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It was a typical morning at the coffee shop — but I’d forgotten my headphones. Productivity plummeted! I’m not good at tuning out my surroundings.

I overheard a conversation … OK, you caught me, I was blatantly eavesdropping! A young man was counseling a younger man. They were talking about Jesus. I zeroed in because I was encouraged. The advice was good, the knowledge of Scripture was apparent. They were talking about their church, which sounded like an awesome place!

And then, in only a matter of seconds, I went from highly encouraged to deeply disappointed, and even pretty angry. The younger one asked his very knowledgeable mentor how he felt about a long list of today’s most prominent Christian leaders, along with several local ministers. The answers were short and absolute:

“What about preacher #1?”
“Oh, he’s amazing!”

“What about preacher #2?”
“I’m uncomfortable with his eschatology, don’t listen to him.”

“What about preacher #3?”
“He’s brilliant, but too easy on sin. Be careful.”

“What about preacher #4?”
“He’s a great interpreter of Scripture — I just wish he didn’t endorse preacher #3.”

“What about preacher #5?”
“He’s a heretic. I admit there’s fruit in his ministry, but I have concerns about whether or not he’s really a follower of Jesus.”

“What about preacher #6?”
“He’s great, but he’s definitely not ______ ! [i.e., in their theological corner] Steer clear.”

“What about preacher #7?”
“Are you serious? She’s a woman!”

“What about preacher #8?”
“I like him, but you’re better off listening to preacher #1.”

“Why does preacher #1 do ministry with preacher #7?”
“I think he wants to work on unity. It makes me very uncomfortable.”

There were more … many more. I listened in horror. There was, it seemed, genuine disgust. Even more unsettling: In terms of theology, these ministers were all very similar. They weren’t from all over the map … in fact, they were all conservative and primarily evangelical ministers with a deep love for the Bible. Yet, many of them were completely dismissed as ignorant, misguided, confused and even heretical.

I’m glad that young man studies hard and is determined to find his theological moorings. It’s more than admirable — it’s fantastic! And yet, in determining exactly how to align himself, he was also building animosity for all of the “fools” with whom he didn’t agree.

When we first become followers of Jesus, we have one basic understanding: “Jesus is my hero!” Every time we meet another follower of Jesus we find a new brother or a new sister. There is genuine delight! Every church building is a beautiful reminder we aren’t alone, the Kingdom of God is advancing and our voice is strong.

But then we decide on a church home (a good thing), and we realize not everybody in our “Jesus-circle” sees faith the same way. This produces a new, much smaller circle with our closest of theological kin. Then we start studying for ourselves (another good thing), and the circle shrinks again. And then we read a few books, study a few theologians and latch on to a few preachers (more good things), and this circle shrinks even more.

We all need a smaller circle. We have to do the work to develop and understand our beliefs. Not just because we’re commanded to … but because it makes our faith personal, rich and that much more exciting. The closer we look the more beautiful it all becomes.

However, your smaller circle is not your new family. They aren’t your closest of kin, either. I don’t have any distant cousins in Christ, only brothers and sisters. Your smaller circle is important, and probably you’ll spend more time there than in the other places. Fair enough. With that said, it’s foolish, hurtful and far from the heart of God to exclude, disregard or in any way marginalize those outside of your smaller circle.

I don’t have any distant cousins in Christ, only brothers and sisters.

There are people outside of your smaller circle who are smarter than you, wiser than you and have a lot to offer you. Maybe you’re right and they’re wrong about … oh, let’s say, mode of baptism. It doesn’t mean they can’t teach you, correct you, encourage you. They’re well equipped by the Holy Spirit to serve you, and you to serve them.

I spent an hour on the phone with a new friend yesterday. He’s Catholic, and awesome! I can only assume we disagree about a whole list of things. He’s articulate, kind and pretty darn brilliant. He taught me a few things, inspired some new thoughts and essentially became one of my heroes. The list of variances didn’t change … I was just served by someone outside of my smaller circle. Praise God for that!

