The Danger of Exclusivism in the Church

49 John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." 50But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you."

Whereas one of Jesus’ disciples’ argument was over which of the disciples was greater individually, this is dealing directly with the entire body. This is where you circle the wagons as say, “You’re faithful if you’re a part of us!”

We must understand that in the passage just before, the disciples could not cast the demon out of the young man. The reason? Unbelief! They began relying on their own power, taking for granted that the power they had came from Christ.

Yet the disciples saw someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name—and was succeeding in that venture!—they tried to stop him. Why? “Because he does not follow with us!” He follows—but not with us. I believe that is the crucial mark of wrongheaded exclusivism.

Yes, “wrongheaded exclusivism.” Does that mean there is a ‘rightheaded’ type? Absolutely! And we must make sure we have the Word of God’s line and not our own.

For instance, some go after the church for being exclusive at all in saying that Christ is the only way to heaven. They say, “All religions are the same, and it’s intolerant of you to make such an exclusive statement.” For one, that is an exclusive, absolute statement. Any conviction is. Secondly, every religion has its tenets which make it very distinct. Even those who study various religions see that Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam are markedly different.

Some move the line and say, “Yes” to Jesus, but don’t like being exclusive regarding doctrines. One radio preacher a few years back (don’t know who) who felt led to state, “The unity of the faith is more important than doctrinal distinctives.” In fact, he had his radio audience repeat this over and over. Isn’t it interesting that we tend to cling to what Jesus did, and yet discard what he and his disciples taught?

Some move the line even further. Yes to Jesus, yes to the Scriptures’ teachings, but they start sounding like the disciples. Remember, this man was ministering in Jesus name. But what was the issue? Not that he was disobedient; not that he was preaching against Christ—the issue was “because he does not follow with us.”

How sad it is when Christians who love the Triune God, have embraced Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for their sins, believe in the resurrection, hold to the record of God’s Word found in the Scriptures, believe in being saved by grace alone through faith alone, and have surrendered their all to Christ—yet external preferences separate them.

  • We cannot have elders at this church: it’s too Presbyterian;
  • We cannot celebrate the Lord’s Supper each Sunday: that’s too much like the Christian church;
  • We cannot have electronic or stringed instruments: that’s too much like the big mega-church in town;
  • We cannot use any version but ____________ : our version is more readable/accurate than theirs.

Do you see what happens? If we have Christ in our hearts, and rightly divide His Word and take pride in those things which are supposed to humble us, we will find ourselves circling the wagons. Sadly, this mindset masks itself as protecting the church. But we are to, as Jude 3 says, “Contend earnestly for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints.” “The Faith”—the truth of Christ and the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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