When Silence Is Sinful
by John MacArthur
Ignore it and it will go away. That seems to be the tactic the charismatic movement has adopted when it comes to false prophets, heretical theology, and phony miracles. Many charismatics simply turn a blind eye to the corruption in their midst, assuming that if it’s not happening in their church then it’s not their problem.
But that’s not the biblical pattern for dealing with sin in the church. In fact, it directly contradicts the apostle Paul’s instructions for dealing with false converts and professing believers whose sin is corrupting the church. To the church at Ephesus he wrote, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
Our Christian responsibility goes beyond abstaining from the “deeds of darkness.” We are also called to expose them. To ignore evil is to encourage it, and to keep quiet about it is to help promote it. The verb translated as “expose” (from elegchō) can also carry the idea of reproof, correction, punishment, or discipline. We are to confront sin with intolerance.
Sometimes such exposure and reproof will be direct and at other times indirect, but it should always be immediate. When we are living in obedience to God, that fact in itself will be a testimony against wrong. When those around us see us helping those in need rather than exploiting them, hear us talking with purity instead of profanity, and observe us speaking truthfully rather than deceitfully, our example will be a rebuke against selfishness, unwholesome talk, and lies. Simply refusing to participate in a dishonest business or social practice will sometimes be such a strong rebuke that it costs us our job or a friendship. Dishonesty is terribly uncomfortable in the presence of honesty, even when there is no verbal or other direct opposition.
Often, of course, open rebuke is necessary. Silent testimony will only go so far. Failure to speak out against and oppose evil is a failure to obey God. Believers are to expose the works of darkness with whatever legitimate, biblical means necessary. Love that does not openly expose and oppose sin is not biblical love. Love not only “does not act unbecomingly” but it “does not rejoice in unrighteousness” wherever it might be found (1 Corinthians 13:5–6). Our Lord said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private. . . . If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you. . . . If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:15–17). This is the responsibility of every Christian (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1, 20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15).
Unfortunately, many Christians are barely able to keep their own spiritual and moral houses in order that they do not have the discernment, inclination, or power to confront evil in the church or in society at large. We should be so mature in biblical truth, obedience, holiness, and love that the natural course of our life is to expose, rebuke, and offer the remedy for every kind of evil.
Sadly, many Christians do not confront evil because they do not take it seriously. They laugh and joke about unadulterated wickedness—things that are immoral and ungodly in the extreme. They recognize the sinfulness of those things and would likely never participate in them; but they enjoy them vicariously. In so doing, they not only fail to be an influence against evil but are instead influenced by it—contaminated to the extent that they think and talk about it without exposing and rebuking it.
Whether the sin is isolated to one small group or congregation, or it thrives on a global scale like the corruption in the charismatic movement, God’s people need to be faithful to expose and deal with it biblically.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians.)
#1 Posted by
Horace Ward | Thursday, February 20, 2014at
As I just finished reading 2 Timothy chapter 4 I've been thinking about this exact point. Thank you John MacArthur.
#2 Posted by
Sherry Nolte | Thursday, February 20, 2014at
Ignoring sin may be so popular because the Word of God is not being preached in its fullness and sadly many cannot not even discern good from evil. What is evil is being accepted as good and normal and what is good is being accepted as bad and abnormal. For instance some churches are becoming so "real" that they wear their sin out in the open unashamed, unbroken and unchanged, while claiming to be a "work in progress" and expecting tolerance of other Christians, while asking for no help to overcome them. WHY? Because they think"grace" allows this, which we know is false because the word of God says shall I continue to sin that grace may abound? GOD FORBID! And those who are obedient to the Word of God and want to become more like Christ and who abhor sin not only in themselves but others are made out to be legalist, judgmental and intolerant. Some Churches don't even talk about what sin is. They avoid the word "sin" in every way and seem to talk about all the outward ways to be a Christian, but nothing of the inward which leaves the heart unchanged. We are being made to think that standing on the word of God and its truth is unrealistic and unloving. Any attempt to expose sin is being less and less tolerated not only in the Church but also in the worldly culture. It should concern us that the "world" and the "church" are becoming like each other. Shall we not rather mourn?