So …

May every brother and sister give you true delight, and may every church building be a beautiful reminder we aren’t alone, the Kingdom of God is advancing and our voice is strong … together 

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Talk about it...

David Buffaloe

commented on Feb 19, 2013

I enjoyed your article. Myself, I read many different authors and talk with many (theologically) different Christians and have found that every one has something to contribute to my growth and knowledge of the Lord. Sadly, too often "Fundamentalists" are so busy finding what's wrong with others that they don't have time to find what's right. As an old preacher once said, "When I eat fish, I swallow the meat and spit out the bones". I came across a site the other day where a theological know it all tore up John MacArthur and Charles Stanley, presenting them as heretics and worst. I've found points they have taught that I have disagreed with myself, but I think "heretic" is a label applied by a Pharisee. All of us are sinners saved by Grace, striving to become sons of God (John 1:12) through God's incarnate power. God give us the Grace to love our brothers and sisters when they err, and give us the wisdom to know when the error is in us.

Lafern Cobb

commented on Feb 19, 2013

After reading I feel a mixture of sadness and humor. But I really want to thank you for including question no.7! It is so nice as a woman who has been in the ministry over 30 years to be included in an article. And to be included in such a positive light is refreshing too! Now seriously, very good article. You point out a very sad problem in the ministry. If we would all try a little "unity in diversity" it would further the Gospel of Christ! Sadly, I wonder how many others might have heard the conversation you did..........

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Feb 19, 2013

FYI, the so-called brothers and sisters in Christ are related more by claims than by rights. The latter are personally fathered by Jesus Christ, a.k.a., "the first-born from the dead" and the Father of "few" according to the Scriputes.

Joe Mckeever

commented on Feb 19, 2013

Thank you, Aaron. This is a deep burden of mine.

Doug Conley

commented on Feb 19, 2013

Is the author indicating that doctrine is unimportant? Is he indicating that, although misleading, I should sit quietly by as my flock listens to sweet lies? Is he indicating that I should not warn my flock of false teachings and the doctrine of men? If this is the case, which it seems it is, I have no qualms about saying that I totally disagree! Without unity of doctrine, there can be no unity. Who he calls brothers and sisters, I call the deceived who need to be pulled out of Satan's grasp!

Leslye Haller

commented on Feb 19, 2013

Aaron, I enjoyed your article immensely! As a United Methodist pastor who has a son who has converted to Catholicism and another who is now nondenominational, we have very lively conversations on the topics of communion and baptism, and I welcome them! No, we do not agree on doctrine, but that's fine. I don't remember reading anywhere in Scripture where Jesus identifies the "one true denomination" that is guaranteed admission into heaven. I also have friends who gasp when I tell them we are an interdenominational family. So be it! I have no problem with it! Although we don't agree on everything, we do agree on the important things--that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and arose again on the third day. That we are all sinners saved by God's amazing grace. I live by the words of a Casting Crowns song--"they don't need my tie, my hoodie, my denomination, or my interpretation of the Bible. Maybe what they need is for us to just get out of the way". Amen! What the world needs today is Jesus. Period.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Feb 19, 2013

Not saying Aaron MacC is naive , but he may be mistaken if he can only 'assume' he might disagree about a list of things . Aaron should 'know' and especially about the worship of their wafer communion and baptismal regeneration , two of the subjects mentioned ?. But I think Aaron's friendship and example may be an approach which may work in bringing new thoughts to his new friend ?.Just don't be drawn to Mass.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 19, 2013

I agree with what Doug Conley said. We are not to unite with those who are not doctrinally sound. God's Word warns us against this. 2 Cor. 6:14-17, Gal. 1:6-9.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 19, 2013

@Doug and Dennis, this is a sincere question: how do we distinguish between legitimate false doctrine on one hand, and legitimate differences of interpretation on the other, and who makes these determinations?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 19, 2013

