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Twice as much sons of hell

I find Matthew 23 so chilling.  Jesus is tearing the Pharisees to shreds.  And, as He does so, I recognize so much of myself in them.

There's one line in particular that gets me thinking:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."  (v15)

Evangelism is not a good thing in and of itself.  It is a dreadful thing if it is done according to the wrong evangel.  It reproduces children of the devil.  In fact it makes them more devilish than the evangelist.  Now that is scary.

And I wonder whether we can apply that same insight to pastoral care.

Here's my contention: Pastoral care is not good in and of itself.  If you 'help' someone according to your own Pharasaical gospel, you will do nothing more than spread demonic influence.  In fact you will make the pastored person twice the son of hell that you are.

It seems to me, therefore, the question is not whether we do evangelism so much as which evangel we preach.

And similarly, the big issue is not so much getting your church to be pastorally minded.  The real issue is making sure they know the gospel.  'Pastoring'  that is not a thoroughly gospel pastoring will do incredible harm.

Please don't help me unless you're bringing me gospel help.  Otherwise you torment me with the powers of hell.

More to follow...

0 thoughts on “Twice as much sons of hell

  1. Heather

    Okay. This is really weird.

    Just a little earlier this afternoon, Craig and I were discussing pastorship and I turned to Matthew 23 as evidence that it is not a position to be sought lightly. I hadn't seen this post yet.

    My thoughts were centered on how it can be dangerous to place, an aggressive, intelligent, talented (yet often spiritually immature) person in a position of authority.

    One of the things I've noticed in the Christian sphere is the "cult of personality worship" that often attends the ministries of certain men. While I wouldn't necessarily lay all the blame on the preachers themselves, I think it is interesting how many sheeple will blindly line up behind someone they respect without actually searching Scripture for themselves and asking the Lord if there are any bones that need to be spit out before swallowing the "meat".

    I think deliberate deception is rarely a motive and a lot of an individual's teaching can be spot on. But definitely there can be a danger of misleading listeners who are not grounded in a relationship with Christ as their primary focus.

    I know firsthand how easy it is to become one of those who follow along unquestioningly, as it has taken me years to realize that no man is perfect and I am personally responsible to check for truth before accepting a teaching.

    It is wise to recognize the gravity of the Matthew 23 indictment.

  2. Heather

    I think also that a pastor/teacher who is humbly seeking to know Christ and is accepting personal instruction and discipline is not likely to be in the same "boat" as the Pharisees.

    They were pridefully rejecting the very Person their beloved Scriptures were pointing them to.

    That realization is what cooled my fairly recent panic about not running around trying to gain converts for Christ.

    I got pulled up short when I had to admit that I needed to make sure I know Him first!

  3. pgjackson

    Great stuff.

    Firstly, and in agreement with Emily, ouch. It's possible to evangelise people into hell. It's possible to Shepherd the flock all the way to the lake of fire. What a terrifying thought. Lord, have mercy.

    Secondly, these words from Christ are potent for our age in which being evangelical is increasingly defined as 'one who evangelises.' Never mind what their evangel is, they're mission-minded so that must be a good thing. Again, Lord, have mercy.

  4. Chris E

    I would assume that any sensible definition of pastoral care should include chasing off wolves as well as comforting and looking after the sheep.

  5. theoldadam

    This is why doctrine and good theology are so important.

    This is why some accuse us (Lutherans) of splitting hairs over doctrine, when we know that it is vitally important to protect the gospel.

    That said, we also know that God uses earthen vessels to do His work and that He is quite capable of giving faith to someone even where the gospel message has been covered by barnicles.

  6. Glen

    Hi Chris E,
    Sure - Be assured, 'Gospel' is not code for 'soft touch'. My intention is not to say we need to be nice and sweet. God forbid! The Gospel is far harder not only on the wolves but also on the sins of the sheep.

  7. Chris E

    Hi Glen -

    My contention was with the phrase 'Pastoral care is not good in and of itself', I'd argue it is, as long as you define pastoral care clearly.

    In the spirit of Lutheran hair splitting - I'd hope it was the Law that was hard on the sins of both the wolves and the sheep :-)

  8. theoldadam

    Freedom is always the issue when respect to the gospel.

    The wolves in sheep's clothing would always hand you the gospel with one hand, and then rip it away from you with the other.
    Christ + (anything)

    That's the Galatian letter.

  9. Jim Swindle

    Wonderful post. I'd respectfully disagree with theoldadam who says, "Freedom is always the issue when respect to the gospel." Freedom is often the issue. At other times, the issue is holiness. I seem to recall Chuck Swindoll saying something to the effect that we aren't sufficiently preaching grace unless people accuse us of preaching license, and we aren't sufficiently preaching holiness unless people accuse us of preaching legalism.

  10. theoldadam

    Jim S.,

    That's exactly what I mean.

    People just cannot stand to have the freedom of Christ without ANY add ons.

    Whenever people have a problem with the gospel, it is always the freedom that suffers.

    That I do not have to do anything... that I cannot do anything to add to my salvation or make it happen, is the freedom that Christ gives us.

