Summary: Principles for dealing with doctrinal disagreements


TEXT: ACTS 15:1-35


INTRODUCTION: A. Benjamin Franklin: “Many a long dispute may be thus abridged: ‘It is so; it is not

so.’ ‘It is so; it is not so.’”

--or as my children used to say: “Is too; is not.” Is too; is not”

B. What the Bible says about disagreement:

1. Titus 3:9 – “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and

quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

2. Jude 3 – “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the

salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that

was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

C. Are those statements contradictory?

1. Basically, the Bible teaches that there are certain times when we disagree that we

should hold our ground and take the fight to the finish

2. Ecc. 3:1-8 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under

heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a

time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to

weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter

stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to

search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear

and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time

to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

--vs. 11 tells us who decides the right time – it’s God: He has made everything

beautiful in its time…”

3. How do we know the difference?

--“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; but in all things love.”

D. Disagreements among Christians come in two basic forms:

1. Doctrinal disputes

2. Personal disputes

3. Sometimes these disagreements call for confrontation,

especially if it’s an outright contradiction of Scripture. or if it causes the person to

exhibit behavior that is harmful to the Body of Christ

E. Some guidelines for confrontation:

1. Gal. 6:1 – “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should

restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

2. Mt. 18:15-17 – “"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just

between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if

he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be

established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to

them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as

you would a pagan or a tax collector."”

F. What was the specific disagreement in this passage?

--a doctrinal dispute

1. vs. 1 – the dispute was over a teaching that was circulating in the church that before

you became a Christian, you first had to become a Jew (circumcision)

2. How did the handle the problem?

a. Tried to deal with in on a on-to-one basis

b. When that approach didn’t work, several leaders of the congregation at

Antioch (including Paul and Barnabas) went to meet with the leadership of the

Jerusalem congregation (since this problem came to Antioch from Jerusalem)

c. Pay particular attention to the fact that it was the leaders of the congregations

that came together to discuss how to handle the matter.

d. It is essential that the leaders lead through a problem or disagreement and not let

the church members set the agenda or tone of how to handle the disagreement

1). The responsibility is on the leaders not the congregation

2). Sometimes, when there is a problem, there are those who will say, “We’ll

just let things work themselves out.”

--A lot of times that’s just an excuse for not doing anything. There are some

who like to have the title of leadership but don’t want to do the job of


3). Vs. 6 tells us it was the apostles and the elders who took the responsibility

for handling the problem.

3. There are some clear indications here for procedure in handling a doctrinal dispute


--vs. 7a – “After much discussion…”

A. Too many times we try to suppress what people have to say

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