When Doctrine and History Matter

Yesterday I talked about when doctrine and history don’t matter; when they are just issues to create dissension and divide us.

Today I want to talk about when they do matter:

The other day, I got a really awesome letter from someone I think is outside the U.S. Here’s some excerpts:

I’m a Bible Study teacher at my college and as such, I am expected to at least know a good outline or so of what Christianity is about. I won’t lie, your website has taught me much more than any Bible Study or message I’ve actually heard in real life, and its answered a lot of questions I’ve always had.

Your explanation of the Trinity helped me to figure out the question I have had for a while: Why in the world does John call Jesus the Word? …

Not to mention, you helped me understand whether salvation is by faith alone or we need more (the answer: Both!). …

More importantly than anything else though, you have made me realize the importance of fruit in our life. I can teach Bible Studies and even be a good person, but when Jesus says he wants! us to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees, well, he actually means it! … And now that I have finally accepted it in my life, God has really been working through me, it is an amazing and beautiful life to live.

You can probably imagine how exciting it was for me to get a letter like that.

Spiritual Unity First

Locally, as I talked about yesterday, we are in desperate need of unity.

Until that unity exists, it is worse than pointless, it’s counterproductive, to talk about things like the Trinity and works versus faith.

Only later, when the unity of the Spirit is defended, when the openness that comes with love, trust, and harmony are established, and when we’ve learned to resolve conflicts between one another, then we can discuss such potentially divisive issues and find God’s mind on the matter.

Until then, there’s just too much danger that we’ll produce only the conflict of our human minds the division that our flesh longs for.

Local vs. Worldwide

Worldwide, there can be no such unity. If you have never met me, and if you live hundreds or thousands of miles away from me, then we cannot be joined to each other as a hand is to a wrist. You don’t need and can’t have my input, and I don’t need and cannot have your input.

We are not in danger of division. If you don’t like what I say, you can simply write me off, and it will not do me, you, or the body of Christ any harm.

But I could do some good. The above letter is from a person outside my country that was helped.

They were not helped by my accurate doctrine. They were helped by an explanation that helped Scripture make sense to them. They were less confused and more comfortable.

In some cases, my explanations can’t produce that. Don’t take my doctrinal explanations, no matter how good they are, and created division in your local fellowship. It would be much better for you to be doctrinally inaccurate and united than doctrinally correct and divided.

One’s ignorance unlikely to do much harm. The other is sin that always does harm and immense harm at that.

The one exception is the matter of obedience to Christ. If you are not devoting yourself to following our King in obedience then you are not a Christian and unity is not the issue (2 Tim. 2:19).

By the way, I’m not going to be humble to the point of falsehood. I have plenty of true reasons to be humble. My doctrinal explanations are very good. I limit myself to teaching on what I know is historical and what I know fits all the verses on a subject. I don’t pit one verse against another, and I have devoted long years to admitting ignorance until I could speak things that fit all of Scripture. The things I teach are settle the soul scripturally, are historical, and have been held by most of those who have been powerfully successful in living in unity and righteousness.

New vs. Mature

Theology and history can also be of benefit to mature Christians where they need to be dodged by new Christians.

Mature Christians have learned the importance of unity, obedience, and mercy. They know what the weightier matters of the law are. They are more able to examine difficult, potentially divisive issues without actually dividing.

As the writer of Hebrews puts it, "Solid food belongs to those who are mature, who by reason of training have their senses exercised to distinguish between good and evil."

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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