I continue to be amazed at the length some of my brethren will go to justify or overlook the sins or false doctrines of others. From what I am seeing, it seems as if God’s Word has no value at all to some of these brethren! It is as if the only thing that matters is one’s association with their friends. It seems as if some are saying, “My friends can do no wrong”, even when it is clear they are doing so. The simple truth is, the turning of the proverbial “blind eye” to what is going on, or what is being taught, does not change the circumstances in any way. One who is in adultery is in that condition, no matter how I attempt to skirt around the issue. One who is advocating a doctrinal position contrary to New Testament Scripture is doing just that and my “overlooking” it does not change anything at all. Brethren that have previously pointed to the truth of God’s Word in
2 John 9-11, now act as if they do not even know these passages exist.

It is not that the Bible does not have anything to say about this. Just the opposite is true. From “cover to cover”, the Bible provides examples of those who have “veered” off the path of righteousness, and the way that God dealt with them. Perhaps if we consider some of them, it will assist us in understanding our responsibility when it comes to these matters.

Far too often is seen the view that suggests that God will overlook sin in our lives if we are found, in the end, to have done more “good” than “bad”. It is as if God is going to put the totality of our lives on a scale, and if it tips to the “good side”, no matter how much is on the “bad side”, then all is well. Others suggest that because someone does not teach a specific error that he believes, then it is okay to use him as a part of a larger program. For example, if I were to teach false doctrine on the time of the observance of the Lord’s Supper, so long as my assigned topic has nothing to do with that subject, then there would be nothing wrong with using me. With this in mind, we must face the issue of whether either of these positions is consistent with Scripture.

To come to the truth on this, we must keep in mind the need to make sure that all we do is consistent with what the Lord has authorized (Colossians 3:17). Likewise, it is important to recognize the need to “preach the word” in its fullness (2 Timothy 4:2). Anything less than that leaves the Scriptures incapable of saving man, as it requires the “whole truth, and nothing but the truth” to bring about salvation (John 8:32). Those who would preach or teach God’s Word must strive to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Would this not suggest that such a need must be found in the totality of our lives and teachings and not just part of it? Surely, we would agree, “purity” is not only demanded of life, but also of doctrine. As the strength of a cola is watered down by the addition of water to the cola, so is the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12) weakened by a failure of consistency.

I remind us of what we have seen concerning the one who “abideth not in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9). In the same passage of Scripture, John stated such a one “hath not God”. What percentages of the “doctrine of Christ” are we authorized to not abide in, and still be right in the sight of God? Is not the answer simple? From Romans to Revelation, the New Testament stresses the point of full compliance with New Testament teaching. Notice Paul’s “command” concerning those “. . .that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received. . .” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). The word “tradition” here is “paradosis” in the Greek, and “. . .is a perfectly legitimate one (word, R.W.S) for teaching whether oral or written” (Robertson, 1931, p. 55). Thus, the one who “walketh not after” the teaching, which has been received from God, is to be withdrawn from by those who are faithful. What else needs to be said to clarify God’s position on such who refuse to “walk” properly?

In the Scriptures, we find numerous examples that help us to see exactly how serious God is on these matters. Regardless of how much good Adam and Eve did, they were cast from the Garden of Eden for the violation of one command (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-24). Moses, although a great man in the sight of God, was not allowed entrance into the Promised Land due to the single transgression against what he had been instructed to do by God (Numbers 20:8-12; Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:5, 6). Many good things might have been put on the “scales” in contrast to this one act of defiance, but God did not do this, did He? How many times was it that Nadab and Abihu “offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1) until “fire from the Lord, . . . devoured them” (Leviticus 10:2)? Where are the “scales” in all of this? What about Uzzah, how often was it that he “put forth his hand to the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:6), in contradiction to the command to “not touch any holy thing, lest they die” (Numbers 4:15) before “the anger of the Lord was kindled against” him (2 Samuel 6:7)? Since there is no mention of “scales” here, then we are reminded, “. . .the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Moving to the New Testament, we note the confrontation between the Apostles Peter and Paul over Peter’s prejudicial act of separating himself from the Gentile Christians when Jewish Christians came near (Galatians 2:11-14). I wonder why Paul did not assume some sort of attitude that said, “Well, he is right on everything else, so we’ll just overlook this one occasion?” Jesus, writing to the churches of Asia had much good to say about them. Nevertheless, He had something against most of them. Note the Ephesian church and all that He commended them over (Revelation 2:2, 3). He mentions at least nine different things in His commendation of the Ephesian brethren. “Nevertheless”, He had “somewhat against” them (Revelation 2:4). To the church at Pergamos Jesus stressed the good that they had done (Revelation 2:12, 13). However, He had “a few things against” them, of which one was their holding “the doctrine of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14). Notice that there was no skirting around the issue by the Lord. Just “plain ole” condemnation of the false doctrine they held to. Whether they went around teaching the “doctrine of Balaam” was not the issue at hand, it was that they held such to be true.

The fact is simply this. When we knowingly allow men to step into “our pulpits” and preach who are teachers of false doctrine, even though they may not teach error on that occasion, we by implication say that whatever it is they believe, and however false it is, makes no difference to us. As evil associations, corrupt the morals of those about them
(1 Corinthians 15:33), the use of false teachers may well come back later to be seen as an endorsement of all they believe and teach, even though they did not teach error in our presence. I seem to recall people referring to “birds of a feather” when it comes to things like this.

Rather than our putting our “stamp of approval” on those among us who are teaching things “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10), let us step up and put them to silence (1 Peter 2:15), stopping those who teach “things which they ought not” (Titus 1:11). If we do not allow those who are in error the opportunity to preach from “our pulpits”, we will never have to answer for having done so. As the Apostle Paul indicated to Timothy, concerning those who were of “corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith”, there is still the need to see that “they shall proceed no further” (2 Timothy 3:8, 9). The future of the church is in our hands. If there is to be, sound doctrine passed on to our children and their children we must stay the course as we work to stamp out the false doctrines that are permeating the church today. Going along, to get along, simply does not fit the pattern of New Testament teaching when it comes to these issues. It may well be “now or never” when it comes to what lay ahead.

NOTES

Robertson, A.T., (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume IV Grand Rapids, MI: Baker)

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