There are times when we all must go to the doctor for a physical examination. The doctor looks us over, checks our reflexes and various other things. We do this so that we may maintain good health.
In 1 Corinthians 11:28 Paul wrote, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” While this is a warning about how we should be careful about our attitude as we partake of the Lord’s Supper, the idea of examining ourselves should be something we all do on a regular basis as it is about more than simply the Lord’s Supper. If we do not take the time to examine ourselves and correct the things that are wrong, then we will begin to crumble as Christians.
Self-examination, a continuing act
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul expanded on the idea of self-examination. He said, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” We should do self-examination daily. But this can be more difficult than it sounds because of what we may be afraid of finding. We may try to put it off afraid of what things are brought to the surface. However, the time we use to examine ourselves is very important, because it gives us the opportunity to realize our errors and then correct them. When the time comes upon us that we realize we are in sin is a time when a Christian will either “sink or swim.” If we choose to repent of our sin and come back to Christ with a heart of repentance, we will remain in Christ. If we refuse to correct the sin in our lives, we will lose our relationship with Christ.
This is how the growth of a Christian is accomplished. It is not accomplished by parading around with our noses in the air as if we are without sin. There are those who, when their sin is found out, quickly seek to justify themselves and brush off the wrongdoing. But God does not simply “brush off” the sin, regardless of how small we may think it is.
We are told to “test ourselves” as to whether we are in the faith. When many hear these words, they are stricken with fear. It is a terrifying thought to come to the realization that we may be in the wrong. However, what many fail to realize is that this is the whole purpose of self-examination. If our faults are never brought to light, they will not be corrected. When we realize our faults, we can REPENT of them and be back in a right relationship with the Lord.
Lack of self-examination
Sadly, there are those who act as if they would rather live in torments, than to admit they have sinned or to feel embarrassed of their sin. That is why Paul told the Corinthians, “For this reason, many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (1 Corinthians 11:30). When we do not examine ourselves daily, we become weak or sick Christians. Verses 31 and 32, tell us that we read that if “we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” “We are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned WITH the world (emphasis added J.C.)”. When we examine ourselves, it is so that we may judge ourselves that when we realize our sins, we may repent of them. No longer will we be “condemned with the world.”
As difficult as it may sound, self-examination is something all Christians should actively be engaged in. It is not so we may feel bad about ourselves or feel afraid to sit down and ask ourselves, “Am I living as a Christian?” We are to examine ourselves, so we may not be condemned as those in the world will be condemned. We judge our own actions, so we may not be judged.
Let us not be as the world, brushing off sin and searing our conscience with a hot iron. Instead, let us examine ourselves daily to whether we are “in the faith.” Self-examinations can save the soul.
Choices are a part of life. Whether they deal with what to do for a living, who to marry, etc., choices must be made. Most of the time these choices are not restricted to one option but offer several different avenues to a conclusion. However, there are some situations in life where the conclusions are inescapable. God has always had the best interest of His people in mind when giving instruction. That is why Solomon wrote, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). But this Old Testament Commandment is also applicable to those of us blessed to live in New Testament times. Of course, all of God’s Directives to man must be “accurately handled” so they can be properly understood and followed.
The apostle Paul wrote much the same thing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15. But here, He also told how we are to “know” what God wants us to do as we strive to be pleasing and acceptable to Him. One cannot know if they will not study! If Timothy needed this admonition, it certainly applies to us as well.
“Why is keeping the Commandments of God” the whole duty of man?”
When Jesus came to earth, He did not come to judge man (John 12:47). His purpose was to bring Salvation (the means for Salvation) to man. But we must also understand the Hebrew writer says judgment will come. He says, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Paul also writes “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The judgment is an inescapable conclusion if one reads and studies the Bible. We do not know when this will occur, except to the degree the Bible tells us. We know the “end” is coming. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 tells us this. So, we see that Christ will “rule” or “reign” until the end. The end of what? Peter answers that for us. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
From these Bible facts, we can also conclude that while we are alive and have full access of our faculties is the time to make the needed changes in our lives. One way to make the changes needed within us is to prioritize. Jesus knew this and told those hearing Him preach the Sermon on the Mount that the “kingdom” (the church) which would soon come, and the righteousness of God would have to be first in their lives (Matthew 6:33). The “things” of which the Lord spoke were the other necessities of life such as food, raiment, and shelter.
How do we prioritize the many things within our lives to ensure that we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first? Well, it must be through that which will judge us after life for all humanity is over. It is a choice all must make. We can receive His Word, or we can reject it. In John 12:48, Jesus said: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” It is an inescapable conclusion that only the Word of God, properly understood and lived leads to the eternal life we desire. If we walk the wrong path or walk the path of this life without the light of the gospel, we will reach a destination we do not wish to reach.
