CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Whatever Happened To Warning?

Mar 7, 2015

Warnings are a vital part of life. When there is danger ahead, or a path to avoid, or a situation which we really don’t want to get involved with, a warning is just what we need. Without such warnings we would be in all sorts of strife. Indeed, many of us would die prematurely if it were not for warnings of various kinds.

When bad and threatening weather is approaching, we have weather warnings. When folks want to hit the beach, they are sometimes prevented from doing so because of shark warnings, or rough seas warnings. When sportsmen infringe on the rules of the game, referees will issue them warnings.

warningWhen a traffic cop pulls over a wayward driver, he may give him a warning about more severe action to come if he persists in his bad driving. Any good parent will warn a rebellious or disobedient child of possible consequences if they persist in their bad behaviour.

Governments often provide health warnings on various products or services so that consumers are better informed and aware of any possible dangers or negative outcomes. Warning signs are placed near various places of danger or high risk, such a cliff tops or even on wet, slippery floors and roads.

All of life is full of warnings. And it is no different in the Christian life – or at least it shouldn’t be any different. The Bible is full of warnings which we need to pay very close attention to. They are there for a very important reason, and we dare not ignore them or minimise them.

Yet most Christians live as if these warnings do not even exist, or if they do admit to their existence, they somehow think that they don’t apply to themselves. They think they are only there for other people. Or they recognise the validity of such warnings, but they take no heed, make no changes, and do not correct their course of action.

There are plenty of warnings given in both Testaments, and I will begin with a few from the Old Testament, but will mostly concentrate on those found in the New:

Psalm 81:8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you – if you would only listen to me, Israel!

Jeremiah 6:8 Take warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.”

Ezekiel 3:17-18 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.”

Mark 8:15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

Luke 10:10-12 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you.Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Acts 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Acts 20:30-31 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (KJV)

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

Hebrews 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?

Indeed, one could simply just spend time on all the clear and disturbing warning passages found in the book of Hebrews. These would be Heb. 2:14; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; and 12:1-29. (I will not here however enter into the larger and heated discussion about whether these warnings mean we can lose our salvation. I will save that debate for another post!)

These are just some of the many passages found in scripture about warnings. I have simply used those passages which contain the words ‘warn’ or ‘warning’ and so on. There would be many more such passages which do not use the actual terms, but are very clear warnings nonetheless.

One obvious example of this would be Revelation 3:3: “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

Another such important warning passage would be 2 Peter 2:20-22:

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

There are just so many warnings found in Scripture. Yet increasingly those Christians who sound the alarm and offer such warnings are accused of being bigoted, intolerant, unloving, and judgmental. Instead of thanking the watchmen on the wall and the prophetic voices, many folks just get angry at them and tell them to get lost.

We don’t want to hear the warnings and we get upset with those making the warnings. But this is not new. The saints of old also were rebuked, scorned and attacked when they made warnings. Indeed, the prophets, Jesus and the disciples all made many warnings – and they too were rejected and hated.

In the light of all these biblical warnings, how should we respond? The real question is, what will we do with them? We will stand up and take notice? Will we take them with the utmost seriousness? Will we walk in the fear of the Lord and pay close attention to these warnings?

Or will we just carry on as if these warnings do not even exist, or that they somehow do not apply to me? When a warning is found anywhere in life, the obvious and wise thing to do is to take heed and to pay close attention to it. But sadly when it comes to biblical warnings, many Christians either ignore them, or actually seek to explain them away.

We think we can do better than God, so we start removing all these warnings, thinking they don’t apply to us or are no longer relevant. But that is a recipe for disaster. As G.K. Chesterton said long ago, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”

The many warnings found in Scripture are there for a reason, and we dare not trivialise them, overlook them, or seek to explain them away. They are there for our own good, and we ignore them at our peril. Let me close with another very important scriptural warning:

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” -1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

[1431 words]

12 Responses to Whatever Happened To Warning?

  • Wow thanks so much for this! I too have been doing this, it has really helped me to realise some thing’s about myself – I thank you, it is our Lords words so I thank Him too. But thank you for gathering the scriptures to show me.

