I believe that when the history of modern evangelicalism is set down, it will record that our weakness was connected with the degree to which beliefs and practices were compromised. Because the motive may be good—that is, to gain influence for the gospel—the danger is not seen. In essence it is the sin of being concerned to please men, and to forget the Holy Spirit, ‘whom God has given to those who obey him’ (Acts 5:32).
Here’s the case of a church you all know. In that church were found a man and his wife who sold their property and gave a sum of money to the church. They said the sum they gave was all they had received from the sale; but it was not. They were not under any obligation to give the whole to the church, but as church members they were under obligation to keep the ninth commandment and tell the truth. Is it so serious to lie? Yes, the Bible says, liars do not enter heaven. Well, as you know, the leader in this church was Simon Peter. Acting on Scripture, he rebuked the man and his wife in turn, telling them they had not lied to men but to God. Both fell down dead. What happened next? People did not come rushing with flowers to express their sympathy. Instead, Luke tells us, ‘Great fear came over all the church, and over all who heard these things . . . and none of the rest dared associate with them’ (Acts 5: 11, 13).
Here was a case where the bold reproof of sin alarmed the public. Is the rebuking of sin a natural way to promote gospel success? It is not; and yet that is what happened, because God is not dependent on the natural—‘And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added.’ The fear of God is not only the beginning of wisdom—it should be the beginning of evangelism.
At the end of his long life, John Wesley said: ‘I never heard or read of any considerable revival of religion, which was not attended with a spirit of reproving. Thus it was in England, when the present revival of religion began about fifty years ago. All the subjects of that revival,—all the Methodists, in every place,—were reprovers of outward sin.’
– Iain Murray