@Bill, Take baptism for example. Many denominations teach that baptism saves you. How do you determine that it doesn't? The Bible. Baptism is a work of righteousness. Matt. 3:13-15. We are not saved by works of righteousness Titus 3:5. If you add works to salvation you negate grace and are not saved Romans 4:1-5. This includes all good works as well as righteous ones such as communion, giving etc. The thief on the cross is a perfect example Luke 23:39-43. God is no respector of persons. Jesus didn't say He would take him to paradise because of any works, or that He would let Him in because He had done works in the past, or that He would let Him in because He couldn't get down from the cross and do those righteous works. All the thief did was confess his sin, confess that Jesus was King, believed that He would rise again because he asked to be part of the kingdom. He repented while he was on the cross. He trusted and was saved, nothing else saved him. Therefore, those that teach that baptism saves you are preaching another gospel and you know what Paul says about that. So we are not to be yoked with those who teach false doctrine.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 19, 2013

@Dennis, what if someone were to quote to you the text in Mark where Jesus says, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved"? I mean, that text is in the Bible, too. What do you do with that text?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 19, 2013

@Bill, you only quoted part of that verse. The rest of it says, "but he that believeth not shall be damned." It doesn't say if you aren't baptized you are damned, only if you don't believe. Salvation was purchased at too high a cost to be taken lightly. Those who believe are to be baptized, thereby declaring their union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Those who refuse to believe will face condemnation. Their condemnation rest on their unbelief, not their failure to be baptized. We are saved by Christ not by baptism. Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, (Heb. 9:22, 1 John 1:7, Rev. 1:5), not by the waters of baptism. We are saved by faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, plus nothing, minus nothing (Heb. 7:25, 12:2; John 10:1, 9, 14:6, 6:37, 1:12; Romans 10:9, 13; 1 John 5:10-13) Nothing is said whatsoever about baptism saving you in these verses. When I had my first child I was going to a church that "baptized" babies. I had my son "baptized" and we received a certificate stating that because of this act, my son was a child of God. Did my son believe in Jesus? NO! He was way to young, yet this church would send my son to hell because they would have you believe that this act saved his soul.There are many people who are "baptized" as babies and live like the devil all their lives, are they saved? What about innocent babies who die without being "baptized"? Are they going to hell because they were not washed in the waters of baptism? We know that babies are safe until the age of accountability because when David and Bathsheba's baby died David said that the baby could not come back to him, but that he could to to where the child was, which as we know, David was a saved man (2 Sam. 12:18-23). What about people who get saved on their death bed and have no opportunity to be baptized, will they be damned because even though they believe, they were not baptized? That is why we do not take a verse and build a doctrine around it. (2 Peter 1:20) We must look at ALL the Bible to make sure we are teaching correct doctrine. Remember, God is no respector of persons, we all come to Him the same way, NO EXCEPTIONS! Therefore, those who teach another way are to be accursed and we are not to have fellowship with them as the Bible says.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Dennis, I appreciate your answer. And just so you know, I agree with you. Those who believe are to be baptized, but the act of baptism is not salviific in itself. But you haven't answered my original question from comment #9. Let me put it a different way: are there any matters of doctrine in which Christians can disagree and yet still be part of the family of God?

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Doug, by the way, I'm interested in hearing your response to this question as well. Thanks!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Bill, the only basis for separation from someone who calls themselves "Christian" is the doctrine of Soteriology. Again 2 Cor. 6:14-17 speaks about being separated from unbelievers. Gal. 1:6-9 speaks of those who preach another gospel, one that doesn't truly save the soul. Others may have different views on other teachings of the Bible than I have, but as long as it doesn't relate to the true doctrine of salvation, then I have no problem fellowshiping with them.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Dennis, I see where you're coming from, and as I've written on other occasions, I have no intentions of trying to change your mind. Having said that, I have some concerns about the inferences you are drawing from the texts in 2 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 1. If I understand you correctly, the doctrine of Soteriology (i.e. Salvation) is the standard by which we determine with whom we can fellowship as Christians. But 2 Corinthians 6, as you yourself pointed out, refers to not being yoked with "unbelievers." What is it that they do not believe? Well, I think the most likely answer is that they do not believe in Christ. Certainly, there is nothing in this specific passage to suggest that what they don't believe in is the "true doctrine of salvation." This is not to say that the true doctrine of salvation is not important. It IS to say that that is not what 2 Corinthians 6 is talking about. Likewise, Galatians 1 refers to those who preach "another Gospel." Again, there is nothing here that specifically refers to the doctrine of salvation. Or, are you saying that "the Gospel" and "the doctrine of salvation" are the same thing; and if so, on what basis do you equate the two? Otherwise, neither of these two texts imply the doctrine of salvation as a test of fellowship. Of course, if there's something here that I'm missing, I welcome you pointing it out to me. Thanks!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Bill. The gospel and salvation are one in the same thing. 1 Cor. 15:1-4. I do not understand how you can say that 2 Cor. 6:14-17 may not be talking about those who do not believe on Christ for salvation. What is an "infidel"? It is an unbeliever, someone who doesn't trust Christ as Savior. It is very clear in the whole of the text that salvation is what it is talking about. What else could it mean? Look at all the contrasts in this passage. Take righteousness with unrighteousness. We are only righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ imputes His righteousness to us as believers, those who do not believe are unrighteous. So again, I don't understand how you could think that this passage in 2 Cor. 6 is speaking of anything but believers and unbelievers in Christ. And yes Gal. 1:6-9 speaks of teaching another way to God than through Christ. It is connected with 1 Cor. 15:1-4 Look at what Jesus told the Pharisees in Matt. 23:15. He told them that they were teaching another way to God, making their own proselytes, and they were going to hell (accursed) and those who followed their teaching were going to hell also. So I really don't understand your thinking on these two passages.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Dennis, I just think you might be confusing the parts for the whole. How we get saved is an important part of the Gospel, but it only that--a PART of the Gospel. It is not the entirety. When Jesus began to preach the Gospel, his message was, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." The technical term "gospel" in the Roman empire was used to refer to the announcement that a new Emperor had been enthroned. The good news of the Gospel is not just that Jesus is Savior, but ultimately, that Jesus is LORD. Believing in Jesus doesn't mean just believing in him for salvation. It means letting go of our own agenda and submitting ourselves to his kingly rule. What I'm trying to say is that the Gospel is about MORE than just how people get saved. Believing in Christ is about MORE than just believing in him for salvation. Therefore, if 2 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 1 are dealing with MORE than just the doctrine of salvation, then on what basis can you single out the doctrine of salvation as the one doctrine in which all Christians must agree in order to fellowship?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Bill. Ok, then let me throw this back on you. You tell me what you believe 2 Cor. 6 and Gal. 1 mean. If it isn't talking about salvation then what exactly is it talking about? What do you think the basis of separation is?

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Dennis, certainly. Let's begin with 2 Corinthians 6. This text refers to those who are unbelievers. Paul uses this term to describe those who are not members of the family of God. And how does one become a member of the family of God? Not by believing the true doctrine of salvation, but by faith (the opposite of unbelief) in Christ alone. To put it a different way, one is not an unbeliever because they don't believe in the doctrine of salvation (one can understand that doctrine perfectly, and still not be a Christian). One is an unbeliever because they do not have faith in Christ. This text tells us not to be "unequally yoked" with those who do not have faith in Christ. It says nothing about adherence to any doctrine. Now, this does not mean doctrine is unimportant, as Doug incorrectly assumed. The NT is clear that false doctrine is dangerous. False doctrine must be confronted and corrected. And those who do not accept the correction and continue to teach false doctrine knowingly are commanded to be removed from the fellowship. But then, we are back to our original question: how do we distinguish between what is false doctrine and what is a legitimate difference of interpretation? So after all this, we discover that the original question CONTINUES to be unanswered, because 2 Corinthians 6 has nothing to do with doctrine. Let's try Galatians 1, then...

