Depending on your religious background, the many warnings recorded in the New Testament might cause you to wonder and cringe every time you come across one. I have been corresponding with a new friend who learned to see every warning as yet another possible way to fail God and be cast out of favor. My response addresses the question as to what purpose warnings play among those have been made complete in Christ. Are they for us or could they be directed toward unbelievers?
As the letters of the apostles were written to the believers, I don’t see the warnings as TO the unbelievers, but in reference to that which is born of the flesh. It speaks of the mind of the unbeliever, obviously including those who were specifically trying to deceive them, but not restricted to anyone in particular. Consider how numerous of the warnings have to do with not giving heed to the smooth words of those who use verbiage rather than the life of Christ as their validation:
Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent. Romans 16:17-18
Now, while this may seem straightforward, it contains the same basic warning as in most of the other warnings.
…envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:21
This warning is in reference to those who practice such things. Here, Paul was following up on his story of the two sons, those who are after the manner of the fleshly son, not the son of freedom.
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don’t you listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. Galatians 4:21-23
Keep this fixed firmly in your mind as you consider the warning in Galatians: Do you not hear the Law? For this is the continuation of his warning as written in Galatians 5:21. “…those who practice such things…” are those who are OF the law. “For the law is not of faith”. Notice in the above Romans verse how those who deceive with their speech are the very same who cause divisions and occasions of stumbling. These men use words that contradict their own behavior, for they are the ones Paul referred to earlier in the same letter:
But if you bear the name “Jew,” and rely upon the Law, and boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written. Romans 2:17-24
The deceivers Paul warns about are the very ones who preach their doctrines of morality, while somehow, with their smooth and flattering speech, making their own immorality seem righteous. It’s the same with the Galatians’ warning, for Paul had been describing those who had sneaked in among them at the very beginning of his letter. By time he states the forewarning that he had already forewarned them about, he wants them to recognize that the growing biting and devouring of one another came in among them because of the very thing he had warned them about. His warning repeats the simple question, “Do you not hear the Law?” Now, connect this with the following, also from Galatians:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:7-9
Considering the whole thrust of Paul’s concern in writing Galatians, do you see how sowing to one’s own flesh has to do—not with the ridiculous idea that the heart of the believer looks for ways to be flippant about sin—but with a reversion to law for righteousness? After all, the heart of one who has been made alive desires true righteousness. Those who preach God’s “authoritative” word, with their smooth and flattering speech”, play off that desire in order to ensnare those who are so willing to please God that they will follow that which seems to be from God. If you really examine the warnings of Paul, you will recognize that they apply to the basic concept of doctrine as preached by the official Churches we’ve known. Realize that I’m not talking about Truth itself, rather the separation of he who is truth (Christ) from the very words that testify of him. Our systems of doctrine are just as impotent to bring about righteousness as were the doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees.
Be not deceived, God is not mockedGalatians 6:7
And what is the idea behind that mocking? It’s so very simple, for it rests upon the truth of God’s creation in producing “after their kind.” You see, in following the weak and worthless elemental teachings of the law, one supposes that spiritual fruit can be produced by sowing to that which deals with the flesh. But as a cow cannot produce an eagle, we who are born of freedom cannot gain more freedom by following the righteous sounding teachings of those who are born of the flesh. This is the bottom line to Paul’s warning to the Galatians, as well as to the Romans and others.
If those who are born after the flesh can only produce more flesh, why would we ever follow after their agendas, their teachings, their philosophies, their advice, their rules, their interpretations of God’s words, their form of godliness, their judgments, etcetera, etcetera? The warnings are valid toward us who believe because they demand to us that we cannot get more life, better life, righteous living, godly desires, more understanding of God or more spiritual insights from those who do not have what they profess to have. After all, the deception behind the words of deceivers contains a simple flaw: they profess what they do not understand.
As you read through many of my writings you may not be aware of the warnings I’ve put forth countess times simply because I don’t use scriptural sounding phrases like, “I forewarn you.” I purposely don’t use a lot of Biblical phrasings because of the way they have become so easily misunderstood, and I desire a real communication rather than an adherence to the bogus idea that one needs to sound Scripturally authoritative to declare the only real authority in the universe.