A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Saturday, April 01, 2006

When Pigs Become Plump!

The Bible mentions the word pig or swine 20 times or so, depending on the version you are reading. But no matter what version you are reading, you won’t read anything good about a pig.

God’s biblically revealed disdain for pigs seems to center around several themes, don’t eat ‘em, don’t touch ‘em, don’t sacrifice ‘em, and don’t feed ‘em the holy things of God.

A Jewish old covenant pig was a pretty safe creature, as the Jews were forbidden to eat them, or even to touch them in death. God considered the blood sacrifice of a pig an “abomination” and likewise the eating of its flesh.

In the New Testament, you will find that a single story contains the majority of the Bible’s references to pigs. The story, found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, concerns a herd of 2,000 pigs, presumably owned by a Gentile herdsman. In the narrative, Jesus meets two men possessed by demons, with one being of particular interest. Jesus commanded the demons to leave the man, but the demons make an interesting statement, they say, Why are you bothering us, Son of God? You have no right to torture us before God’s appointed time!” (NLT)

Utterly fascinating is it not? The demons no doubt knew that this was not the great day of final judgment, the day they would be bound and cast into greater torment. But how did they know this? Did the demons bring this knowledge with them from Heaven? This is unlikely as Jesus said only the Father knew the day and time. Perhaps the demons, having extensive knowledge of the word of God, and not only knowing, but fearing its final outcome, knew that if Jesus was standing before them in human form, that His time had not yet come and the Scriptures were not yet fulfilled. This is very likely because unlike us, Satan and his demons discern the times!1 And it would seem that demons had more scriptural knowledge than the Pharisees, who, having the Old Testament, still did not realize that Jesus, in Himself, fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. But regardless of how they knew, the demons knew it was not their appointed time.

Jesus asked the name of the primary demon and he replied “Legion”, because they were many in one man. And Legion begged Jesus not to command them into “eis ton abusson,” or the deep, the abyss, the bottomless pit or Hell. Instead the demon asked that they be allowed to enter the herd of pigs. Even then, these pigs promptly ran off a cliff and drowned. Considering all the negative connotations the Bible makes concerning pigs, the animal seems a perfect choice for demonic residency.

But my interest in pigs is not a culinary interest, nor whether or not Jesus chose to allow a few demons to relocate. Rather my curiosity is aroused by a more sinister group of pigs. The heathen pigs who claim Christ and gorge themselves on the things of God, offered to them by well meaning true believers, who do not well discern when pigs have become plump!

Many, many years ago, as an unsaved teenager, my tumultuous relationship with God momentarily subsided when an acquaintance of mine, who had radically changed before my eyes, brought me to his non-denominational bible church to meet his pastor. This pastor was the first to truly make a real effort to answer some of the tremendous volume of questions I had about God and the Bible. I was drawn like a magnet to his understanding and knowledge of God, and I even made a profession of faith, and thought for a time that I was saved. But several weeks after my profession, this pastor left the church and was promptly replaced.

For his first sermon, the new pastor chose to preach against what he perceived as an inherent and unmistakable evil that existed in all forms of music. Now while I am not a great lover of music that includes singing, and would certainly agree that many forms of music exist for the sole purpose of aiding one’s soul into a deeper damnation in Hell, I could not agree with this pastor that all forms of music are inherently evil.

On the second and third week, this pastor preached two more sermons that were much the same, but in reference to various other issues that I now know are clearly in the realm of Christian liberty. But on the fourth week this pastor chose to preach on Mark 6:11, which says, “And whoever will not receive you, nor hear you, leave there and shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.” (NAB) The pastor made it clear that this text was a command that, as Christians, “We are to walk away from those who do not accept the truth of the word of God from us, as we go about spreading the Gospel.” In absolute terms he said Christians were to separate themselves from all heathens who do not repent, and this included friends and even family members that show no signs of believing. I was mortified! How could this be from God? At the time I only knew of one true Christian, and he was little more than an acquaintance and my best friend’s brother. Everyone I knew seemed to be a heathen. How could God tell me to walk away from everyone, with me being such a loner already? Is it possible for me to leave a whole world filled with sinners? I got up from my second row pew, in the middle of his sermon, never to return.

That night my best friend’s brother, the only Christian acquaintance I had at the time, spurred by this preacher’s sermon, called his non-practicing Catholic parents and every other member of his family, and wrote them out of his life. He forbade all of them from any further contact with him, his wife and children. Days later, when he heard that I was unwilling to walk away from his family, he forbade me as well. So in seven weeks I was right back where I started, no church, no Christian fellowship, no new nature, and a further mistrust of preachers! Two parents lost a son, a daughter in law, and three grandchildren, and my best friend lost a brother, but gained an even deeper hatred of all things religious.

My friends, there is a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; there is even a time to speak, and a time to keep silent. But for a Christian there is never a time for errant teaching. This pastor’s wayward preaching did not come from God, nor even glorify Him. But rather he was causing significant damage to the witness of God to numerous people that had no need greater, than their need for God. The separating of Christians from the heathen masses is not a biblical concept, but outright sin. 1 Corinthians 5:10 makes it clear that the only way for a Christian to separate from all the sexually immoral people, and the covetous, and the extortioners, and the idolaters of the world, would be for the Christian to leave the planet! There is no place for a Christian to hide in order to get away from all the heathen sinners of this world. And Jesus Himself dined with the finest of lowlife prostitutes and tax collectors.

