Many times our apparent zeal for orthodoxy can be a thin veil for more sinful motives. I have oftentimes railed against false teachers in such a way that made it clear that belied a bitter and envious heart rather than one genuinely zealous for God’s honor, truth and glory. I believe this is common among Christians in general, and it is particularly epidemic among so-called “Calvinists”, among whom I count myself. We must speak the truth, but as Paul writes, we must always speak the truth in love. It is certainly true that true love sometimes entails relatively harsh criticism or even condemnation, but we must always be sure we are acting in love rather than bitterness or harshness. Everyone, Christian or not, can tell the difference, and your zeal will stink on the nostrils of both if it is a zeal for yourself against that person, rather than a loving invitation for a false teacher to believe the Gospel.
Indeed, Paul notes in Philippians 1 that it is possible to preach the Gospel out of envy rather than genuine love or concern for the truth and spread of God’s word. If I am full of rage when I hear Rob Bell’s speech, is it because I am genuinely concerned for the welfare of his soul and the souls of his congregation, or am I motivated by a spirit of vengeance such that I would rather see him condemned for his false doctrine than see him renounce his teaching and embrace the Gospel? Sometimes I have wondered whether or not I would rather have seen blood, fire and hail pummel Mars Hill Bible Church than seen him tearfully renounce his false teaching and embrace the orthodox Gospel.
Perhaps I am even envious of Rob Bell because I would rather have everyone pay attention to me than to him, and I am indignant that, although what I preach is what deserves to be believed for the good of the souls of men, my primary motive is that I would have people purchasing my writings and pay attention to what I have to say. But this is an incredibly non-Christian attitude. It is absolutely Satanic and to be fervently prayed against at all times. I am no better than Rob Bell whatsoever. I was born in iniquity just like Rob Bell and am no less deserving of God’s condemnation. If I boast that I have the true Gospel whereas he preached a galse one, it is possible that I, in my habitual laziness, bitterness and self-righteousness, am even more liable to condemnation than he is. We must pray that Rob Bell and those like him not only be converted but exceed whatever pittance of holiness to which we can lay claim, and far exceed our estate in heaven.