As a Christian, how much of an assault on God’s character or His gospel can you endure before your righteous indignation rises up in response? And when that threshold has been reached, are you able to channel that passion in a way that honors God and furthers His gospel?
We began this series by examining one of the most explosive incidents of righteous indignation in church history. It happened five hundred years ago, sparking the Protestant Reformation.
When the Roman Catholic Church filled its coffers by the selling of indulgences—bogus promises concerning God’s favor and the afterlife—they crossed Martin Luther’s theological line in the sand. We recently asked John MacArthur to describe the situation that provoked the Ninety-five Theses, and why those events aroused such a hostile response from Luther.
John’s closing point was his most important—any attempt to humanly mediate God’s favor is ultimately a direct assault on the gospel itself.
After all, God’s greatest blessing to us—salvation through the sacrifice of His Son—came to us at an infinite cost to Him. Yet in His kindness and grace, He freely gives that gift to all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Christ has done this by paying in full the grievous debt incurred by our manifold sins. Furthermore, He freely credits His own perfect righteousness to the believer’s account (2 Corinthians 5:21).
How dare anyone insult the grace of God by thinking that our puny purchasing power—through human effort or financial expenditure—can compare to the infinite price He has already paid on our behalf. It’s the ultimate insult to divine grace and a disgusting perversion of the glorious gospel. That’s why the apostle Paul pronounced damnation on anyone who dares to make any alteration or addition to God’s pure gospel (Galatians 1:8–9).
It is both blasphemous and ludicrous to believe that God’s favor can be humanly bought or sold. The apostle Peter made that point abundantly clear when he encountered a sorcerer by the name of Simon.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money.” (Acts 8:18–20)
The apostles refused to commercialize God’s blessings, nor would they allow anyone to even think of purchasing them. As we’ve seen throughout this series, Christ, the apostles, and Martin Luther have left all Christians a pattern that we must emulate for the sake of God’s glory and His gospel.
Tragically, many influential Christian voices currently advocate or operate in a manner that allows for peaceful coexistence with the indulgence peddlers of our day. Their complete lack of zeal bears no resemblance to the Reformers, apostles, or the Lord Himself. They are either lacking in outrage against blasphemy or lacking in passion for the gospel. Either way, they are derelict in their biblical duty “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9, ESV).
Nobody loves the spiritual pacifists of our day more than the spiritual terrorists. We cannot passively turn a blind eye to anyone who thinks God’s grace is a product that can be bought or sold in the religious marketplace. And while as Christians, we aren’t called to physical retribution, spiteful rhetoric, or the wild thrashings of a Facebook rant, we do have a responsibility to expose “deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11) and warn those in danger (Ezekiel 3:17–21; Acts 20:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 22–23).
We should maintain a posture of faithfulness to the exclusivity of biblical truth and the exclusivity of Christ’s purchase of our redemption. We have a Christian duty to rebuke the extortionists and warn those who are being extorted in the name of God. Silence wasn’t an option for Martin Luther nor should it be for us.