers, compromisers, those sunken in defeat, and other assorted doubtful characters who profess Christ, we can easily tend to question other's salvation. After all, how many have proven to be liars and flatters to God (saying they put Him first in their lives, when it's plain to see they have not). To assume that they are unsaved because they receive no more immediate punishment may not be appropriate. Asaph tells us that God was full of compassion. He forgave and destroyed not. He turned away His anger. He remembered they were but flesh (Ps. 103:13-17).
If God, in His great mercy, does not see fit to give these people the chastisement we think they deserve, that does not mean they are not saved. Yes, they will have chastening, as Hebrews tells us, but they may not get what we think "they have coming." The Lord has the right to decide to turn away His full wrath. We would all be in trouble if God stirred up all of His wrath, for none of us deserve anything good (Isa. 64:6).
Psalm 78 continues, 40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! 41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
Far from justifying their waywardness and lies, the Lord is provoked and grieved by them. Still they may actually be His children. But, how sad in the final analyses - they tempted God (to manifest His holiness) and limited Him! By following man's traditions, by abusing the saints, by walking disorderly, by disobeying His word (and so many other things) these people limit God from what He could have done - for them, for their children, and for others. If you stop and ponder that you will be able to think of a lot of ways that works itself out.
In the end, we must let God be God. If He chooses to show compassion to sinners, who are we to question Him? And, where would we ourselves be without His mercy? While we may be forced to mark and avoid some believers according to New Testament teaching (Rom. 16:17-18, 1Cor. 5:11-13), it still behooves us to remember Paul's comment in Galatians 2:6 ...(whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:)... In some cases we really cannot know if a person is saved till we get to heaven. Yes, there are many who are not truly saved, but after all - we look on the outward appearance, only God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). 1Kings 8:39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
I am reminded of a small incident from my dad's youth. He was complaining to an older brother in the Lord about some lady missionary who was a real crank. The man called him up short with this comment: "Just imagine what she would like if she wasn't saved!" Hm.....food for thought.