Toleration—The Devil’s Device

Marvin L. Weir

Satan and God have absolutely nothing of value in common. The Devil would love nothing more than to effectively destroy all that God represents. Our Creator has always been opposed to evil and ungodliness. Habakkuk states a principle that is eternal: “Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously…” (1:13). Matthew Henry comments on this verse as follows:

Though the wickedness of the wicked may prosper for a while, yet God is a holy God, and does not approve of that wickedness…The prophet, observing how very vicious and impious the Chaldeans were, and yet what great success they had against God’s Israel, found a temptation arising from it to say that it was vain to serve God, and that it was indifferent to Him what men were. But he soon suppresses the thought, by having recourse to his first principles, That God is not, that He cannot be, the author or patron of sin; as he cannot do iniquity himself, so He is of purer eyes than to behold it with any allowance or approbation; no, it is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. He sees all the sin that is committed in the world, and it is an offence to Him, it is odious in His eyes, and those that commit it are thereby made obnoxious to His justice. There is in the nature of God an antipathy to those dispositions and practices that are contrary to His holy law; and, though an expedient is happily found out for His being reconciled to sinners, yet He never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin. And this principle we must resolve to abide by, though the dispensations of his providence may for a time, and in some instances, seem to be inconsistent with it.

Other verses also clearly show God’s opposition to all unrighteousness. Brethren at Rome were warned, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness…” (Rom. 1:18). Paul made it clear to Titus that “the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world” (2:12). Jude wrote that the Lord’s purpose would be to “execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (v. 15). There are several lessons we can learn if we believe and will heed the Holy Scriptures:

First, sin is an abominable thing God hates! Sin separates one from God (Isa. 59:1-2) and refusal to repent of sin dooms one’s soul to eternal death and torment (Rom. 6:23). How can a faithful child of God not hate that which God hates? One is either on God’s side or the devil’s side! It is not unusual for people to have strong convictions regarding those things in this world they detest or despise. If we are truly followers of God, we will always identify sin for what it is and hate it as God hates it.

Second, sin incurs the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18)! Some members of the Lord’s church are upset with some sins, but not all sins. Other brethren never seem to be ill at ease with sin. Strong’s Greek Dictionary says of wrath: “excitement of the mind, by analogy, violent passion [ire] or [justifiable] abhorrence; by implication punishment.” The Greek word for wrath has also been translated as “anger, indignation, and vengeance.” Whatever incurs God’s wrath should never, without resistance, be allowed to continue!

Third, the Lord’s judgment will convict the ungodly of their works of ungodliness (Jude 13)! Those who commit sin and do not repent will be found guilty of ungodliness. The Lord will say to those who have refused to abide by His will: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21, 23).

Fourth, God has never authorized or encouraged the faithful to be tolerant of sin! Toleration of sin has nothing to do with the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), but is a tool Satan uses to deceive people and destroy souls. Paul taught the Corinthian brethren that their “glorying” was not good and that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). Immorality had been committed in their midst and they were glorying in their ability to be tolerant of the sinful situation. Sin is contagious and, unchecked, will spread through a congregation like a prairie wildfire!

Preachers have an obligation to sound forth God’s warning about sin (cf. Ezek. 33:1-9; 2 Tim. 4:2-5). Elders are commanded to “watch in behalf of [brethren’s souls], as they that shall give account…” (Heb. 13:17). The Lord’s church is not to have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing; [but is to be] holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Willful toleration of sin will destroy the souls of those guilty of such and the soul of the one who is in sin!

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