By Thomas A. Thornhill, Jr.
As I write this article, I am reading in the news of a warrant officer who was arrested on charges of selling top secret military information to the Eastern Block. During the past year we have heard of several such incidents and we have seen the conviction of some. Treason is a very serious charge and I personally endorse prosecution and punishment to the fullest extent of the law for such a heinous crime.
However, even more appalling than this is treason against God. We read about it in the Bible and we hear about it and see it happening today with members of the Lord’s church. The purpose of this article will be to discuss “selling out” our God.
In the Old Testament we read of the nation of Israel. Sadly, in spite of all that God did for them, they sold him out to follow other gods. Consider these words of Ezekiel concerning Jerusalem, their capitol and the Holy City God established.
You trusted in your beauty, played the harlot because of your fame’ and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it (16:15).
Ezekiel then proceeds to describe their brazen harlotry. He speaks of their using God’s possessions to perform their acts of harlotry with and not seeking pay for their actions. Their insatiable lusts were so strong they went searching for more gods to satisfy them. They were described as worse than Sodom and Samaria. In spite of all that God did for them, they rejected him for everything that came along. Thus God finally rejected them:
For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as, you have done who despised the oath by breaking the covenant” (16:59).
In the New Testament, there is the account of Judas who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16, 47-40). Also the Jews, who are so prevalent in the book of Acts, who went to great lengths to try to destroy the apostles and Christians, both Jew and Gentile, in order to save their religion, which God had done away with. They had the Scriptures which told them of this superior law, but they were willing to reject God in order to keep their traditions. God was not impressed and in 70 A.D. Jerusalem fell. Other biblical examples can be given, but these are sufficient to show that men have “sold out” God throughout the ages of the Scriptures.
Sadly, this generation is no exception to the rule. We continually hear of brethren who forsake God for various reasons. There is the preacher who compromises the Word of God in order to be accepted by a certain group of people rather than proclaiming the whole counsel of God at whatever the cost. There is the brother who leaves his wife for another to satisfy his carnal desires. There is the woman who returns to the ways of the world to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for a season, or the preacher who quits the church because everything didn’t go his way. These are a few examples of people who have an opportunity to spend eternity with God but they “sell out” God for something of lesser value. To such Peter warned:
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the Holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb I “A dog returns to this own vomit” and “a sow having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
Against such, action must be taken. As individuals, we should try to provoke repentance in their lives (Jas. 5:19-20; Gal. 6:1). As a congregation, discipline should be practiced for the same reason as well as to keep the church pure (1 Cor. 5:4-7; Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:6; etc.).
Lessons to Learn
Finally, there are a few lessons that should be learned concerning our “selling out” God. First, we note the patience of God. One might ask, “Why did God let Israel get away with what they did for so long?” or “Why does God let people treat him like they do today?” I believe the answer can be found in 2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
God does not want anyone to be condemned so he gives us opportunity to repent. Second, I can’t help but wonder what our attitude toward such people, should be. With a cold shoulder, many will reject such a person instead of rejecting his actions with grief and sadness that a soul is lost. Discipline is to be exercised with the attitude that it might cause him to come back to the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5; Heb. 12:11). My understanding is that all sin should be viewed with grief and sadness, instead of anger and callousness. Furthermore, if he asks forgiveness, no matter how terrible the sin, we must forgive him (2 Cor. 2:6-8; Matt. 18:21-22). Finally, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 10: 12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” People are “selling; out” God. Let’s never possess the attitude that it won’t happen to me. That is when Satan will get you. He got Peter when he was like that, and Peter was with Jesus for three years witnessing his glory and power.
Selling out God is indeed a tragedy. But it happens. Let’s strive to ensure it does not happen tous. But when we see it happen, let’s handle it God’s way, not ours.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 7, p. 207
April 6, 1989