16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:16–17, NKJV)
We hear people telling us we should accept and befriend those who live in immorality, because after all, “Jesus ate with sinners.” Yes, He did. But, the question that needs to answered is, “Why did Jesus eat with sinners?” Was it to condone, tolerate, and even commend them in their sins? Today’s verse explains why He ate with them. If people would accept His explanation, they would stop claiming Jesus was tolerant of sinful diversity. The people Jesus ate with were sin sick. Eating with them was the Great Physician’s opportunity to call them to repentance and salvation. He was not “accepting them as they were.” Jesus was not opening the door to immorality without repentance and conversion. Without a doubt, Jesus loves sinners. He showed that love by teaching them God’s truth about sin and God’s mercy. He called them to repentance. He did not comfort them in their sin. When we teach a sinner the truth about his sin, and call him to repent and be saved, we are loving him the way Jesus loved sinners. That’s why Jesus ate with sinners. Is that why you eat with sinners?
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:6–7, NKJV)
Fellowship with sinners in their sin is repeatedly warned against in the Scriptures (Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Jno. 9-11). And yet, many Christians refuse to teach on the subject of fellowship, much less follow the New Testament teaching on the subject. This invariably leads to confusion, accommodation with error and compromise with sin. Ultimately, being a “partaker” (co-participant, an associate, a sharer) causes one to be eternally lost. We cannot share in the sins of the disobedient and expect heaven to be our eternal home. Furthermore, we cannot condone or encourage them in their sin – even if we do not overtly commit the sin with them (2 Jno. 10-11). The subtle deception of fellowship with sin convinces many that if they do not commit the sin themselves, then they are innocent. (We ought to remember Pilate, who could not wash the blood of Jesus from his hands when he delivered Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified, Matt. 27:24-26; Jno. 19:16). We cannot share in sin with sinners, and be blessed by God. Neither can we tolerate, condone or accommodate sin, without guilt. Do not be deceived.
20 Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their ways are His delight. 21 Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished; But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered. (Proverbs 11:20–21, NKJV)
We cannot make God into who we say He is. He is God, therefore, we must yield ourselves into who He wants us to be. God is very clear that perversity of heart and sinful conduct does not have His approval or blessing. Let me illustrate. While it is true that God loves the world, the fact is that God’s love prompted Him to send His Son into the world to save the world from sin. That means God does not tolerate, redefine, or minimize sin. Yet, many who claim faith in God do exactly that. They refuse to define homosexuality as sin – even though God does (1 Cor. 6:9-10). They refuse to define the doctrines of men as sin – even though God does (Matt. 15:7-9). They say that God accepts everyone as they are – but our passage today makes it clear that He does not. God delivers the righteous, but the wicked will not go unpunished. God is ready to save sinners, but He will not tolerate or excuse sin. We must think of sin the way God does (Eph. 5:6-7, 11). And why not? We must yield to His will; He will not yield to ours. He is God, not us.
29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:29–32, NKJV)
Those who broaden fellowship to include those practicing and living in sin, allude to the fact that Jesus ate with sinners as their rationale for accepting into fellowship those who have gone beyond the “doctrine of Christ” (2 Jno. 9-11). By doing so they overlook a seminal point: Jesus used such occasions to call sinners to repentance, not to endorse their conduct. Jesus did not condone, compromise, tolerate and accept sinners “in spite of their sins.” Instead, He was calling sinners to repentance (Lk. 5:32). He came to save sinners from their sins (Lk. 19:10). There were sinners “drew near to Him to hear Him” (Lk. 15:1). The fact that those who plead for tolerance toward sinners today is a prima facie case of not doing what Jesus did. He taught sinners and called them to repentance. They do neither.