The alien sinner is guilty of sin against God by turning his heart away from Him rejecting the means God has provided to save and shall be judged accordingly. But the Christian that turns his heart and life away from His majesty is not only guilty of producing sin in his life but is guilty of rejecting the right in order to commit and practice evil. We can learn from a valuable lesson presented in the Old Testament, of which the Apostle writes, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4). Jeremiah presents an invaluable lesson by considering God’s people in an ancient setting.
REJECTING FRESH WATER IN ORDER TO GO THIRSTY
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold not water.” (Jer. 2:13). God had given Israel life refreshing them when necessary by bestowing richness and life. Dissatisfied with His care for them they sought the gods of the people around them. Their devises were liken unto digging cisterns in which to store the precious things they thought God could give them only to discover the storehouses they had made were broken. Thus God reveled that they were guilty of two evils, the first that they turned their back upon God by scorning His commandments. The second was seen in their embracing evil.
Jesus gives to us a fountain of living water. In His encounter with the Samaritan woman who desired water so that she would never thirst again, the Lord knew she misunderstood as it was not physical water that would quench thirst forevermore. “…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14). In these modern times the evil of denominationalism is embraced by many as promoting the sinfulness of division is thought and proclaimed to be a good thing. They are guilty of that evil and God will call men into account for participation in that evil. Some Churches of Christ have gone a step further. Knowing the will of God’s teaching about unity in one body they have turned to the ways of the world in doctrine and worship. Some have joined the ranks of the denominationalisms by preaching that the church revealed in the New Testament is just another sect or denomination. Some have gone so far that they have rejected the scriptural name of the church (Rom. 16:16), and fellowship all churches regardless of their inferiority and departure from the word of our Lord. Others have not gone that far yet have introduced into worship instruments of worship, bible classes, individual cups to distribute the fruit of the vine, and declaring it is good to have the church divide in eating the Lord’s Supper by setting the table twice or more times on Lord’s day to accommodate the convenience of people. Thus they are not guilty of one evil only—forsaking God’s way, but are guilty of a second evil—embracing the evil ways of the world. Is history repeating itself? Why are we so slow in learning the lessons of old? “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” (Jer. 2:11).
THE BRIDE ADORNED FOR HER HUSBAND
Israel was likened to the wife of God in olden times. God had selected Israel and bound the people unto Himself. They were a nation like no other, yet they wandered from the oracles given to them at the mountain of Sinai. Rather than bow in obedience they rebelled against God’s way, which meant they rebelled against God. They determined that they knew what was better for them than God. Rather than enjoying the blessings and contentment of God’s house they sought the affections of other nations (lovers). Observe this description of their actions. “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. Why trimmest thy ways to seek love? Therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.” (Jer. 2:32-33). It does not matter how long a woman is married she never forgets the ornaments that adorned her on her wedding day. It matters little when compared to the garments she might obtain in later more prosperous days she always appreciates the dress she wore on that memorial day. It was the very best that could be had. Yet Israel had cast off and forgotten the righteous ways that had adorned her as God’s bride. This was not careless or a slip, it was predetermined. She did not want God or His ways anymore. God plead with her to return to Him with little effect. She trimmed her ways to make her suitable to idol worship. “Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no, for I have loved strangers and after them will I go.” (Jer. 2: 25), They were guilty: not of one evil which was forsaking God, but two— taking up the ways of the heathen and the worship of idols.
