Unity in Truth

A dear friend and brother in Christ, who used to host a Christian talk show on radio many years ago handed this me during the growing conflict I was experiencing in the seeker sensitive church we were in at the time. While it is likely this counsel could be improved upon (as is the case with all works of man), I think it good and godly counsel.

Having Harmony in Your Church Through Humility in Handling Doctrine

Discord in most churches is caused primarily by the straining out of gnats and swallowing of camels, If a church does not have agreement on the essentials, it is not a church of Jesus Christ, On the other hand, members of the church who think that every little pet opinion or “favorite” emphasis is worthy of debate (and the risk of unity), dishonor Christ also, Too few Christians can distinguish and discern which doctrines have what degree of gravity, Thus, we end up with either large congregations that ignore doctrine for the sake of gladhanded surface hospitality or small fortresses of “defenders of the only way” where you feel like you’re on trial whenever you speak!

Here are four broad areas of doctrine. If you will attempt to distinguish which area a given issue belongs to, you will have an easier time dealing with that issue. Thus, less chance of getting personally uptight and less chance of offending another. This material will help when used correctly, Two cautions before we start:

1.Truth offends. The assumption in this material is that we are dealing to some degree with lovers of truth. Unfortunately, our churches are not full of such people, You will encounter that problem.

2.Some doctrines overlap. This material and chart are convenient general categories, not rigid compartmentalizations, There is especially some blurry areas between II and 111 and between 111 and IV, Not only that, but when you are in a lively discussion of some issue, other issues come up which could put you in several categories at once.

You might be talking about some doctrine where you are aware that you are building a case from a very thorough connection of Scripture. The person you are trying to convince may refuse to yield to a passage of God’s Word.

All of a sudden, you are into the IMPERATIVE of the authority of Scripture as well as an open discussion of your original issue. These situations will require more wisdom yet.

Nonetheless, despite these two cautions, working with this material can revolutionize your spiritual walk with regard to harmony, discernment, unity and pride,

EXPLANATION OF CHART COLUMN 1

The first column is the type of truth you are dealing with, A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE, BIBLICAL IMPLICATION or BIBICAL INTERPRETATION, Notice the first three deal with items directly from Scripture, but Item IV concerns things created in you by the Holy Spirit through your own context, your own understanding of principles and your own application to various areas of life,

COLUMN 2,

The second column explains how to recognize these areas, This column gives the definition of the first column, BIBLICAL IMPERATIVES are the foundational truths such as the Deity of Christ, the Authority of Scripture, the Trinity and the Substitutionary Atonement. People who deny these truths are not Christians.

A BIBLICAL IMPLICATION also has no room for denial because it is an area where the Bible cannot teach but one thing. However, misunderstanding is possible because the truth is not stated in so many words. Rather it is woven through the fabric of Scripture. Even if you have a few passages where you are thoroughly convinced that your conclusion is obvious, you are humble enough to admit not only that a different view could be held by true Christians, but lo and behold, great people of God through the centuries have not been as certain as you are.

Thus, you become willing to patiently learn how to present your case and give folks lots of room to discover the conviction you have. For example, should Christians send their kids to government schools? For example, how fallen is man’s will? For example, Covenant vs Believers Baptism,

I believe firmly and staunchly in what I’ve concluded the Bible teaches on each of these. But, 1 view you as a Christian, and will not doubt the genuineness of your salvation for having not yet come to the same conclusions.

A BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION hinges on one passage or the interpretation techniques used for several passages, For example, Daniel 9,..where does the countdown of the 490 years start? Your answer from Isaiah and Ezra will influence your entire view of eschatology. So why should we argue about the interpretation of Revelation 5 if we already know our impasse is in the middle of Isaiah? Or perhaps the interpretation of the words °a cause” in the sin of being angry at a brother without cause! It comes down to an understanding of a particular, If we view it differently—and we both honestly can view it differently—that’s it! Fortunately, God has seen to it that no essential matter of faith or life is in this category,

Finally the DAILY WALK INDIVIDUALIZATION, Friends, if we haven’t got chapter and verse—even if we believe we have the mind of Christ on the matter—we must humbly avoid playing God over another conscience, Does Walt Disney promote the occult in Fantasia? Are certain beats of music admissable? Should you pray before, or after, your morning shower? Come on, folks! Romans 14 insists that we acknowledge liberty and conscience in these areas,

COLUMN 3 & 4

Columns 3 and 4 prescribe the limits of what we do with these doctrines. This will be as helpful as the recognition,

A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE is not compromised or glossed over with anyone. Earnestly contend!! Don’t get off on blood transfusions, time travel and other things with cults and secularists, The only questions between you and them are: Who is God? Who is man? Who is Christ? What is truth? Stay on the subject with them,

BIBLICAL IMPLICATIONS are to be worked out carefully among believers, You have an obligation to the brethren on both sides. Be able to articulate what you believe and love them in what you consider their “future maturity”,

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION makes for “iron sharpens iron” discussions with friends, but the church today should not be divided on predictive prophecy,

On DAILY WALK INDIVIDUALIZATION you may set an example, if you wish, but you are confusing your own authority with the Bibles if you command something that it doesn’t.