  11. Otepoti

    "It’s possible to Shepherd the flock all the way to the lake of fire. "

    No. No, no. It can't be. Not if the flock wasn't heading there anyway. (That's what my admittedly badly-catechised Calvinist instincts say.)

    Whatever else you have on your conscience, you never have the responsibility for some-one else's damnation.

    There's plenty of "causing little ones to stumble" around, but that's another thing, I think.

    Lord have mercy, yes.

    But also -

    Lord has mercy.

  12. Glen

    Hi Jim - welcome to the blog!

    Chris E - ok, understand you now. Of course there can be 'wolf hunts' that are not gospel motivated right? In which case seeking and destroying wolves is not in and of itself good?

    Otepoti - I would encourage all such Calvinist instincts. At the same time, there's got to be room for saying "Bad evangelists *make* people sons of hell" - after all that's what Jesus says.

    Perhaps a balance is the equally scary Ezekiel 33 where the LORD says the wicked are damned for their sins but the LORD will hold the watchmen (whoever they are) responsible (whatever that means).

  13. Heather

    "Perhaps a balance is the equally scary Ezekiel 33 where the LORD says the wicked are damned for their sins but the LORD will hold the watchmen (whoever they are) responsible (whatever that means)."

    Your comment brought to mind:

    Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
    Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

    Not sure how it relates. Perhaps it simply connects in my mind because it was our most recent family memory project and you said "watchmen".

    Is your site snowing?

  14. Glen

    Hey Heather,

    It links both because of 'watchmen' but also because there are clearly things for the builders to *do* even though it's the LORD who builds. This alerts us to the fact that the LORD *is* sovereign in all things (pastoral care included), but He uses human means and agents too.

    And yes, it has started snowing automatically. (I think I left the snow feature on from last year and WordPress must have turned it back on for December).

    What do you think? Keep it?

  15. Jim Swindle

    Glen - I think you're correct in your remark about the Ezekiel passage.

    Theoldadam - Since I can't hear your tone of voice, I'm not sure whether you're saying you agree with me or whether you think my comment is an example of rejecting freedom. Either way, what's important is not whether we fully agree with what we each think the other is saying, but whether we each agree with our freeing Lord. May he guide us into increasing purity and into radical freedom that comes with trusting Jesus plus Jesus, not Jesus plus something we do. We pursue holiness, but don't trust in ourselves to produce it. He must produce it in us.

  16. Heather

    Thanks for the perspective on the Psalm cross-ref.

    I do agree that the watchmen have been given a duty. In my brain, I was kind of thinking the two along the lines of Jesus' final rejection of those who would one day say "Lord, Lord, didn't we.....?"

    If the foundation for the work is not Christ, then whatever business we have accomplished is for naught. And, frighteningly, all that work will eventually be counted against us on the day of judgment because it is not covered in Christ's blood.

    I understand the teaching of Scripture to be that the "busier" we are at serving Him without actually knowing Him, the more condemnation we heap up for ourselves.

    Maybe I misunderstand.

    The snow is fun. I'd keep it :)

  17. Heather

    Hello. My name is Heather and I suffer from the annoying nervous disorder known as "multiple comment syndrome".

    Forgot to mention my other related thought.

    In 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul says "So then neither is he who plants anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase."

    I was thinking that Paul didn't deny here the weightiness of the teachers' responsibility but was simply deferring to God as the One who should be given all the credit for any good results, yes?

  18. Glen

    -- "Hello. My name is Heather and I suffer from the annoying nervous disorder known as “multiple comment syndrome”. "

    Hello Heather.

    Thanks for sharing.


  19. pgjackson


    Yeah, what Glen said.

    I didn't mean 'all the way' as implying 'every single step of their step to hell is down to your false shepherding.' There's multiple layers of differing responsibility involved in every action, so how much more the course of someone's entire life. And ultimately everyone is responsible for their actions.

    The Ezekiel thing is helpful here methinks.

  20. pgjackson

    Hey Heather, maybe we should form a group - Multiple Commenters Anonymous or something?

    'Hi my name is Pete and I suffer from Multiple Comment Syndrome. Well, I guess my story all started when I first read Glen on Jon Piper...'

    Bah humbug to the snow I say.
    C'mon, you're an Aussie, you can't be pining for Christmas snow can you?

  21. Heather

    "Hi my name is Pete and I suffer from Multiple Comment Syndrome. Well, I guess my story all started when I first read Glen on Jon Piper…’"

    Works for me!

    Only I can't blame Glen's Piper Commentary. Being a girl means it's an inherent flaw. I think therapy might actually make aggravate my condition.

    Glen might be dreaming of a snowy Christmas...

    My BIL married an Aussie girl and they moved back to OZ.
    Their daughter was only 18 months when they went over and 6 when they visited us last fall and she had been telling her mum how badly she wanted to see some snow. No luck, though as the weather was unseasonably beautiful. This year, my Sis in Law was saying our niece was once again expressing her wish. She said something about visiting the Snowy Mountains sometime.

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