The Church of Christ is presented as the Bride (Wife) of Christ. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ: that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom. 7:1-4). Israel being brought to God as His wife no longer was bound unto Him as the law (covenant) which bound them together was dead being fulfilled with the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. No only were the Jews freed from the law that was taken away, gentile people could not be constrained to submit to any of the ordinances it had imposed and were not presented as requirements to have a right relationship to God as taught by the Judizers (Col. 2:14-17). Israel (and all people), now that the Church is established the Apostle writes, “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” The Church of Christ is the wife of the Lord. “…Christ is the head of the church: and is the saviour of the body…the church is subject unto Christ…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:23-27). Christ prepares people to become His Bride through a certain process, ”washing and sanctification (setting apart). The washing was through baptism into Christ, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk. 16:16). As the text says, Christ is the saviour of the body.” Being readied His Bride is presented to Him in all her beauty and splendor—she has no sin—no spot, wrinkle or blemish. When the sinners guilty of crucifying Jesus sought relief they were told to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” making them free from sin— without spot, wrinkle or blemish. Those accepting this promise “were baptized” resulting in being married to Jesus, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:38, 41, 47).
The church can “trim her ways to seek love.” By this action the church is guilty of spiritual adultery, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (Js. 4:4). Like the people of old described by Jeremiah the church can go gadding. The question might be asked today, “Why gaddest thou about to change thy way thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.” (Jer. 2:36). Gad means “to roll, turn or spin.” Our word spinster referring to a single woman or a married woman that acts the part of one who is single. She is no longer satisfied and content with her home life and her husband but ventures out to seek the love of others. In the case of Israel she had flirted with Egypt and Assyria only to later be ashamed. “Rolling, turning or spinning always ends in guilt and shame. Again, Israel was not guilty of one sin forsaking her husband (God), but guility of a second sin practicing that which was forbidden. When a congregation decides to regulate its affairs by the standards of the world rather than by the commandments of God it also is not guilty of one sin only the sin of the thing done, but is guilty of a second sin rejecting God’s word in order to commit the evil.
REACHING THE POINT OF NO HOPE
God did everything possible to call them to repentance even to reminding them that not only would they sever themselves from the blessing He had stored up for them, but in addition their wickedness would develop into heartaches and a curse. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know thou therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.” (Jer. 2:19). He would judge them just as He did the nations about them, yet apparently they had ignored the clear, present, precise and oft repeated warnings. Israel had completely forgotten that the “Lord was the God of hosts (armies).” The result there was no fear left in them. They thought they could be victorious in battle without God. Their decision was clear “…but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” (Jer. 2:25). Hope lies in the acceptance of God’s way—believing His promises—trusting in His strength—and obeying the stipulations imposed. Israel would not respond, except to say, “there is no hope.” Remember God has never left mankind and especially His people unless they make the decision to go without Him. “No hope” bespeaks of a hapless state.
The Church of Christ is wonderfully blessed because of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Serving God is a matter of choice, as with Israel He does not force His affections upon the church—it is true He wants our love but it must be without compulsion. God draws us unto Himself with the bands of love, keeping us ever near by continually showering upon us the promises of Divine care and preservation. He has shown us the end result if we chose to forsake Him for the affections of the religionist around us. While they are judged for their transgressions, know surely and presently we also shall be judged. “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them that do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.” (Rom. 2:3-6). Some congregations apparently think that because they have placed the name CHURCH OF CHRIST on a sign before the meeting-house, worship without a mechanical instrument accompanying the singing, assemble without dividing into classes for teaching and use one cup to distribute the fruit of the vine God takes no notice of their disobedience in other ways. Accepting and promoting immorality the judgment of God upon a congregation as well as the denominational world, Why? Because such are not guilty of committing one sin only, by allowing such evils in their midst, but are guilty of a second evil, rejecting the right in order to practice evil. The Lord spoke to a church in Revelation two at verse twenty, “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” A congregation that tolerates fornication, no even more, promotes it among members shall not escape the day which Christ shall judge the living and the dead. It will be an awful day for a church that has condemned the practice of evil in worldly people yet are guilty of the same, because they are not guilty of only the sin itself, but are guilty of forsaking the right in order to practice evil.
May God help us to recognize the lesson presented in Israel of old and repent before it is to late. The consequence is not bordered by this world and life but reach all the way to eternity.
Barney Owens 1806
People speak of various things as being sensible while ignoring the most sensible of all:
Surrendering unto the Lord.