Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are his, and let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. -2 Tim. 2:19
Today I had a friend tell me that he hates seeing how doctrines divide the church today. Then he added: “I know there are some doctrines that are crucial.”
There are. Every different denomination has a different idea of which doctrines are crucial; however, which ones are truly crucial was decided a long time ago.
1700 years ago, in A.D. 325, all the bishops of the churches throughout the Roman empire gathered to attempt to preserve the unity of the Church. They met over one specific issue, but by the end of it they had crafted an essential creed that has been given the amen by all thriving, godly churches for the last seventeen centuries. We know it today as the apostles creed.
It’s important to know exactly where that creed came from.
All the early churches had what was known to them as “The Rule of Faith.” It was taught to a new believer at baptism, and every believer was required to believe it. Jesus began the process by teaching the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Over the next couple centuries, the churches addedâ€”slowly and with great careâ€”to that creed. Since there was no pope and no overarching hierarchy, each church developed their own. They were similar, but not the same.
At Nicea in A.D. 325, the council of bishops decided to use the rule of faith of the church at Caesarea. Most likely, it simply represented a typical rule of faith and there was nothing outstanding about it. At the council, after much debate, they added a couple of phrases to it in order to deal with the controversy current at that time.
For 1700 years since then, godly churches have given their amen to this creed.
We cannot forget that Jesus’ last prayer with his disciples was for their unity. He prayed that his disciples would be as perfectly one as he is with the Father. Dare we ignore that? Dare we lightly break that unity? Dare we meet separately from one another over any doctrine that is not as dear to his heart as it is to ours?
I can assure you that Jesus is not fooled by our proclamations of unity while we meet in separate buildings, having no part in the lives of Christians that are meeting in a different building at the next street corner. The world isn’t, either. Only we are.
The apostle Paul had an even smaller list of doctrines that he called essential. He said, “The Lord knows those who are his, and let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
I would like to suggest that you are not free to break fellowship with any believer who will live in obedience to Christ and who believes that the Father is creator, that Jesus is his Son who came in the flesh, died for sins, ascended to heaven, and will return to judge the living and the dead. When God asks you about that brother, do not be found replying, as Cain did, that you are not his keeper. God will not be thrilled to find you caring more about your own family than you do about yours.
Tomorrow I will comment again on the difficulties of pursuing unity in an age of denominationalism. The devil mocks us. He believes he has made it impossible for true believersâ€”those who actually obey Christâ€”to give their lives to one another. If we don’t know that the eye can’t say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” yet and still the devil has not forgotten it. He knows that “divide and conquer” is a true principle when applied to the Church of Jesus Christ.
He has not made it impossible. He’s just made the price very high. Are any of us willing to pay it?
See you tomorrow.