HOW MANY STRIPES?

T. PIERCE BROWN

Jesus said in Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”  Sadly, there are some connected with the Lord’s church who seem to think that they are wise enough and sound enough in doctrine that they are able to determine which specific individuals deserve what specific number of stripes.

Paul expressed the obvious truth in Acts 17:31, “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” God is the judge, and not man. However, when faced with the truth that we are not to judge, some say, “I am not the judge. The word of God has already passed judgment on this person.”

When I have been called to task for preaching against premillennialism, or some other ungodly doctrine or practice, I have occasionally used those words. The problem comes when a person takes a general truth and makes his own application of that as if he had the right of final judgment. For example, John informs us, “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev. 20:8). I have both the right and responsibility to teach that without equivocation or compromise. I do not have the right to say, “John Doe told me that he was afraid to do personal evangelism. He died. He is therefore going to hell.” “Mary Smith told me she was feeling pretty good, when I knew she was in pain with terminal cancer. She lied, so her part is in the lake of fire.”

Most of those who think they have the right to make the final judgment about an individual would probably admit their inability in situations like that. However, they would denounce as a liberal, compromising false teacher one who would say, “Bill was never immersed for the remission of his sins, but I do not know what his final destiny will be.” They would respond, “I know what his final destiny will be, for the Bible plainly teaches that baptism saves us, and he was not baptized. So, I am not the judge, but God’s word is the judge, and he will be forever lost.”

One might say, “But Bill had a brain deficiency with an IQ of 35. He was not responsible.” Our judgmental brother would then probably say, “Of course, he is an exception. He will not be lost, for he is safe.” If we suppose that Tom to be in a similar circumstance, but had an IQ of 74, and dies without being baptized, where is he going? The truth is that you do not know how to make the application of God’s general truth to a specific person, and God neither gave you the right or responsibility to do so.  You do not have to prove your soundness by pronouncing the final destiny of any specific person. It matters not how wise you may be, or how able you are to do syllogistic reasoning or whether you would know any more about a modus ponens form than a hog does about a side saddle, there are so many factors involved in the final destiny of an individual that God left it to someone wiser and more righteous than you. You must leave it there also.

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