LUKE 9:49-50 - "And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
These passages are frequently abused by those who promote ecumenical fellowship and unity. When a preacher exposes the compromise and error of some Christian leader or movement, they protest that this is not God’s will and they cite these verses as evidence. They say, “Don’t you know that Christ said you should not forbid another professing Christian who is doing works in His name.”
We know that this is a misuse of Scripture because the Bible does not contradict itself. If the Lord Jesus Christ was saying in these passages that it is wrong to judge and expose error, He would be contradicting His own Word. Many other Scriptures describe the preacher’s responsibility to judge doctrine and to warn publicly of error and compromise. See, for example, Matthew 7:15; 16:6-12; 24:4,5; Romans 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:29; Galatians 1:8,9; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 2:8; 2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; Titus 1:9-11; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 8-11; Jude 3; Revelation 2:6, 14, 15.
We know, therefore, that whatever the Lord Jesus Christ is saying in the aforementioned passages, He is not saying that it is wrong to mark and expose the error and compromise of Christian leaders.
In truth Christ was forbidding the disciples to exercise ecclesiastical control over other men who claim to follow Him. He was warning against that natural impulse to control others. He was not saying that we cannot reprove another Christian; He was saying that we cannot forbid another Christian. These are completely different things.
The apostles had great authority to establish the first churches and to complete the canon of Scripture, but they did not have unlimited authority. They were not popes. Their objective was not to establish the kingdom of God by force. They could not bear the sword against those who refused to follow them. They could not exercise physical force against those they considered their enemies. They could not imprison them or beat them or confiscate their property or kill them or otherwise seek to “forbid” them to preach.
The Roman Catholic Church ignored this warning and claimed authority over all Christians. Rome attempted to forbid all men to serve Christ unless they served Him after the Roman Catholic fashion.
The preacher that exposes error is not trying to forbid other men to preach the gospel or to serve Christ. He is not exercising authority over anyone or persecuting anyone. He is merely doing what the Word of God requires; he is measuring men and movements by the Scripture.
When I warn of dangers I see in Billy Graham’s ecumenical crusades, for example, and I warn about how he has turned converts over to the Roman Catholic Church, I am not forbidding him to preach the gospel nor am I trying to exercise any type of authority over him. I can praise the Lord for every soul that is genuinely saved through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade or any other movement. I do not try to stop them with force or governmental authority or human deception. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.
This does not mean, though, that I am going to ignore error. I must reprove heresy and compromise and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and to do so is not contrary to what Christ forbade.
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