J. C. Ryle said, “Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], on Luke 20:9-19, p. 326). Thus our first reaction to sin must be to see it clearly from the Scriptures. Then, realizing that it put our Savior on the cross, we should mourn over it. Finally, we should confess it without excuse to the God of mercy, appropriating His cleansing for our consciences, that we might be renewed to serve Him in purity.
#3 Posted by
William Proud | Thursday, February 20, 2014at
Since there is no one righteous I'm gonna have a field day pointing out every one else's sins.
But actually I've already tried that and found out no one listens or they deny that they are even sinning. I've witnessed to those who deny the doctrines of Election, Predestination and Eternal Salvation and gotten nowhere. People are locked in on what they believe even if it is wrong.
'We played a flute for you and you did not dance;
We mourned to you and you did not weep.'
Jesus said in John 8:43, "Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word?"
There was a couple from our group who divorced, she was born again. I wanted to tell her that she would lose her husband, her house, her land, her money, her church and her friends. She did not want counsel. I knew all this from experience. I offered them counsel and she ran from it. He remarried and now goes to her Catholic Church.
I witnessed to a man who told me that Jesus was okay but Jehovah was who we really needed to worship. Guess who was talking to him?
I responded that Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father but through Me!" He doesn't confront me anymore.
Would it do any good to go scream in any church? They will not listen. There is a Victory World Outreach in our town jumpin and jivin in their spirit filled enthusiasm and conditional salvation doctrine. I witnessed to one of theirs. Still jumpin and jivin.
But who am I to confront the sin of others? I do what I don't want to do and don't do what I want to do. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
I thank God--- through Jesus Christ my Lord!!!!!!!!!
#4 Posted by
Holly Schrader | Thursday, February 20, 2014at
Subtle sin in God's house needs to be exposed as well. I am having difficulty finding a church because of what is happening within seemingly biblical, contemporary churches. While not overt sin, it is encroaching darkness, nonetheless. I have been trying to ignore it, but it will not go away.
Looking like grunge band members, today's worship leaders seem to value personal freedom and being contemporary, over pleasing God and looking one's best to honor Him. Following along in worship with a leader who looks like a drug addict is difficult. And trying to praise and glorify the Lord by singing simple, repetitive lyrics using pronouns, " I, me , and my," unceasingly, is mind-numbing, not to mention the fact that such music falls short of honoring and glorifying the Lord as it should. Is one wrong to not shrug this off?
Another wayward trend in the doctrinally correct church today is the unfocused pastor who cannot seem to avoid wasting pulpit time talking about himself and other topics unrelated to Scripture. That is time stolen from God. Those in the congregation, we the starving sheep eager to hear the Word of God, are continually denied that privilege when the person on the pulpit platform is sidetracked away from Scripture. The message subtly communicated is that the Bible is not that important, that hearing from God can be shoved aside to make room for whatever else a human mind thinks best with which to replace it! Conversely, and sinfully, I have also seen Scripture used as a device to promote church ventures and fundraising events.
Aaron and his sons, in Leviticus, were commanded by Moses to show reverence to God in dress and behavior as they performed their duties in the tabernacle. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead, (Lev. 10), as they became lax in their behavior and reverence before the Lord. How is the demand by God for total obedience, submission and purity in performing His duties on behalf of His people any different today? How is God any less offended now by indifference to His Word, His holiness and His glory? While opposition to corruption on every level in the world is one thing, how does one stand against the subtle, seemingly insignificant offenses against God and His children by the leaders inside the church today? And is it not time to speak up when such practices erode and distort Scriptural purpose and depth of worship, and ultimately distract from the glory of God?
#5 Posted by
William Johnson | Friday, February 21, 2014at
In all of this discussion, we should note the ones who are not walking in the Spirit, who deny the deity of Christ, who violate the Scriptures, either by denying its power or content by saying it's outdated. We should take note, talk to a mature believer about the message they bring. Be like the Berean believers and search the Scriptures to corroborate their message. And when a person is NOT bringing the message of Christ, they should be exposed! If any of us do not expose them, we run the risk of others being duped by the false message. Yes, we all as believers should walk with the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. But warn others, that they may not fall into the traps that are out there.
And indeed, we should not fall into the traps ourselves! There are preachers today that this writer will not listen to, at all, turn the radio off! Because someone has warned me. Pursuing Christlike righteousness means means saying "NO" to ungoldiness and worldly lusts (titus 2:12).
