by Mike Ratliff
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NASB)
It has been put forth that the apologists for the Seeker-Sensitive movement in the visible church insist that they are justified in what they do because God is blessing their ministries with explosive growth and so it is wrong for us to oppose them. They cite Acts 5:33-39 to support this thesis. Carefully read the following passage. The bold section contains Gamaliel’s advice, which the Purpose Driven, Missional, Seeker Sensitive, and/or Emergent folks cite.
33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:33-39 (NASB)
If we blindly follow this reasoning then it would appear that it was wrong for Jesus to oppose the Pharisees, Paul to oppose the Judiazers, the early Church to oppose Gnosticism, Athanasius to stand firm against Arianism, and Augustine to oppose Pelagianism. We are not being told in Acts 5:33-39 that the right way for the Church to deal with apostasy within the Church is to tolerate it hoping God will stop it as we silently observe. No, we are given plenty of commands in the New Testament on how to deal with judging those inside the Church who are guilty of things that are not to be named amongst the Brethren. Continue reading