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 20, 2013

@Dennis, like I explained earlier, the Gospel, which Galatians 1 refers to, is not simply about how one become saved. The Gospel is the announcement that Jesus Christ is Lord. The "other Gospel" that Paul warns against is any Gospel that does not acknowledge that reality. So, just like in 2 Corinthians, we find that this text is not talking about doctrine, any doctrine; and therefore, it provides no answer to the question. Now, you asked me, what do I myself think is the difference between false teaching and legitimate differences of interpretation. I must confess that I don't know. That's why I said in my first comment that this is a sincere question. But what I do know is that 2 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 1 do not single out any doctrine as a test of fellowship. But for the sake of argument, however, let's say it DOES. That STILL doesn't answer the original question, it simply narrows the field in which the question is relevant: how do we distinguish between false doctrines of salvation, and legitimate differences of interpretation of the doctrine of salvation. Nothing you've written so far has answered THAT question.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, the gospel is the Good News that Jesus came to save sinners. That is why He came. Jesus said in Luke 19:10 "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Jesus also said in Luke 5:32 "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Romans 5:8 "But God commendeth his love for us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us." The announcement of the gospel is that Jesus came to die for sinners. Yes, of course He is Lord, but so are the Father and the Holy Spirit, only Jesus died for us. And you must believe that He is God in order to be saved, but many believe He is Lord and are not saved. Matt. 7:22-23 "Many will say to me in that day, LORD, LORD,...And I will profess unto them, I NEVER knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." As far as your assesment that doctrine doesn't save, I beg to differ, if you do not believe what the Bible TEACHES (doctrine) about salvation, you will go to hell. And yes, it teaches faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. His death burial and resurrection is the GOSPEL. Romans 4:5 "But to him that worketh not, but BELIEVETH (believeth what? the teaching (doctrine) that Jesus died for sinners) ON HIM, his faith is counted for righteousness." Romans 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE in thine heart (what do they have to believe? the teaching, the doctrine that Jesus died and was raised again for sinners) that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." And belief is more than intellectual belief, it is a belief that is a heart belief. The belief that Jesus died in your place must be received by faith. Faith that is brought by the TEACHING (doctine) in the Word of God. 2 John 9-11 "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the DOCTRINE of Christ, HATH NOT God. He that abideth in the DOCTRINE of Christ, he hath both that Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this DOCTRINE, receive Him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds." As verse 7 of 2 John points out, the doctrine he is talking about concerns who Jesus is and why He came. He came in the flesh for one thing, to die for sinners.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, I forgot one verse, Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto SALVATION to everyone that BELIEVETH (believeth the teaching the doctrine that Jesus came to die for sinners); the the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Dennis, as I have written repeatedly, the Gospel includes the salvation of souls, which is why you can easily find dozens of texts talking about that. But the Gospel is about more than just salvation, and there are dozens of other texts that can demonstrate that as well. But that's not my point, and I'm tired of continuing this side debate when my original concern keeps getting ignored. So, for the sake of argument, let's pretend for a moment that we agree on your point: Gospel = Doctrine of Salvation. My question is, how does one determine between a false doctrine of salvation on the one hand, and legitimate differences of interpretation regarding the doctrine of salvation on the other hand? The fact that you continue to ignore this question makes me wonder if perhaps you DON'T have an answer to that question. And if that's the case, that's fine, I don't either. But just admit it, like I have, and we can leave it at that.

Joe Mckeever

commented on Feb 21, 2013

It distresses me the way some of our brethren keep drawing the lines tighter and tighter around themselves and their little group in order to exclude everyone else. Our risen Lord said to the Ephesus church, "You have tested those who say they are apostles and are not," showing themselves strong defenders of orthodoxy. Then, He said, "Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember...and repent...." (Revelation 2:1-6). The test of our identity as Christ-followers has never been our doctrinal uniformity but our love (John 13:34-35).