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13 thoughts on “Unity in Truth

  1. Let’s put it to the test, men. Jon puts on his “testing hat,” moves to the keyboard, and types:

    The virgin birth is clearly taught, stated outright in Scripture. We would all agree with that, and thus it is a “Biblical imperative” in the top row.

    Unlimited atonement is stated outright in Scripture, in John 1:29 (see Ryle’s discussion on this). It is implied by a universal invitation to all to believe in John 3:16 (Calvin himself acknowledged the universal nature of the invitation), implied by the statement of the Samaritans in John 4:42 (though they could have been mistaken).

    It is stated in I Timothy 2:5-6, strongly implied in I Tim. 4:10, necessary for Titus 2:11 to be true, It is stated clearly in II Peter 2:1, and in I John 2:2.

    Unlimited atonement is not essential for salvation, not “foundational” in the same sense as many doctrines, is not part of the definition of a Christian. But it is stated outright more times than the virgin birth is. That makes it a Biblical imperative, according to this model.

    Test over.

    Many, many four point Calvinists accept those verses as stating outright an unlimited atonement. So do others who might call themselves 3 point Calvinists but still hold to an unconditional election. So do believers who are classic Arminians, and a whole range of other doctrines.

    If those people all accept this model, they will be forced to view all who hold to a limited atonement as those whom they must assert against with tenacity, as against the world.

    The five-pointer, on the other hand, would be more likely to say limited atonement is “Biblical Implication” — Bible teaches only one thing, but it takes thorough, humble study.

    Any model becomes very, very awkward when one believer is persuaded that something is “Imperative” and another believer is persuaded it is “Implication” (or lower down). The models inevitably fail unless we have enough charity and humility to stop and think about how the other person views it. Perhaps that’s why the Bible doesn’t really give us a model. It gives us heart commands of charity, humility, and love for truth.

  2. Ray says:

    Quote
    Unlimited atonement is not essential for salvation, not “foundational” in the same sense as many doctrines, is not part of the definition of a Christian. But it is stated outright more times than the virgin birth is. That makes it a Biblical imperative, according to this model.
    end quote

    Jon , with every different gospel , there is also a different saviour portrayed. Christ cannot possibly be the messenger of both the gospel of grace and the gospel of works salvation, and neither can Christ “s atonement be both universal and limited. Personally, i do care less about calvinism , and its many points of contention , but what I do care about with a passion is that the true gospel of Christ is preached faithfully, because no one is ever going to be saved with a false gospel. You have indeed put up many scriptures that would in your opinion point to universal atonement , but here’s the rub , is the christ of the unlimited atonement gospel able to save anyone if he cannot possibly save everyone.

    Romans 5:11
    And not only so ,but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ , by whom we have now received the atonement.

    Think on this Jon , if in Christ we have [unlimited atonement] , then there is not a man , woman or child who has lived , or is now alive , that will stand condemned before the throne of judgement on the last day.
    So here is my test , can I stand in unity with those who preach a different gospel and thereby a different saviour

  3. “if in Christ we have [unlimited atonement] , then there is not a man , woman or child who has lived , or is now alive , that will stand condemned before the throne of judgement on the last day.”

    Ray, what you’ve described here is universalism, not unlimited atonement. I’ve never yet once met anyone calling himself a three or four point Calvinist who is universalist. They all believe that only the elect are saved. They believe that Christ’s death paid the penalty for the sins of all, but that His righteousness is only imputed to the elect, while the non-elect, who do not believe, do not receive the benefit of His work because their sins are still imputed to them and Christ’s righteousness is not imputed, because of their unbelief.

    There are difficulties with the position, but it is not universalism, and it is a far stretch to call it a different Gospel. And if you are one who views limited atonement (as opposed to a fairly standard four-point Calvinist view) as a top-row item in this model, a Biblical imperative and a matter for absolute separation as a different Gospel, then I’d venture to say you are pretty lonely, because not many five point Calvinists who understand a standard four-point position would take that view. They would view this as a second-row item.

    But really, this was just an example. Since Christmas passed, I’ll use it as a different example. Some people view it as a top row item, a matter of idolatry. They’ve posted as much on this forum, and used very harsh language (at times) towards those who celebrate it. Others view it as the very bottom row, or rows in between. It’s pretty hard to make a model work on an issue where believers don’t even agree on which row something belongs, which was my whole point.

