By Greg Morse, Staff writer for Desiring God
We warn people in order to save their lives. Paul did not allow his beautiful feet to be betrayed by a timid tongue. He “alarmed” men as he “reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25). The fear of people-pleasing did not control him — least he disqualify himself from being a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).
Now today we are not first-covenant prophets, or new-covenant apostles. Many of us are not even pastors and teachers who “will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). But does this mean that the rest of us will not be judged by any strictness? Do not our pastors and teachers train us “for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11–12)? Should I appease my own conscience by merely inviting others to church, hoping that someday they might cave in and come and there hear the gospel?
My pastor did not grow up with my people, live next door, text them frequently, watch football games with them, and sit with them in their homes. But I did. And as much as some of us may throw stones at “seeker-driven” churches, the question comes uncomfortably full circle: Do I shrink back from saying the hard truth in order to win souls? Is my delicacy cruelty? Am I an accomplice in the murder of souls?
When the time comes to speak, tell the people around you that they stand under righteous judgment. Tell them they must repent and believe. Tell them that Jesus Christ already came once. Tell them he bore God’s wrath for sinners. Tell them he rose from the dead. Tell them he reigns over the nations at the Father’s right hand. Tell them that, by faith through Jesus Christ they will live eternally with God.
God said to Ezekiel. “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:18). Paul, the mighty apostle of justification by faith alone, spoke to the same culpability of silence: “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27).
God, save us from hearing those agonizing words, “You knew?!”