Christian Accountability

Church

What do you think about Christian accountability? Do you think it is abused? Do you think it is negative? Do you think we should hold each other accountability? Beyond what you think, what does the Bible say? What does it tell us we should do? How does it tell us we should exercise accountability in the body? 1 Samuel 15 provides us with an excellent model.

Background

Saul has disobeyed God by not completing the mission God gave him. Instead of completely destroying the Amalekites, he spared king Agag’s life and allowed his people to keep the best cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. As well as he setup a monument to himself in Carmel.

Samuel received word from the Lord regarding Saul’s actions, goes and confronts him, calling him to repent while also delivering bad news. The Lord has rejected him as king over Israel.

Samuel’s actions both tell us accountability is biblical as well as they provide us with a model to follow. Let’s look at the model Samuel gives us.

Model for Accountability

(1) We should grieve over others sins because they have offended a holy God.

The first action we should take when we learn of another brother or sister’s sin is to grieve. Sin is an affront to God. It’s rebellion against Him. Knowing another brother or sister is in sin, should cause us to grieve.

(2) We should go to the person and confront them with their sin.

After grieving, prayer for wisdom, and checking our own heart’s motives, we should confront the sinning brother or sister, bringing their sin to light and calling them to repent. Of course, we must not do this in a high-handed, judgmental, or self-promoting way, but in a loving and wise manner.

(3) We must confront them with God’s Word.

Samuel doesn’t come to Saul with his own word. He comes with God’s Word. When we go to another brother or sister in sin, we must go with God’s Word as well. Allowing Scripture to point out their sin is important because it is what is judging them, not us. All we are doing is pronouncing God’s judgment on them via Scripture. In this way, we are acting as God’s messenger, not their judge.

(4) We must call them to repent. 

Confrontation should not occur for confrontations sake. Rather, its purpose is that the confronted sinner will repent of their sin and enjoy restored fellowship with the Lord. Calling the wayward to repent is an important step of accountability. One we must not neglect because it is what the whole process is driving toward.

Motivation for Accountability

For some, accountability is an uneasy topic. It is something they would never dream of doing. For that reason, let me provide you with motivation to hold others accountable and to seek it out yourself.

(1) As God’s people we should reflect His character to the world for His glory.

If we are in sin, we cannot reflect God’s character to the world. Instead, we are actually misrepresenting God, especially if we call ourselves Christians. By holding each other accountable, we are fighting for the purity of Jesus’ bride – the church – and for God’s glory. We should do this and desire this because the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

(2) Unrepentant sinners hinder the church’s witness to the world.

This is why the world sees many Christians as hypocrites. If we want to regain our name in the world, we have to start calling people to repent of their sin and to follow God. Accountable then becomes a way for the church to fight for its witness in the world.

(3) Accountability is for your joy.

When we live in obedience to God, we experience the most joy. Think about a time when you were living in rebellion to God. Were you joyful then? I know that when I am in rebellion to God, I am not joyful. Now think about a time, when you were living in line with God’s commands, were you joyful then? I know that is the time when I am the most joyful.

Accountable, confronting others with their sin, and calling them to repentance is far from negative, rather it is a way for us to fight for other’s joy.

(4) Accountability helps us finish the race.

Salvation is pictured both as a definitive historical event that happens in our life and as something to be attained at the end of our life. By holding others accountability, we help them to finish the race. We help them to obtain salvation.

James 5:19-20 says,

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Conclusion

For those reasons and more, we should hold others accountable. It is a grace – gift – God has given us. It is not something negative. It actually is something positive, and something we should desire.

 Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you view accountability?
  2. Do you seek out accountability?
  3. How does your church, small group, etc, promote accountability among its members?
  4. Are there any other motivations you would add to the list?

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10 thoughts on “Christian Accountability

  1. Mike

    In regard to motivation, Lev 20:26 speaks to your first reason and is a great reminder that our instruction in this matter should come from God and not the world. This verse also answers a lot of the “why” questions that I ask about much of God’s instruction. Lev 20:4,5 tells me that I am accountable to God to hold others accountable and obedience to His word demands I not look the other way. It shows how we have twisted things when we make those who hold others accountable the outcast. Makes me wonder who we worship and fear – God or man?

    1. Mike,
      Thanks for commenting. I think you are right on, both with the instructions and the why question. It does seem to me that it boils down to the last question you posed: Do we fear God or man? I am praying I fear God.

      Blessings,
      Casey Lewis

    2. To All: The ground of anyone’s actions is who that person is. Even converted persons have an enculturated identity. The “I Am-ness” of the individual ought to be invigorated, pruned, and developed so that the person can profoundly sense his/her place in this world. If we have worked on ourselves, really loved ourselves for the use by and for God, we are then and only then truly accountable before God.

      1. Clyde,
        Thanks for commenting, but I am not sure what you are getting at with the idea of enculturated identity. Maybe you can clarify your thoughts.

        I do, however, believe we are accountable before God whether we love ourselves or not. We are accountable because we are His creation and He is our God. Our accountability does not depend on our own self love.

        Thanks again for commenting.

        Blessings,
        Casey

  2. Sam

    I’m not sure I completely agree with your points but…you do make some good assertions. I have found it is not my place to hold others accountable for their sins – I have enough trouble fighting for my own salvation and praying that those who sinned will find their way and God will lead them to him. I believe that we each must hold ourselves accountable to God and our own beliefs – in today’s world that is so difficult and trying to lead my family and hold them accountable as a parent and spouse is enough for me to take on. I do try to spread God’s word to friends and family in hopes that will help them with finding accountability to God and avoiding the sinful choices they will face. I do know that my road to follow Christ’s path is based on making myself accountable to God and his teachings – without those I would be lost and likely not where I am today and enjoying the many blessings he has provided in my life despite the many sins I have committed. I only hope his judgement will allow me to pass into heaven when my time comes!

