Abuse of the Weak is a Characteristic of an Apostate Church
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
I would like to show you a classic portion of Scripture that describes people who claimed the Lord’s name for themselves, yet who were apostate and ripe for His judgment. It is found in Micah chapter two and it has direct application to the plight of abuse victims in the church today:
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster. In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you and moan bitterly, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields.”
Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the LORD. “Do not preach”–thus they preach– “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.” Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Has the LORD grown impatient? Are these his deeds? Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly? But lately my people have risen up as an enemy; you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war. The women of my people you drive out from their delightful houses; from their young children you take away my splendor forever. Arise and go, for this is no place to rest, because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction. If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the LORD at their head. (Micah 2:1-13)
If you will, please bear with me now a bit as I set some background for the main punch line of this article.
It is important for us to remember as we read the Bible that the Lord primarily addresses those people who are called by His name. That is to say, in the Old Testament (covenant) era He addresses the nation Israel, and in the New Covenant era He addresses His Church (some would call the OT people His Church as well. Others differ on that point). Certainly there are portions of Scripture in which the Lord addresses the nations of the world as well, and He sends His gospel to them all. But think of it. As you read your Bible, what you are reading is for the most part addressed to the Old Covenant people of God (in the Old Testament) and the New Covenant people of God (in the New Testament). Or, we should add this qualifier, He addresses people who claim to be His covenant people. Sometimes He addresses His true church (what we might call the invisible church) and sometimes He addresses the visible church. The visible church is what we all have dealings with, and it contains people who do not know the Lord, but who claim to.
Here then the prophet Micah speaks the Lord’s Word to the Old Testament covenant people
Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD: behold, against this family I am devising disaster…
See it? The Lord is not speaking these words to Sodom and Gomorrah. He is not speaking to the Philistines or the Moabites or the the Buddhist or pagan of our day. He is speaking to people who are related to Him by covenant. He is speaking to, we might say, His church. And it is a church gone sour. It is putrid with evil. You have the same kind of thing in Jesus’ words to the Scribes and Pharisees of His day:
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)
Now, these wicked ones were not really His people. Oh, they were in a sense because of the nature of the Old Covenant. That covenant was written on stone, not on the heart. You became a member of that covenant community by accident of birth (being born a Jew) and/or being circumcised with a circumcision performed by man’s hands, not a circumcision of the heart. So phonies could abound in the ranks, and they did. They even prevailed. In Micah’s day the “church” was so corrupt with the wicked that “fine church members” enjoyed laying in bed at night thinking up evil rip-off schemes they could pull off the next day. They were oppressors. They were abusers. They loved power and control.
And the Lord’s prophet is pronouncing judgment against them.
Now, notice particularly the characteristics of such a corrupt “church”:
- They only wanted preachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. “Do not preach”—thus they preach— “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.” They hated preachers like Micah and told them to shut up and go away. “Don’t tell us about judgment. Tell us how special we are. Tell us that no matter what we do or how we live, the Lord will always bless us.” The Apostle Paul likewise said that in the last days (the New Testament era) people will want these “ear-tickler” preachers as well.
- Such a “church” regularly victimizes people: “But lately my people have risen up as an enemy; you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war. The women of my people you drive out from their delightful houses; from their young children you take away my splendor forever.” Notice here particularly that you have women and children oppressed. The apostate “church” is an abuser’s best dream.
- Such a “church” is given to celebrity worship, which is idolatry: “If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!” See it? Along comes some charismatic type guy with a “gospel” totally ridiculous — “the gospel of wine and strong drink” — and he becomes the preacher for these people! They love him. They adore him. They build mega church buildings for him and pay him big bucks.
Against such a church, which of course is not the true Church at all, the Lord pronounces His judgment. I need not tell you that this apostate church is with us today and on the increase. You can recognize it by watching for these three characteristics, among others. Abuse of the weak is a characteristic of an apostate church.
Now, Micah winds up with some words of encouragement for those people who lived in those dark days, who truly did belong to the Lord. They were His people by covenant, and they were His elect. The term the Bible uses, especially in the Old Testament, is the remnant. Notice again what Micah’s word is to them:
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the LORD at their head.
Christ knows full well who His people are. The Lord knows His own by name. And a great Day is coming when He will sort out the sheep from the goats and the apostate church will be no more. Until then, we watch and we wait and we echo Micah’s words to people who claim the name of Christ. Even when they tell us we are “too negative” and that we speak “too harshly” about the state of the visible church.