Does Love Teach us That We Must Tolerate Doctrinal Differences?
Introduction:A. The word of God has a wonderful definition of love in a chapter dealing with the cessation of spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 13:1-7).I. We Must Be of One Mind; Not Having False Unity1. Love does not think evil (v. 5).B. The English word “tolerate” means: “to put up with.”
2. Love does not rejoice in iniquity (v. 6).
3. The teaching of doctrinal error is evil and sinful:a. II John 94. Therefore, since love does not rejoice in evil, love cannot tolerate evil!
b. II Peter 2:1a. Psalms 97:10
b. Psalms 101:3
c. Psalms 119:104
d. Romans 12:9
C. So many brethren, both “liberal” and “conservative” have this idea that love conquers error. They think that we can have unity in diversity. We can speak different things, think differently about spiritual matters, but still be one body. Notice the words of these men:1. Reid Moon of the church in Zelienople, PA says that love teaches us to tolerate our doctrinal differences (9/29/2003).a. What doctrinal errors are OK to tolerate (no baptism, adding instrumental music...)?2. Ed Harrell says: “Christians sometimes disagree about scriptural instructions, even in matters of considerable moral and doctrinal import...That behavior...is, I believe, the issue addressed in Romans 14.” “Bounds of Christian Unity # 1 -16”; Christianity Magazine, Feb. 1989 — May 1990).
b. What scriptures define where to draw the line?
3. In speaking of Romans 14, Harry Pickup Jr. says: “Now there is a passage which suggests that there can be a state of tolerance between brethren who differ on some doctrinal point.” (Excerpt from a sermon preached May 22nd, 1997 at the Thayer street congregation in Akron, OH; entitled “Resolving Differences Between Brethren”.a. Both Harrell and Pickup Jr. are confused on a text that allows the weaker brother to hold a conscience opinion.4. Dr. David R. Reagan says: “The second and final prerequisite is one that has been debated at length, and thus I will only mention it briefly. I am referring to the contention that the Bible must be rejected as the basis of Christian unity. I accept this proposition without reservation except to state it in a more positive way. As I would put it, the basis of unity and the ground of fellowship must be Christ—yes, Christ—and not the Bible.” (Mission Messenger; Volume 28 # 4; April 1966; Published by W. Carl Ketcherside; page 76; article titled “Prerequisites for Christian Unity”).
b. Weaker brethren are not to remain weaker.
c. If a preacher is a weaker brother, there is an issue that needs dealt with (James 3:1).a. One cannot separate Christ and the word (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-2).
b. Rejecting the word has consequences (John 12:48).A. The Bible is clear that brethren are to be of one mind:1. I Corinthians 1:10B. Just as the human body could not properly walk if sending different messages, the body of Christ cannot walk properly in unity with different doctrines.
2. Philippians 2:2
3. Philippians 3:16
4. Romans 15:5-61. Notice Amos’ rhetorical question: (Amos 3:3) “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”C. The response of those hearing this type of lesson is that those seeking only to fellowship those of like minds will be lonely.
2. Spiritual fellowship is to be extended to those “walking [make one’s way] in the light” (I John 1:7).1. Notice this excerpt from the Policy Statement made at the Florida College Lectures (Monday, January 30th, 1989) by Bob F. Owen: “We do not knowingly endorse or support those who are immoral or those who are factious but this does not preclude use of honorable men with whom some doctrinal differences exist. To do so would preclude using practically any person.”D. Christ desired the same unity He and the Father shares (John 17:20-23).
2. It has been reported that one brother (left unnamed because of a lack of documentation) said that using II John 9-11 literally would make congregations so small they could meet in a phone booth.
3. Consider what Paul wrote to the brethren at Philippi (Philippians 2:19-24).a. Paul contrasts Timothy with other men that could be sent.4. Since many are called and few are chosen (Matthew 20:16), you can be certain that there are many today of unlike minds.
b. Timothy was the “son of Paul” so far as Paul brought him up in the faith (I Timothy 1:2).
c. The problem was that many men looked after themselves and not the brethren of whom they were to work with.
d. Sadly, a similar point (not an abundance of truth teachers) was made to Corinth: (II Corinthians 2:17) “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
e. Will the preachers today who condemn faithful preachers for having little faith in preachers of our time, also condemn Paul for his words to the brethren in Philippi?
