Desperately Seeking Exceptions

When you come to an understanding of a message from the Bible that is difficult for you to apply to yourself, your family members, or your brethren, what do you do?  Here are a few possibilities: (1) Make the application despite the difficulty; (2) Reject the message in obstinate disobedience; (3) Put off making the application until later, which is also disobedience; or (4) Seek some exception to the message whereby you may be justified without having to make the application and endure the difficulty.  There may be other alternatives, but these four options are some typical ways in which people respond to the Scriptures.

Of course, direct and complete obedience is the only correct reaction to any applicable Bible message, but many people, including Christians, have trained their minds to immediately seek an exception any time they encounter a difficult application.  In fact, the ability to explain away inconvenient passages of Scripture is a skill that some people seek in preachers.  Some will even search until they find a preacher who will give them an exception or an interpretation of Scripture that justifies their unwillingness to make a difficult application.  In this way, they “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and…turn away their ears from the truth” (2Tim. 4:3-4).

This mentality of desperately seeking exceptions is nothing new.  The Lord Jesus dealt with such a mentality among the Jews in the first century.  In fact, the Jews (Pharisees especially) had established an entire system of traditions based on what they perceived to be exceptions (bogus exceptions in most cases).  For example, regarding the issue of divorce, the Jews had focused on the exception given by Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and had made that exception into a rule.  However, the Jews’ rule was not justified by Moses’ teaching (it was not even close!), and so Jesus corrected their false practices in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-9.  Another example is that of the Pharisees’ tradition regarding the care of their parents.  They found an exception to the rule of “honor your father and mother” by claiming that their money was dedicated to God.  Jesus said this rule by exception was a transgression of God’s commandment (see Matt. 15:1-9).  Further examples can be found in Christ’s sermon on the mount, where He addressed several of the Jews’ rules that were based on exceptions.  The Jews knew that the Law of Moses forbade murder, but they made an exception to allow anger (Matt. 5:20-22).  They knew that the Law forbade adultery, but they made an exception to permit lust (Matt. 5:27-28).  They knew that the Law required them to fulfill their vows, but they made exceptions whereby they could forsake vows (Matt. 5:33-37; see also Matt. 23:16-22).  They knew that the Law required them to love their neighbors, but they made an exception whereby they could hate their enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).  Jesus corrected all of these false traditions that were based upon mostly bogus exceptions.

Today, it seems that many are still desperately seeking exceptions so that they can do as they please and still feel justified.  With such motivation, discussions of difficult Bible applications often descend into contests of creativity in which whoever can think of the most puzzling hypothetical situation to challenge the truth of Scripture wins the game.  With this victory secured, the winner then thinks he has the exception to justify his lack of compliance with the Scripture.  Such people think that as long as they can describe a situation for which no one can give an answer, then there is no answer and anything goes.  This is often the approach on issues such as salvation, fellowship, divorce, church discipline, the work of the church, and many others.

Dear friends, constantly seeking exceptions to the truth is not the way of Christ.  Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).  You cannot continue in Christ’s word if you are always looking for excuses not to obey Him.  Seeking exceptions to the truth does not make you His disciple nor does it allow the truth to set you free.  In fact, making false rules based on bogus exceptions leaves you enslaved to the lies of Satan.  It causes you to live in a false world of self-deception in which you have convinced yourself that you are right when in fact you are wrong.  Do not fall into this trap, but instead conform to the word of Christ whether it is easy or difficult to apply.  Only then can you be a true disciple of Jesus and live in the freedom of the truth.

Stacey E. Durham


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