    Thanks for the article!

    1. Sam,
      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I love the chance to interact with my readers.

      There are two responses to your comment I would make.

      First, I agree it is difficult to hold others accountable, especially when we are also trying to minister to our own family. However, I believe church wide accountability is crucial to helping you grow and you helping your family grow. We cannot live the Christian life on our own. We need others who are going to lovingly tell us when we are sinning. As well as we need others who are going to spur us on to grow in Christ.

      Other than what I offered in the article, there are several other verses that speak to corporate (church wide) accountability.

      Let’s look at what these verses say:

      Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us a number of things:

      (1) God has given pastors and teachers to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. This means we are all to minister to one another.

      (2) We are to encourage one another, and speak the truth to one another.

      (3) All of this is to be done, so we will grow up into Christ, be mature, and not be taken by false doctrine.

      We grow up into Christ, we mature by:

      • Learning correct doctrine from the pastor and teachers.
      • Learning correct doctrine from one another as we study the Word together.
      • Holding each other accountability to live out what we have learned.
      • Point out in each others’ lives when we are not living out what we have learned.

      That was a lot, but let me quickly offer you a couple more verses:

      Colossians 3:16 – We are to teach and admonish one another.

      1 Thessalonians 5:11 – We are to encourage and build one another up.

      Hebrews 3:12-14 – We are to exhort one another every day, so that we will continue in our relationship with Christ. Our exhortation of one another keeps us going and holding firm until the end.

      Hebrews 10:24-25 – We are to stir one another up to love and good works.

      1 John 3:18 – We are to love in deed and truth. Deed by helping those in need. Truth by talking with people about their sins.

      The second comment I would like to make is regarding your last statement about God hopefully accepting you when your time comes. I want to encourage you that if you have repented of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, are living out your faith (bearing fruit), and allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life, you can know for sure you will be saved from death when your time comes. Assurance is possible in this life. I wrote a post on this recently entitled: How do you know you are a Christian.

      Thanks again for your interaction with my post. I am encouraged to hear you are seeking to lead your family well and that you enjoyed the article.

      Blessings,
      Casey Lewis

      1. Sam

        Hi Casey,

        Thanks for the reply! We are highly involved in our church – I am a faith coach for our youth group – 6th thru 12th grade and my wife is an RE teacher for kindergarten – we are Catholic. We also are involved with various other ministries and are quite “influenced” by others at our church. I don’t worry so much about holding those people accountable, we all know how/where that should happen.

        My focus is more on those who do not attend church but profess to be Christians (not just Catholics) and do not allow themselves a place to be held accountable by others, like peers/friends/families at churches they could attend. I see them as lost souls searching for a home but do not want to sacrifice the time and energy to give up some time to go to church and interact with those who could hold them more accountable – they sense that this place is risky for them to be held liable for their lack of focus on God’s values and what he expects of us. In my own original family, my siblings, I pray for them as they struggle with this very message yet they wonder why life is so difficult for them and don’t understand that their problems can only be handled with God’s intervention – not by human brains and wits – and by giving time of themselves that God will reward and help resolve them of sins!

        Good verses to help me pray on – I will re-read them this weekend!

        I like your web site – good content – I will be back again for more!
        Thank you and God Bless!
        Sam

        1. Sam,
          I agree with you. I think it is difficult, if not impossible to hold those not in our own church accountable. Personally, I don’t think it is really our job to hold them accountable. I believe I am responsible for those in my own church because I have covenanted with them to do so. Those outside of my church, not so much. For one, I don’t really see them, or know them well enough to feel I can speak into their lives. Two, they may not even be Christians, especially, if they have rejected the church and Jesus’ teaching for the teaching of the world. Instead of trying to hold them accountable to live out the gospel, I believe we need to present the gospel to them, so they might turn from their sin to Christ and be saved.

          Good thoughts! I enjoy the conversation. I am encouraged to here both you and your wife are active in your church and are working with the youth. They are our next generation of leaders. Have a great weekend. I hope to interact in the future.

          Blessings,

          Casey Lewis

  3. To All, again:
    I have a problem with always talking about being Christians and being accountable (responsible, answerable) when we do not genuinely consider the growth, maturing, and perfecting of such concepts (whatever they stand for in others eyes) as multiple intelligences (Gardner) and emotional intelligences. Let’s get people to be sensitive to the possibilities of the genuineness of their human condition, creatureliness, despair, dread, etc., so that they can empathize and be open to true change. When a person is confronted and experiences this kind of Conversion, the accountability as a Christian is more real and subject to a permanence.

    So often I am put in a quandary when even Christians proclaim “I love you” when I witness how frail, fragile, and diminished their love is for themselves. I rush to admit that I receive what they offer because I am not to say whether what they offer is or is not from God. Maybe I am looking for too much inspired quality of answerability. Everybody is carrying some kind of heavy load.

    1. Clyde,

      Not sure where you are going with the idea:

      “Let’s get people to be sensitive to the possibilities of the genuineness of their human condition, creatureliness, despair, dread, etc., so that they can empathize and be open to true change. When a person is confronted and experiences this kind of Conversion,”

      It seems you are defining conversion in a different way than evangelical Christians. Could you clarify what you consider as conversion?

      Blessings,

      Casey

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