38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Caveat: This will be a bit whiny and long; be forewarned ;)
Lately, I’ve been considering false teaching, honest error, and heresies that have appeared throughout the history of the church, and which continue to do so until this day. It came about as a result of simply reading up on the topic of sola fide (justification by faith alone) and coming across a slew of articles against individuals whom I had previously held in some positive esteem (either by my own familiarity with their writings or by trusting the testimonies of brothers and sisters whose opinions I valued). As I read, I came across John Wesley, who up until this point I honestly had not really considered one way or another. What disturbed me was not that he, as an Arminian, did not agree with John Calvin on the subject of human will, but his belief that one may lose one’s salvation. Why was I concerned? Because this is a flat out denial of the efficacy of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ that subtly turns people to their own works, rather than Christ, for the assurance and the reality of their salvation.
The deduction is simple:
If salvation can be de-merited, then it was never by grace to begin with, but by merit.
I understand that Wesley taught that salvation is by grace alone, but his teaching says that he either did not understand what he was saying (which is the mark of being unregenerate, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16) or he was adding works into the mix (which is also the mark of someone who is not saved, cf. Galatians 3:7-10). So this became an immediate problem because of the high place the man holds within our Christian tradition.
As I asked people about his theology, I was given answers such as “He was a very devoted man,” or “He brought a lot of people to Christ,” or something else along those lines, answers that looked to his works to justify the high opinion of him that so many hold. But is this a valid argument? Wesley’s devotion has probably been, and is probably still being surpassed, by Muslims, Hindus, or any other individual from any other false religion. Should we emulate their devotion, in spite of their false teachings regarding our Lord’s person and work? The question is not whether or not one is devoted, for Wesley was devoted for the wrong reason – if he wasn’t devoted, he had hell to pay for it!
Now on to our text…
“Jesus is Against Sectarianism”
I agree. However, just what was Jesus opposing? Was it denominationalism? No, that’s an anachronistic reading. Was it the apostles standing against th0se who professed to know Christ but held erroneous doctrines? No…I mean read the epistles, specifically the epistle of Jude, if you want to see the Holy Spirit’s attitude toward false teachers. Context says: Jesus was opposing their prideful exclusivism. The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Their opposition was not theological; it was rooted in their desire to be the greatest in the kingdom(cf. Mark 9:33-37).
Similarly, when Paul is opposed to men calling themselves by the name of Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos (cf. 1 Corinthians 3), he seems to be opposing not separating from others on the basis of theological differences, but on the basis of superficial reasons – namely, namebrand pride (elevating one teacher over another and creating sects)– as the Corinthians were carnal, self seeking, and puffed up.
If these passages were meant to address theological splits – on the basis of significant doctrinal differences – then we should call Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims brothers in Christ.
The fact is that the above passage from Mark 9 gives us the criteria:
1. Their ministry should bear fruit equivalent to that of the disciples.
2. They should show love toward those who are truly following Christ.
That is to say, they should share more in common than just the name of Jesus Christ (even the Mormons call themselves “Christians”). To preach a false gospel and have millions of people respond to it is not the same as preaching the true Gospel and many individuals coming to faith in Christ. The former is not evidence of “fruit,” the latter is.
I’m done complaining.
I’m not hyper-judgmental, for the above errors were not “minor” theological infractions but pretty obvious/major errors that drastically change our understanding of the basics of soteriology (e.g. Wesley’s Christ cannot “save to the uttermost” and does not have an effectual ministry of priestly intercession on our behalf!).
I just wish we wouldn’t let heresy slide on the basis of an individual’s literary, monetary, or institutional contributions.
Our Lord Jesus preached until He was left with only the twelve (and even then, one of them was a devil, cf. John 6) and He had no qualms about that.
He is Sovereign, even if the devil and George Barna would try to use statistics to prove to us otherwise.