GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 647 • June 1, 2021
PROBLEMS THE CHURCH SHOULD TALK ABOUT -10
The Proper Relationship to Good Moral People
QUESTION: There are lots of good moral people who aren’t members of the church. Why can’t we accept them into fellowship? Some are even better morally and socially than some members of the church. How can we tell them they are not good enough to be accepted? All religions have the same moral laws so why are they not accepted by Christians and all other religious people? If God can accept them why don’t we? In a God-fearing nation shouldn’t all God-fearing people be treated the same?
First: you are wrong in thinking you or any other person can be “good enough” to please God, His Christ, or His church without submitting actively and consciously to His Law and Covenant, without becoming a verified and active member of the body of people He recognizes and acknowledges as His church.
Second: you are wrong in thinking morality is the same or equivalent in all religions. This idea is a wild and unsupported assumption, not an actual fact. For example: violence against unbelievers – even killing them – is promoted in some religions. Violations of gender, sexual activity, marriage, parental and filial relationships, etc differ radically in some religions. Taboos, restrictions, and requirements vary widely among various religions. Subscribing to one religion (or even to denominational sub-sections within it) does not lead to acceptance and approval of or from other religions. Being a Christian, Jew, or Catholic does not make one equivalent or even acceptable to Islamists, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists or atheists, etc.
You are wrong in thinking God accepts people on the basis of morality or personal goodness. Some who think themselves to be good enough, based upon their own accepted ideas and standards, will find themselves rejected by God for failing to obey Him and His standards, including obedience to His Son, Jesus (Matthew 7:21-23). If God makes such a distinction and separation how can we expect to be accepted by Him if we discount it and reject it?
You are most assuredly wrong in thinking God accepts allegiance to other gods as constituting allegiance to Him (contrary to C. S. Lewis, who was great with Christian and scientific apologetics but not so great with Biblical doctrines – don’t choose Lewis over the Bible rightly understood). God insists that although many believe in what they call God or gods, in point of fact there is only one true and living God that is He himself (Exodus 20:1-7, Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 1 Corinthians 8:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, etc). Misjudgment of God is equivalent to atheism, disbelief and rejection of God.
You are wrong about being a God-fearing nation, I notice you didn’t suggest America is a “Christian nation” – actually there is no such thing, no nation that He adopts and claims as His own, identified with Him and possessed by Him, or even one that he allows to be called by His name. Not even Israel – in particular the current nation that names itself as His (EL is from a Hebrew word/name for God). A Christian nation – or home and family, or school, or church would necessitate all citizens, members, or participants in it be truly (not nominally but actually, according to God’s definition) Christians. As apostle Paul said, not all Israel (so-called) is (true) Israel (Romans 9:6) – therefore not all Jews will be saved but all of true Israel who can be identified as Christians – calling upon and faithfully obedient to God and His Christ (Romans 2:28-29, 10:9-17, 11:26 – Christians are the true Israel of God, His covenant people and peculiar/particular possession (Philippians 3:2-9, Titus 2:13-14, 1 Peter 2:9).
If anyone could be good enough for God without Christ why was it necessary for Christ to die – why did God give Christ to die to save sinners if they could be saved without him?
One cannot be counted as good without a valid standard by which to judge (see John 7:24). Tastes good, seems good, good enough to satisfy me, etc are not the same as morally good, legally right and good. Since we are speaking here of what God calls “good enough to be accepted and approved by Him” we must measure by His standard, judge as He judges, not as the world judges, some church or social group judges, or as you judge yourself. Neither you nor I nor we, nor the church, nor the government, nor the world is the arbiter of truth or of good. Only God can occupy that position.
ALL MEN ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL, NOR ARE ALL ENDOWED WITH THE SAME UNALIENABLE RIGHTS BY THE CREATOR GOD.
