What is Compromise?
Robert Wurtz II
You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:18b-21)
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26, 27)
The word “therefore” signals the end of Paul’s sojourn in and around Ephesus. He is leaving the area, but before he goes he reminds the leaders a second time that he has faithfully declared to them the whole counsel of God. He says, “I kept back nothing” and then “I have not shunned” to declare everything you needed to know about the Gospel. Both phrases are translated from the Greek root hupostello. You will remember this word from the pair of uses in Hebrews 10:38, 39 where the writer states, “the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him…” The word means to furl the sails or to shrink back out of fear. When the winds were carrying a ship in a direction repulsive to the navigator, he may order to “furl the sail” (hupostello) to slow the ship down. In other words, Paul means to say that he suppressed nothing of the truth through fear of giving offense. He did not compromise the Gospel.
This is significant because the history of the church at Ephesus is recorded from its conception — through to its appearance in Revelation chapter 2. When we think of Ephesus we should think of a church that was planted and cultivated rightly. Nothing was held back. Ephesus became one of the premier churches of the first century. There can be no doubt that the details recorded in Acts chapters 18-20 are intended to instruct us in the basics of establishing a church. People may change and cultures will differ, but the basic call to repentance and the establishment of that church under the head of Christ is worthy of all acceptation.
Reading the account of Paul’s work at Ephesus, and contrasting that with modern day evangelistic practices and church growth strategies, I am brought to understand his use of the phrase “I beseech thee.” Paul would beg people to do what God’s word says to do. He was prepared to take a beating or even lose friends in order to protect the authentic Gospel. He wanted the truth of the Gospel to continue on. The feeling back of the words “I beseech thee” goads us to feel the seriousness of such matters. Paul begged and wept over these things. We ought to follow his lead and do likewise.
Free From the Blood of All Men
It is because Paul refused to shrink back, but went ahead and declared the full counsel of God, that he could declare, “I am innocent of the blood of all men.” The inverse of this would have been that he refused to declare the full counsel of God and was guilty of the blood of all that heard his Gospel. This is a clear allusion to Ezekiel 33:1-6. In Paul’s theology, the Old Testament passage was still in play. This makes Ezekiel 33:1-6 axiomatic and applicable to all who know and preach the truth of the Gospel. Is God a respecter of persons? Or is God telling us in the clearest of terms that He expects that His Gospel not be compromised?
What does it mean to be guilty of the blood of a man? Clearly it means that there is a sense in which the one who was supposed to properly warn the sinner shares in that sinner’s ruin. Just as Isaiah cried out “woe is me” in Isaiah 6; Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16b) Taken together Paul’s attitude of life was simple; “Woe is me, if I do not declare the full counsel of God — and cleanse myself from the blood of all men!” He knew he had to discharge his role as a steward of the Gospel. He had to fulfill his calling. This meant communicating the facts of the Gospel no matter who they offended.
Compromise and Its Children
The greatest compromise of all is the compromise of the Gospel. Compromise begets more compromise; it brings forth after its own kind. It is foolish for men to think that compromising the Gospel and its core message of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus will not bring about the ultimate compromise of all that is called Christianity. I’m asked on an almost regular basis; “What is going on today with people that call themselves Christians? Why do they condone everything from flagrant worldliness to homosexuality?” My answer is always the same. I ask the person if they really want to know the answer. Because you are not going to like my answer. The reason why things are going down the tubes is because we are failing in our evangelism of the lost. We have been failing for over 100 years when Billy Sunday put away the need to inquire with sinners individually and pray them through to a real experience in God. We started manufacturing Christians like Ford motor company manufacturers automobiles.
Some ministers do well to bring people into a state where they know they are lost and that God is dealing with them. The failure is when the person is told to say a little prayer and made to believe that the prayer means they have “repented of their sins.” Repentance is not something you merely say (such as “I repent!”); it is something you do. The Greek word means to change your mind about your sin. It is not a feeling. Paul said that Godly sorrow works repentance, but it is not repentance itself. Godly sorrow is a sorrow God-wards. It is distress for our realizing what we have done to God. That sorrow or grief can work a change of mind that we will not regret. We will be glad we changed our mind. In other words, we don’t look back with regret and wish we would have kept on in sin. When we realize that we have offended God, we are able to call upon Him in a way that is meaningful.
As soon as a person says the salvation prayer they almost always stop seeking God. A sense of relief comes over them. The whole process of Godly sorrow and repentance ends. Why? Because they are made to believe they have done what is expected of them. It is totally mechanical.
By way of illustration, imagine you are in court and have been convicted of ten felony offenses and are facing the death penalty. You have heard the charges and you understand what you deserve. Now imagine that your lawyer tells you to come forward and stand before the judge as a sign of surrender. He then asks you to repeat after him; “Dear judge, … I have committed these terrible crimes… and I ask you to forgive me… etc.” Who could do such a thing in good conscience? Do you think the judge would believe him? Who would actually believe the judge is going to pardon this man? I dare say not 1 in 10,000 people would think that would work. Yet it goes on every day in evangelistic circles. The whole spectacle was fabricated by the lawyer to get the guilty man to say what he believes the judge wants to hear. Do you believe such a practice would be effectual? And if it were, do you think the guilty man would cease committing crimes? I trow not on all accounts. And if a judge, fallible as he be, would reject such a thing as a fabrication — how much more would the Judge of all the earth who searches the hearts and knows the thoughts and intentions?
People are being made to believe they can “get saved” without counting the cost, forsaking their sin, and following Christ with all of their might. The consequence? No real regeneration. No miracle of salvation. No born again experience. No new heart. No new birth. No mind of Christ. No new creature. The old is still around, and the new has not come. Nevertheless, because they repeated the prayer they are told they are saved. Believing they are saved they begin attending church meetings. They aspire to ministry and learn how to be a Christian by watching others. They get bolder and bolder and begin challenging Biblical practices and doctrines. They advocate what God hates and hate what God loves. Why? Because they are still in the carnal mind and few if any are willing to admit that it is because they were never properly born into the Kingdom. They prayed a prayer and were made to believe they were all that God has done in Christ.
If we fail to make known the full counsel of God, and leave people in a false state of salvation, or in a false hope of assurance, we have done more damage than had we spoken nothing at all. We will have have made people believe that they can “be saved” without changing their mind about their sins and turning to the Savior for forgiveness and freedom. The prayer ended the process. “I did it” … “I’ve done what you said” and they are unchanged. There are exceptions to this, but they are few and far between and must never be allowed to serve as a defense of such a failed practice.
Understand that the duty of a lost sinner is not to come forward in a meeting or to pray a prayer forged in the mind of someone else; but they are to comprehend the facts of the Gospel and call upon the name of the Lord on the basis of what they understand to be their condition. If the prayer is not of their own heart, it is not genuine — no matter how many times we encourage them to be sincere when they say it. Even the thief on the cross cried out to Christ from his own heart. This is what must take place. This is the beginning of the end of the great compromise of the last 100+ years. If we will get back to Paul’s attitude of preaching until he was clear of the blood of all men we will see this thing turn around. If not we will plunge into oblivion and our whole identity will be lost.
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