The Christian Responsibility to Warn Others
Dr. Wayne Burke said,” we are to go and glow, so the lost and the church grow; go glow and grow.”
Pastor Terrell Hudson said of evangelism and witnessing,”We are to have convictions, endurance, compassion, and submission to God. He also said,” All the angels of heaven cannot make the lost get saved if they say no, but, all the demons of hell cannot stop them if they say yes”.
Dr. Lee Roberson said,”For God to use you, you must have rock ribbed convictions”.
Results of evangelism may never be known if we don’t put on our walking shoes and lay the leather to the road. I heard an old preacher say,” that leather bound Bible will never give you its full potential until you put some shoe leather with it.”
Here, in Ezekiel, we have a passage where we are told that as righteous people (the Old Testament word for people who follow God and in our case, Jesus) have a responsibility to be a watchman.
A watchman had the following duties: sounded alarms when the people were under attack; person was placed on a platform above the fields to sound an alarm; to call upon the people to listen to God before it was too late; person was responsible and could face death for not doing their job.1
A watchman was someone who stood along the wall of the fort to warn others of impending danger. Perhaps it was a storm or an invading army. The watchman’s responsibility is to warn. There is an element of the Christian faith that requires Christians to warn one another. In this text, we have four different scenarios when Christians must act as watchmen to warn others.
FOUR SCENARIOS WHEN CHRISTIANS AS WATCHMEN TO WARN OTHERS
SCENARIO #1: God tells me to warn the lost but the warning is not passed on
“If I say to the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but you do not warn him—you don’t speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life—that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood.” (Ezekiel 3:18, CSB)
In the Old Testament, a dying person unwarned would be regarded as a murder victim. The murderer would be the watchman who failed in his duty. God tells me or shows me that someone is in danger and He tells me to warn them. However, for whatever reason, I choose not to speak up. I don’t pass along that warning. Then the responsibility has been laid at my feet and I chose not to do it. I am responsible for the consequences. If that person dies, then I am responsible.
This is a powerful word. It means that I have a response that requires warning others.
“Indifference that fails to save a life is comparable to negligent homicide. The prophet would be guilty of murder by his failure to fulfill his calling. According to the law of retribution, he was liable for the loss of life payable by the forfeit of his own (Genesis 9:5–7).2 The responsibility of a believer in Christ today to share the word of life, salvation, and forgiveness is no less awesome. Once the message of salvation is entrusted to us, we are responsible and accountable to share with those who are lost.3”
A dying person unwarned would be regarded as a murder victim. The murderer would be the watchman who failed in his duty.
SCENARIO #2: God tells me to warn the lost, I pass the warning to the lost and yet the warning is ignored
“But if you warn a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself.” (Ezekiel 3:19, CSB)
The second scenario shows that I can warn someone who is lost but they don’t listen. In this case, I am not responsible for the other person. I am only responsible to God for sharing the warning. As a Christian, I am not responsible for whether that person heeds the warning. If that person dies, the guilt of sin falls on them.
SCENARIO #3: God tells me to warn a Christian of sin but I don’t warn the Christian
“Now if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and acts unjustly, and I put a stumbling block in front of him, he will die. If you did not warn him, he will die because of his sin, and the righteous acts he did will not be remembered. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood.” (Ezekiel 3:20, CSB)
This verse describes four dangerous steps which reveal sinful path for the Christian. A Christian can sin and does sin. The result is the same for the lost and the Christian. The only difference is the condemnation that a lost receives. A lost person is condemned eternally for their sin. A Christian receives forgiveness for their sin. However sin has its consequences and may not be avoided outside of the mercy of God.
FOUR DANGEROUS STEPS OF THE SINFUL PATH FOR THE CHRISTIAN
1. Turn from righteousness (backslide)
We call this act backsliding. But it is very serious. A Christian chooses not to move forward in their faith. Instead, they turn from choosing to ask God to help and openly consider doing wrong.
2. Acts unjustly
Whatever the injustice is as this is described in the Old Testament, it is sinful. It violates the covenant relationship between God and His people.
“Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, CSB)
“For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, CSB)
3. Personal stumbling blocks
“He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, he will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14, CSB)
“Therefore, this is what the Lord says: I am going to place stumbling blocks before these people; fathers and sons together will stumble over them; friends and neighbors will also perish.” (Jeremiah 6:21, CSB)
But what is this stumbling block? Obviously it cannot be an occasion that makes sin inevitable, and thus makes God directly responsible for human sin.
While the Bible shows that God allows the stumbling block to exist, it really is the righteous person doing the stumbling.
Clearly his fate is determined not by how he began his life but whether he has persevered. Nevertheless, as in the previous cases, the reader is reminded that the primary concern here is not the fate of the nouveau méchant but the response of the sentry.4 Other examples in this book share the same idea of stumbling blocks which we can place upon ourselves.
