I hope no one minds, but I would again interrupt our exposition for a single post (and I’m quite sure it will happen again). I am just compelled to share a burden with you. We will return to Ephesians 3:8 next time.
Until just a few years ago, I taught computer science, and even a few Bible courses, part-time at a local college for 16 years. At the beginning of each semester I gave each student a syllabus explaining everything about the course. One of the items on the syllabus was the grading option each student had to select. As I would explain in my orientation lecture, the first choice was a “Letter Grade,” which, of course, required them to do all the assigned work. The second choice was “Pass/Fail,” which also meant they would do the work but would receive only a “P” or “F” at the end of the course, a little easier option some chose if they did not plan on perusing a college degree. The third choice, however, was an “Audit.” This meant that they could take the course only for whatever they wanted to get out of it and that no work was required of them.
That well illustrates a very pointed statement the Scripture writer James (the half-brother of Jesus) makes in his epistle: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (Jas. 1:22). The word hearers translates a fascinating Greek word (akroatēs) that was used of people who sat and listened to a singer or speaker simply for the pleasure of doing so with no responsibility attached. In other words, they “audited” the performance.
It is tragic, indeed, that there are some (if not many) in churches today who are simply “auditing” Christianity. Some shop around for a church that will entertain them and give them what they want. Others might actually be in a church that preaches truth, but they take little interest in it. They have no desire to obey it or implement it in their lives. Such an attitude, when it is persistent, indicates that such people are not true Christians at all, rather pretenders. Such people think they belong to God—perhaps because they made some vague, nebulous “profession” of faith at some point in their lives—when in reality they are not true believers. In fact, the two greatest evidences of true conversion to Christ, true Christian faith, are obedience to God’s Word (John 14:15, 23, 24; 1 John 2:1–5) and holiness of life (Eph. 4:24; 1 Thess. 4:3, 4, 7). True Christianity is about transformation of life: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
What, then, does James say about such auditors? He bluntly declares they are deceiving [them]selves. The Greek behind deceiving (paralogizomai) means to reason alongside of, that is, to reason incorrectly, often including the idea of deliberate false reasoning for the purpose of deception. So, those who profess to be Christians but then hear the Word of God but persistently choose to disobey it, deliberately deceive themselves into believing they are true Christians when they are not.
I recently came across an old Scottish expression that struck me profoundly. It speaks of such false Christians as “sermon tasters who never tasted the grace of God.” I was immediately reminded of Costco and Sam’s Club, where you can walk along and get free samples of food. Many “do church” the same way. They wander and browse, pick a sample or two, and then mosey along to the next attraction. They might even comment, “Mmm, that’s pretty good,” but nothing changes. They taste a little of God’s goodness, but they are not transformed by His grace.
I pray that you are not such a one. I pray that whatever church you call “home” is one that preaches the unaltered Truth of God’s Word, which you then live and obey.