“Covid is real!” “Covid is deadly!” “People need to take Covid seriously!” Such statements ring resoundingly from both national news and social media outlets alike…And they’re absolutely right! Many Americans who had reportedly tested positive for Covid, had passed away.
Yes, there are more important things…
Now, as an aside, the reason I write it like that is because of the somewhat deceptive way in which such data is chronicled, conveyed to, and consumed by, us. Hopefully we all understand by now that only a portion of the total number of deaths being reported as resulting from Covid actually are. Check it out for yourself. Consider:
1). As a story in the Denver Post confirmed earlier this year, such categorization “has been used by the health department since the start of the pandemic and includes the total number of people who died who have COVID-19, regardless of whether it was the virus that ultimately killed them.” (Emph. mine – DED)
2). It is also noteworthy that health care facilities can receive vastly more federal funding for each case of Covid that they list that they had to deal with.
3). When you add to that, the fact that in states like Oklahoma where the less dependable rapid test results that used to be considered as probable are now counted as positive. Well, you can see how that if one doesn’t understand the parameters behind which these numbers are arrived at, that the daily reported Covid “death toll” numbers can, at the very least appear to be quite deceptive, if not outright overly and grossly exaggerated.
However, the point of this article is neither to minimize the impact of the Coronavirus or to downplay the tragic loss of life that it is legitimately causing daily in our society. Any one life lost to this monster is one life too many! But what the point of this article actually is, is to bring to our attention a far, far, infinitely far greater and more deadly and dangerous event, and subsequently, the unbelievable irony that accompanies it. Consider…
Using these overly exaggerated numbers partly because even slightly more accurate ones are nowhere readily available as far as I know, that means that while 8,393,773 Americans have reportedly contracted the Coronavirus as of October 19th, that the other 322.5 or so million, or roughly 97.5% of Americans, have not. And yet, as to the infinitely more far reaching and life-changing event of which I speak, it will be experienced by every single American, as well as every other person on the entire planet to boot – 100% of us, no exceptions!
Also, while the recently-chronicled amount of Covid cases that have had an outcome in America as of the 19th of October numbered 5,688,234, some 5,463,410(or roughly 96%) of those people who once had it, had also recovered from and ultimately survived it. However, as to the far more fatal future event to which I refer, there will be no such overwhelming survival rate. In fact, there will be far more who will perish in it – and for all eternity – than there will be of those who survive it (Matt. 7:13-27).
Obviously by now you’ve figured out that the event to which I refer is the coming Judgment Day (Rev. 20:10-15). And the obvious irony is how so many unsaved folks who so adamantly claim that we must all take the Coronavirus more seriously – a disease that has only infected less than 3% of our population; a disease which, amongst those whom it has infected, have experienced about a 96% recovery rate; and a disease which can, only at its absolute most, take away one’s momentary earthly life–seem to want nothing whatsoever to do with taking far more seriously the eternal death that so many – including all of them if they don’t become Biblical New Testament Christians – will most certainly experience come Judgement Day! Talk about needing to take something far more seriously? Talk about messed up priorities! Talk about straining out a gnat to swallow a camel (Matt. 23:23-24)?!?
But before we get too far down on those who know neither Christ, His word, or about the judgement to come (like Felix in Acts 24:25), what about us? Where do our priorities lie? In discussing and/or seeking to help others avoid and/or survive the Coronavirus? Or, in discussing and seeking to help others avoid the wrath of God on Judgement Day, by teaching them how to better know and to obey Jesus, so they can survive it by virtue of His blood and be guaranteed entrance into His eternal heavenly home?
Yes: Covid is indeed real; and it needs to be taken very seriously. However, the question we as Christians must answer is: “Have we been helping to stem the tide of something far more destructive by sharing the gospel instead?”
“What will happen to those who have never heard the gospel nor had an opportunity to obey it?” Is ignorance an excuse? Usually the one posing theses questions is asking about those ignorant of the gospel and will reference someone in the jungles of South America or the Dark Continent (Africa). They seem to think there are some tribesman who will never be able to hear the gospel proclamation because of politics or being so far back into the jungle.
It is pointed out these have no modern conveniences with which to hear
the gospel (Romans 10:15). They seemingly forget the statement of Paul
in Colossians 1:23, “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly
established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the
gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” But let us leave that thought for the moment.
What the one asking the question is really trying to ascertain is whether or not ignorance is an excuse. Keep in mind that ignorance, as defined by Webster is not necessarily the lack of ability to know but the lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.
Actually there are three classes of people who are ignorant. Some people are ignorant of various ideas and concepts having never been taught. Others are ignorant because they have never taken the time to learn or are unwilling to take the time to learn. Neither of these first two categories of people are ignorant because of inabilities. The third class of people are those who are ignorant because of inabilities. These fit into the same realm as innocent children—safe in the arms of Jesus. Those who we are concerned with in this article are those who fit into one of the first two categories, but the bottom line is “Is ignorance an excuse?”
