What do you believe about: Baptism… The Second Coming… Revival… God’s Sovereignty… Speaking In Tongues… Once Saved, Always Saved… The Lord’s Supper… etc? Whatever view you hold, I hope you know that there are Christians (That love Jesus, pray, and study their Bible as faithfully as you do) who don’t believe the same way as you. You probably attend church with them. They may be close friends. They might even be your pastor or Sunday School teacher.
If someone doesn’t believe like us, that doesn’t make them our enemy. If we don’t believe like them, that doesn’t mean we should withdraw fellowship from them. When there are differences, that doesn’t mean it is our job to correct what we think are their erroneous beliefs. I am not talking about heretical issues, I’m talking about people who are Christians, regarding matters about which there is room for disagreement.
Sadly, too many Christians (And some pastors!) like to argue. They are aggressive in the way they talk to and about those who believe differently from them. They throw the church… the Bride of Christ… into chaos and confusion as a result. They cause people to stumble away from the cross instead of toward it. Paul said he wished people like that would emasculate themselves. If you don’t know what emasculate means, click here.
There are not to be arguments and disagreements in the church. Doctrine should be a uniting factor, not one that divides. If a denomination, or the church you attend, believes differently from you on what you believe is a significant issue… it is better to go somewhere else than cause difficulties within the fellowship!
When it comes to disagreement over doctrine with other believers, consider a well known quote and then more importantly, what God wrote…
Augustine: “In essentials, unity; In doubtful matters, liberty; In all things, charity (Love).”
1 Corinthians 8:1b Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
He also wrote it was unhealthy discussions within the church that caused friction and should be avoided. My thought: Unity of the body is sometimes more important than correcting others who disagree with us in doubtful matters. Paul went on to tell Timothy that quarreling (Debating? Arguing?) only ruins the faith of those who hear and THAT was why Timothy was to have sound doctrine himself.
Because of doctrinal error, Paul wrote for Timothy to minister the Word to God’s people with complete patience. Timothy (And by extension all pastors) are to teach sound doctrine to God’s people… to protect them from heresy. This takes time… patience… and prayer to accomplish. This must be done in the church because there is a lot of doctrinal heresy floating around these days.
Depending on the person, the “essentials” Augustine referenced may be different. And once you make a list, someone will challenge and critique it. So I know that once I write down what my “essentials” are, I will be challenged… and that’s okay. Someone will argue I left something out… and after they make their case I may agree with them. Anyway… here’s my short list. These I will not budge on to any degree.
The virgin birth.
The deity and humanity of Christ.
The death of Jesus on the cross.
The substutionary atonement of Christ.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Salvation is in Jesus Christ alone.
Salvation is by grace through faith.
The sure return of Christ.
Past those things there are a number of matters I hold dear and about which I have strong beliefs. But they are NOT a test of my willingness to fellowship. Yet there are matters not included in the list above that are important enough to defend strongly and with great passion.