| When love divorces... |
by John C. Whitcomb
It is evident that leading neo-evangelicals believe that our main goal is to eliminate doctrinal distinctives and to emphasize unity among those claiming to be believers.
One of the basic ideas of today’s philosophy of ecumenical evangelism is that love is more important than doctrine. Ecumenical evangelists say that doctrine divides, whereas love unifies. What does the Bible say? Is it true that in the New Testament love is more important than doctrine, or truth?
In the so-called “love chapter,” we are told: “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love [agape]” (NKJV, 1 Cor. 13:13). Some say—“That settles it: love is supreme!” But when we examine this chapter more carefully, we discover that truth is also mentioned. In v. 6 we are told that love “rejoices in the truth.” In other words, faith, hope and love are virtues, but truth has an altogether different status. It is the frame of reference, the foundation, the atmosphere without which virtues such as love cannot exist at all.
Love “rejoices in the truth.” Why? Because without truth to define, interpret, protect, guide and channel it, love can become a total disaster. We dare not place truth on the same level as virtues. Virtues would shrivel up and die if it were not for truth.
Here is an example from the natural world. We cannot imagine life on this planet without water. Water is absolutely essential for life—as long as it stays within proper channels, such as canals, aqueduct and pipes. But when water gets out of control, it is the second greatest catastrophe that can happen to this planet—second only to fire. On the one hand, it is an absolute blessing, but on the other hand it can be a total disaster. So it is with love.
God’s definition of love
Love without divine definition (God’s revealed channels within which it must flow) becomes the most horrible thing on earth. It can destroy human beings by the millions and can be reduced to satanic sentimentalism.
Love, as defined by God, is doing for a person that which is best for him in the light of eternity, no matter what the cost may be. Somehow, however, when it comes to world evangelism, many people have forgotten God’s definitions and have fallen into sentimentalism.
Consider some key Scriptures which illustrate the distinction between love and truth: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ ” (John 8:31, 32).
Ultimate freedom may only be achieved by total submission—unconditional surrender to truth. There is nothing here about love.
Love obeys the truth
There are many who speak glowingly of their love for Jesus Christ and for lost men. But in John 14, He stresses that obedience to truth is the best form of love: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24).
This is what we call the acid test of love: Does a man obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ? It makes no difference how much we talk about our love if we do not obey Christ. It is obedience that counts, not words. Obedience without love is theoretically possible, but love without obedience is, in practice, impossible. It is a satanic substitute for God’s plan.
Love teaches the truth
John 21 gives an example of one who said much about his love for Jesus. But when it came to obedience, it was not there. When the pressure came, his resolution collapsed and he denied his Lord. After the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord confronted Peter lovingly, but in truth: “ ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs…Tend My sheep…Feed My sheep’ ” (John 21:15-17).
How do we express love to the Lord Jesus according to the lesson of this confrontation? By feeding His sheep—teaching His people and training them in “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)—as He also commanded in the Great Commission: “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).
Love leaves nothing out
This leads to a consideration of Acts 20, where we find a good example of an apostle who obeyed the Great Commission. He said nothing about love in this final appeal to the Ephesians. But he exhibited supreme love toward them.
What did he do for them? Did he say, “I love you, I love you, I love you”? Acts 20:26, 27 gives the answer: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
The result was “that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Paul based his evangelism on sound doctrinal instruction. That is God’s key for world evangelism.
Here is another example. The words of Paul in Gal. 1:6 (“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel”) were blunt but necessary, as he says in Gal. 4:16, in order to “tell [them] the truth.”
Our Lord tells us how we can achieve the perfect balance. Note the gifts God gave the true church, the body of Christ, for service and ministry in this age: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
Every one of these gifts in the form of a person involves a doctrinal person. They are all totally involved in truth. All were engaged in preaching, teaching and discipling in the light of revealed truth. There is no teaching whatsoever in the New Testament suggesting that love is more important than doctrine or truth.
Love is referred to in Eph. 4:15, where we read of “speaking the truth in love.” Love is the motivation, manner and method of speaking truth. Love is the servant of truth. It makes it easier to receive, absorb and digest. But it must never be allowed to eclipse or set aside truth. God’s truth can never change, but God’s truth in the hands of human messengers is a very delicate and fragile thing.
Love resists poisons
There is no living system known to science that can survive without an intricate, elaborate and constantly-used system to purify itself from poisons. This is also true of God’s church. It is impossible for any spiritual organization to survive unless it has a system to purify itself from poisonous influences.
We need to remember that we are in a highly-poisoned environment. We are immersed in Satan’s world. He has constant access to every servant of God through his fallen nature. Thus, how can the relative success of a Christian’s ministry be evaluated apart from God’s infallible, inerrant Word? Apart from it, who is to determine what success means?
Love Protects the Flock
Did the Lord Jesus encourage His disciples to listen sympathetically to other religious leaders of that time? His answer is given in Matt. 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Yet we are told today by neo-evangelicals that we should both teach and study in liberal universities and colleges of theology. But there is one thing worse than division, and that is peace with compromise. Truth is infinitely more important than the false unity of the world.
Love corrects error
We see this in that, for the sake of truth, even families will be divided by our Lord so that at least someone within that unit can perpetuate God’s truth (cf. Luke 12:51-53). In Rom. 16:17 Paul states: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
If we honor and love the Lord Jesus we will watch for anything or anyone that may destroy His truth. We will avoid such people.
