On an email discussion list, someone asked if there’s any difference between judging at a funeral to say that a brother is either in heaven or hell.
I replied, but took the question away from a funeral context, since it seems to focus more on the question of judging people’s eternal destiny, and dealt with that.
This caught my eye since I’m being accused by someone of being a legalist because I consign people to hell for using instruments of music in worship to God. I can’t recall ever saying such words, but the person says he has me on tape. (He came to a seminar I was teaching, secretly recorded the short period he attended, and plied me repeatedly with pointed questions in order to get the plainest and baldest statement possible from me.) He has been often charged to produce the tape, but so far has declined to do so.
So here’s my reply given yesterday on the discussion list.
This is a hot topic in Brazil right now, as I have discovered. At least, the second question is [about a bad brother being lost in hell], in different form. Can we say that someone will be lost because they do, or don’t do, something?
1. God is judge. Is there anybody that disputes this? If so, I’m not aware of it, and the truth becomes a commonplace that winds up being a straw man.
2. Attitude is important. God doesn’t want to see anyone go to hell. Neither should his people. There are some who seem gleeful when thinking of certain lost ones. Such an attitude is not only deplorable but out of character for a child of God.
3. Having proferred the necessary qualifiers, it comes down to this: when the Bible commands an action or prohibits it, the issue of Jesus’ Lordship is in play, and those who refuse to submit to (or, who are in ignorance of) his Lordship have lost or are in danger of losing their souls if repentance and obedience do not follow. (See Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:9; John 12:50).
When God says he will judge, and we proclaim that judgment, we are not raising ourselves up as judges, but are simply recognizing that God, the judge of all the earth, has pronounced what will condemn and what will save.
Hence, there is actually no difference in the two questions above.
There may well be situational considerations that may hold one back from speaking so clearly of the obvious destiny of an erring brother (as per the question, and, one could add, a pagan), as one seeks to minister to and persuade others to obey the gospel. But the questions above do not take propriety into consideration, but their nature, if they are or are not in fact judging.
Back to our situation in Brazil, if we insist that everyone worship God with the voice only and frown on instrumental music, while maintaining it is merely something that ought to be done without insisting it to be a salvational issue, we are of all people most legalistic and hypocritical.
However, if the music question is tied to salvation, there is no moving from this doctrine, no, not for a minute, nor any doubt, biblically, of the eternal destiny of one who goes beyond what is written to include unauthorized pratices in the worship of the living God.
BTW, if you support a missionary or a national preacher, you should ask some hard questions about what they teach, preach and practice.