As a Christian, there are times when you're commanded be intolerant.
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Read Titus 3:9-11
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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 82
Q. Are those to be admitted
to the Lord’s Supper who show by
what they say
that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No, that would dishonor God’s covenant
and bring down God’s anger upon
the entire congregation.
Therefore, according to the instruction
of Christ and his apostles,
the Christian church is duty-bound
to exclude such people,
by the official use of
the keys of the kingdom,
until they reform their lives.
Paul opened chapter three with the words "always be peaceable and gentle to everyone (v2)," so it seems shocking to read what we just did in v10, that there will be times that we must "have nothing to do" with a person. It might be less surprising if Paul was warning Christians to keep their distance from pagan people outside of the church, but he's not! He's referring to people within the church, who constantly and divisively stir the pot with controversies, arguments and quarrels. Paul adds in 'genealogies' too, referring to men who demanded more authority in the church because they could trace their lineage way back into Old Testament times.
One of the big benefits of being part of a local congregation is being surrounded with fellow Christians who keep one another accountable. It often seems awkward to call out sins in others, especially when we know we have our own weaknesses, but it not only is a command we've been given to do, but a comfort to know we can trust our fellow members to call us back when we step too far out of line.
"Warn a divisive person once," Paul instructs. That first 'warning' will likely be a gentle, yet firm encouragement. The person may not realize that their actions are hurting others, and may even be grateful for the advice.
But if the divisive behavior continues, Paul says, "warn them the second time." In Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus illustrates how this process is to work. Whereas the first warning may be personal and informal, the second warning involves more people, such as the elders from the church.
If both warnings go unheeded, both Jesus and Paul agree. Be done with them. Put them out. Jesus says, "treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector (Mt 18:17)." Paul writes, "have nothing to do with them."
These words seem harsh, and even un-Christian to our ears which have been conditioned by our hyper-tolerant society. Certainly we must distinguish between 'divisive' people and those who are just saying things that we might not want to hear but need to, and even those who are just plain annoying.
But people who are "warped and sinful" are like a contagious disease that if left unabated will soon infect the entire church (2 Tim 2:16-17). They must be put out, for their own good (see and 1 Cor. 5:4-5 and 1 Tim 1:18-20), but especially for the good of the church.
One of the primary marks of the true church is the practice of church discipline. This is a slow, deliberate process involving the processes we read about here in Titus 3. The goal of church discipline is always to bring the sinner to repentance and restoration, but the ultimate conclusion for those who stubbornly remain in their sin is excommunication, which literally means to be put out from communion, both in terms of the fellowship of the church and away from the Lord's Table.
We'll end our discussion of the sacraments in the same way we began it over a month and a half ago: sacraments are signs and seals of what Christ has done for us. Those who will not submit themselves to Christ's Church have no business being sealed in the benefits He's won for it.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who lovingly disciplines His children to save them from eternal condemnation;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you take all of the Bible's warnings against sin seriously;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Luke 23