5. The go along to get along mentality just sweeps the issues under the carpet, but when that carpet gets lifted the problems arise. Faithful Christians cannot tolerate error, they must meet it head to head and stop it from spreading (Jude 3 and II Timothy 2:17).1. Jesus and the Father are one because Jesus did the Father’s will (John 5:30) “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
2. To have unity with the Father and the Son we need to follow Christ’ example and Paul’s words (Ephesians 4:1-6; 13).
II. The Word of God Does Not Teach us to Tolerate that Which is WrongA. Abstain from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22).1. Spiritual fellowship with evil is forbidden in the Scriptures (II Corinthians 6:14-17; Ephesians 5:11).B. One brother (Reid Moon) said that God accepted him just as he was, therefore we must do the same for others.
2. Each person has a choice as to whether or not they walk in light [righteousness] or darkness [evil], therefore they alone must be willing to reap the consequence of being separated from the faithful.1. Quoting a song does not meet the book, chapter, and verse one needs to provide for their positions (Colossians 3:17 and I Peter 3:15; 4:11).
2. The word of God does not teach that the Lord accepts sinful men, the word of God teaches that sinful man must repent to have a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2, Luke 13:3; 5, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 26:20).
3. Even the longsuffering God has for us, demands change on our part (II Peter 3:9).
III. What Did the Lord Tell Churches in the First Century to Do?A. Ephesus:1. They were warned prior to problems coming about (Acts 20:28-31).B. Pergamos:a. Some preachers say not to pay attention to error unless it is at home.2. Told not to be tossed to and fro (Ephesians 4:14).
b. This text destroys that theory!
3. They did not put up with error (Revelation 2:1-3).1. Tolerated false doctrine (Revelation 2:14-15).C. Thyatira:
2. Were told to repent (Revelation 2:16).1. Put up with a false prophetess (Revelation 2:20).D. Rome:
2. God gave her time to repent, she did not so she is being cast into a sickbed (Revelation 2:21-22).
3. Her followers will pay as well (Revelation 2:23).
4. The faithful must keep on keeping on (Revelation 2:24-25).1. Continue in sin? – NO (Romans 6:1-2).E. Corinth:
2. Allow division and false teachers to keep up their work? – NO (Romans 16:17-18).1. Get rid of the sin among you (I Corinthians 5).F. Churches in the area of Galatia:
2. Beware of false apostles (II Corinthians 11:12-15).1. Did Paul leave alone their swaying towards error? – NO! (Galatians 1:6-12; 5:7-9).G. Philippi:
2. Give place to false teachers? – NO, not for an hour (Galatians 2:4-5).1. All is well? – NO, BEWARE. Beware of Jewish Christians acting as dogs and seeking to bind circumcision (v. 3ff.). (Philippians 3:2)H. Colosse: (Colossians 2:8).
2. Follow any preacher? – NO! (Philippians 3:17-19).
I. Thessalonica:1. Let sin exist in the camp? – NO – (II Thessalonians 3:6).J. Jerusalem and Antioch: Just allow men to bind the Law of Moses? – NO (Acts 15).
2. Allow brethren to ignore the inspired word of God? – NO (II Thessalonians 3:14-15).
K. A congregation not named, but referenced:1. There was a problem with a man named Diotrephes.
2. Did John want it left alone? – NO! (III John 9-11).
Conclusion:A. Loving God is about obeying God (I John 5:3).
B. Clearly, faithful brethren cannot just tolerate sin. God does not, as all men will answer for everything they do.1. II Corinthians 5:10C. (II Corinthians 5:11) “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…”
2. Colossians 3:24-251. We are to love our brethren (Hebrews 13:1; John 13:34-35).
2. The greatest act of love we can do for brethren in error is not overlooking and tolerating their error, but showing them the truth (Galatians 6:1-2, II Timothy 2:24-26, James 5:19-20, and Jude 21-23).
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2003 by Brian A. Yeager may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.