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, salvation is in Jesus Christ and Him only (John 14:6). You must believe that He was and is God. That He lived a sinless life, that His blood shed on the cross washes away your sins. That He was buried and rose again on the third day. You must repent of your sin of unbelief and receive by faith the gift of salvation by calling on God for salvation. Salvation is faith and repentance in Jesus Christ plus nothing minus nothing. The point of separation is to yoke together with an unbeliever, to marry an unbeliever, go into business with one, or come together for a common cause, etc. Anyone who adds to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ is teaching a false gospel and is not saved Romans 4:1-5. Romans 10:9, 13, 1 Cor. 15:1-4, John 3:16, 1 John 5:10-13, 2 John 7-11 these verses clearly tell us what salvation is and what it is not. The Bible interprets itself, these verses tell us EXACTLY what salvation is and is not. So as I've been trying to say, anyone who interprets these verses differently is an unbeliever and we are not to yoke together with them.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Joe McKeveer, you must believe in Jesus before you can truly love Him, and in order to believe you have to trust what the Bible says about salvation in Jesus Christ.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Dennis, let me make sure I am understanding you correctly: are you saying that there is no room for ANY legitimate differences of interpretation regarding the doctrine of salvation?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, do you believe there is more than one way to heaven? Do you believe you can know if you are believing the right way, or do you believe you have to wait until you die to know if you believed what the Bible says about how to be saved? Because two different ways cannot be right. There is a right way and a wrong way, and if we get it wrong with regards to salvation we go to hell.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Dennis, I will assume, then, that I did understand you correctly. It is your position that there is no room for any legitimate difference of opinion concerning the doctrine of salvation...I must confess to you, however, that your position raises another concern for me. You see, practically everything you've written about salvation, I've agreed with. But there is one point in which you and I have disagreed. You interpret the doctrine of salvation as being the entirety of the Gospel. On the other hand, I interpret the doctrine of salvation as being a part of the Gospel, not the whole. So, on this point, we have a difference of interpretation regarding the doctrine of salvation. Now, according to what you've been writing, there is no room for both you and me in the family of God. But, do you REALLY believe me to be an unbeliever, unworthy of fellowshipping with you, just because I disagree with you on that one point? Do you REALLY believe that I adhere to "another Gospel" because I believe the Gospel is about more than just the salvation of souls, and that I should be accursed because of that?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, I think what we are talking about is a matter of semantics. A person is saved by believing what the Bible says about salvation, as you agree you believe. That is what saves us, plus nothing minus nothing. If you want to call what Jesus says about, say, feeding the hungry as part of the Gospel, fine, I don't believe it is a correct term, I would call it living out my faith. But, and this is paramount, as long as you don't believe feeding the poor saves you, or is a part of what saves you, then, that is another gospel as far as how one is saved is concerned, and that is what Paul is talking about in Gal. 1, and that is what he was talking about in 2 Cor. 6.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Dennis, let me make sure again that I'm understanding you correctly. Your position is that a person is not saved by believing in Jesus alone, but also "by believing what the Bible says about salvation." Is that correct? If so, one implication of your position is that one must have an understanding of salvation before one is able to experience salvation. So, all of this leads me to a couple of questions: first, how much of an understanding of salvation is necessary before one can be saved? And second, how is "believing what the Bible says about salvation" not itself a "work of righteousness" that one can attempt to add to salvation and thus negate grace, as you suggested regarding baptism earlier?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Bill, I am saying that salvation is faith and repentance in JESUS CHRIST and Him alone. BUT the ONLY way we know anything about Jesus is by the reading or preaching of the WORD of God. Romans 10:17 "So the FAITH cometh by HEARING and hearing by THE WORD OF GOD." 1 Peter 1:23 "Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth forever, Verse 25 "But the Word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the WORD which by the GOSPEL IS PREACHED UNTO YOU." If you do not know what the Bible says about Jesus, how on earth can you be saved. And of course, someone can know and understand what the Bible says about salvation and reject Christ, that's the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. You must by faith receive the Jesus the Bible tells us about (John 1:12) How much do you need to understand? I have answered that already but here it is again (without the Scripture references because I have already used them) You first must believe you are a sinner. You must believe in the deity of Jesus Christ and that He was a man, but a perfect man without sin. And since He was perfect His blood didn't come from Adam but His Father, thus His blood can wash away our sins. You must believe in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Then you repent of the sin of unbelief, and call on Him to save you. As far as belief being a righteous work, let me write out why it isn't since I have already given you the reference. Romans 4:1-4 "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath wereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 21, 2013

