Wake Up Sleeper! Speak Up

Bonhoeffer4

. . . So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.

But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. . . .

Let no one beguile you with empty arguments. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says,

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give you light.”

–Ephesians Chapters 4 & 5

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”– Eph. 5:11

“There is no difference in practice between being joint-partakers with the children of darkness and sharing their works. Such works must not be condoned or excused, but exposed for what they are.”–F. F. Bruce.

…we must admit, this is an area where we need help. Here, let us grow from the insights of John Wesley in his sermon, “The Duty of Reproving Our Neighbor.” He wrote this sermon near the end of his years, after a lifetime of practicing it and seeing the fruit of Christians doing their duty.

Chapter 1 highlighted the text of this sermon, Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” As we noted, this stands as the beginning context before the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Wesley begins, “We are to do all that in us lies to convince him of his fault, and lead him into the right way. Love, indeed, requires us to warn him . . .”

Then he makes a wise point: “We shall rarely reprove any one for any thing that is of a disputable nature . . .” (One example in our day is the dispute among some Christians about the drinking of wine or beer.) He then calls attention to “what is clearly and undeniably evil.” He gives such examples as drunkenness, cursing and swearing, and profaning the Lord’s day. (In America, where most Christians have whittled down the Ten Commandments to nine or less, we see how low we have fallen.)

But let us focus on his third point: “How, in what manner, are we to reprove them?” Noting that we are “called” to do this, he proceeds: Let us first take care that whatever we do may be done in “the spirit of love;” in he spirit of tender good-will to our neighbor; as for one who is the son of our common Father, and one for whom Christ died, . . . Then, by the grace of God, love will beget love. –From Chapter 4, Sin and Silence

invited-to-come

I John 5:16, Sin Unto Death

Ichthys If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that1 John 5:16 NKJV

 

This passage is puzzling for many and, again, illustrates the importance of reading verses in context rather than isolating them from the whole which is a particular problem of the Christian habit of ‘proof-texting.’

Our first step, in the study of any of the epistles, should be to read the whole letter through.  As we do that in 1 John, we come to the key clue, which clarifies the context,“They went out from us…”(2:19). See introduction to 1 John 

 

The most plausible interpretation of this verse is that the “sin unto death” is like the apostasy of those who had been the brethren of these believers to whom John was writing, and who had followed new teaching that rejected the Incarnation.

“In that case, he [John] does not encourage prayer for the restoration of those who, like the teachers of 2. 18-23, had manifested the spirit of the Antichrist and shown where they properly belonged by quitting the fellowship [the Church] in which alone eternal life was to be found. With regard to such men John may have felt much as the writer of Hebrews did in another situation, that it was ‘impossible to renew them to repentance’; renunciation of the apostolic witness to Christ and His saving power was indeed a ‘sin unto death.’”—F. F. Bruce, Epistles…

“The person who consciously and deliberately chooses the way of death shall surely die. Sin that leads to death is deliberate refusal to believe in Jesus Christ, to follow God’s commands, and to love one’s brothers. It leads to death because it includes a deliberate refusal to believe in the One who alone can give life, Jesus Christ the Son of God. By contrast, sins that do not lead to death are those which are committed unwittingly and which do not involve rejection of God and his way of salvation.”—I. Howard Marshall NICNT

We can be distracted by such details and miss the important point: When we see a fellow Christian struggling with sin, it is urgent that we pray for him.

And we see the power of this as we read this verse in the context of Chapter 5: “. . . Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. . . .”