“For there are many who are rebellious, empty-talkers, and deceivers, especially those from the circumcision, and it is essential that they be silenced. They are ruining whole households by their teaching — which is what they ought not to teach, but is for shameful gain.”
Do you sense the urgency of Paul’s tone? These are people who are teaching a false gospel. They are doing so for their own gain, not for the glory of Christ and for the building up of the church and by doing so, whole households have fallen into their web. Paul does not say, “Well, at least they are attending church, we need to treat them kindly.” He does not say, “Yes, but they give lots of money to pray for the church’s programs.” He does not say, “Yes, but they are relatives of half the congregation.” And, he does not say, “Well, we don’t want them to badmouth our church if we challenge their views.” No, Paul says, “Silence them!”
All of the above phrases are excuses that I have heard over the years not to practice church discipline or to tolerate error within the gathering of God’s people. And none of them is an excuse with which the Apostle Paul would sympathize. In fact, none of which are excuses with which Jesus would sympathize:
“Whomever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him that the millstone of a donkey be hung around his neck and he be drown in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world from which are temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations to sin come, only woe to the man by which those temptations to sin come.”
Indeed, there is a time for kindness and for honest, but unimpassioned debate. But there comes a point where the church must silence those who would disturb the peace and purity of the assembled body so that pearls are not thrown to the swine.
So, how does this mindset fit into the context of a church that wants to reach out to people in the community, who will have diverse views and quite a few misconceptions and bad ideas? Indeed, it is part of our calling to evangelize the world and part of that work is bringing these non-believing friends to church. The line is drawn…the application is made…when it comes to leadership. Those who lead, and who by extension teach, must have a grounded theology and they must not be leading those in the church into error. The influence of those who will lead the body into theological error must be silenced. And Paul does not apologize for saying so.
How many whole households have been led astray by those who are rebellious against God’s word, who are insubordinate to the theological standards set by the scriptures and which were embraced by the church. How many people have been led astray by those who have talked a good talk, but that their words were empty and vain — idolatrous even — glorifying man rather than God. “Let’s worship here with a famous preacher or there because they have a good rock band to lead worship,” people sometimes say in their man-centered vanity. How many deceivers are out there…did the Apostle John not say that the antichrists will come (1 John 2:18)?
Church, choose your leaders well.