Many sincerely moral people live in disobedience to God's teaching and are lost.
Many will suggest trhat thre important thing is not what people believe but merely that they are sincere (real, genuine, honest) in their belief.
The idea that sincerity -- not belief
-- is what really matters blurs the distinction between the sincerity with which
one holds a particular belief and its truthfulness. Imagine that you are in
a science lab and the teacher places a beaker of
clear liquid on the lab table and says, 'This is sulfuric acid.' In response to this explanation, Ray -- a student in the class blurts, 'I don't believe this is sulfuric acid. It looks like water to me.' Ray is so sincere in his belief that the beaker contains water that he decides to drink it. What will happen to Ray? Obviously, he will be lucky if he lives long enough to participate in next week's lab. Despite his sincerity, Ray's belief that the beaker contained water did not change the
nature of its contents. The same principle applies to religion. What we believe about God and how we relate to Him is of fundamental importance. Those who apply the sincerity principle to religion would never dream of applying it to other
areas of life. If a student asks, "What is the correct answer to problem #35?" we would never expect to hear the teacher say, "Well...any answer is correct as long as you're sincere!"
Sincerity is a laudable quality, but by itself is not an adequate test fro the veracity of religious truth-claims. I would hasten to emphasize the necessity of sincerity and the living of a good moral life. Surely one must be sincere in religious mat-
ters (Matt. 22:37; Eph. 6:24; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Cor. 8:8; Phil. 1:17; 1 Pet. 1:22). Proper motivation is of utmost importance.
There are numerous examples where people have shown deep sincerity in religious matters. Take the case of Saul of Tarsus and his violent persecution of the church. You must freely admit his total sincerity. He tells of such. To the council he said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1). I have no reason to doubt that. Such a life would demand sincerity.
He later stated that he "Verily
thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth"
(Acts 26:9). Again, we find an affirmation of his sincerity. I wouldn't doubt
it for a moment. But, is that alone the standard for
acceptability with God? If so, he didn't need to change, did he? You would hasten to say that he must change. You would say this because his practice was wrong in spite of his sincerity. Could he still be sincere in his opposition after he
learned the truth about his mistakes?
There are religious people throughout the world who are sincere and extremely zealous for God who have not given their zeal proper guidance by understanding; by a precise knowledte of God's Word. When a man says, "All it takes is for a man to be honest and sincere" -- the man immediately indicates that though he may have a zeal for God, it is not according to knowledge. Paul was honest and sincere, he was not only honest and sincere he was zealous in his honesty and sincerity -- but he was lost! Those Jews in Rom. 10:1- 4 may very well have been honest and sincere in what they were doing, but they were lost nonetheless! We need to recognize that these Jews were lost: Paul's desire was that they be saved. They were lost people! It takes more than honesty; it takes more than sincerity, it takes more than zeal to be pleasing in God's sight. It takes an understanding of the will of God.
When a man says, "All it takes to please God is for a man to be honest and sincere and a good moral man" he denies man's need for divine guidance. If all it takes to please God is just be honest and sincere in heart and it doesn't matter what you believe so long as you're honest and sincere, then why does God have to speak? Why did God reveal His will? It doesn't matter if man has a knowledge of God's will or not if all it takes is honesty and sincerity!
Often in religious discussion, when
it is pointed out that some religious practice or group violates God's Word,
someone will respond that the people who participate in the practice are sincere,
religious, and good moral people. I suppose the point is that having good morals
and being sincere is good
enough to save them despite the fact that they continue in their disobedience to God!
Is it true that all people who are
sincere in their religion and love God and live good moral lives are also pleasing
to God? Or, are there examples of people being lost despite their sincerity
and good moral living? (Please see the cases
of: The Ethiopian eunuch, (Acts 8:26-39); Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3-16); Cornelius, (Acts chs. 10, 11); The Athenians, (Acts 17:16-31); The Jews, (Rom.10:1-3). These all make it clear that it is not true that a person is saved just simply because he has devotion to some religious system or just because he has good morals. Other things are necessary, including knowledge, faith, and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please consider (Mk. 7:7-9); this passage is nonsensical if it makes no difference what one does as long as he is
sincere and a good moral person.
"As long as a man is honest and sincere and is a good moral person he is acceptable to God." Such an idea is a widespread delusion. It will not stand, nor will it bear the test of Scripture.
Sincerity is not Christ, and therefore, sincerity cannot put away sin. It is not true that a man is saved, if he is only sincere, no matter what he thinks is truth.
By Ira Lynn in Biblical Insights, Vol. 5, No. 7, July, 2005.
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