Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
I. We see here the TRUE GROUND OF CHRISTIAN TOLERATION.
(1) Toleration is not an enforced forbearance with men who teach error. Some keep their hands off errorists because they cannot touch them; like boys who will not pluck ripe fruit because there is a high wall in the way.
(2) Nor is it a recognition of the right of men to freedom of thought and experience, which is only part of it.
(3) Still less is it indifference to error. There are men who do not care whether you teach God or Jupiter, heathen mythology or Christian theology.
2. Positively. It is a generous confidence in the vitality of truth and its ultimate victory, born of hope, nursed by courage, adopted by love.
II. IF PAUL'S SPIRIT BE RIGHT THEN WE NEED TO AMEND OUR VIEW OF SOCIAL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY. He saw bad men taking his place yet he let them go on, rejoiced in their work, though not in the motive of it. Had he lived in our day he would have been told, "You cannot afford to sit in a Church where these men teach or you will be responsible for their teaching." He would have replied, "Who made you a judge; to their own master they stand or fall." Every man is responsible for bin own conduct and belief to God. If I please to work with men who are heretical on some points of theology, but who are right in the point in which I work with them (Unitarian temperance reformers, e.g.), I am not responsible for their wrong beliefs, but only for that part which I take. Paul was grieved at the amount of error that was in these men, but the small amount of truth he saw pleased him more.
III. THIS CHRISTIAN TOLERATION FOUNDED IN FAITH AND LOVE, LEADS TO THE REAL AND ONLY REAL UNION POSSIBLE TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. External formulas are not unimportant, but there never will be Christian union in this world until men feel that the invisible, spiritual elements of truth, the interior experience of soul, are transcendently more important than the idea forms, or the government forms, or the worship forms of the Church. Humanity is our common bond outside; why should not Christianity be within? "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: