A Reponse to "Cast Out From Among You"
(Editor's Note: This article is written in response to David Mathew's article, which appears elsewhere in this issue of Watchman Magazine. To read David's article, click here.)
The reader may notice that this article is entitled "A Reponse to..." rather than "A Review of..." It is not my intent to exhaustively review the argumentation of David in this article. Rather, I would like for the reader to consider some important issues his article raises.
David's attitude toward fellowship can be summed up in one simple point. Namely, that since I am not perfect, and yet still desire fellowship, I will fellowship all men." He places no limitation whatsoever upon those he will accept into his fellowship. Note the following quote from his conclusion:
So in answer to the question about who I will fellowship: I will fellowship everyone, those who are like myself and those who are different from myself, those which I can agree with and those I must disagree with, the people who love me and the people who hate me, the strong Christian with convictions and the weak Christian with doubts, the wise and the fool. I will love all people, have mercy and generosity upon their sin and error, and praise and honor them for their virtue and truth. I will draw no lines, maintain no boundaries, close no doors and never betray my love for the truth.
It is a grand expression of tolerance. And David has shown himself in his writings, both private and public, to be extremely tolerant of doctrinal error, and sinful practices. He is consistent in this. The world embraces tolerance above all else as a virtue. David makes no pretense in this, and no doubt feels he is justified. But, what do the scriptures teach concerning the limits (if any) of tolerance? Ah, there's the rub! While David makes no distinction, scripture clearly does. And for those of us who still accept the word of God as a rule of faith, this is an important consideration.
David quotes portions of four passages of scripture, though he does not give the reference. I would like to note them each in turn:
Luke 9:49-50, "Then John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us."
This passage was quoted to contrast David's attitude of acceptance with what he characterizes as "The principle of exclusion." It serves to present in a broad way the concept of universal tolerance which he advocates in his conclusion. Does this passage teach this?
Perhaps the easiest way to explain Jesus' rebuke of the disciples in Luke 9:49-50 is to compare it with Jesus' condemnation of false prophets in Matthew 7:21-23.
Matthew 7:20-21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
In both circumstances we have individuals casting out demons, ostensibly in the name of Jesus. The difference is that the man in Luke 9 actually was casting out demons in Jesus' name, while the individuals in Matthew 7 were not. The phrase "in the name of" has reference to authority. And authority is derived from God's word! This is abundantly obvious from the passage in Matthew 7. Jesus said, "depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" What they were doing was without law, without authority. The only significance of John's statement, "he does not follow with us," is found in the fact that the man was not of their number, not that he was teaching or practicing anything different from that revealed by the Christ. For what he was doing he had "law." He was doing it in the name of Christ.
Luke 9 teaches us that we should not assume someone is wrong because he is not of our "group." It does not teach that those who violate God's word in doctrine or practice should be extended the right hand of fellowship.
Matthew 7:3, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?"
David quotes our Lord in the context of fellowshipping doctrinal error. You may note that the passage does not explain how to deal with doctrinal error at all. It simply condemns hypocritical judging. Where David would use this passage to deny the appropriateness of any judging at all, the context reveals that Jesus was not condemning judging, but rather hypocrisy. Note verse 5, "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
John 8:7, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."
David quotes John's gospel here in the context of fellowshipping sin. And note that he does not limit it, including in his own words, "divorce, adultery, homosexuality, hate, lust, greed, lying, prostitution, murder, duplicity, gossip, anger, drunkenness, and extortion ... and there are many more." Again, the context says nothing about fellowshipping sin at all. David's is simply an emotional appeal to tolerance. Jesus was not condoning the sin of the woman, and in fact, instructed her to righteousness. Notice verse 11, "And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'" Jesus allowed the guilty conscience of the accusers to convict them of their own sin, and hence their hypocrisy. He did not deny the woman was worthy of death, he simply established (again) that they were exercising hypocritical judgment and were seeking with impure motives to test Him.
Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
David quotes this passage in response to the fellowshipping of minorities. Here is a classic case of mixing apples and oranges. God advocates the rejection of the false teacher and the unrepentant sinner, but God clearly condemns the rejection of any man because of prejudice. It matters not whether the prejudice is racial, gender based or economic. James 2:1-13 teaches this clearly. What is alarming about this paragraph in David's article is that he equates the rejection of false religion, "Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam," with a rejection of minorities. I suppose that Jesus words in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" mean nothing.
So, we see that David's argumentation is without scriptural basis. I don't think that alarms him to any great extent. However, he seems not to understand that since there is no scriptural foundation for his contentions, they are vacuous.
"I will fellowship everyone, those who are like myself and those who are different from myself, those which I can agree with and those I must disagree with, the people who love me and the people who hate me, the strong Christian with convictions and the weak Christian with doubts, the wise and the fool. I will love all people, have mercy and generosity upon their sin and error, and praise and honor them for their virtue and truth. I will draw no lines, maintain no boundaries, close no doors and never betray my love for the truth."
In contrast, the reader is encouraged to consider the following scriptures:
1 Corinthians 5:4-7, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."
Ephesians 5:5-11, "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
2 John 9-11, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds."
Of course, many other scriptures, examples and commands could be cited to prove the point. These are sufficient, however, to show that David Mathews' view of fellowship is flawed.
In contrast, readers may want to notice the teaching on Fellowship and Grace which is found in this issue. It is Bible based, and stands in stark contrast to David's view. Take the time to read the following:
David is extreme in his beliefs, but not alone.
This actually is a fact that is quite alarming to me, and one that I
would not have even guessed at just a few years ago. Understand that
David has had great exposure to the truth, and has rejected it. He
has attended Florida College, and in his younger years attended a
non-institutional church. He has rejected his heritage.
I recently engaged in a short email discussion with another young man who had a background remarkably similar to David's. He too was "raised in the church", but now attends a liberal church in which he sees a better exhibition of "Love and Grace." He considers a stand for truth and rejection of error to be the practice of a flawed view of the grace of God, and mean-spirited.
More and more we are seeing an attitude of tolerance for sin and doctrinal error among God's people. Advocated by men such as Ed Harrell, Bob Owen and Don Patton, such an attitude is spreading like wildfire. To be fair, these men (and most who are taken in by their sophistry) would never go to the extreme that David does. However, just wait for a generation to pass, and those who sow the wind of digression will be the source of a whirlwind of apostasy.
David's views are the natural end of any doctrine advocating "unity in diversity."
Some bristle at the thought that they may be the source of such
apostasy. We take as an example the protests of those who rejected
the Bible pattern with regard to the work and organization of the
church in past decades. The current "ultra-liberals" with
their "New Hermeneutics", "Family Life Centers",
and "Neo-Calvinistic" theology are a direct outgrowth of
the departure from the Bible pattern a generation ago. There was a
lessening of emphasis regarding principles of authority, and this is
The same thing is developing today. Preachers are lessening their emphasis upon doctrinal purity, and discipline. They are proclaiming a "positive message" devoid of application. The anecdotal evidence of the effects such an approach are having among God's people is alarming. What is even more scary is that many deny it exists. This does not negate the reality of the trend.
Recent conversations I have had with Christians in non-instutional churches have revealed some to believe:
Recently a writer for one publication ridiculed the fact that there are preachers out there preaching sermons like that put in pamphlet form by brother Ron Halbrook, Trends Pointing Toward a New Apostasy. He may ridicule all he wants, but our prayer is that God will give us more men who serve as Watchman, as did Ezekiel, "So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for me" (Ezekiel 33:7).
Might this writer humbly make three suggestions with regard to the dangers facing the people of God in our time:
Don't shoot the messenger. There are men of God, who love the Lord, love Truth, and love the souls of their brethren who have been maligned for preaching that truth. Their message is rejected and ignored as they are accused of being watchdogs, snarling curs, mean-spirited, unloving and ungodly in their tactics. It has always been the tactic of the devil to attack the integrity of the man of God. Just because such false claims are made is no reason to believe them without documentation, and certainly no reason to ignore the message these maligned men bring. Even if you are convinced they preach the gospel, as did the enemies of Paul, out of "envy and strife" (cf. Phil. 1:15), it does not negate the message. Is what they are saying true?
Don't put your head in the sand. This is the most dangerous problem of all. Paul warned Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). We have mentioned our personal conversations with Christians who do not want to hear of any controversy. They are uncomfortable when false teachers are named, they cringe when error is exposed, and they want their preaching to be in nice, neat, pithy 25 minute packages. Accentuate the Positive is the cry of the day. As long as Christians are willing to put up with such pointless preaching it will continue. And digression will spread as a result.
Don't enable the false teacher, regardless of his reputation. We have heard it so many times, in so many ways. Brother so-and-so is a faithful man. He has preached for so many years. No one has ever doubted his integrity or his stand for truth. All of that may be so. (And by the way, it is wrong to equate the exposure of false doctrine with an attack on an individual's integrity). The question is, is he standing for truth, or teaching error? The discussion must be on the issue of truth, not on the integrity of any man. Note what the Lord said in Ezekiel 18:24, "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die."
To some this may not seem fair, and indeed it did not to Israel at that time. So, the Lord said, verses 29-32, "Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' 'O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,' says the Lord GOD. 'Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord GOD. 'Therefore turn and live!'"
To borrow the time-worn phrase of old brother Tant, "brethren we are drifting." May we all recognize the tide of digression, and do our part to establish and stand in truth.
e-mail Stan Cox
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