Those Who Know Not God
Because the Bible provides “to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3), we can expect to find a Bible answer to this question. One passage that bears on this thought is 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 where Paul wrote, “it is only right…to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Surely, all realize those who are ignorant of the gospel message do not know God. Therefore, those who are ignorant of the gospel message are those who Christ will take vengeance against. Remember Colossians 1:23? At one time everyone has the opportunity to hear. Because someone rejected that opportunity in the past does not excuse someone today.
When Paul entered into the city of Athens, he passed by an altar with
the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). In his address to the
Athenians on Mars’ Hill, he said that “having overlooked the times of
ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should
repent” (Acts 17:30). Because Paul said “all people,” this admonition
excludes no one and because he said “everywhere,” it matters not where
they might live.
As Paul begins the book of Romans, he deals with the sins of Jews and Gentiles. Concerning the Gentiles he wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). In this passage Paul notes God manifested Himself in the things that He created. This same line of reasoning can and should be applied to all men. No man is without excuse because we can look inwardly and know that God exists. And we can look at the universe and know that God exists. Since we can know that God exists, we have a responsibility to Him to do His will.
One Way of Salvation
The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Undeniably, Jesus is the only way to the Father. Since He is the only way, there can be no other way. He is not just the provider of the way, but is Himself the way. Nor is He just the proclaimer of the way for, again, He is the way—the one and only way. If ignorance is an excuse, then there would be two ways of salvation—ignorance and Jesus. Therefore, because Jesus is the only way, ignorance cannot be a way.
Further, Luke records in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Again the emphasis is placed on Jesus as being the one and only way of salvation. Heaven’s door is open because of His atonement, because of His blood, and because of His sacrifice. Thus, “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13). If we for any reason do not call upon the name of the Lord, there is no salvation. Only in Him is redemption found. It cannot be found in ignorance for in Him only is there salvation.
In Christ, we are blessed with “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Certainly, salvation is a spiritual blessing and it, too, is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10). In some cases, ignorance may be bliss, but it is without doubt no spiritual blessing nor is ignorance of spiritual things found in Christ. In Christ, we have redemption, justification, sanctification, and salvation while in ignorance, there is only damnation and condemnation.
Sin Condemns, Not the Gospel
What causes a person to be lost is sin. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), while spiritual death is separation from God. Notice what Isaiah wrote to Israel of old: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). It is sin which separates man from God (not God’s sins but man’s sins). What causes a person to be separated from God is NOT his or her knowledge of the gospel. It is sin.
If a person has the ability to be saved because of ignorance, the gospel is not a gospel of salvation, it is a gospel of condemnation. If someone who is isolated from the rest of the world and never had the opportunity to hear the gospel can be saved because of his ignorance, then when the gospel is preached to him, it would bring condemnation rather than salvation if he did not respond to it favorably. It would not be “the glorious gospel” (1 Timothy 1:11), it would be the horrible gospel. Nor would not be “the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15), it would be the gospel of conflict. Also, it would not be “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), it would be the gospel of the brutality of God. There would be no “hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23), only despair.
This justification through ignorance would make the gospel of no power rather than “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). It would make the “Great Commission” of Jesus useless, unproductive, and vain. However, even the sacrifice of Jesus would be of no value if man could be saved through ignorance. It would be better for the world not to know than to know and to be condemned. If man could be saved in ignorance, we are doing no favors to anyone by teaching the gospel. We ought not name the name of Christ among the nations for it would be better to leave every person untaught.
To some, these things are hard. However, the hardness is not that they are unloving. Jesus Christ paid the price for every person and that price was His own precious blood. For “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Because God “will have all men to be saved,” Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4,6). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). These are the most loving words to ever pierce the hearing of man. These things are hard because of the weight of responsibility placed upon every person.
To those who are ignorant of spiritual matters, it is your responsibility to know God and to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). God would not have you to be ignorant but “to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and to purify your souls by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22).
To obey the truth, you must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24) and turn from your sins by repenting (Luke 13:3). You then must be “buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When you are buried with Him by baptism, the Lord adds you to His church (Acts 2:47). If you are faithful in this new life even unto death, Jesus promises that He will give unto you “a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Those who are the children of God are to publish and to herald His word to the four corners of the earth. If we really care about that isolated, ignorant and unenlightened tribesman, we would do everything in our power to send the gospel light to the far reaches of the world. We would not hold back the gospel, but proclaim it at every dawning of the morning and every dusk of the evening. And like the apostle Paul, we feel indebted to every man and compelled to preach the gospel (Romans 1:14-15). Because ignorance is no excuse, woe is unto us, if we preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).
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