Please, let us all walk in true Godliness always, and encourage each other to do the same. Holding to the highest Standard possible! (Col 3:17)
Tks GTY and to John for speaking the truth in love, and holding to a Higher Standard!
#6 Posted by
Jennifer Phillips | Friday, February 21, 2014at
I agree with what you said
"The message subtly communicated is that the Bible is not that important, that hearing from God can be shoved aside to make room for whatever else a human mind thinks best with which to replace it! Conversely, and sinfully, I have also seen Scripture used as a device to promote church ventures and fundraising events. "
Sadly, due to relocation, we are trying to find a new church and it has been very disappointing. One "highly recommended" church that is growing, has a Christian School, and I was told is a wonderful Bible-teaching church left me in shock. The pastor came out onto a stage (it was literally a stage with a background that you would expect at a play) carrying a huge chain. He went on to say how this chain represents money that is a heavy burden they carry because the church is unable to reach out to the community and accomplish all of it goals. He went on to give examples of "what if everyone tithed" and how they could do so much for the Lord and his burden would be lifted and if everyone tithed they could focus on their mission. Without everyone tithing, this church cannot be as effective and reach the community for God's Glory. He said it holds them back from reaching the unsaved. He went on to state several Bible verses regarding money. This church has more than one campus and he is traveling to each campus to give this message while working with the church leaders at each location to "strategize" and develop their vision for all of these good and desirable programs. Their leaders analyzed the numbers based on the number of families that attend each week and came up with different salary scenarios. He gave examples of what their weekly offering would be if a family income was $40K, $50K, $60K, etc. and those families tithed. He said when the leaders meet, money is a distraction that prevents them from being all that God would have them be.
What happened to making disciples of the people that sit in your pews each week and sending them out to reach their neighbors, friends, co-workers and families for God's Glory? When unsaved people look at our lives, what do they see?
#7 Posted by
Raymond Citak | Friday, February 21, 2014at
You are absolutely correct in your comments about music in contemporary christian worship churches. Not only is the charismatic movement utilizing this, but it is becoming commonplace in many traditionally doctrinal churches. It oversteps the boundaries of worship in spirit, holiness, and principle.
As a student of music all my life, I can say firsthand that different types of music carry an inherent "character" that not only reflects a mood, but actually stimulates a person in a specific direction. It indeed acts much like words in a language; not a verbal language, rather an intuitive one that is built into the human character. The Bible defines true worship as being in spirit and truth. Is that what is stimulated when we listen to a "rock" beat and trivial words? Indeed not. These worship "teams" look no different than a rock music band that reflects the world's entertainment.
Not only should Christians speak out against movements that support doctrinally questionable positions, but we should also speak out when worship services cross the line and simply reflect the world. These worship techniques are simply designed to attract more people into the church rather than to honor Christ in holiness and worship. Those who are called to sanctification need to reflect God's holiness and majesty rather that looking just like the world.
#8 Posted by
Russell Aubrey | Friday, February 21, 2014at
This comment is something of a sidebar to John's main thrust in this essay, but does deal with the promotion of phony miracles. It has become, in my experience, a widespread and common occurrence to receive e-mail messages from friends and family that begin with a heartwarming Christian message, but end with a "call to action" that reminds me of the techniques used in the prosperity Gospel.
This call to action goes something like this: "Send this message along to 10 other people - in the next two minutes - and you will receive a miracle in your life by the end of the day." Yesterday, I received one from my brother that proclaimed a great movement of the Holy Spirit in my life - in just one hour - if only I would pass along the message. I wonder if the rest of you have experienced this and what you make of this odd phenomenon or phenomena? It would be interesting to also hear what John or Phil, or some of the others think.
As far as I'm concerned, as soon as I read this call to action I immediately decide not to follow through, which is unfortunate because, as I mentioned, the initial message or story is worthy enough to share.
#9 Posted by
Jennifer Phillips | Friday, February 21, 2014at
I see your point. Unfortunately, the Church is looking more and more like the world all the time. I hope we don't get to the point where we can't tell them apart.
