Believing Dangerously

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 17, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Several weeks ago, I held a Bible study meeting at the church where I pastor. We do this two or three times a month and for this particular meeting, I decided to ask the people what things were on their minds with the promise of guiding the discussion with a heavy dose of Scripture. One elderly gentleman decided to share that he has been thinking a lot about the “end times”. I asked him specifically what about them he has been thinking about and he instantly made a statement that started with the words “I believe”. He went on to share what we so often hear in church, that we have reason to believe that Christ is returning very soon. I didn’t take issue with that because even the Apostle John wrote that “the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). What I did take issue with was what the man continued to share, that we can basically narrow it down to a time frame that Christ will return based on what is prophesied in Daniel.

Now, before I go further I want to recognize that some of you reading this have strong opinions about Christ’s return and I am not here to refute those opinions. My goal is simply to present Scripture and let you decide for yourself whether what you “believe” is consistent with what God’s Word says or not. And that is what I did with the Bible study group. We didn’t really discuss anyone else’s beliefs about the end times. Instead, I shared the words directly from Jesus in Matthew 24:36-44, which declare that he will return in such a way that we will not see it coming. He specifically says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v. 36). When I shared these words with the Bible study group, the elderly man who brought up the topic said, “Well, I believe we can get it down to the year even if we don’t know the day or hour”. I then shared more words from Jesus in Acts 1 after his disciples asked him if it was time for him to do what they expected him to do. His answer was, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (1:7). Despite these verses, the man continued to tell our group what he “believed.”

Are your core beliefs so important to you that you’ll continue to believe them even in the face of Scripture that directly challenges them? This is a major issue in the church today. It’s almost like we’ve gotten to the point of trusting in OUR beliefs over God’s Word, like if we believe something strongly enough and convince enough other people to think like us, then we’re right. This causes us to depend more on our own minds and judgments and to believe based on what makes the most sense to us, rather than on God’s unchanging Word. Once you start down this slope, it gets very slippery and before you know it you are no longer simply compromising God’s Word but believing outright things that are contrary to it.

In regards to our question at Worldview Warriors this week - whether or not the sin of Adam and Eve condemns unsaved “innocents” to hell - it can be dangerous to believe strongly one way or the other. You may have come to this blog looking for an answer, but it would be incredibly dangerous for me to give you one. The reason? It simply isn’t crystal clear in the Bible. However, I will tell you about some things that are crystal clear.

King David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Unfortunately, even infants are affected by the sins of Adam and Eve, since infants do sometimes die and the penalty for the original sin was eventual death for all human beings. Romans 5:12-21 tells us that sin and death came to all mankind through the disobedience of one man. This means that even infants are born with sin. However, the same passage tells us that “through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (v. 19). The “one man” in the first part is Adam and the “one man” in the second part is Jesus Christ. So from all this, we can deduce that no human being, including babies or mentally and physically handicapped individuals, are without sin. But we can also deduce that Christ’s act of obedience on the cross was enough to cover ALL sins. More confirmation of this is found in 1 John 2:2: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The Bible says throughout that God is holy and because of this he cannot tolerate sin. A perfect sacrifice was needed to cover our sins. Since all sins are covered by Christ’s sacrifice, the only way to not be covered is to reject his sacrifice, which can happen by denying him with our mouths, denying him with our actions, or both. This would mean to me that God clearly can accept Christ’s blood as payment for the sins of even those who were not able to choose to believe in his sacrifice. However, I will stop short of saying that he does make that judgment because Scripture doesn’t make it abundantly clear and I am not God!

Other characteristics of God that are clear in the Bible are that he is loving, merciful, holy, gracious, just, and good. We can rest assured that whatever God does will be the right thing. Therefore, the real challenge in answering these sorts of difficult questions is in choosing to trust him enough to let go of the need for a definitive answer. As a pastor, I feel I must tell people that I cannot guarantee their baby or other loved one is in heaven, but I can certainly tell them about God and his goodness and invite them to trust him with their questions that must remain temporarily unanswered until they meet him face-to-face themselves.

Too often, Christians and even whole denominations feel they need to take a stance on this question. We want to know for sure what God has not yet chosen to reveal, so we are fascinated with questions about the end times, heaven, and eternal judgment. Some Christians believe in the “age of accountability” and say that God will not send a child to hell before they have reached a certain age. Some believe that infant baptism leading up to a child’s confirmation is what covers them. I say that we must remember that these are OUR beliefs, and that none of them are expressly endorsed in Scripture. To say our answer is the right one when God alone knows the heart of every man, woman, and child and knows what opportunities they do and don’t have is to place our “I believe” statements above simply trusting in God and his nature. Honestly, he’s the only One who can handle it and we should all be thankful we don’t have to judge. It doesn’t mean that what you believe is automatically wrong, but we do have to accept where the true authority lies. Our feelings will lead us astray, but God is the Perfect Judge!