Where should we begin?
Where should we begin with our journey in christian maturity? Sometimes believers have an in-depth knowledge on a subject matter that is not crucially important. Churches spent hours and hours teaching their members some truth over and over again, but hardly teach a life inducing primary diet, which Jesus himself commanded one of his church saying:
In other words, there are central, essential and non-negotiable aspects of the Truth that we must hold to the end. Do you see? Only hold fast what you have until I come. It s enough revelation!
We usually cry “unity unity!” however, what does unity mean? Does that mean agreeing on everything we say? If that is the case, you know we all do not. The church has never been united in that sense of the word. What does unity mean? Is that to say everyone is somewhat right and one should not comment on what the other beliefs? Well, that is more like postmodernism than biblical Christianity, of course it is wrapped with ‘the Holy Spirit’ .taught me. Who would dare to say this person is wrong, a smiley face. You can see in scripture Paul the Apostle having a visible disagreement with Peter in Antioch. Paul, the apostle of love, refused to accompany John Mark in his secondary missionary trip, most probably in their gentile mission disagreements. The mostly Jewish church of Jerusalem had a visible tension with the mostly gentile church of Antioch, disagreements over the details of Gentile conversion, what should they do after they believe in Christ. What is unity?
In reaction, first, there are some believers who appear to believe that our unity is based on an abstract Truth that we don’t articulate. They seem to say that a teaching that divides truth from falsehood as divisive and wrongheaded (but there are many biblical commands asking us to do just that, rightly divide the word of Truth being one of them). They do not want anyone to examine anything that is being said. A sub group with in this first camp, are those who think unity is as a lowest common denominator. This means, we speak those things that we all agree. However the question is what we agree is the product of what we have been previously told to believe. They simply hold two contradictory truth, in the name of being balanced, they say “the bible speak both”. The other group with in this first category are those who are the practical type. They want to emphasize on what we must do in stead of what we must believe. (sounds so pious but again this is not right. What we do is a product of what we believe. Believing what we don’t do, and doing what we don’t believe are not scriptural) These types of believers usually are anti-theology. To set the record, I beseech you in God’s mercy, there is no believer that is not a theologian. All of us are theologians. Theology means a study of God, (theos-means God and logos means, word/study.) As long as one opens the scripture and say “this is who God is” That person is a theologian. The question is are you a good one or the bad one? Usually those who despise it, are bad theologians, for they don’t know what they say is highly theological. Children are theologians, who ask ‘where did God come from? Where are we going when we die?’ Those I have heard demean theology, are those who make theological assertions at times that have been condemned by the church as heresy, and another times self-contradictory. So wisdom and humility is in order. Truth is light. Light shines in the darkness unveiling its errors.
On the second camp of believers, there are those who make everything a reason for division in the body of Christ, starting from the more serious problems to the mundane details such as style of worship, style of preaching, etc…They appear to most of us, church vigilantes. They place similar emphasis on all things that we believe. In this camp there are those who are called Fundamentals. To them, dressing code is on the same level as believing in the substitutionary atonement. Going to the movies is as sinful as hating one’s brother. They don’t seem to differentiate what is central and non-negotiable from what is secondary or tertiary. Some who lean more to this camp also are quick to label those who disagree with them as heretic. This too is wrong.
However, some of us are in neither two camps. This camp is historically called ‘The Evangelical Camp’ -even though this title means nothing nowadays. This camp makes a distinction between what is central and non-negotiable, the gospel/Evangel- thus Evangelical. Seeing the above two groups, we scratch our heads and hesitate whether we are allowed to make a comment or should we remain silent. That is because not all truths in the scripture are reason for parting our ways (on secondary truth), or reason for dusting our feet and say, “anathema- we have nothing to do with you- ( “this is only when primary truth is denied), or sit together in the same local church and say to each other, we may not agree but it is okay (on tertiary truth).
Levels of Truth
In scripture there are a least three levels of truth: Primary doctrines, secondary, doctrines, and tertiary doctrines. Primary truths are those that are foundations for life. A denial of these makes one a heretic and the apostles dare us not to even eat with this person. To deny this or to disagree with this primary truth deems one to be called, enemy of the cross. These are those truths in the bible, which are reasons for our being a believer or not, life or death. For instance, if a brother comments that “Jesus is not the Christ”, you all should say that this brother is not a Christian. Therefore one must first learn what this primary truth are in scriptures. John writes:
Believing that Jesus is the Christ, it is a summary statement, causes one to have eternal life and abide in the father and the son. However please note John is saying as long as what “you heard from the beginning remains in you”. That is to say, this is a rope that we cling so dear.
How do we know if a spirit is the Spirit of God or the spirit of the antichrist? It is not whether one speaks in tongue, or not, or do great miracles or not, or speak that which is mysterious or not. John tells us that it is believing this primary truth. By this, you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God… But not all truth in scripture has this force. This will take me to the next.
Secondary truths are those that cause believers to part ways in different denominations (because they disagree enough). These are revealed truth but there is room for disagreement. The one group must dialogue with the other in love and cherish one another as brothers and sisters, and not as heretics. Many people especially those who reject theology, see these divisions as evil and the other believer as heretic. Well my dear, take it easy. George Whitefield and John Wesley were two revivalists whom God used mightily from both sides of the Atlantic. They had major disagreement on the secondary levels of truth (the former being a reformed and the latter a classic Arminian) but they have so much to agree on the primary life inducing truth. They were committed friends and held revival meetings together in reaching out souls for Christ, of course they were not in the same church! Let us stop calling each other heretics. However, we should call each other brothers and sisters but of course we see the other person’s position as defective. That is only because Truth is not relative. God revealed his truth; therefore, we should admonish and dialogue so that we see the truth clearly.
Tertiary truths are those truths in scripture that are not reason for major disagreement. This is because we do not have a clear biblical teaching, for instance, the precise manner of Christ’s return. There is much mystery there.
First, there is no neat division as I showed above. There is overlap and one is built upon the other. Second, this is not arbitrary. The primary is primary because of divine revelation. God revealed it so clearly in scripture to deny it is to deny God’s revelation
Here is a helpful quote often attributed to Augustine.
The most important question of our time.
Many times the church spends way more time on those peripheral matters. Many of us in the body of Christ remain for years without having an in-depth knowledge of the Son of God, while knowing all sorts of biblical truths. The problem is that after few years, it will be harder for us to be humble and say teach me I need that. It will be harder by the year! Therefore, we remain in dangerous territories.
As long as the church is in the process of transformation, unity is a journey not perfection. However, there is a center that should never change in the life of church regardless. The church has never been built neither upon able men, what the ancients called ‘Orators’ nor upon confusion, what Paul calls “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.1 Tim 1”.
The church is built upon the confession that “[Jesus is]….the Christ, the son of the living God….who suffered many things…and killed, and on the third day raised…” And upon this rock Christ has built his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The church must be built upon this foundation. There are truths in scripture all of us with out exception should believe with the same rigor. This is the non-negotiable aspect of our faith, young or old, black or white, man or woman, rich or poor must believe and built up on it.
The Gospel is the center: Sound Teaching
According to 1 Tim 1: 11, sound teaching is that truth that is built upon the gospel…. “sound doctrine, (is..) in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”
- If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 1 Timothy 6:3
- For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 2 Timothy 4:3
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:13
This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, Titus 1:13
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Titus 2:2
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:15–18
Christ is the foundation; The Apostles are the skilled master builders
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