5 PERSONAL STUMBLING BLOCKS THAT CAN MAKE ME CAUSE OTHERS TO SIN
1. Personal stubbornness
“Look, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.” (Ezekiel 3:8, CSB)
We can be our own stumbling blocks. We can be hard-headed and not listen to God.
2. Personal appetites
“They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will seem like something filthy. Their silver and gold will be unable to save them in the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their appetites or fill their stomachs, for these were the stumbling blocks that brought about their iniquity.” (Ezekiel 7:19, CSB)
3. Personal idols
““Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and have put their sinful stumbling blocks in front of themselves. Should I actually let them inquire of me? “Therefore, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: When anyone from the house of Israel sets up idols in his heart and puts his sinful stumbling block in front of himself, and then comes to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him appropriately. I will answer him according to his many idols,” (Ezekiel 14:3–4, CSB)
“For when anyone from the house of Israel or from the aliens who reside in Israel separates himself from me, setting up idols in his heart and putting his sinful stumbling block in front of himself, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of me, I, the Lord, will answer him myself.” (Ezekiel 14:7, CSB)
4. Personal rebellious acts
““Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “Repent and turn from all your rebellious acts, so they will not become a sinful stumbling block to you.” (Ezekiel 18:30, CSB)
5. Personal ministry as a stumbling block to others
“Because they ministered to the house of Israel before their idols and became a sinful stumbling block to them, therefore I swore an oath against them”—this is the declaration of the Lord God—“that they would bear the consequences of their iniquity.” (Ezekiel 44:12, CSB)
These personal acts are all acts that can cause others to stumble. As Christians, we have a responsibility to not bring other people to sin.
Sin leads to death. While God is merciful, the ultimate destination for sin is death.
SCENARIO #4: God tells me to warn a Christian of sin and the Christian the warning is heeded.
“But if you warn the righteous person that he should not sin, and he does not sin, he will indeed live because he listened to your warning, and you will have rescued yourself.”” (Ezekiel 3:21, CSB)
In this last scenario, a Christian warns another Christian. In this scenario, the Christian who is entangled does not sin.
One even older preacher was talking of going out on visitation one night. He had a heart problem and was not feeling as if he could walk through a neighborhood to take out God’s word. He met those at church that were going and said how bad he felt, and that after they prayed for those going out he was going to get his prescription filled and head home. Waiting in line that evening, waiting for his prescription, he started talking to another gentleman also waiting. He introduced himself and said he was heading home to rest even though he was supposed to be out on visitation. The man asked what visitation is and where they go. So the preacher explained meeting on Thursday evenings at church and going door to door asking people to come visit our church. He said how we go out to surrounding neighborhoods and knock on doors. The man said that the church must not be close to him because no one has ever knocked on his door. And asked where the church is located. The pastor smiled and told him just up the hill here behind the store.
Confused the man asked if it was the one that looked like a big ship and had a long steeple with a cross. The Pastor smiled and said it sure was, and asked if the man knew about it. Sorrowfully the man said no, and he had lived in the shadows of that steeple and cross for years. No one had ever came to his door. The pastor said it wasn’t too late to come and visit sometime, but the man hung his head and tearfully said,”you don’t get it, I have never been invited, I have lived in this shadow of your church for years, and no one has ever been to my home to invite me”. The pastor was in shock, how could we have neighbors so close that we don’t pay any attention? He apologized and extended an invitation to the man, pleading him to come. Smiling the man said yes he would be there Sunday, all he ever wanted was an invitation. How many are in your shadows? How many are so close we don’t see them because we look so far out? My friends evangelism starts in our own backyards. With love and grace and compassion to bring the lost in. Most people that will come just want to be invited. Who will you invite this Sunday to your church? Who will you have compassion for, have concern for, who will you invite?
Results happen when we go, people may say yes, they may well say no, but we are to go. Rewards will happen when we go. We may reach that one who gives their life over to Christ and we can rejoice in the Lord with them. Repercussions will happen if we do not go. God one day will show us the times we did not say a word when we could have won a soul for Him. The choice is yours, follow, go out into all the world (backyards) and tell of Jesus. or to deny Him, to be ashamed of His word. It’s up to you, what will you do?5
One more quote: “A preacher who will preach from the pulpit for a paycheck, but will not go out into the streets for free, is a professional speaker. A church member, though they sing and pray and raise their hands in church but will not go out to the hedges and highways of the world is a hypocrite”.
It’s up to you now, what will you do? God is waiting for an answer, and people are dying everyday, what will you say?
1 Jim Erwin, “Ezekiel Study Outline,” OLDTS 419, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Extension Campus (Houston, Texas), 14 January 1998.
2 Fisch, Ezekiel, 16; Taylor, Ezekiel, 71.
3 Lamar Eugene Cooper, Ezekiel, vol. 17, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 86.
4 Daniel Isaac Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1–24, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 147.
5 Michael Adams, “Evangelism, Results Rewards Repercussions”, Preach the Word, Ezekiel 3:16-21.