Does Doctrinal Purity
Does Our Focus on Sound Doctrine
Detract From Biblical Evangelism?
"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine....in doctrine showing uncorruptness" (Titus 2:1,7)
"As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings" (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3-4)
We are living in declining days as men are departing from the body of truth that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3; 1 Timothy 4:1). The truth is being surrendered by those in positions of leadership who are highly accountable before Christ. People are very careless about God's revealed truth and are unconcerned when confronted with doctrinal compromise. We are told that "UNITY" is more important than doctrine and that we should bury our doctrinal differences and present Christ to a lost world.
Campus Crusade for Christ represented this philosophy as follows: "We are to put aside the peripheral issues that divide us...Men were reminded that the real issue is Jesus Christ, and that we are to love one another even if we do not agree theologically or philosophically. I encourage you to apply this principle of love and acceptance with all of your Christian friends, and help make Christ the real issue" (Worldwide Impact, May 1972). According to this philosophy DOCTRINE DIVIDES, but LOVE UNITES! We are told that we need to bury our doctrinal differences and make Christ the real issue, because it doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you love one another.
This dangerous philosophy could perhaps be re-stated as follows:
"It is sinful to divide the body of Christ on earth by separating ourselves from any Christian over any doctrinal issue. The mark of true orthodoxy is love, not doctrine. Therefore, if we truly love one another, we will not allow doctrines or ordinances to divide us...To win the world for Christ, we must bury our differences and proclaim the essential core of the gospel in a positive way."
Must we really seek UNITY at the EXPENSE OF TRUTH for the sake of evangelism and reaching the world for Christ? Is this really what the Great Commission is all about? Is this really God's plan and program for His Church?
Some years ago we were involved in a doctrinal controversy which involved hundreds of churches and church leaders throughout the nation. The doctrine or truth under attack pertained to the blessed Person of Christ and WHO HE REALLY IS (His essential identity). It was not a peripheral issue, nor did it involve some insignificant point of doctrine. On the contrary, it was a fundamental truth which was clearly stated twice in the Doctrinal Statement which these churches and individuals profess to believe and wholeheartedly support.
A group of concerned men sent a series of mailings to the national constituency to inform, to alert and to clarify the real issue and why it was so important. It was an issue of doctrinal integrity: DO WE REALLY BELIEVE WHAT WE SAY WE BELIEVE? Are we really standing firmly and uncompromisingly upon the Word of God, even as reflected in our proven and tried doctrinal statement?
These mailings produced a response. Some men responded in a positive way, indicating their wholehearted support and commitment to our Biblical position and decrying the obvious departure from this solid and safe position. Other men responded in a negative way. It is interesting that these negative letters shared something in common. They reflected the philosophy referred to on the previous page, that we should have unity at the expense of truth for the sake of evangelism. They were angered that we should be divided over doctrine which in their minds resulted in a major detraction from our "main mission" of reaching the lost.
Here are some excerpts from some of these negative letters which illustrate this insidious philosophy:
I think that believers should spend their energy, money and time preaching the Word in their own churches and winning people to Christ rather than ceaseless arguments that don't seem to advance the cause of Christ or the glory of God (from Michigan).
I am grieved. I minister in a city of 3 million lost souls. The harvest is ripe. To me you seem to be wasting time over semantics, while the harvest is ripe and the lost go to hell. This type of reaction makes me wonder if Satan is winning by getting us so totally sidetracked with internal fighting over nonessentials that we don't see the lost world pass us by. Then God must raise up others to fight the good fight, godly warriors who know that the real enemy is Satan and who abhor spiritual fratricide (from Illinois).
I strongly urge you to cease spreading discord among the brothers and turn your attention to the real battle, the souls of men to which Christ has called us. I want to serve the Lord on the battlefield for the souls of men, not fighting in the barracks among ourselves. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" and may you find us doing the one task you told us to do (from Oregon).
Sir, do we not live in a world in which close to five billion people are headed for hell?....That is what our calling to the ministry is all about. It is not about tearing down God's people (from Illinois).
Which do we sacrifice, the doctrine being disputed or the doctrine of unity?....we would choose unity over division. It is not wise to sacrifice the unambiguous doctrine of unity and peace (from Wisconsin).
It seems to me that you are elevating a doctrinal statement more than you should (from Louisiana).
Let us get back to the real battle and stop shooting our own men! Your crusade of discord is discouraging (from Oregon).
Let us objectively analyze these statements in light of God's Word of truth. Notice the common elements found in the quotations cited on the previous page. We find unceasing cries for "peace," "love," "toleration," and "unity." For what purpose? So that the church might present a united front in order to present the gospel to the lost millions. What is hindering the battle for souls? In-fighting and doctrinal battles among believers.
We would certainly agree that believers need to make every effort to keep the UNITY of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (Eph. 4:3). But we should also be very careful to note what kind of UNITY Paul is talking about. It is a UNITY which involves a common knowledge and understanding of the Person of Christ: "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the SON OF GOD, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). Notice also that it is "the UNITY of the FAITH [the body of truth]." It is a unity that is based upon the truth of God's Word. Paul never taught that TRUTH should be sacrificed or compromised for the sake of UNITY. Indeed, in this very context we are told what God's method involves: "speaking THE TRUTH in love" (Eph. 4:15). What does LOVE rejoice in? "[LOVE] rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).