I am looking forward to John's series on Acts. I am sure there is much in Acts we can learn from. It appears people are on one of two extremes. They either dismiss Acts saying it was only related to the early Church, or they embrace the miracles and signs and other events saying those continue in our modern day. Maybe this series on Acts will remind us of what a Church is supposed to look like and get us back to the basics Christ intended for His Church. It is very timely for the Shepherd's Conference as well. Perhaps eyes need opened to the true working of the Holy Spirit. For those of us raised in the Church, I fear sometimes we become too comfortable because of the traditions we grew up with that we miss the subtle diversions.
Thank you Grace to You for your faithfulness!
#12 Posted by
Shiv Kapoor | Saturday, February 22, 2014at
I'm surprised about the comments regarding contemporary Christian music. I guess it shows how our perspectives can make us see things differently. The lyrics I hear in the songs are straight from the Bible and worship and praise God with reverence. I love so many of the songs for the Bible-based truth of the message proclaimed in them just as much as I love the hymns for the same reason. I grew up listening to rock music and did not become a Christian until a few years ago. After becoming a Christian, I started listening to the Christian contemporary music and rarely listen to rock songs anymore. Now, instead of my mind being filled with unholy lyrics from rock songs, it is filled with God-honoring lyrics in addition to the verses that fill my mind from reading the Bible.
There are songs, I agree, that are more superficial and certainly would not make it into a contemporary Christian "hymn" book. But, I'm sure not every hymn that was written made it into a hymn book.
Concerning the "grunge" rock looking worship leaders, I think we should be careful to not judge by appearances.
I completely agree, though, that the message preached from the pulpit needs to be the pure, unadulterated Word of God, not some watered-down feel-good version that does not challenge the believer. There are many churches where that is not done, unfortunately.
#13 Posted by
Sherry Nolte | Monday, February 24, 2014at
J.C. Ryles had it right....“it is hard enough to fight the devil, the world and the flesh, without private differences in our own camp. But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or challenge. It was controversy that won the battle of Protestant Reformation. If the views that some men hold were correct, it is plain we never ought to have had any Reformation at all! For the sake of peace, we ought to have gone on worshiping the Virgin Mary, and bowing down to images and relics to this very day! Away with such trifling! There are times when controversy is not only a duty—but a benefit. Give me the mighty thunderstorm, rather than the deadly malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons us in silence, and we are never safe. The other frightens and alarms for a little while.” ““It is a plain Scriptural duty to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
I am quite aware that the things I have said are exceedingly distasteful to many minds. I believe many are content with teaching which is not the whole truth, and fancy it will be "all the same" in the end. I am sorry for them. I am convinced that nothing but the whole truth is likely, as a general rule, to do good to souls. I am satisfied that those who willfully put up with anything short of the whole truth, will find at last that their souls have received much damage. There are three things which men never ought to trifle with: a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin.
I am quite aware that when a man expresses such opinions as those I have just brought forward, there are many who are ready to say, "He is not faithful to the Church." I hear such accusations unmoved. The day of judgment will show who were the true friends of the Church and who were not.
Excerpt From: J. C. Ryle. “Warnings to the Churches.” iBooks.
#14 Posted by
Tonya Dixon | Wednesday, February 26, 2014at
#4 Holly and #7 Raymond, you guys hit the nail on the head! Take it from one who, only a little better than a year ago, finally got tired of the "grunge band" look of a worship team (of which I was a member, and stuck out like a sore thumb) and lyrics that could have been sung to one's love interest over a candlelit dinner on Saturday night. I repented profusely during the "Strange Fire" conference when Pastor John and the panel showed the videos of some of the huge "worship" concerts taking place across America and the world. I had sung some of those VERY SAME SONGS, knowing in my heart that they did not honor the true and living God. I fought many a lost battle over songs and lyrics that I believed were less than God-honoring. I finally could not take it anymore and I quit the worship team.
However, the straw that finally broke the camel's back for me was when the pastor got up and started "preaching", using examples from his own life, giving personal testimony that changed my thinking about him forever. There is a place for personal testimony, but Sunday mornings in the pulpit (in my opinion) is not the time or place. I left church that day shocked at what he had confessed, not remembering anything that he said out of scripture.
These people, (I won't even call them churches) are rebellious at best. The fact that they are determined not to "look" like mainline denominations says a lot about them. I was repeatedly labelled a legalist because I held a Biblical view of what needed to happen in church. I was even teased one Sunday by someone who pointed out that "we are a casual church", and I was overdressed because I came to church in presentable attire.
