When Is One Bidding Godspeed to Another’s Error?

by Kenneth E. Thomas

One may be prone to say, "Why, that's a silly question, everyone knows the answer."  Not so fast my good friend and or my brother in Christ; the answer may not be quite as easy as you first thought. I will take a stab at a partial answer by citing some synonyms that we can each understand readily.

  • Encourage
  • Participate
  • Condone
  • Justify
  • Fellowship
  • Share
  • Facilitate
  • Uphold
  • etc.

I'm sure I haven't given them all simply because I do not even know all of the synonyms concerning "bidding Godspeed" to "error." However, this list should suffice to illustrate my lesson.

Some Passages That Illustrate

Both Old and New Testaments have quite a lot to say about not participating in the error of others, else we become likewise guilty of the same.  We know the principle of one who agrees to drive the "getaway car" for others who "rob a bank" being likewise guilty before our courts and in the eyes of the Lord, as "an accessory."  For this lesson I wish to call your attention to the following passages and the principles taught therein: (Ezekiel 3:17-21; Acts 20:26-27; Ephesians 5:11; II Corinthians 6:14-18; II John 9-11). As is true above of synonyms, the same is true of passages where the principle of not encouraging or participating in another's error are concerned, you may think of several other passages that I have not cited. However, when a principle is established with one clear passage, adding others doesn't make it any truer than it already is I wouldn't think. However, we do seem to be impressed when the evidence can be cited from multiple passages. Let us take these passages one by one:

Ezekiel 3:17-21: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: Therefore hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet  if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I  lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that he sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. "

Prophets of God under the Old, as well as the New Testament during the apostolic age, were inspired spokesman for God. That is, they related God's will primarily, I suppose, to God's covenant people.  While "I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet," and therefore am not appointed by Christ as a "watchman over the house of spiritual Israel, the church" (Galatians 6:16); I am charged as an evangelist for Christ to "preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching...Be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (II Timothy 4:1-8). Evangelists are charged with "setting things in order" in local churches of Christ and taking the lead in bringing the congregation to full organization with elders, deacons, and other saints (Titus 1:5; Philippians 1:1; Acts 14:23), etc. I conclude, therefore, that I must teach, based on what I can observe in the lives of the members where I serve in this capacity, what I understand to be the will of Christ for His disciples if I am to discharge this awesome responsibility placed upon me by Jesus Christ. If I know what's needed and gloss it over for fear or for favor, I am not a faithful evangelist. This principle is further illustrated in our next citation: I Timothy 4:16.

Paul called the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus where they had a Bible study class. Part of what Paul said is recorded in (Acts 20:26-27): "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole council of God." Earlier in this same chapter, he said: "How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20:20). I understand from this and other passages that Paul taught what was needed when it was needed, as well as how it was needed.  Whereas he was guided directly by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to know "what", "when", and "how", evangelists today must "...give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." (I Timothy 4:13) with as much wisdom and knowledge as we are able to muster in order to properly wield the "sword of the Spirit, the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). Sometimes we misjudge "what", "when", as well as the "how" we should deal with various doctrinal and moral matters regardless of how hard we try not to do so. I have no doubt that I have turned a few people away from the Lord when I was trying with all of my heart to lead them to Christ or to a closer walk with Him.  However, preachers must preach the truth as they understand it with as much love as we can muster (Ephesians 4:15), then as we sometimes say,  "let the chips fall where they may!"

Ephesians 5:11: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."  To comply one must have a clear understanding of what is and what isn't "unfruitful works of darkness!" This requires a good grasp on what constitutes "the works of light"

We Must Walk in the Light to Maintain Fellowship with Deity and with Those Who Are in Fellowship with Deity

John wrote: in I John 1:1-10: "That which was from the beginning, which we [the apostles, KET] have heard, which we have seen with our eyes which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."  Ephesians 5:8 reads: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light."

Walking in the light obviously does not require "sinless perfection" else there would be no sins needing "continual cleansing!" An occasional "step into darkness" isn't a "walk in darkness" but such must be repented of and one must ask for forgiveness as stated in (1 John 1:9; Acts 8:22).  One who "walks in darkness" has broken fellowship with Deity and is classified as being involved in "a sin unto death" (I John 5:16-17).  To conduct myself so as to condone or to uphold such as are involved in "a sin unto death" puts one in the same category. If not, then why not? Amos asked a rhetorical question in Amos 3:3, which was: "Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?" Paul also answers this age-old question in the following context where he admonishes us to: "Come Out From Among Them!"

II Corinthians 6:14-18: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, For what fellowship  has  righteousness  with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what agreement has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with Idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As  God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore come out from among them and be  separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

We Have Established What the Scriptures Teach Now Comes the Difficult Task of Making the Proper Applications!

The above instructions from God's word preclude the Christian from any actions that would tend to condone the errors of any human denomination.  Several benevolent and service organizations are run by some denomination or another. For the Christian to assist such by making monetary contributions or to give them the benefits of one's labor, would be to support their entire program and the religious error or doctrinal position of said organization.  This is why I pass by without making a contribution into the kettles of  "The Salvation Army."  While I do not deny the good things they do with some of the funds for which they beg from the general public, still, "the ends  do not justify the means." Consequently, I will not make a contribution of used clothing or furniture, etc. If I have such to donate to the truly needy, surely I can find some needy family and give it directly to them! This way because I am a Christian, Christ receives the glory if any glory is to be received. (Matthew 5:13-16).  If you doubt that "The Salvation Army" is a religious organization, hence a human denomination, which teaches some religious truth along with some doctrinal error, please read the following from their on-line web page. Remember also that they say  "Decon rat poison is about ninety-eight percent wholesome cornmeal and only Two Percent deadly poison!"  It's that "Two Percent" that's deadly!

