Peter charged the people who consented to the crucifixion of Jesus with being party to "lawlessness." "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands (by the hand of lawless men," ASV) have crucified and slain " (Acts 2:23). The apostle John describes people who commit sin as "lawless. " "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (and sin is lawlessness, ASV)- (1 Jn. 3:4). "Lawlessness" means "outside of, or without regard to, la w, " thus, - "outlaws. " This article is written to describe and identify "spiritual outlaws."
In our society there are wanted posters in U.S. Post offices, and TV programs highlighting the "Most Wanted" on which their description is given along with details of their crime or crimes. With many of these there is a warning that they are dangerous people. These programs and posters are presented for the safety and welfare of the general public. All this is well and good for many of these outlaws have been found and captured as the result. However, I wish to discuss a far more dangerous "outlaw." The spiritual outlaw! This person is far more dangerous because of the eternal harm that can be done by him. Let us examine some spiritual outlaws.
Faithful gospel preachers have preached for years of the danger of false teachers, those who teach things that are not taught in God's book.
1. Those who teach that baptism is not essential to salvation when the Book of God teaches otherwise. At the point of baptism, one receives remission of sins (Acts 2:38), has his sins washed away (Acts 22:16), and is saved (1 Pet. 3:21).
2. Those who teach that one cannot fall away from the grace of God when the Book of God teaches otherwise. Judas by transgression (lawlessness) fell (Acts 1:25). (You can't fall from something unless you are first in it!) Those who try to be justified by the Law of Moses are fallen from grace! (Gal. 5:4) There are many other "spiritual outlaws" who claim to teach God's word and perhaps at a later time we will examine them in more detail. However - at this time I would remind you that the most careful warnings in the pages of divine inspiration are in regard to "spiritual outlaws" in the body of Christ such as Hymenaeus, Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-20), and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18), etc. These "spiritual outlaws" are not confined to the first century. They have continued through the centuries and are "alive and well" today in 1991. They are described in the book of Jude (16-18). "These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts, and their mouths speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts." Their shame and end are described in verses 10-13: "But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruits withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
Saints In Sturgis, Mississippi
You have read about the plight of the poor saints in Sturgis, Mississippi, how they were led to believe that they ought to allow themselves to be placed under the oversight of the elders of the Lee Blvd. church in nearby Starksville, Mississippi. This they allowed and were persuaded to send their weekly contributions to the Lee Blvd. church with the belief that the Lee Blvd. elders would care for their interests. You read about the saints in Sturgis learning the truth of God's word regarding local church government and casting off the chains of another church's control over them. You read where the Lee Blvd. elders turned control of Sturgis' monies back to them but refused to give them the deed to their property, offering instead to sell the Strugis church their own property (Sturgis property) back to them for $35,000.00! When negotiations failed to bring about a settlement on the issue, the elders of the Lee Blvd. church (wishing to get rid of a "hot potato") transferred the Sturgis property deed into the hands of a third church, Hwy. 82 church in Starkville. (This is all detailed in the July 18, 1991 issue of Guardian of Truth.) The Hwy. 82 church agreed to sell the property to the saints at Sturgis for $17,000.00 with a May 1, 1991 deadline. Brother Thomas Keenum, elder and attorney in Booneville, Mississippi sent a letter to Hwy. 82 asking for more time so that monies could be received from interested brethren. Monies began coming in at a slow but steady rate. At last report there was some $3,500.00 received. Then - without any warning, the saints in Sturgis were notified by the Hwy. 82 church that they had sold the property to a denomination for $19,000.00 and were instructed to vacate the building. I want to address two major issues at this point with Romans 12:10 in mind. "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another."
1. The elders of the Lee Blvd. church "honored" the Sturgis saints' requests for their monies they had held control over but refused to "honour " their request for the deed to their property that they had help build with their own hands and paid for with their own Lord's day contributions. Mr. Henry Thayer tells us in his Greek-English Lexicon that the word "honour" in Romans 12:10 means ". . . in deference, reverence." While we do not find the word "deference" in the Scriptures we do find the definition in the English Dictionary. Webster's New World (p. 370) defines the word as follows: (1) Yielding in opinion, judgment, wishes, etc.; (2) Courteous regard or respect. I submit to you that the elders of Lee Blvd. did not show honour to the saints of the Sturgis church but rather violated Romans 12:10 and many other passages. They acted without-law and thus became "spiritual outlaws"! They tried to circumvent their responsibility regarding "honour" by transferring the Sturgis deed to Hwy. 82 but God will reward them for their "pernicious ways" (2 Pet. 2:2). Their actions violated everything ethically, morally, and spiritually. These people call themselves leaders of God's people and sing songs such as "My Jesus I Love Thee." But Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15).
2. The Hwy. 82 church with it leaders are guilty of the same charges. They had a choice when the deed was transferred into their name. They knew the property was not theirs! They knew the saints in Strugis would suffer in the loss of their building. They could have simply transferred the deed to the rightful owners which was Sturgis. That's what they could have done and should have done but they did not do what was right! They decided instead to join actions with the ungodly deeds of the Lee Blvd. elders and become 4 'spiritual outlaws" too - and they did! Judgment day is coming and every secret thing will be brought into account! "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:14). 2 Corinthians 5:10-11: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he that done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
I can but pray that these evil deeds will be repented of before that "great day" of our God. This is not an isolated incident. There have been many such cases like this before. I have material in my files of almost the same thing happening in other areas of the country when "liberal" people realize that they cannot get their way. These things are the end result when people cease to have respect for Bible authority. These people referred to in this article have long ago abandoned the word of God in regard to local church government, the work, and the worship of the church. It is no wonder then that they would have such little regard for the word of God when it comes to "honour." Local churches across the country that have abandoned Bible authority concerning local church - government (elders over that local church only and not "overseeing" saints in another locality), the work that God has assigned that local church to do (instead of "hiring" a human institution to do its work for them such as church supported homes, etc.), and churches which add choruses and other forms of "entertainment" in "worship," are as guilty of becoming "spiritual outlaws" as these are.
Those of you that are still attending such places of feigned worship had better open your eyes. You too are going to be held accountable if you remain in it for your are part of it as long as you lend your support by your presence and monies!
The Sturgis church is "cast down and trodden underfoot" but not defeated. They have decided to purchase a small plot of ground nearby and build a modest building to continue worshipping God in. This can and will be done with the monies that are donated by faithful and loving brethren. Brother Keenum continues to donate his services in caring for the legal needs of these things and as soon as enough funds are available land will be purchased and a call will go out to interested brethren to donate their time and talents in erecting a building. Some from Dallas Avenue have already voiced their willingness to go to Mississippi for two or three days of labor. It is believed that the building can be pretty well completed in that time frame if the foundation is laid first. Truth will prevail! If you too would be interested in this effort, watch for a notice later for the date. If you have not yet sent your contribution for this work, please, don't delay. Send it now! If you have already sent and wish to help more, do so for it is the Lord's work and you will be blessed. Let us pray for these precious saints and their needs.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 24, pp. 746-747