  4. Mickey Merrie says:

    Keep arguing semantics while the enemy remains united. Here, read of their deception here and then take a good look at what is overtaking churchianity and its 50,000 divisions of Jesus known as denominations, having come out of the great harlot church of Rome, being her daughters as she is the mother of all harlots.
    Time to stop arguing over the many traditions of men and submit to the teaching of the Holy Spirit as He reveals the Word in context to you, precisely as Jesus promed He would. Many of you hold to the traditions of men who basically teach you the Holy Spirit has been neutered since the bible was written down, thus you put yor faith in the teachings of dead men and your living anointed ones to think for you. WAKE UP! The only unity that there can ever be is by the Holy Spirit as Christ Jesus abides in you. Run from your religion and back to your first love!!!
    Now read from the enemy’s site and get a tiny picture of just how deceptive satan is, such that our Lord God would shorten time so that even His elect won’t be deceived. You may think you are a wise virgin, and not foolish but your oil is the Holy Spirit. Remember too that all virgins are asleep, both wise and foolish, so again I implore you to WAKE UP!! Oh and stop running to those who you pay to give you more oil as they make merchandise of you.

    http://www.lucistrust.org/en/meetings_and_events/festival_week_of_the_new_group_of_world_servers/the_new_group_of_world_servers_group_forerunner_of_the_christ

    http://www.share-international.org/background/printed/books.htm

    Open your eyes and see what is creeping in to your fellowships! It is you know. Do you not sense anything amiss? Again I say WAKE UP!! Then stand up for Our Lord!!

    http://herescope.blogspot.com/2012/12/postmodern-infiltration.html

  5. While men argue over limited atonement, all men believe in limited atonement. Read carefully.

    Those who believe that Christ died for all men believe by definition that His atonement is not adequate to save anyone, else all would be saved. In this scheme, the atonement of Christ is limited in its effect – like a very wide bridge that only reaches halfway across the ocean.

    Those who believe that Christ died for the church only believe that His atonement is sufficient to save to the uttermost those who He died to save. It is like a narrow bridge that reaches completely across the ocean and is securely anchored on both ends.

    Which atonement is worthy of the Lamb’s sacrifice? Will there be one drop of His blood shed or one bit of God’s wrath poured out on Jesus for one soul in Hell? If Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath for any person in Hell, the Lamb’s sacrifice was inadequate – and why should anyone trust Him?

    Further, since the Father only calls some to new life and Holy Spirit only inhabits and sanctifies those saved by grace, it would put Jesus out of sorts with the other two persons of the Trinity if He paid the price for all men. But if His sacrifice was paid only for God’s elect, then He saves completely and is in agreement with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

    Soli Deo Gloria! The Lamb will be rewarded for His sacrifice – all the sheep He gave Himself for will be saved. He is called Messiah because He SHALL save His people from their sins.

  6. Hello, Manfred. Perhaps it was a mistake to use unlimited atonement as an example. But I’ll run with it, anyway. Is limited atonement, for you, a top-row doctrine in the model you’ve posted? Would you break fellowship with a four-point Calvinist?

    Do you think that a four-point Calvinist, who believes unlimited atonement is stated outright in Scripture (and thus a top-row doctrine in the model), should break fellowship with you over it?

    My comments about unlimited atonement were not intended to start a debate over the doctrine, but to test the model by showing how a four-point Calvinist would view it.

  7. Jon – I do not think the limited atonement is a top-row issue. There is no such thing as four-point Calvinist, however. The5 points were constructed to refute the heresy of Arminianism and the argument falls if any one point is removed. One who holds to the Arminian view of limited atonement (it is not unlimited) is not a Calvinist but an Amyraldist.

  8. Thanks, Manfred. If I’d said Amyraldist I’m presuming many of your readers would have had no clue what we were discussing. Although not all “four-pointers” would agree with classical Amyraldism, I’m happy to use the label. (BTW, I agree that everyone limits the atonement in some way, in scope, in effect, or in application).

    You would not break fellowship with an Amyraldist. If he applied the model, he would view “unlimited” atonement as a top row item. Should he break fellowship with you?

  9. Jon – I thank the Lord for our friendly conversation.

    It would be up the Amyraldist to decide if he should break fellowship – I would not do so. If someone was a bonafide 5 point Arminian, I would break fellowship – for that perspective is flat out heresy.

  10. Hi, Manfred, and thanks for your patience while I act like a bulldog, sinking my teeth into this and shaking it around like a bone. :)

    I suspect you know what I’m after — the model has value but isn’t actually something Scripture gives us, even though Scriptural principles underlie much of it. It has limitations, which I’ve been trying to highlight. It just won’t work for every case. If the Amyraldist slavishly follows it, he would break fellowship between you, while you would not. It would be hard to show from Scripture that he is less of a brother to you than you to him, or vice versa, but the model, if it drives behaviour, would tell two brothers in such a case to treat each other differently.

    People can look at models like this and become servants of the model, rather than use it as a general guideline. And I’ve tried to construct models, myself. But you always have to ask yourself, with any decision-making models which are principle-driven but not God-given, whether the answers they give are entirely consistent with Scripture — and sometimes they aren’t.

    OK, I’ll let it go now. Besides, my teeth hurt. :)

    P.S. It was astounding to me some years back that John Piper stayed in fellowship in the Baptist General Conference despite their tolerance of open theism. He said it was a bad decision for the BGC to tolerate it, but he stayed in. Since then, he seems to have become “better” at tolerating more and more rubbish. What we are willing to tolerate has a great and continuing impact on us, and that’s why discussions like these are important.

    We absolutely must wrestle with these questions. No model is perfect for determining where we draw lines, but we’d better be sure to draw lines, and do so Biblically. Blessings to you.

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