When there is a rotten apple in a barrel, the bad one never gets better, but the good ones go rotten. It is the same with a good life or good doctrine, which can always be contaminated by a bad environment. A mere association of the good with the bad will never make the bad thing better. The good gets worse; the bad does not improve (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33).
Is it right for doctrinal purity to be blatantly submerged for the sake of worldly ecclesiastical unity? Surely this is a total denial of the Holy Spirit’s Word through the Scriptures.
May God give us wisdom as we apply His truth in our fallen world—with love.
| 2016/5/16 8:33||Profile|
| Re: When love divorces... |
Quote from the article:
"But there is one thing worse than division, and that is peace with compromise. Truth is infinitely more important than the false unity of the world."
I liked this article and was reading these verses about the truth:
2 Thessalonians 13 - 15
13But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14To which he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
So the truth is part of our sanctification by the holy spirit and necessary for our salvation. I believe the tradition in verse 15 to us means the teaching of the apostles and all the other scriptures, the tradition of christian people even of the church fathers is only included here in my opinion if it aligns with the Bible. I believe that the holy spirit reveals us whether a doctrine is true through the scriptures.
About the love part: and this also relates to occassional "quarreling" on the threads. The love is that we present them the truth and give them the freedom to choose. We don't have to worry, the HS takes care of the rest. He also takes care of us if we were wrong about the truth (if we have a humble heart) Refraining from presenting the truth is not love.
These are my thoughts,
| 2016/5/17 13:44|
| Re: |
Isaiah 55: 10-11
10For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
| 2016/5/17 14:09|
| Re: When love divorces... |
I do find much agreement in the article & comments.
The distinctive importance part of it though is first: "what doctrines are fundamental & foundational to salvation? These "foundations of the faith" are laid out in Hebrews 6 for us:
"1Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. "
And we can go on to doctrinal "meat" from there. We read about instances where Paul wanted to move on congregational bodies to meat, but they were not ready/able, but only could teach with milk because of their flesh, immaturity, pride, lack of understanding, etc. Like in 1 Corinthians 3:
1But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
And also in Hebrews 5:
Warning Against Apostasy
11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
So, what is key/paramount is what doctrines matter most as foundations, how do we build on top from there with a right foundation of "good milk", & move on to doctrinal "meat", & what is the REAL heart & spiritual condition of those teaching it? It's not without reason that such warnings concerning teaching are made repeatedly through the scriptures:
1 Timothy 2
11Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.13For Adam was formed first, then Eve;14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (Not a popular passage in modern circles, but a solid & sure Word in scripture in the epistles that must be accepted nonetheless).
1 Corinthians 14
As in all the churches of the saints, 34the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40But all things should be done decently and in order. (So we know from other scriptures that women can "prophesy" in the Body, as the Lord leads, but with their heads covered as a show of understanding & accepting their place in God's order embracing it with joy & humility - not trying to rouse up the feminists, but the Word is the Word & I'm just quoting it verbatim).
And James 3:
1Not many of you should become (or "presume to be" as some translations put it) teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
So these important scriptural principles of doctrinal fact must be properly adhered first, I believe. Having a conversation, asking questions, sharing ones thoughts/questions/etc. is one thing. Stepping out to presume to "teach" others in the Body is something entirely different (that the scriptures speak very clearly to/about) entirely.
Anyways, I do wonder, what is the "doctrines" the poster of the OP has in mind? If someone posts blatant heresy in the forums, it gets struck down for what it is pretty quickly for the sake of the understanding of the lost, the young/immature/unskilled in the Word, etc. If there are other points of doctrine (or any really), it should be handled as I think you said in grace, humility, etc. & sometimes as was quoted by Michael Brown & originally said by J Gresham Machen, "A Christianity that avoids argument altogether is not the Christianity of the Bible". However, we should also remember as someone else famously said, "If people hate you, let it be for your position & not your disposition" too! 😊 These are ever present works of grace in all of us, & The God who sees & knows all is watching, keeping tabs on us, chastising & humbling those who are His, & growing is from glory to glory so that one day our work will abide the fire & not be burned down to ashes as wood, hay & stubble only.
Anyways, I thought there was (as is often the case) great truth in the OP quoted article/excerpt. The thing that matters much is how do we interpret & apply it specifically issue by issue? What does that look like & is it all for love of God & neighbor, or is it a tainted work of our flesh/pride? Sometimes we can fool others, especially from hundreds/thousands of miles away. Sometimes we can even fool/deceive/delude our own selves! We can NEVER fool the God who sees all though. Never. Something for all of us to keep in mind.
Love this quote too from Art Katz:
"Truth without Love is just brutality, but Love without Truth is just Sentimentality."
A lot to chew on for everyone in all these things for sure.
Thanks for sharing!
| 2016/5/17 14:31|
| Re: |
Important topic and good comments.
I heard so many times that we should have "unity" in the church. But yes it is important to look at it carefully.
Here are some interesting thoughts (from Desiring God )
"Unity among two or more people gets its virtue entirely from something else. Unity itself is neutral until it is given goodness or badness by something else. So if Herod and Pilate are unified by their common scorn for Jesus (Luke 23:12), this is not a good unity. But if Paul and Silas sing together in prison for Christ’s sake (Acts 16:25), this is a good unity.Therefore, it is never enough to call Christians to have unity. That may be good or bad
"for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-29 )
| 2016/5/17 17:02|