God’s compassion toward the lost is our model to follow. He has done everything possible to restore rebellious humanity to Himself and continuously holds forth the gospel of Jesus Christ, the instrument of our reconciliation, to a world of lost sinners doomed to destruction. His compassion toward His lost sheep, those who claim to know Christ but are faithless heretics moves me the most.
One of the many themes that runs through the Bible is the continuous contention between the genuinely saved and those who are false believers. We see the first instance of it between Abel and Cain. God accepted Abel’s faith generated offering while He rejected Cain’s faithless offering. Cain killed Abel, and so this same type of persecution will continue until Christ sets His kingdom up on this earth. Amazing to me is God’s compassion for those who reject His way of salvation and try to set up their own way. We see His continuous outreach to these rebels throughout the Bible.
One of the most amazing examples of God’s mercy and grace toward His lost sheep is recorded in the book of Jeremiah. Numerous times God made the following declaration through Jeremiah:
And they have turned to Me the back, and not the face; though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction Jeremiah 32:33.
This same sad declaration is repeated in various forms in Jeremiah 7:13, 7:25, 11:7, 25:3, 25:4, 29:19, 35:14, 35:15, 44:4, showing the people of Judah His faithfulness and love to them though they were guilty of gross evil. God let them know that He had repeatedly warned them through Jeremiah and the prophets before He brought the promised judgment upon them by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
“I have also sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.’ But you have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed Me. Jeremiah 35:15
“Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered.'” Jeremiah 35:17
The result of their rebellion is recorded in the Scriptures, their destruction and deportation to Babylon.
When Jesus Christ walked this earth He spoke to the lost sheep of Israel with much the same result. Even though He perfectly fulfilled prophecy, the law and God’s compassionate love and longing for His people, the Jews rejected Him and had Him crucified.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-23 “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;24 “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. Acts 2:22-24
32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:32-36
This same message is reiterated in Acts chapter 3 by Peter, but he gives more historical context to the message.
13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 “and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 “and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 ‘And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:13-26
The message of the gospel, that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins has been His message, from the beginning, to mankind, in general, and to His people, the Israelites, in particular. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ has been His command to all and those who do not obey Him are bound for destruction. He calls to us to repent and believe, and He graciously deals with us, but only for a time. Jesus and the Apostles were opposed by those who refused to repent and believe the gospel. This same resistance to faith in Jesus Christ is systemic in the church and so the proliferation of false teachers, false teaching and false brethren.
Given the examples of God’s compassion that we find throughout the Scriptures, what should our response be to those who replace the gospel with destructive demonic doctrines? It depends. For those in leadership who refuse to repent and teach the Scriptures, we are commanded by God the reject them.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. Romans 16:17-20
However, we also have the opportunity to extend God’s loving compassion to those who are following error.
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
We have the privilege of conducting rescue and recovery missions by staying steadfast in our stand on the truth and sharing it in love with those who are in opposition, conducting this rescue God’s way, not our way.
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Let us share the compassion of Jesus Christ with all, especially those who need to be returned to His truth.