People often quote our Declaration of Independence and/or our Constitution and Bill of Rights as proof of what God decrees and provides. But none of those documents is Biblically based and none guarantees God’s relationship to our government or to ourselves individually or corporately. We cannot quote them as proof of what God intends or imposes upon our government and ourselves. How could God honor the laws and standards of all nations when they are so radically different and often contradictory? Many national laws and courts (even the “Supreme Court” of the land) violate laws of God. Two supreme examples of a moral and social/civil clash with the courts now are: (1) the right to kill innocent babies in the womb and for a brief time after exit from it – full-blown infanticide (such as has sometimes appeared historically) is not far away; (2) the science-ignoring mentally-defective and deficient insanity of gender fluidity and transgenderism and all sorts of sexual perversions which are now protected by law (but not tolerated by God).
Here are a few things we know but some are trying to forget. Not all humans are equal, at birth or at any time during their natural lives. Males and females are not equal in strength, mental acuity, various “talents” or inclinations. No two persons are exactly equal in potential or in accomplishment. Even children of the same parents are not equal. Do we dare to speak of the differences in opportunity given on the unequal basis of race, ethnicity, social milieu, culture, education, finances, and a host of other incidental relevancies? These differences will not be remedied by genetic engineering and manipulation (though some hope for it and dabble with it, by cloning, inter-species cross-breeding, abortion of mutants or defectives, ethnic-cleansing or genocide, etc). Every person is unique – one of a kind, with no possibility of duplication. It is impossible to have an equal beginning and life, or an equal outcome at the end of life (the current political ploy of a postulated equality or manipulated equidity. Politicians are among the least likely to be honest and trustworthy – believe them and trust them at your peril. The next most unlikely to know and understand spiritual and moral truth and and share it with you are the theologians – don’t trust your church or your preacher if he does not agree with God.
ACCORDING TO GOD WHO IS OR CAN BE “SAVED,” WHO CAN BE CALLED GOOD?
Do not look for the answer to this in a no-longer valid covenant or law. Do not assume you can be saved as Jews once were by keeping the Ten Commandments and relevant sacrifices of the Old Testament. Even the current Jews cannot be saved that way. Do not try to be saved as “the thief on the cross” was – a frequent cop-out regarding the necessity of baptism for salvation. Baptism was not a requirement for him or for anybody under the Old Testament under which he lived and died. Look for the plan of salvation now under the New Testament, God’s current covenant made and secured through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. Nobody can be saved today without obeying all requirements imposed by Christ.
Simplified as much as possible for listing, here is what God requires for salvation today (notice that being morally good or fitting well into the culture is not part of the plan).
OBEDIENT FAITH in Him, His Christ, His Sprit and His word. (John 3:16, Hebrews 11:1, 6).
TRUE AND CONSISTENT REPENTANCE, not only a change of mind and attitude but a change of action, including correction, possible restitution and reconciliation, a change of relationship to God and to His covenant law, which produces a change of destination, and a changed hope of getting to the right one (Luke 13:3-5, Acts 2:38, Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 5:17-21).
BAPTISM into Christ, into the church as a member part (Acts 2:38, 40-41, 47; Romans 6:4-6, Galatians 3:26-29, 1 Corinthians 12:13). You will not find one accountable person saved after the day of Pentecost without baptism. Accountable but unbaptized is lost.
FAITHFUL KEEPING OF THE FAITH and all parts of the covenant (Revelation 2:10, compare 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
PROPER WORSHIP is part of one’s keeping of the faith and covenant (John 4:21-24, Colossians 3:16-17). Failure to worship properly is sin.
PROPER STEWARDSHIP of one’s own being as well as one’s personal resources (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 8:5, 12). Failure to be good stewards – proper givers – is sin.
Being good morally does not save one, but it is expected of all the saved. Fellowship of the saved is reserved for those who are truly saved by obedience to all of God’s gospel. Many of the persons who occupy the pews with you are not saved, though they may think they are. Even some of the once-saved are now unsaved by failure to be right and good. You cannot treat the unsaved – even the once-saved but no longer saved – as equals in the Lord’s church. Your mission to the lost is to encourage and assist in their salvation, not accept them in their sins and lostness. Their failure to respond separates them from you and from God. Your failure to separate yourself from them can make you joined together with them and sharing their rejection by God. You may thank God that they are in some sense good, but without Christ in God neither they nor you are “good enough.”