I wonder sometimes why God continues to tolerate such nonsense within the church, but then I am reminded of His love, grace and mercy, that desires none to perish, but all to come to repentance. I believe that God has not raptured up His church yet because He is giving these people a chance to repent. If He came at this second, there may be many who are lost. I thank Him for His mercy, because I would have been lost had He not shown it to me.
Thanks Pastor John and Grace To You, for your love for God and His Word, and your desire to see lives changed through the spread of the Gospel.
#15 Posted by
Raymond Citak | Wednesday, February 26, 2014at
Your comments were so encouraging to me as I read them. Thank you. I have learned much confronting others on the contemporary christian worship movement, and I thank the Lord for teaching me to be kinder, to speak out with gentleness and patience, but never to waver from my convictions which are based on Scriptural principles. I too have been called a legalist, a "sour pickle" Christian, walked away from having lunch with someone, defriended on FaceBook, etc., but I will not be dissuaded that this is not holy worship pleasing to the Lord. I encourage you to stand your ground and know that others think as you do. God is certainly working in your life to your sanctification, and always remember Romans 8:28, that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose!
#16 Posted by
Jennifer Phillips | Wednesday, February 26, 2014at
I have also thought about what you said regarding God not rapturing the Church yet to give people a chance to repent. I have also wondered if the tribulation period is extending that chance for those that remain.
#17 Posted by
Carol Edge | Monday, March 03, 2014at
As my heart has been so heavy in these past days watching the Pope and progression of the false church toward the coming one world religion offered by antichrist, a friend sent me this and encouraged me more than you know. Thank you for the words of great Truth and hope even in the midst of challenging days.
#19 Posted by
Justa Slave | Monday, March 10, 2014at
I agree with your statement about music and the looks of worship leaders. It grieves me to realize fellow faithful believers are caught up in music genre and look.
Perhaps those in this thread that were around for the Acts church gave Paul, Peter and the rest of the church an upturned nose since they weren't dressed in ties, button-ups and suits. And music genre? So genre's of music have evil spirits? And the piano, or the organ (which weren't even invented in Paul's time) have holy influence but electric guitars don't?
1 Corinthians 19-23 states:
For hthough I am free from all, iI have made myself a servant to all, that I might jwin more of them. 20 kTo the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To lthose outside the law I became mas one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but nunder the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 oTo the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. pI have become all things to all people, that qby all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, rthat I may share with them in its blessings."
If we model Christ, shouldn't we be adapting to culture? I am not saying sacrifice our holiness or message. I am not saying water things down. But what I am saying is there is no where in the Holy scripture that address the Church denouncing wearing jeans or having a particular haircut.
As Christ states in John 7:24
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with right judgment."
And even further, confront wickedness by the evil fruit it produces not your cultural preferences.
Again Christ states in Matthew 7:15
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."
So sure some songs can have fluff. But many, many new/contemporary worship songs are filled with the message of the Gospel and praising God with no sacrifice of the message.
#20 Posted by
Raymond Citak | Monday, March 10, 2014at
Your arguments concerning worship and music are somewhat surprising. You make a defense based on the freedom a Christian has, but you have to realize that freedom of all kinds has definite limitations. Your argument about conformation to culture is surprising too, as you must know that culture is a reflection of the world and its thinking.
When one comes to Christ, there are 2 basic reasons for doing so. The first is to recognize the Holiness of God as contrasted with man's sinfulness. The second is that in coming to Christ we repent of our sins and turn from them and are thus immediately justified but then begin the process of sanctification that will take a lifetime. What is this sanctification? Simply the process that changes our minds (Rom. 12:1) and moving us from thinking and acting sinfully as the world is thinking and acting as holy people, set apart unto God.
If one does not understand worldiness and the need to be seperated from it, you will not understand the music issue.
If one does not understand the Holiness of God one will not understand the music issue.
If one does not recognize that the church is to be separate, and not conformed to the world, then one will not understand the music issue.
Jesus said that what the Father seeks are "true worshipers". How does contemporary worship practices including music reflect the biblical principles of a Holy God, a set apart church, and the principles of sanctification in worship? Simply read the Bible (and don't just use it to defend a position without understanding the comprehensive principles involved: all cults use the Bible to argue too) and see: 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4; 1 Peter 1:13-16 to start you off.