Summary: Unity is vital to any church, but the Bible does not teach unity at all cost. Part 1 of this series examines the Biblical concept of Unity through the truth of scripture.
Unity and Sound Doctrine (Part 1)
Scriptural unity is founded upon sound doctrine and a local church cannot have true unity without building its foundation on the truth of God’s word. A good example of this is explained in Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
This passage is filled with a lot of great doctrine; however, I have underlined the points that I feel apply to this message. Keep in mind that it is the responsibility of leaders to teach sound doctrine to the church so that the body can have unity of purpose in ministry and not be tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine that becomes popular at the moment. The body is unified when it is edified by love based on sound doctrine (or the truth of scripture); however, division is caused by false doctrine. Look at Romans 16:17-18
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
Keep in mind that this is a command. We are commanded several times in scripture to identify those who teach contrary to the doctrine delivered through scripture and avoid them. I will also discuss this in detail later in this study as well. Also keep this in mind – doctrine either creates unity or causes division. Sound doctrine creates unity among those who honor scripture and false doctrine creates division. The ultimate goal of this study is to look at scripture to understand basic sound doctrine. The Bible tells us that, by God’s divine power, we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness. This has been delivered to us through the scripture. While there may indeed be a small handful of grey areas that are not fully explained, the majority of scripture is crystal clear and leaves little room for disagreement. When it comes to doctrine and how we are taught how to live and have fellowship with God, I believe all of scripture is clear. The only areas that are cloudy are a few minor points where we only see a snapshot of a situation one of the apostles are addressing. When it comes to godly understanding, salvation and knowing God, the Bible gives us clear understanding and sound doctrine.
Many believe in error that we should never judge doctrine or determine what is right or wrong. The scripture pulls no punches in dispelling this misunderstanding and as we move along in this study we will see that there can be little doubt that we are not only called – but commanded to judge doctrine and guard what is acceptable in the church. One passage that clarifies this is 2 Timothy 4:1-5
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Look at the primary commands found in this passage: preach the word, convince, rebuke, exhort, teach, be watchful, endure, do the work, fulfill your ministry. For some reason it is difficult for people to accept the fact that we are called to rebuke and convince people who are contrary to the word. We are commanded to do these things because there is a right and there is a wrong. It is true that one day God will sort it all out; however, God has given us a charge to hold to truth and defend the truth here and now. How do we be watchful and stand firm even when the time comes when sound doctrine is not popular even in the church?