Paul Calling People Names

Yesterday I posted about Jesus’ tendency to tell things as they are, even if it meant calling people out on their sin.

If we are to follow Christ, it seems as if we should do the same thing.

This does not mean besmirching people’s character, or making up stuff, or being rude for the sake of being rude, but it does mean telling the truth.

If, in an effort to soften our verbiage, we end up lying, we are forsaking love’s delight in the truth.

Not only did Jesus Christ call people out, so did the Apostle Paul. There may be some who defend Jesus’ manner in calling people out by saying, “Well, yeah, He’s the Son of God, of course He can call us wicked and faithless.”

Well, Paul is not the Son of God, he’s a sinner like you and me, in fact, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

He calls himself that because Paul speaks the truth. Not only does he call other people stuff, he calls himself names!

In the book of Titus he says:

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.

In another fascinating passage, Acts 23:3, Paul says to the high priest

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Paul calls him a name, judges his performance, and calls upon God to smite him!

Paul later apologized for saying that to the high priest with the supposed defense that he did not know the guy was the high priest!

Paul is rather feisty. Jesus Christ was a tad feisty. People who speak the truth will be feisty, or at least come across that way.

Now, being feisty for feisty’s sake is not the issue. I’m not calling you to be a jerk and call people names.

What I am doing is saying that truth tends to hurt. If you speak the truth you will say things about people that they will not take kindly.

Most resentment and offendedness is a result of guilt. People who know they are sinners don’t like their sin to be pointed out. They want to live in the delusional world that they are sinning and getting away with it and everything is cool.

If you are an easily offended person, that’s because you are not walking in truth and righteousness. If you know you’re doing the right thing, what people accuse you of will bother you very little.

A sign of wisdom is listening to reproof and correction. Stupid people are the only ones who get offended at people correcting them, would be another way to put it.

This is a careful issue and I can easily be taken out of context. Hear what I’m saying.

My point is not that we should be judgmental jerks to people.

My point is to speak the truth and also, as you speak it, make sure you’re hearing it yourself. Start by dealing truthfully with your own sin before taking an interest in everyone else’s sin.

Calling People Names for Jesus

Everyone and their mother is upset right now over being called names, or being labeled and stereotyped.

Sticks and stones break people’s bones, names didn’t use to. Now, apparently they do.

In response to the hyper-sensitivity, we now come down on anyone who ever says anything the slightest judgmental about what someone else is doing.

As much as I agree we need to guard our mouths and be careful not to do unfair, self-righteous judging of others, I would also like to point out that there is a time and a place for labeling people for what they are.

Allow me to illustrate be quoting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
–Matthew 12:34

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
–Matthew 12:39

Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
–Matthew 12:45

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
–Matthew 16:4

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?
–Matthew 17:17

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
–Matthew 23:33

And that’s just Matthew!

Jesus is talking about a large group of people, a generation. Certainly He’s stereotyping and labeling with His generalizations.

Now, I’m not for you going out calling people names or stereotyping people.

I am for a call to reasonableness. At least for calling a spade a spade, rather than calling a spade a “garden implement useful for turning soil.”

Words mean things and need to be used carefully, wisely, and righteously.

We still live in the midst of a crooked, perverse, faithless, and wicked generation of vipers.

We should admit that. We should also admit we are part of that generation and are therefore implicated for our own part.

Sin is sin. Evil is evil. Call it what it is. Sinners sin. Speak the truth and call things what they are. This will protect you and also potentially help others.

BUT, proceed with love, grace, and compassion. Love rejoices in the truth. Don’t fear truth.

Stopping Sin Is Not Magic

Sin is a terrible, persistent enemy. We are told to be standing in the armor of God and watching and praying all the time. Sin doesn’t stop; unfortunately, our spiritual motivation does.

When our spiritual motivation wanes, sin pounces. Sin lies at the door, waiting for you to drop your guard.

There is an idea floating around Christianity, which I think started with John Wesley, or at least came out of some of his ideas, that there is a second birth, or a second conversion that fully delivers you from experiencing sin.

The idea goes like this:

A person gets saved and yet sin still reigns supreme in their life. They reach a point of desperation, an emotional angst that breaks out all at once and leads to a second work of the Holy Spirit, a second conversion where you are now filled for good with the Holy Spirit and conscious sin ceases.

(I say “conscious sin” because this was sort of Wesley’s idea: a believer might still sin, it would just be a sin he was unaware of. He would never knowingly sin. Some theories eliminate all sin, but most have this Wesleyan idea included.)

I’ve met believers who claim to have had this experience, and I’ve met many more who have heard the stories and deeply desire this experience.