However, there are several biblical mandates, or commandments, requiring the separation of Christians and various members of society at particular times. Primarily those who claim to be brothers, yet live a life that does not demonstrate holiness, a life that does not reek of the aroma onto life! With so called brothers who are sexually immoral, covetous, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or extortioners, with these we are biblically commanded not even to eat! With them we are to keep silent! Not without purpose, but for the purpose of reconciliation, greater condemnation, or even giving the Holy Spirit His opportunity to work without our interference. Matthew 18:17 says, “But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” And what are Christians supposed to do with heathens and tax collectors? Assume them lost and suitable for evangelism!

In fact, to continue in Christian fellowship with such people is to do them spiritual harm! How so, you say? You ask; how can a continued Christian witness in the life of a professing “brother”, but unrepentant sinner, be considered a spiritual hindrance? Not only will I explain but I will say that, not only is continued Christian fellowship with a unrepentant professing “brother” a spiritual hindrance, but it is a sin; a breaking of God’s commandments in need of immediate repentance.

1 Corinthians 5:13b commands, “Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person.” Not the evil persons of the world, but the evil persons confessing to be brothers. With these we are not only forbidden to eat with, but the only communication should be that of urging them to repent and believe. For a Christian to go beyond this, in an effort to be well meaning or kind, is to deny your due obedience to God. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” The application of this verse goes beyond the context of marriage. You are not doing an unrepentant, sinning, “so called brother” a favor when you continue fellowship with him. Rather you are helping him deceive himself by allowing him a connection to something he does not have. You are allowing him to feast on things that are not meant for him to digest. And in time he will turn on you and attack!

Here is a simply example. I was counseling a married man who was seeing another woman. He refused to acknowledge that his continued unrepentant sin was proof positive of a life that did not demonstrate a spiritual rebirth. Week after week he wanted to speak to me, which seemed odd to me, because I had exhausted all the original material in the Bible that related to him, and now was simply repeating the same thing over and over. I would say, “You are sinning against God and your wife, and as a professing Christian, you have no choice but to give up the other woman, repent and be faithful to your wife. Can you not see that believers are commanded to be faithful? You are not being faithful, and therefore your lifestyle demands the reconsideration of your claim of Christ? If you love Christ, you will and you must, keep His commandments. Jesus says to go and sin no more and He means NEVER! And when you do sin, REPENT! A Christian is a repenting sinner. Repentance is a gift from God, but you my friend, have proven yourself a sinner completely incapable of repenting. As such you can not and do not serve Jesus, but Satan, your master, who has blinded you to the obvious facts of your condition. My friend, you need a Savior, my King and Lord Jesus, Who is the only one who can help you see the truth that I have already presented to you on countless occasions.”

He would then perform a sort of cerebral, moral, gymnastics in order to convince himself, and me, that his lifestyle was in some way justifiable. In the beginning his excuses were easily transparent, like a child with a cookie in his hand behind his back. But because I was able to defend the Christian position through Scripture, I wondered why he continually contacted me, even though I was now speaking strongly against his lifestyle. Then one day it hit me, he was a pig getting plump on the pearls that I preached to him every week! Matthew 7:6 had already warned me “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. But I was a well meaning Christian “do-gooder” who found himself on the wrong side of Scripture.

By allowing continued, but fruitless, fellowship with me, he maintained his only contact with Christianity. Each week he was gaining in biblical knowledge, each week he was better able to use biblical terms, so as to better cloak his sin in religious jargon. In time he became versed in the ways of Christianity, and at times even fervent in his use of eloquent biblical speech. And he was learning it from me. When I would make a new point, such as his need to “walk in the light”, it would only be a matter of time before the concept had worked its way into his dialogue, but the blemish of his infidelity still remained. He continued to practice his sin. Yet he claimed a relationship with Christ ever more passionately. I could see him becoming more and more like the heathens who will stand before Christ and say “Lord, Lord!” Even Legion knew that Jesus was the Son of God! Legion knew it was not yet the great day. My God, how pitiful this man is. He has not the joys of his flesh now, nor the joys of Your Son later! Please open his eyes before it is too late for him. Amen.

What was happening to my “professing” counselee was happening according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a pig, having washed, returns to his wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22) All I was doing for my friend was helping him build a biblical vocabulary to better enable him to remain blind to his obvious sin. When I broke off our fellowship he attacked me, just like in Matthew 7:6, claiming that I was the unsaved sinner, that if I was the Christian that I claim to be, that I would care about him and continue our fellowship. He doesn’t understand, and nor did I, that I was sinning against God by feeding him pearls that were not his to feed on, and the best thing I could do to care for him now, was to turn him over to the Satan, for the destruction of his flesh, and “eat” with him no more.

Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 5:4-8, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Brothers and sisters, when we do not head the word and refuse to cast the leaven out, when we continue to eat and fellowship with the unregenerate heathen who claims Christ, when we remain bound when we are commanded to “Put them away”2 or “let them go”3, we sin against God and we must repent. It may seem to us that this is harsh, so we continue our well meaning ways. But what we are truly doing is glorying in ourselves, thinking ourselves better judges than God to determine what is best for the lost. Pigs were never meant to feast on pearls. So let us repent, for now is the time for our mouths to cease taking in sustenance and expelling what is holy in the presence of pigs!

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina

Luke 12:54-56
Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

1 Corinthians 5:11-13
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner— not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

1 Corinthians 7:15
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.