@Dennis, I'm sorry, but nothing you've answered has actually addressed my original concern. And I'll take the responsibility for that, because I've followed you on your side trips, but my original question remains unanswered. You continue to focus on the doctrine of salvation, but that is not my focus of concern in this discussion. What I've been asking is, is it not possible to have legitimate differences of interpretation regarding the Gospel? And if so, how do we distinguish between that and genuine false doctrine? Perhaps you've never considered that before, but I hope you do take the time at some point to think though that issue more carefully, because it is of critical importance. What you see as "semantics," I see as a genuine difference of interpretation. You interpret the Gospel as dealing with salvation exclusively; I interpret the Gospel as dealing with more than salvation. So, is one of ours a "different Gospel?" Or are both interpretations valid, simply looking at the Gospel from different perspectives? And if so, then is it not possible that this could be the case on other points of disagreement we may have with other Christians? Is the true Christian fellowship much larger than maybe you or I realize? Is it not possible that we will be surprised by some of the people we find in the New Earth, people whom we may have dismissed as "unbelievers?" I think these are important questions, and after a couple of days of discussion, I still don't have any answers. Maybe that's how it should be, though. Maybe there are NO easy answers. I can live with that. And if so, what I would take away from that is that I should not be too quick to judge someone who interprets the Bible differently than I do, as an unbeliever or a teacher of false doctrine. Anyways, I appreciate your participation in this conversation. As always, you've stimulated my thinking. I have a busy weekend ahead of me, as I'm sure you do as well, so I think we can leave it at that. God bless!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 22, 2013

@Bill, I am sorry you think my answers have been an "aside" to your question. I thought I was understanding your questions and giving you answers that you would understand. For instance, did I not give you a thorough answer to your questions in post 32? How did I fail to answer what you asked? And I also thought I answered your question concerning the gospel when I said, "If you want to call what Jesus says about, say, feeding the hungry as part of the Gospel, fine, I don't believe it is a correct term, I would call it living out my faith." So I honestly thought I was answering your questions, but evidently we have a hard time understanding each other. I agree, I am busy and it does take time to go through and answer questions like this. But let me make sure you understand, I believe the gospel Paul was talking about in Gal. 1 is speaking about salvation and salvation only, if you don't believe that, that is your perogative. Because that is the context of the chapter and in fact, the entire book. We are saved by grace through faith, not works, read the book and come back and tell me I am wrong because that is the theme of it. God Bless!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 22, 2013

@Bill, one more thing if you will, how do you believe a person is saved?

Bob Hillyer

commented on Feb 22, 2013

Enjoyed the article greatly... the ensuing arguments... not so much although they do a fine job of illustrating exactly what you were saying. So refreshing when we can talk TO one another, instead of AT one another.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 22, 2013

@Bob Hillyer, I know, isn't it terrible that people have differing oppinions, and then actually try to express and defend what they believe? Just terrible! Oh, and by the way, we were not "arguing." If you got the impression we were because of the use of caps, it is only because that is the only way to emphesize a point on this board.

Bill Williams

commented on Feb 22, 2013

I, too, want to clarify that it was not an arguement. I consider Dennis a brother in Christ, and I am confident he considers me, likewise! @Dennis, regarding how people are saved, I agree with what you've written. Have a great weekend!

Don Kesner

commented on May 12, 2014

Wow, I'm not so sure that this is the type of conversation that Aaron was looking for when he wrote this blog-type message from his heart. Always glad to be reminded that I'm not alone in God's kingdom and that there are still those who will not "bow their knees to Baal" so to speak. Keep writing my Brother. Keep writing.

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