The Edifier

West Allen Church of Christ

The Edifier Index

The Seriousness of Individual Sin

Jim Vaughn

Often, we get concerned about the religious movements among Godís people, which lead them away from the truth. We certainly ought to be concerned about such apostasy by which many will be lost. Think about how many millions of people are going to be lost because of large divisions and movements that caused those involved to leave the word of God. The Catholic Church members number into the millions worldwide today. Also millions down through the centuries of time have been involved in this apostasy from the teachings of Christ. If there had been no apostasy, most of those might have been saved. Those in Christian Churches and among liberal brethren will likewise lead countless numbers to be involved in error and lost through disobedience to God. This problem of religious movements away from God is indeed a serious problem. We must watch against it and keep ourselves from being involved in such.

There is a tendency to overlook what individual saints do when they practice sinful things. While we realize that their sin is affecting them, we may not realize how serious their individual sin is regarding the church in general.

The apostle Paul wrote the book of 1st Corinthians to correct problems that existed among the brethren there. In the fifth chapter he wrote, know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? We might ask ourselves that same question. Do we realize that what individuals start practicing will spread to others? As leaven spreads through the dough, so sin spreads among Godís people, if it is not stopped. That one individual in the church at Corinth was a danger to all the rest of the church.

You do not have to be a very astute observer of brethren to see that what becomes popular in the world is picked up by individuals and brought into the church. The problem of divorce is a good example of this. Once in the world a divorced person was looked down on, unable to get a job, was disgraced, and was an outcast of society. At that time, there was no problem concerning divorce in the church. However, as society embraced divorce, individuals in the church began getting divorces. In order to justify the divorces, preachers came up with different positions on the subject. Thus, the individual practice of those who divorced their mates in violation of the word of God is now a church problem.

Religious practice often begins with some individual who starts it up personally. His practice spreads to others in the local church where he is a member. The error then spreads to other churches. Eventually his personal sin may cause millions of souls to be lost through digression from the truth.

Note the following quotation from Colly Caldwell as he explains how error was introduced among brethren in the apostasy that resulted in the Catholic Church. The first departures from the teaching of Christ were often not what the people believed but in what they did. It is always necessary to properly apply what we know to our practice but sometimes we do not. Many religious activities are begun on an individual basis, spread to the congregation and then on to other churches. Often the church has been divided because: (1) an individual Christian did not respect Godís word enough to follow it closely; (2) an individual Christian thought that his particular circumstances warranted a change in the religious plan of God; or (3) an individual Christian thought that he had a fine way of pleasing God even though God had said nothing to indicate that this kind of service is pleasing to him (Matt 15:9). In each of these cases, the Christian has violated one of three principles which make a practice sinful and he has laid the church open to division until he disclaims his own practice.

The apostle Paul taught that we are to withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly (2 Thes 3:6). If we refuse or fail to do so, countless souls may be lost as a result. God will hold us accountable, if we could have prevented this and did not. We need to realize the seriousness of individual sin.