Doctrines of The Salvation Army

We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocence, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation.

We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.

We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

The above doesn't deal with what constitutes scriptural baptism, its objects, its action, nor its design. Nor do they deal with the names, organization, worship, and mission of local New Testament churches, concerning each of which they are at odds in their teaching and practices with what is authorized. (Colossians 3:17)  While quite a lot of the above statements happen to be biblical, that percentage that's false is where the problems lie! (Matthew 15:8-9; Romans 16:16-18; Galatians 1:6-11; II John 9-11).

What I have said here applies with equal force to any other benevolent or service organization that is affiliated with any religious denomination or movement.  If not, then please tell me why not? My heart aches just as yours must when I view the appeals from "The Christian Children's Fund" where for a few cents a day or a week it is alleged, sent to this religious organization you can support a child in some third world country and be kept informed of their situation and receive pictures of a beautiful little girl or boy regularly.  There are needy children all around us, surely if we have extra funds available, we can find a good place to use said funds to the glory of our blessed Lord.

Liberal Congregations of the Lord's People

When being patient and longsuffering with our brethren who make up a local church of the New Testament order, but who are involved in advocating and supporting from their treasuries activities that are not authorized, the time comes when we must leave a group whom we have come to love - else making our weekly contribution into the local treasury amounts to "condoning" their unscriptural activities. It may be "the support of human benevolent or teaching societies", the "sponsoring eldership" concept of so-called "church cooperation" or the "fun, food, and frolic" activities known as the "social gospel." In some cases, they are "ultra-conservative" and are guilty of "binding where the Lord doesn't" which is equally as sinful as is  "loosing where the Lord did not loose!" (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). We must not think of men "above that which is written" (I Corinthians 4:6).

Sometimes divisions must come so that those who are approved may be made manifest to paraphrase what the apostle Paul wrote in (I Corinthians 11:19).  When heresies abound and uninspired men attempt to either loose or to bind where the Lord through His apostles did not (Acts 15:24), those who love the Lord and His divine truth will sometimes have to vacate the premises so as not to "bid God speed" or "share in his evil deeds." (II John 11). Those who have had this experience know just how heartbreaking such can be!  It tore my family asunder during the battles of the 1950s and 1960s.  It continues to be a problem that is widespread even today as church after church is biting the spiritual dust due to wholesale apostasy from the faith.  What will you do when troubles come? Are you willing to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered?" (Jude 3).

One Final Illustration: The United Way

Remember the reason why a faithful Christian will refuse to participate in many of the benevolent operations and charities in existence, isn't because we are opposed to helping the "truly needy" no, not at all! We believe in legitimate benevolence. We simply must be careful that we do not participate in the sins of others by "bidding God speed" to unbiblical activities, that is to upholding false teaching, nor assisting "dead beats" who will not work! (II Thessalonians 3:6,10; Galatians 6:10; I John 3:17; I Timothy 5:22; Ephesians 5:1-17).

When one takes a look at the various organizations (including church-run organizations) that "The United Way" contributes to, one can readily understand why a faithful Christian cannot with a clear conscience make a contribution to this organization. Too, they tend to try and intimidate everyone into making at least a token contribution in order for each company or organization contributing to have "full participation."  By someone is considered less than a faithful Christian who refuses for conscience's sake to contribute to the "United Way" campaign.

I called the local office for "The United Way" organization and asked the nice lady to give me a listing of the organizations to which they contributed funds collected.  She rattled off a long listing which included "Catholic Charities" and "The Salvation Army." I thanked the nice lady for the information and that ended the conversation.  Applying the principles we have learned from the Scriptures, I  believe most everyone can understand why a faithful Christian cannot with a clear conscience made a contribution to "The United Way" fund. Besides, all of the benevolence a Christian has the wherewithal to do is more effectively done on an individual basis. This way every cent contributed goes directly to the recipient of your choice with no "middle man" or organization between the giver and the receiver. Who will be the object of your benevolence is strictly under your control.  The Lord is glorified by the benevolence of the faithful Christian, not some human or religious organization.

What About "Earmarked" Contributions?

I have heard of some who were told that they could "earmark the organizations to which their contribution is to go."  While that may or may not work, still, all it would do is to "free up" other funds for whomever they wish to distribute them I would think, so that doesn't exactly solve the problem.

There is always a way that is right and cannot be wrong. As already stated, all of the benevolence or charitable contributions the Christian has the ability and opportunity to do can be done on a "one on one" basis with no one else even being aware except the giver,  the receiver and the Lord!  And did not the Lord say concerning "almsgiving" that we should "not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing?" (Matthew 6:3). Meaning we should not make a show to others concerning our charitable deeds.

Let me draw one final conclusion for the benefit of each one of us: May none of us ever be found guilty of using the points made in this lesson nor anything taught in the word of Christ, as an excuse not to ever find opportunities to be a giving people when the giving is to those who are legitimate objects of our generosity. After all, everything we possess is just on loan from the Lord and we are only temporary stewards of our many physical blessings (Matthew 25:14-23; Luke 16:1-12; James 1:17).

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