Who are the DIVISIVE ONES? This is made very clear in Romans 16:17"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause DIVISIONS and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Notice carefully who CAUSES such divisions. The divisive ones are those who teach CONTRARY to apostolic doctrine (the clear teaching of the Word of God). In this present doctrinal controversy, we are not the ones who have departed from the clear teaching of the Bible. We have not departed from our clear doctrinal position on the Person of Christ and His eternal Sonship. We have stood firmly where we have always stood.
Is it wrong to fight for the truth? Consider Jude 3"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should EARNESTLY CONTEND for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Where does God's Word say that we are to passively surrender God's truth for the sake of unity and peace?
We must remember that DOCTRINE (TRUTH) is so important that at times it may result in confrontation with a fellow brother in Christ. Did not Paul openly confront Peter at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-14)? Was there not a doctrinal issue at stake? Paul saw that they "walked not uprightly according to the TRUTH of the GOSPEL" (Gal. 2:14). Imagine if Paul had said, "I'm not going to confront Peter and I am not going to rebuke him. I may disagree with him on some issues but Christians should not fight with each other. We need to bury our differences and proclaim the essential core of the gospel in a positive way!" No, Paul fought viciously for the truth of the gospel. Why? To hinder the spread of the gospel? On the contrary, "that the TRUTH of the GOSPEL might CONTINUE with you" (Gal. 2:5). Because of the way Paul dealt with Peter, true Biblical love was demonstrated and the result was that doctrinal UNITY was re-established. In love, Paul brought Peter back to a solid doctrinal position and practice based on TRUTH.
If we neglect God's TRUTH, how can this further the cause of missions? If God's people are careless about the truth, is this really going to help the unsaved. How can we "shine as lights in the world" if we fail to "hold forth the Word of Life" (see Phil. 2:15-16)? If we surrender the TRUTH for the sake of "gospel outreach," then what kind of gospel are we preaching? The only gospel that Paul knew about involved the "WORD OF TRUTH" (Eph. 1:13"after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation").
The very gospel we preach concerns the Lord Jesus Christ and WHO HE IS: "Concerning HIS SON Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3-4). Notice that this passage declares that the Son of God became the Son of David at the time of the incarnation. He did not become the Son of God. How can we effectively preach the GOSPEL which concerns God's Son if we are confused about the Person of Christ and His essential identity as God's eternal Son? Paul warned about those who would come preaching "another Jesus" and proclaiming "another gospel" (2 Cor. 11:4). If we care little about preserving and protecting the TRUTH of the GOSPEL, and if we allow the TRUTH to be eroded away by our indifference, then what kind of message are we doing to end up with? Our "GOSPEL" will bear little resemblance to the life-changing message which was heralded by the apostles. We will go around preaching "love" and "peace" and "unity," but the PERSON and POWER of the Lord Jesus Christ will be missing. Satan does not mind fervent and zealous preachers who no longer possess and practice the TRUTH!
The Great Commission never minimizes TRUTH and DOCTRINE. We are to teach them to "observe ALL THINGS" that our Saviour has commanded us in His Word. Is God concerned about doctrinal purity (Tit. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:3)? Should we be? Did John, the Apostle of LOVE, minimize the importance of truth and doctrine (2 John 1-9)?
Dr. John C. Whitcomb has well spoken:
In the light of God's supreme elevation of His revealed truth and in the light of the downward drift of commitment to Biblical doctrine which we see everywhere around us, let us join together now in a re-dedication of our hearts, minds and souls to the GOD of all TRUTH and to the full authority of HIS INFALLIBLE WORD! (from a message given October 21, 1992 in Indianapolis, Indiana).
Doctrinal purity is extremely important. Biblical love never minimizes the importance of God's truth. If we truly love a person then we will desire that person to be totally indoctrinated in the truth of God from Genesis to Revelation. True unity can never come at the expense of truth and God is not honored in evangelistic or missionary efforts where His revealed truth is compromised or where His gospel of saving grace is diluted. True UNITY is only realized and enjoyed as believers walk in TRUTH. The only basis for the enjoyment of true Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1-6) is a COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF and OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD. The ones who are hindering the cause of Christian unity and the ones who are failing to follow God's program of missions are those who REFUSE to stand faithfully and obediently upon the written Word of God. When doctrine becomes the issue, TRUTH MUST PREVAIL.
DOCTRINAL PURITY can only enhance the cause of missions. A healthy focus upon TRUTH and SOUND DOCTRINE is essential for God's honoring evangelism and outreach. We cannot close God's Book and ignore God's Truth and then somehow pretend to be doing God's Work. Be not deceived! In these days of doctrinal departure and compromise may our God find us "walking uprightly according to the TRUTH of the GOSPEL" (Gal. 2:14), for His glory and honor, until He comes for us!
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