Summary: If pride and a sense of exclusiveness and spiritual privilege could lead the Apostles to go wrong, it is not only likely, but inevitable that the same will be true of all of us.

It is not intolerant to expose an oppose error. If a newspaper

prints an article naming you as a spokesman for the Ku Kulx Klan it

would not be intolerant for you to write them and tell them of their

error. Likewise, if a man preaches that God’s Word teaches a man

can be saved by works, it is not intolerant to tell him of his error,

and that it is by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ

alone that we are saved. It would be the worst of all possible worlds

if toleration meant that truth is to give way to error without


This would lead to sheer indifference in which there would be

no distinction between truth and error, and all would be completely

relative. Some people are very tolerant just because the truth

means nothing to them, and so they have nothing to defend. This

can never be true of a believer in Christ, for in Him there is very

definite truth and right in contrast to error and wrong. The

problem that a believer faces in relation to error is two fold. First

of all he is in danger of sinning in his opposition to evil if he uses evil

means to do so. The Christian must be intolerant of evil in himself

as well as others. He must refuse to employ bad manners and false

logic in his fight against evil. Paul said, “Be not overcome of evil,

but overcome evil with good.” If we use evil means to overcome

evil, we are in the camp of error whatever be our end.

The second danger of a believer in opposition to error is that he

tends to think that he has the whole truth, and, therefore, anyone

who does not see truth just as he does is in error. This is where the

vast majority of sinful intolerance enters into the Christian life.

Tolerance does not mean we accept error, but it does mean we

accept that there are more aspects of truth than that which we

know. Not to admit this is to claim omniscience. William Gladstone

defined tolerance in a way that a Christian must understand it. He

said, “Tolerance means reverence for all the possibilities of truth; it

means the acknowledgment that she dwells in diverse mansions, and

wears vestures of many colors, and speaks in strange tongues..”

It is interesting that we find the Apostles falling into both of these

dangers and becoming intolerant in a non-Christian way. As to the

first danger of using evil means to oppose evil, you recall how the

sons of thunder wanted evil men to be destroyed immediately, and

also how Peter wanted to fight with a sword those who came to

capture Jesus. They were all rebuked by Jesus for their willingness

to use such force against others. Paul understood that our weapons

are not to be carnal but spiritual. If the truth is attacked with

bitterness, hate and violent language, we are not to respond with the

same evil weapons. The disciples had not yet learned this.

Newman Smith was the author of a widely used book, “Come To

Jesus.” Later in a controversy with Robert Hall, the famous Baptist

author, he wrote a bitter pamphlet. He did not know what to title it,

and so he asked a friend for suggestions. His friend read the fierce

pamphlet and said he would call it, “Go To Hell By The Author Of

Come To Jesus.” The inconsistency made him see how obvious it was

that he was not displaying a Christian attitude. Our text is an

example of how the Apostles were also being intolerant by limiting

truth to their own group, and it is this kind of intolerance we want to

examine. We saw how the disciples were defective because of

ignorance, and now we want to see how they were-


John’s conscience was apparently bothered by what Jesus had

just taught. He had just said that the least is greatest, and it made

Him think of a man who was casting out demons that He had

stopped because he thought he was not worthy, for he did not follow

them. In other words, he was, in their minds, unqualified and

unimportant. He was the least. The disciples were under the

impression that they had a monopoly on God’s power, and so they

forbid this man to carry on in his service to others in the name of


Many commentators agree that John feels a sense of guilt about

this incident after what Jesus has said about the greatness of one

who receives even a child in His name. The man they had stopped

was aiding people in distress in the name of Christ, and now John

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