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Unity vs Doctrine

by Daniel J.M. Galpin

This is an unnecessary battle, if we would yield our opinions and presuppositions. There are areas clearly stated, such as sexual activity and areas of vagueness, as in prophecy, or things not mentioned, like TV., wherein the principles in Scripture are to guide us. Yet, in it all, we more often then not, cling to our presuppositions, rather then Scripture or to our denominational views over the Bible. This should not be: Matt 15:3 "But he answered and said unto them, Why do all of you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"

I picked TV as for when something is not mentioned, because this is a major influence in our nation. Where do the principles of Scripture take us? Ps 101:3 "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." We know the TV itself is not wicked, therefore we are to determine what comes on it, if it be wicked or support wickedness, reject it, if not, enjoy it, it's that simple! I personally, will have to stop watching some funny shows! What will you have to stop watching?

Where prophecy is concerned, it can be vague, therefore we are to listen to each other, learn from each other and allow time for God to show us the truth, which He will, in His time. Until then, we are to be aware of the possibilities, lean, not cling, to our understanding without rejecting the understanding of others and wait to see how God unfolds His story. The rapture is an example of this: some say it will happen pre-trib, others mid-trib and still others post-trib. Which is correct? I have my understanding and will stand my ground defending it, however I learn from those of different views and am watchful because it is prophecy and it may not be as clear as we think it to be. In this we can be in unity without sacrificing doctrine.

Where then is the line to be drawn? Both unity and Doctrine are very important! Even in this issue people will disagree! Why? We again put our opinion over Scripture! This should not be. We are to submit to Scripture, that's the whole point of having God's Word to guide us! We know Scripture tells us to unity is good: Ps 133:1 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" and Scripture tells us to be grounded in doctrine: 1Tim 4:13 "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." Which then is more important? Lets look at the results of both:

Unity is More Important Doctrine is More Important
When doctrine is different, we agree to disagree and move forward together, which sounds good, yet has results in which does not allow us to stand for anything. Rather then waste time with multiple examples, lets look at one of importance: Salvation. When doctrine is the same, we agree with each other and move forward. The results allow us to stand strong in unity over those opposing us. In the same example, that of salvation, what is the result?
Some believe one can get saved and can never lose it, while others believe salvation can be lost. Some believe one must be saved by faith alone while others believe salvation is by faith and obedience. If we allow unity to be our dominating force, then we must agree to disagree and move forward together, however how is this possible? We are teaching different things and this will lead to confusion. We agree that salvation is by faith alone and not by any of our own obedience, rather a gift from God. Then when we teach others, they too, understand what we are teaching and unity is created and what we teach is clear. Unity is a result of doctrine, not over it.

The example given is an opinion of logical thinking whereby someone can come up with a logical reason to do the opposite, as some do today, thinking more can be reached for Christ (a good thing) by us being united and allowing different doctrine to exist. Thankfully Scripture give us a clear answer to which is more important, which we can cling to rather then mine opinion, yours or someone else's.

There are many verses we can look at, a few are listed below. You can find more by looking up each verse with the word unity and doctrine in them and I encourage you to do so. Study for yourself, rather than having someone tell you what the Bible says. Go do it!

Jesus said something clear regarding this topic when addressing an attack upon Himself, being labeled the prince of devils: Matt 12:25 "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" Unity is important for a kingdom to stand and their unity must be focused in agreement. They must be in unity for that which they stand because a divided house will not stand! Was His comment tht we all agree to disagree or they must agree as one? As one of course!

Some will no doubt dismiss my logic and say it is possible to agree together to disagree, so then let us look at Scripture: what does the Bible say about both unity and doctrine?

Unity Verses Doctrine Verses
Ps 133:1 "(1) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Matt 16:12 "(12) Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Acts 1:14 "(14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." Mark 11:18 "(18) And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine."
Acts 2:46 "(46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart," John 7:16 "(16) Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."
Acts 8:6 "(6) And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did." Rom 6:17 "(17) But God be thanked, that all of you were the servants of sin, but all of you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
Acts 15:25 "(25) It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul," Rom 16:17 "(17) Now I plead to you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which all of you have learned; and avoid them."
Eph 4:3 "(3) Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph 4:14 "(14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed back and forth, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
Eph 4:13 "(13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:" 1Tim 4:1,13,16 "(1) Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (13) Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (16) Take heed unto yourself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you."
Phil 2:2 "(2) Fulfill all of you my joy, that all of you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." 2John 1:10 "(10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:"

With these verses about unity in mind, we know it is pleasant and good for unity to exist and it is possible for us today as it was for those in Jesus's time. We are to have unity in doctrine and decisions, trying our best to be at peace with each other while we wait for true unity to come when Christ returns. Lastly, joy is a result of likemindedness and love one for another.

Now concerning the verses on doctrine, we know Jesus warned against the doctrine of men so much so they sought to kill Him and that Jesus's doctrine came from God: it was not His own. Doctrine is that which delivers us, it is the truth about all of life, our sin and redemption and God's free gift! There are those that seek to divide us by teaching contrary doctrine and we are to avoid them! Without correct doctrine we can be tossed about every which way and be deceived. We are warned, in the end times some will depart from the faith clinging to seducing spirits and doctrine of devils! Therefore we are to cling to the doctrine of Christ until He comes!

In light of verses on both unity and doctrine, we know we are not to be in unity with false doctrine, nor can we agree to disagree with it. We know true unity is coming, while true doctrine is here already! Therefore, by Scripture we can know that doctrine overrides unity without exception! While unity is very important, allegiance to doctrinal truth is the weightier issue. Titus 1:9 "Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." And with doctrine we can both encourage each other and convince the lost.