Weak Christians

Written By Victor Stanley Jr.

In Harmless’ Augustine: In His Own Words chapter 3, of particular interest to me is an excerpt from St. Augustine’s Sermon 279. This excerpt deals with what Harmless calls ‘suspicious conversions,’ and specifically with the conversion of a man named Faustinus. According to Harmless Christianity had become the major religion in North Africa in the late fourth-century, and great pressure was placed on pagans to convert.[1] Faustinus was a local banker in Carthage who people suspected had claimed a conversion to Christianity in order to secure the position of mayor. St. Augustine was invited by Bishop Aurelius to speak in defense of Faustinus’ conversion, and Augustine proceeded to give Faustinus’ ‘less-than-sincere conversion’ the benefit of the doubt.

St. Augustine’s sermon is very relevant today in the midst of so-called American pop Christianity, where the largest churches are wrought with the prosperity gospel and celebrity pastors, along with the growing compromise of mainline denominations on such issues as homosexuality. Many in the more conservative and orthodox evangelical churches are quick to pass judgment on those who attend and/or participate in propagating the message of those aforementioned churches. While we are called to point out heresy, error, and false teaching, as Augustine points out in his sermon, it is not our place to judge the authenticity of a person’s conversion. St. Augustine quotes scripture saying:

[5] Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV)

Augustine makes the point that we cannot peer into the hearts of men, and cannot truly know what has or has not taken place within them. He implores the people to “stay with what’s been conceded to us, to what we as human beings can do, and not lay claim to what’s beyond us.” At times it seems that Christians want to step in for God and condemn people based on their own personal thoughts about a persons motives and actions. St. Augustine appeals to scripture in order to show the wrongness of this way of thinking; he uses Romans 14:1 saying that we are to “Welcome the one weak in faith, not in judgments on thoughts.” Augustine instructs the church in Carthage in the manner of behavior they should show toward Faustinus, and we would all do well to heed his instruction, Augustine says:

“We commend him to your prayers, and to your love… to holding him up when he’s less-than-firm. As you move along, teach him the good pathway. Let him find that good pathway in you… The future will tell whether his life and his zeal for the faith of Christ prove worthy…”

This is, I believe, how we as Christians should deal with those people who come from denominations, or from under teaching that misses the mark. If they confess Christ then we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and as Augustine commands, we should teach truth and live it out. Scripture says that those who are of us, that is, the true faith, will continue with us, and those who are not of us will fall away.[2] In the meantime we are to preach the word and live as Christ.

[1] All quotes and biographical information unless noted are from: Harmless, William, ed., Augustine: In His Own Words (Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2010), 90-92

[2] 1 John 2:18-20

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4 thoughts on “Weak Christians

  1. THE ELECTED! BY STEVE FINNELL

    Can those elected by God resist that calling?

    ELECT-ELECTED-ELECTION: Defined (Adjective, signifies picked out, chosen.) (Noun, denotes a picking out, selection, then, that which is chosen).

    Elected means chosen. There is a view held by many that when God elects or chooses people that they cannot resist God’s calling. Israel was God’s elect or chosen people. God did not just select certain Jews to be saved and other Jews to be lost. Salvation was offered to the whole nation of Israel.

    Deuteronomy 7:6 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the people who are on the face of the earth.

    The Jews were God’s elect. Did any of them ever reject that election? Yes they did; because they had free-will.

    1 Samuel 8:7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

    They rejected God as king.

    Numbers 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?

    These people were the elect of God, but they would not believe in Him. Even though they were God’s elect He did not force them to believe and obey Him. THEY HAD FREE-WILL.

    Acts 7:51 “You men who are stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

    Israel was God’s chosen people; they were His elect, however, they always resisted the Holy Spirit. Most of them rejected Jesus as the Christ. THEY HAD FREE-WILL.

    Does God arbitrarily condemn some men to hell and elect a chosen few for salvation? NO, HE DOES NOT!

    WHO ARE THE ELECT OF GOD TODAY?

    Acts 10:34-43 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36……Jesus Christ….43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness from sins.

    WHO ARE THE ELECT OF GOD TODAY? All who believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, everyone has the chance to become the elect, the chosen of God.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    WHO ARE GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE? WHO ARE GOD’S ELECT? EVERY JEW AND EVERY GREEK WHO MEETS GOD’S TERMS FOR PARDON UNDER THE NEW COVENANT ARE THE ELECT OF GOD. THEY ARE ALL GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE.

    GOD HAS OFFERED SALVATION TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS THE CHRIST.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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    1. Sir, when you can show me in scripture where it says that are wills are sovereign and can operate outside the influence of sin, the flesh, and God, then I will believe in freewill. Romans 3:10-14; Genisis 6:5, Romans 9. Israel (Jacob) was God’s chosen person, and out of his discendents he set apart for himself a remnant. The other scriptures you posted are being used out of context. Those passages are directed at Jews who thought that salvation was only for the Jews. The Apostles were showing that salvation was and is for anyone who believes, Jew or Gentile, and that God has chosen people from all nations to be reconciled unto him. God chooses who he will save, if he chooses that some should perish, then you have no right to question it.

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    2. Romans 9:10-12, 14-15, 17-25 ESV

      And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

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