  • Yes I like Galatians 5:21 which was on your list. When I was a kid we were taught one of the spiritual works of mercy was to “Admonish the sinner”. I like the word admonish, one definition I found says it means “to reprove or scold, especially in a mild and good-willed manner.” The analogy of the warning sign that a cliff drops off ahead is good too. I think the problem is too many people do not think from an eternal or biblical perspective. They think if they can get away with it here and now, they really are getting away with something. Later they’ll be saying “why didn’t anybody warn me?”

  • This article brings out the necessity to read the Bible ourselves to learn about these warning Bill. I would not rely on hearing it in a sermon as warnings these days are not often heard in the church any more.

  • Too often when you give people biblical warnings you get accused of “being unloving” by those who are selective in what parts, if any, of the Bible they read or believe. When you point out that many of the warnings in the NT are aimed at Christians, not just the world, then as you said, you open a whole other can of worms, because “that is just your interpretation”.

  • Getting ahead of you, Bill, I believe in the perseverance of the saints- that is, true Christians will all make it to the end- but the warnings such as those in Hebrews are real and have to be taken seriously. I await your treatment of the question in a later article!

  • Romans chapter 2 is certainly a warning to us all.

    www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+2&version=NIV

    Not withstanding, ever since the permissive 60’s, governments have been tearing down the barriers that protect us from our own fallen natures. They got rid of capital punishment, no fault divorces, removed restrictions on pornography, removed the barriers protecting the unborn child, smashed the barriers protecting society from homosexuality and now they have removed the necessity for a married couple to remain faithful to one another by introducing same sex marriage.

    Indeed governments are now openly proud of the way they have torn down the barriers for gays to get what they want when they want it.

    As one gay man said, “I want all the goodies.”

    www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20671176

    David Skinner UK

  • David Skinner,
    there is nothing else except one’s own attitude and spirit that “protects us from our own fallen nature.” Thus there are no “barriers” for the government or anyone else to tear down. What use is an earthly law or prohibition if your own and everyone else’s heart and attitude isn’t focused on the right attitude toward God? What does an earthly law or prohibition do to men exept lul them into a false sleep that they are automatically being kept out of sin and God’s judgment when by their inner spirit and attitude they only become complacent and lazy?

    A society that increasingly allows freedoms of all kinds is rather a spiritual advantage to keep your wits about you, preventing you from abandoning your watchfulness and spiritual laziness.

  • Christians who arrive at the conclusion that they believe in God and the words of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ inspite of the range of nay-saying, cynicism, ridicule and persecution and who, even if it were proved there is no God the Father that Christ spoke of, nonetheless they still believe in this same God. These Christians have the strength of belief that makes their eyes and ears open to warnings of impending evil, destruction and death. These Christians are aware of the invisible line that divides spiritual holiness from materialistic profanity

  • Quite so Andrew. But I would argue the Christian character or attitude that does not have to be constrained by the law exists only in its perfect state in Heaven. Until that time God as instituted governments We submit to the government because God is the source of government. To rebel is to resist God. To resist God is to bring judgment. And government serves to restrain evil and it serves to promote good. “It does not bear the sword for nothing, for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
    Government must have the ultimate restraining power.

    As someone said, the law is a great teacher, even if the only lesson it teaches is that if you murder someone you will forfeit your own life, or if you steal, your will end up in prison. Even if it only teaches that there are consequence to one’s actions.

    But I agree, the beatitudes are not meant to be a law beyond the law. They merely describe what every Christian character should look like.

    David Skinner UK

  • Rachel, may I recommend this sermon from Peter Masters of Metropolitan Tabernacle London, on Romans 2:

    www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Romans/Saved-and-Lost-Judged-by-Deeds

    And boy oh boy you should listen to his sermon on Romans 1.

    www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Romans/Society-s-Steps-to-Judgement

    One wonders how soon it will before the police cart him off.

    David Skinner UK

  • Here here, good article, it makes you wonder with the apostates if they have bothered to even read the Bible at all. No doubts they have in times past, but they somehow have a new revelation which is above the Word of God and cancels out the scriptures. Hell hath enlarged herself to accommodate them.

    Keep on heralding the warnings mate.

    Ps: look forward to reading your articles on whether a Christian can lose their salvation or not. If you say they cant, id be interested in hearing what all the scriptures I quote in 4 video teachings online are actually teaching if they aren’t saying you can. Blessings

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