Q&A: Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
Q. Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
A. Confessions are good and have biblical precedent. Humans, however, are fallen and as 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” People are lovers of self rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4). That is why there are problems with heterodoxy and heresy, even where there are solid confessions in place. Confessions may not keep false teaching from emerging but it is helpful to have them in place to quench the spread (like gangrene) of unhealthy teaching.
One lesson we learn from the prevalence of unhealthy belief and teaching is the importance of qualified leaders. It is vital that pastors/elders be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and correct opponents of the truth (2 Tim. 2:25). We also see the important place of church discipline. The church is set apart as the light of the world and the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) if the truth is not proclaimed and protected by the church how dark will the darkness be?!
The second lesson is that churches must work hard to be watchful and stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13). If someone is contradicting orthodox teaching and causing division then they should be removed from the church community (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10). The church is to be the set apart people of God (Eph. 1:4; 5:27). Thus, Paul writes “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
A lot of people believe that all “good” people go to heaven.
“How could a good God allow people to go to hell?”
However, it should be asked, does God want those people to go to hell? And has God provided a way for them to be saved? The answer to the first question we’ll see is no and the answer to the second question is yes.
First, Scripture repeatedly says things like God desires all humans to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Here are three more:
“The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezek. 18:23, 32).
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).
So, God’s desire is for people to come to a knowledge of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and be saved. That is God’s desire. However, that’s not it.
Second, God has also provided the way of salvation. The one God has provided the one way of salvation through the man Christ Jesus who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
Imagine we were all on an island that a very wealthy and magnificent man owns. It is on fire and we all have to get off or we will die. Now, imagine that the owner of the island built a very large and sturdy bridge to the mainland so that people could escape. And in making the bridge he himself died.
“Does God love all humanity, every single person?” My natural inclination right off the bat is to say, “Yes. Yes, God loves all humanity, every single person.”
But we do not want what I want to think but we want to look at what the Bible says and wrestle with its teaching. So, what does the Bible say?
This may be a harder question than it would first appear. This is because this question is never explicitly asked in Scripture and thus is never explicitly answered. It is difficult because we are vying for certain answers. We so often want to make God like ourselves (Ps. 50:21). It is also a difficult question because the Bible seems to teach that God at the same time loves the whole world and yet hates all the rebellious.
In Scripture, we see that God has made man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), so in as much as each person still reflects God’s image, God, I believe, loves that aspect of them.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells His disciples to love their enemies and gives God the Father as an example. God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew, in this passage says that He does this in love.
God, therefore, clearly has this kind of love for all humanity. He is the example that we are to imitate. We are to “love our enemies” in imitation of God Himself. Thus, I conclude, yes, God does love all humanity, every single person. In a similar way, Psalm 145 says, “The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made” (Ps. 145:9).
Yet, the Bible also says that God hates all workers of iniquity (see for example Ps. 5:5; 11:5b-6; Rom. 1:18ff; Jn. 3:36). As we look at this question, it is important to remember that the LORD is God and He is good even if we cannot understand His ways. We must remember that although God has revealed Himself and we can truly know Him yet we cannot exhaustively grasp Him.
First, I encourage you to read Matthew’s account in the Gospel of Matthew. It will be helpful to read since it’s the longest (Matt. 27:24-62).
In Matthew’s account we see that Jesus dies (v. 45-56) and then Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body (Matt. 27:57-61). Joseph did this on the Preparation Day, that is, on Friday, the day before Saturday which is the Sabbath. It was very important that Jesus’ body not stay on the cross on the Sabbath because then the land would be defiled (Jn. 19:31). So, Jesus died on Friday because He was taken off the cross before the Sabbath.
The next day, that is on Saturday, “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise’” (v. 62). And then they asked for guards and so Pilate granted their request and gave them guards.