Is warning necessary in evangelism and discipleship? This is a much-debated question. There has been a move away from the tactic of warning people of hell and the destructive reality of sin.

Believers love to talk about the benefits of trusting in God. We cling to the promises God gives (even if those promises were accompanied by a warning) but we often ignore sections of scripture where God warns of disaster awaiting those who refuse to turn to him. God is consistent with these warnings. 

In the Old Testament God frequently warned his people through the prophets and has continued to do so .Warning is likely given even more consistently these days with the gifts of the Holy Spirit available to all. Warning when heeded protects us from impending judgement and plants us securely on the path of grace.

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. – Colossians 1:27-29

The formula Paul uses for bringing people to maturity with Christ is: 

Warning + teaching = maturity

As with any formula, removing a portion from one side changes the result on the other. As a culture we have much teaching available to us. The content available through the internet is astounding. Some may argue the depth isn’t there, but if you really look, you can find depth of teaching from a good source online. This can be very beneficial for self-education or the autodidact. 

I have noticed although more teaching is available to us, the warning is absent. Scripture, however, is clear about the consequences of not following God’s ways and includes actions of obedience. Studying scripture is how we learn to live in Christ the way we are intended to live. (2 Timothy 3:16) When that way is not followed, the ways of the world (which always lead to death) are embraced.

When we walk in obedience we live in step with the living God and are like gardens tended by the Holy Spirit, bearing fruit. When we walk in disobedience, we walk in a wasteland destined for death. Results like broken relationships and addiction await those who walk not in the path of the Lord.

We need to be warned of what awaits us if we stray from God’s path. Warning prepares the hearer in such a way that the teaching takes root for the maturing of a believer. It perks up the listener and allows them to see the perils for what they are.

For much of my life when teaching large groups or walking alongside a brother in Christ, I would often see the warning clearly but instead of sharing it only focused on what will happen if the teaching is followed. I thought the role of the prophetic voice was to push people towards the positive direction. Recently, after reading Colossians 1, I was freed from a burden of filtering out the warning. I realized the warning was not fatalism but acknowledging the only destination apart from Christ’s intervention.

In the Old Testament story of Jonah, Jonah is sent to warn Nineveh of coming judgement. The people of Nineveh never received any option of  hope and repented anyways. The warning was what saved them when they were on the brink of destruction. How can we know the urgency if we don’t know our current state? We are all ignorant to our reality in at least some small way. Wouldn’t we change that reality if we knew better?

Warning makes an issue real. It is no longer a hypothetical or academic review of a subject, but an urgent matter requiring a response if the teaching isn’t currently being followed. The warning produces the fear of the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Proverbs  9:10

The fear of the Lord is what leads us to submission. It is what causes us to surrender in full. It is where wisdom begins and our rebellion ends.

Could you imagine if we refused to warn people about things in the natural world in this way? Imagine if we had no road signs in a place warning people of a collapsed bridge or of moose crossings. Imagine if there was a deadly disease going around and it was considered taboo to tell others about it in any way. Imagine if our planes and cars had no way of warning us of malfunctions. After considering those scenarios, is it an act of hate to warn someone?

It is almost humorous how seriously we take warning in our society for things that can cause physical harm. If we aren’t warned of peanuts in packaging, or potential side effects from a medical drug we sue the manufacturer. Where I live we even have signs telling us not to go on the wet rocks so a wave won’t wash us out to sea. But if we are warned of spiritual danger, we often lash out and get angry. Since the spiritual has eternal impact, one would think we would embrace those warnings with open arms.

Warning someone that breaking a law will result in jail time is not judgement but a hope to save someone from judgement. Are we not to do the same thing? We know the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If we see someone sinning, is it not best to warn them of the death that awaits? Is it not best when teaching to highlight the path of life and what happens when you refuse it?

We give Jonah a hard time for anticipating the destruction of Nineveh. But destruction was what was in store for the people if they didn’t repent. It was the heart of Jonah that was out of line and not his logic. His warning was true and it led the Ninevites to repentance. Jonah should have desired the outcome of life over death, but the option of death was the path they were on and he rightly highlighted that.

We need to understand why God warns people. It is the same reason he came and sacrificed himself for us. It is to save us from death. We need to see warning the way he does. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus who taught us the way to life was preceded by the warning of John in his message of repentance.

