Summary: How can we experience unity when we have differing beliefs?
In Ephesians 4:3-6, Paul lists seven “cords” that bind us together: a common community - “one body”; a common communion - “one Spirit”; a common confidence - “one hope”; a common commitment - “one Lord”; a common confession - “one faith”; a common conversion - “one baptism”; and a common connection - “one Father.”
Today, I want us to think about our common confession. Paul says we have “one faith.” What does he mean? Some say he’s referring to our common faith in Christ, while others say Paul is speaking of the things we believe, as in “the faith.” Actually, I think it is a little bit of both.
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” - Jude 3 (NIV)
But some say doctrine has been a source of division, rather than unity among God’s people. Some believe miraculous gifts of the Spirit are still active today, while others believe they have ceased to exist. Some believe salvation is a matter of God’s choosing; while others believe it is a matter of the person’s choosing. Such differences have resulted in entire denominations being developed, and even groups who claim to be “non-denominational.” This was true, even in Paul’s day.
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, ‘I am a follower of Paul.’ Others are saying, ‘I follow
Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Peter,’ or ‘I follow only Christ.’” - 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 (NLT)
Sadly, what Paul was dealing with in Corinth has developed even more in our day. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t still working in His church or that there can’t be unity, even across denominational lines.
Dr. Albert Mohler, in an article, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” points out the word “triage” comes from the French word “trier,” meaning “to sort,” and contends Christians need to understand some doctrines are more important than others.
Mohler suggests three levels of importance in doctrine.
First-order doctrines represent fundamentals of the faith, a denial of which represents an eventual denial of Christianity. He suggests that this would include the Trinity, the deity & humanity of Jesus, justification by faith, and authority of Scripture.
Second-order doctrines are different in that believing Christians may disagree on them. These disagreements are the reason for the formation of many denominations. Examples would be different views regarding the role of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will in salvation, the mode of baptism or the role of women in ministry. But even though there might be disagreement over these doctrines, each group can still affirm the other to be true believers.