Warnings are a vital part of life. When there is danger ahead, or a path to avoid, or a situation which we really don’t want to get involved with, a warning is just what we need. Without such warnings we would be in all sorts of strife. Indeed, many of us would die prematurely if it were not for warnings of various kinds.
When bad and threatening weather is approaching, we have weather warnings. When folks want to hit the beach, they are sometimes prevented from doing so because of shark warnings, or rough seas warnings. When sportsmen infringe on the rules of the game, referees will issue them warnings.
When a traffic cop pulls over a wayward driver, he may give him a warning about more severe action to come if he persists in his bad driving. Any good parent will warn a rebellious or disobedient child of possible consequences if they persist in their bad behaviour.
Governments often provide health warnings on various products or services so that consumers are better informed and aware of any possible dangers or negative outcomes. Warning signs are placed near various places of danger or high risk, such a cliff tops or even on wet, slippery floors and roads.
All of life is full of warnings. And it is no different in the Christian life – or at least it shouldn’t be any different. The Bible is full of warnings which we need to pay very close attention to. They are there for a very important reason, and we dare not ignore them or minimise them.
Yet most Christians live as if these warnings do not even exist, or if they do admit to their existence, they somehow think that they don’t apply to themselves. They think they are only there for other people. Or they recognise the validity of such warnings, but they take no heed, make no changes, and do not correct their course of action.
There are plenty of warnings given in both Testaments, and I will begin with a few from the Old Testament, but will mostly concentrate on those found in the New:
Psalm 81:8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you – if you would only listen to me, Israel!
Jeremiah 6:8 Take warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.”
Ezekiel 3:17-18 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.”
Mark 8:15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
Luke 10:10-12 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you.Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Acts 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Acts 20:30-31 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Hebrews 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
Indeed, one could simply just spend time on all the clear and disturbing warning passages found in the book of Hebrews. These would be Heb. 2:14; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; and 12:1-29. (I will not here however enter into the larger and heated discussion about whether these warnings mean we can lose our salvation. I will save that debate for another post!)
These are just some of the many passages found in scripture about warnings. I have simply used those passages which contain the words ‘warn’ or ‘warning’ and so on. There would be many more such passages which do not use the actual terms, but are very clear warnings nonetheless.
One obvious example of this would be Revelation 3:3: “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
Another such important warning passage would be 2 Peter 2:20-22:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
There are just so many warnings found in Scripture. Yet increasingly those Christians who sound the alarm and offer such warnings are accused of being bigoted, intolerant, unloving, and judgmental. Instead of thanking the watchmen on the wall and the prophetic voices, many folks just get angry at them and tell them to get lost.
We don’t want to hear the warnings and we get upset with those making the warnings. But this is not new. The saints of old also were rebuked, scorned and attacked when they made warnings. Indeed, the prophets, Jesus and the disciples all made many warnings – and they too were rejected and hated.
In the light of all these biblical warnings, how should we respond? The real question is, what will we do with them? We will stand up and take notice? Will we take them with the utmost seriousness? Will we walk in the fear of the Lord and pay close attention to these warnings?
Or will we just carry on as if these warnings do not even exist, or that they somehow do not apply to me? When a warning is found anywhere in life, the obvious and wise thing to do is to take heed and to pay close attention to it. But sadly when it comes to biblical warnings, many Christians either ignore them, or actually seek to explain them away.
We think we can do better than God, so we start removing all these warnings, thinking they don’t apply to us or are no longer relevant. But that is a recipe for disaster. As G.K. Chesterton said long ago, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”
The many warnings found in Scripture are there for a reason, and we dare not trivialise them, overlook them, or seek to explain them away. They are there for our own good, and we ignore them at our peril. Let me close with another very important scriptural warning:
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” -1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)