Without warning, why would we ever worry about consequences? If we are ignorant of where our path is headed, how would we know we need to repent? Rather than treating a warning with hostility, we should see it as a life line pulling us back to safety. We should welcome any effort to lead us back to the fear of the Lord and life abundant with Christ.

Instead of receiving a spiritual warning and accusing the speaker of passing judgement, we should acknowledge it as an attempt to save us from judgement. The warning is the message that judgement awaits and now is the time to access the cross to make us clean. Warning is not judgement but an attempt to save us from it. Just like telling someone to stop before they walk off a cliff or step on a landmine, a warning to turn away from sin saves a life from a death that is more permanent than this mortal shell.

A Choice of Two Paths


I often reflect on the dynamic contrasts presented in scripture. We can sometimes miss this when we read scripture in small chunks. As we read larger sections, we see the drastic contrast between the path of Jesus and the path of sin.

Scripture presents many forks in the road. One path leads to life and the other leads to death. Some see a third alternative made up of a balance of the two, but in many cases this is impossible. A person cannot allow part of himself to follow the path to death and another part to life. We were not created fragmented like this.

This is why writers like Paul list practices that send someone down the path to death next to a list of actions on the path of life (Ephesians 4:17-5:21). Life and death do not share a path. They cannot. As we come to know the way of Jesus, the path comes into greater focus. We learn to stay on it as the distinctions are clarified. There are not individual paths for each contrasting characteristic or choice. It is one path we walk on that leads to life or death.

In my scripture reading recently the postures of pride and humility have become as distinct as east from west. The way of humility is on the path to life while pride leads to death. It becomes so clear as we see the path chosen by Lucifer contrasted against the path of Jesus. Is there a clearer life and death analogy than the chosen path of God and Satan?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5‭-‬8

In Philippians 2 the story of Jesus coming to Earth is told through the lens of God giving up his place of divinity to be born without status and to go on to die a shameful death. The humility shown is astounding. God clung not to position, power or wealth, but gave it up although he deserves all honour and praise. In the end Jesus is elevated and will be praised on the lips of all created beings.

In Ezekiel 28 the fall of Lucifer tells the opposite story:

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.
Ezekiel 28:17

Lucifer reached for the status of God. His own beauty and wisdom led him to elevate himself. That led to his exile from heaven, cast out of the presence of God to endure eternal death or existence apart from God and his goodness. There is not a lot told to us of the battle in heaven and eventual exile of Satan and his followers. What we do know is equality with God was not his place and he reached for it.

In both of these contrasted narratives there is an exodus from heaven. One is chosen and the other forced. For Lucifer it is exile from heaven, he is thrown to the earth. For Jesus it is voluntary with a planned elevation back to eternity in Heaven.

Although our starting place was not heaven we are faced with the same choice and the same ending. The way of Jesus presents us with service to all in humility. We are never to look to our own elevation here in the eyes of the world (or even other believers) but for the sake of others, just as Jesus gained nothing for himself in descending to earth. He being God was already the highest authority but gave it up.

Pride is to think of oneself much. Humility is to think of oneself little. The result then of humility is to think of the interests of others. Our own way and legacy ceases to be priority. Pride is not just when we reach for equality with God, but when we look to our own elevation. It is when we act entitled, our thoughts thinking of what we deserve and where we should be. This does not mean positions of power or leadership are evil. A role of power still has the path of humility available. Does Jesus not model this perfectly?

While on earth, Jesus welcomed those who had nothing to give him instead of embracing people in power. He invited the children, the sick, the poor and despots to him and gave them life. Though power he had, he used it not for himself even though being God he is deserving of all honour, power, and glory. Humility is the path of service fueled by love of others.

The heart is where the divide really happens. A person could have actions of service while they are only doing it to be seen by others. They might post to social media of all of the good they are doing. This reveals the prideful heart. Rather than doing it in quiet for the sake of others, they need to be seen. They are thinking of themselves. A humble heart will perform the same actions in secret looking to the interest of the one they serve.

Humility doesn’t desire recognition or reward. It is important to search out our hearts posture. As we see through scripture, one path leads to death and the other to life. Stay far away from pride. Humble yourself before God and repent if you see the orientation of your heart towards your own elevation. It is not too late to get onto the path of life. His grace sustains us on the path in our ignorance, but when conviction comes, the choice must be made.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
1 Peter 5:5‭-‬6

This topic which seems so clear is at times so difficult to see our error. So with this I close; be vigilant in humbling yourself before God, prudent in guarding your heart, for the path is narrow and many voices will attempt to lead you astray.