Paul wrote, “God…will render…to those who…do not obey the truth…indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish…”
Before we explore what this is saying, let us first recognize that we re isolating one element in a list. That entire list (which segregates all people everywhere and of all times into two groups who act across five categories of behavior) will be the basis of our judgment before God. We are isolating only one part of this list because it is a primary area in which most people who claim to be followers of Christ fall far short of the glory of God to which they are called.
The first question we must address is just how do we define a “Christian,” a follower of Christ. Is it one who goes to “church” one day out of seven and who lies, slanders and cheats his fellow men, even other believers, the other six? Obviously not. From what Paul has written here, those who do not obey the truth are subject to God’s wrath. Wrath is reserved for the sons of disobedience, the sons of the devil.
The second thing we must notice is that the wrath is reserved for those who disobey the truth. To disobey the truth requires that the person in question must consciously reject the truth. The objection usually raised against the idea of salvation being found only in Christ is: What about those who have never heard of Christ? For those who have truly never heard of Christ, there is no truth to disobey in this regard. There has been no rejection of Christ. This will not be a factor in their judgment on the last day.
But what about all those “good” “church” folks who have faithfully attended “church” all (or most or even some) of their lives but routinely gossip, slander, judge, condemn, steal, defraud, manipulate and/or otherwise oppress or abuse the other people in their lives? Or what about those who have heard the gospel all their lives, avoid gross, blatant evil but care nothing about the will of God for their lives, perhaps even using the gospel as an excuse or means of feathering or gilding their own personal comfort zone? These have routinely heard the words of truth and just as routinely rejected the Spirit of truth by which they might live. This will be a major factor in these people’s judgment on the last day.
There is perhaps no greater enemy of the Spirit of truth than soulish or carnal knowledge. One can know the words of the Bible backwards and forward – Satan does! – and still not have anything of the Spirit of truth. The carnal (fleshly or soulish) mind is enmity against God and will result only in death. Only those who live by the Spirit (of truth, life, holiness, eternity, liberty, etc.) will experience the eternal life of God – both now and then when the last judgment has been made.
There is a third category which we should consider also: What about those who reject the truth of Christ because the words of Christ are so deeply tainted and poisoned with the preacher’s hypocrisy of deceived and deceitful living? Can someone truly and completely blame a worldling or Hindu or Moslem (whose lifestyle, when measured in terms of honesty, loyalty and generosity, may be leagues above that of the “Christian” trying to evangelize him) for rejecting Christ when to accept Christ would cause him to reject his own culture and step into one that is many times worse?
May God be merciful to all who have partaken of “church” and enable us to repent of all our fleshly and carnal ways in which we have actually hindered the spread of Christ’s gospel.
Let he who has ears hear.
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