St Augustine compare the situation of the man casting out demons to someone who, whilst not yet embracing the sacraments of Christ, nonetheless esteems the Christian name so far as to wlcome Christians and even to accommodate themselves to their service, and for this reason they are Christians – they are the kind of people of whom he was said they would not lose their reward. But this does ot mean they should presume that they are safe yet, for they have not been incorporated into the body of Christ; but they are profitable servants and being guided towards that end. They are more worthy of that destiny than those baptised Christians who follow courses of action which will lead them to hell.
There maybe, Augustine says, something catholic outside the Church Catholic. The name of Christ can exist, as we see here, outside the congregation of Christ. Equally, some in the Church Catholic who renounce the world, do so in words only and not in deeds; there there may be found within the Church Catholic something not catholic at all. We should not be disturbed when, as here, someone who does not yet belong to the Church does deeds in Christ’s name, for it is a testimony to his holy name.
Some of those who are intent on severe disciplinary principles which admonish us to rebuke the restless and not to give what is holy to dogs, and to consider a despiser of the Church as a heathen, and to cut off from us members of the body which cause scandal, think they are empowered to separate the wheat from the chaff before the allotted time when God will do that, and in so doing, blinded by their own error, are, themselves, separated from the unity of the Church.
Those who stand with the Church are also those who do not stand against it, so we must beware we do not throw them out, for they may be on the right path, and we will have put an obstacle in the way. The Church itself does not condemn common sacraments among heretics, for in these they are with us and not against us. The Church condemns division and separation, or any sentiment adverse to peace and truth. None of those seeking to be saved, says Gregory of Nyssa, will be lacking in the ability, through the grace of God.
We should not, Clement of Rome tells us, read the command to cut of your hand literally. Jesus is telling us to cut off the cause of the sin, so we should not, for example, give loose rein to the eyes of flesh/
Chrysostom asks how it can be, Christ having killed and buried our former trangressions like worms, that we have bred others? Sins whih harm the soul are far worse than those which harm the body. Yet we often do not perceive this. Like the drunkard who does not taste that the wine is stale, so the habitual sinner does not see the sin, and the sins then multiply. Here we are told that the fires of hell have no end – if that chills you, remember it well, for it is true.