I mean, who wouldn’t?! This sounds dreamy! All my fleshly lusts suddenly disappear! I no longer have a desire to do the sins that dragged me down for years! This sounds truly magical. No fuss, no muss, no struggle, just POOF! Sin and its desires are gone!

There is much magical thinking in Christianity. The thing that keeps us sinning is our deep desire to do it. If I could just get rid of that desire once for all, everything would be cured.

Indeed. Again, I do think that through spiritual growth the desire can be killed off. I think this is real and true. I also think it comes through years of battle.

It does not happen in one magical moment or through one deeply emotional crisis.

The Bible does not speak in these terms. I know there are personal stories of this happening, maybe it could, but expecting it sets you up for discouragement.

The Bible speaks as life being a fight and a long race to be run. It does not speak in magical terms about the fight not seeming like a fight or the race not seeming like a race because magic zapping occurred.

There’s a fight. Don’t buy the idea that magic cure-all moments occur. This sounds more like a fleshly, worldly desire than a biblical expectation. Everyone wants the get rich quick scheme. Sounds too good to be true, primarily because it aint true.

Sin is a persistent enemy; it will not stop. One major thing keeping us looking ahead with hope is deliverance, final, victorious deliverance from this body of death.

You can enjoy this deliverance in part now by growing spiritually. You really can defeat sin, and sin less. But until we receive our glorified bodies, sin will remain an active force to be dealt with.

Run to win.

How to Stop Sin

Yesterday I put forth the case that as long as we are in the flesh body we will have a pull toward sin and we will give in to that pull from time to time.

I do not believe the believer should expect to cease sinning until they receive their glorified body.

I also don’t think individual sin has to be inevitable. People tend to flip from one side to the other on this issue: there are those who think they have stopped sinning and there are those who don’t even try, because why bother?

Although I do not believe we can have ultimate deliverance from all sin ever as long as we’re in this body, I do think we can have victory over sin, and increasingly so as we progress in faith.

Sin is a persistent enemy. Those who have told me they have not sinned for a long time, have always communicated this idea with lots of pride. If you did cease from sinning, you’d be the last person to know it, because as soon as you knew it, you’d be proud.

Lots of people say they want to stop sinning. Unfortunately, much of this desire is theoretical. People don’t actually want to stop, they just don’t want to feel guilty or have the repercussions of sin.

Desiring to not feel bad about sin is different from not wanting to sin!

Many desperately want to drop off their smoking, or drinking, or porn watching. The desire was truly there, but so too was a desire to continue doing those sins.

Sin truly is a dog returning to its vomit. It’s disgusting and yet keeps drawing us back in.

The first step in defeating a sin is to actually want to defeat it. Like, for real. Not just eliminate the cost or guilt, but eliminate the sin itself.

Secondly, you need to make sure you’re saved! If you are not saved, if you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, you have zero shot at conquering sin. OK, that might not be true. Many unbelievers have stopped being alcoholics and things, but again, the force used is typically pride or some other sin. Replacing one addiction with another.

But to honestly do battle with sin you need the Holy Spirit and the provisions of the Gospel.

Thirdly, you need to do battle. I mean, really do battle. Make war on sin. Flee temptation. Avoid places that lead you to being tempted. Flee youthful lusts. Discipline and control yourself as much as possible. Take steps to make sin harder.

Many Christians hear step three and freak out. “Works righteousness! We don’t have to do anything; Christ does it all.” Good luck with that.

Being disciplined and fighting sin is not legalism, works righteousness, or any such foolishness; it’s the biblical mandate for defeating sin.

We have an enemy. There is a fight. We have been given armor. Use the armor to fight the fight and defeat the enemy. There is no other way to defeat sin.

Take sin seriously. Determine to actually want it to stop. Use all the provision of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit and go fight.

Can We Stop Sinning?

No.

That’s the simplest answer, and also the Biblical answer. As long as we are in this flesh body on this fallen earth we will sin. How do I know that? Ecclesiastes 7:20:

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

There does not exist a person on this earth who does not sin.

Most Christians would agree with this (there are always exceptions). Most, in fact, are more than happy to agree with this!

There are many who have the idea that if the Bible says everyone on earth sins, then sin must not be a problem, nor fought against.

I mean, why bother to defeat what cannot be defeated?

It’s like the Bears trying to beat the Packers with Aaron Rodgers. It aint gonna happen. They might as well stay home the day of that game.

But the Bible also says in many places that sin should be fought, resisted, and even defeated!

An interesting verse to put next to Ecclesiastes 7:20 is 1 John 3:9 and 5:18

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

1 John was written so you would know that you have eternal life. yet many people come across these verses and immediately doubt they have eternal life!

John speaks in absolutes and he also uses continuous verb tenses. John is talking about habitual action, what your character is. The man of God does not continually sin. He is not marked by sin.

1 John talks about confessing our sins and goes on to say that we have a mediator. “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

We’re not supposed to sin, certainly we’re not supposed to continue to sin as if it were no problem. Should we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! If we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, this certainly implies that we will sin.

Some people grab onto the couple verses in 1 John to say that a real believer never does a sin, ever. Some people grab the Ecclesiastes 7 verse and conclude that we all sin so don’t worry about it.

Neither is taking into consideration what the Bible says about sin. Both go to extremes that press the issue not only out of biblical sense, but even out of common sense.

Look, God knows our frame. He knows we are dust: breathing piles of dirt. He knows we sin. God, through Christ, has made a way for our sins to be forgiven.

This shows us two things:

  1. Sin was a massive problem that needed God’s intervention and sacrifice. If it required sacrifice from God to take care of it, let’s try to stay away from it.
  2. When we do sin we have an advocate with the Father.

The fact that we have an advocate when we sin does not imply: so go ahead and sin! Look what the Advocate went through for you!

There is no way that new life in Christ was granted to you so you could continue in sin. He that is dead is freed from sin. He that is dead to sin, how can he live in it any longer?

We’ve been given spiritual armor to resists temptation. The Holy Spirit helps us mortify the deeds of the body.

Yes, Christ covers for the believer when the believer sins, but in no way does this mean sin should be the believer’s normal pattern in life. But nor does it mean the believer doesn’t sin. If the believer never sinned, why would believers be given an advocate?

As is always the case, use the whole Bible to understand a biblical subject. Read and study. Figure it out and then live accordingly.

Hope of Eternal Life

Two times Paul talks about the “hope of eternal life” in the book of Titus.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began
–Titus 1:2

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life
–Titus 3:7

This hope of eternal life isn’t a “Boy, I sure hope I have eternal life” as if there’s some doubt. Hope is a confident expectation; it’s a sealed deal.

The basis of our hope of eternal life is on the fact that God had salvation with the reward of eternal life figured out for a long time!

God doesn’t lie! If God says you can have eternal life in Christ, then guess what? You can have eternal life in Christ!

This hope of eternal life motivates us to do what God says to do. Titus 3 starts with a list of things God wants His people to do. Right after verse 7 about the hope of eternal life, he tells believers to maintain good works.

Remember from Peter that our hope of eternal life is a lively hope. It’s a hope that gives life, energy, purpose, and power to live now.

Hopeless jobs where you show up every day and do your thing with no evident progress, recognition, or appreciation get tiresome. If you have no hope, it’s hard to get out of bed, let alone go do work.

But if you have an eternal hope, one filled with all the substance of the inheritance in Christ, there will be some motivation to get busy!

We lose hope when we look at temporal things. We look at our politicians, our society, our virtues and we lose hope. We lose motivation. Everything seems overwhelming and pointless to even try to resist.

Yup, that is correct! The Bible does not disagree with that assessment of life on earth–vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

But the Bible speaks of hope, which means the Bible must also speak of a better world ahead of us, and it does.

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.

There is a better country with better virtues and better politicians! Put your hope there, let that hope fill you with passion, drive, and joy in doing God’s will even here. Our labor is not in vain in the Lord!

Lively Hope

The New Testament speaks of believers being “born again” by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Jesus lectures Nicodemus for not getting that from the Old Testament! (That’s a thing to ponder. I honestly don’t have that one figured out. But alas, that is for another day!)

Some think that being born again is some tent revivalist lingo, or some sort of Christian jargon. But it’s actually a real thing.

John 3 is the biggest explanation of the idea. But there’s another cool passage in 1 Peter 1. This chapter mentions being born again a couple times. One of those times Peter calls it “begotten again.”

Here’s the phrase from 1 Peter 1:3: “begotten us again unto a lively hope.

We’ve been born again, or created again, unto a lively hope. What’s not to like about the phrase “lively hope?”

A lively hope is a hope that gives life. Hope, in the Bible, always refers to the future and the realization of God’s promises about the future.

The promise of the future is our bodily resurrection, which is based on the accomplished fact of Christ’s resurrection.

This coming resurrection and dwelling with God for eternity gives us life now.

Our hope in the future, in other words, can benefit us now in the present!

Our hope in the future revives the heart and makes the soul lively and vigorous.

Bring on the fight to be fought! Bring on the race to be run! I’ve got life! I’ve got energy!

Maybe not physically, but certainly spiritually. I now have a reason and a hope, a greater thing to work for and drive me forward. Not some temporal goal that will be accomplished, but an eternal destiny to be lived.

This is hope! You know you understand the hope when you discover energy to live the life of Christ in this present world.