“Right Doctrine For Right Living” series: (post #6)
Let’s say that your pastor goes to the pulpit one Sunday morning and announces that he no longer believes that Jesus died on the cross. Or let’s say that he preaches a sermon in which he denies Christ’s virgin birth or bodily resurrection. What should you do about that? Your answer can be found in the following word: separation.
As I discussed in the previous post, it is only the most serious doctrinal issues that qualify as potential grounds for separation. As for what specific doctrinal issues rise to that level of seriousness, if I wade into all that debate I might never finish this series. So, I’ll just use this post to point you to the relevant scriptures that deal with separation over wrong doctrine.
I’ll begin by listing the passages that instruct the Christian to separate himself or herself from a fellow brother or sister in Christ who is promoting wrong doctrine. As I cite each passage, I’ll put in boldface the part that commands separation. Those passages are (all references from the N.K.J.V.):
- Romans 16:17: Now I urge you, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
- 1 Timothy 6:3-5: If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
- Titus 3:10: Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:6: But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
I should point out that the Titus 3:10 passage calls the Christian who is promoting wrong doctrine a divisive person. This shows us that divisions among professing Christians are not caused by professing Christians who hold to right doctrine. Instead, those divisions are caused by professing Christians who hold to wrong doctrine. This needs to understood because oftentimes the doctrinal “whistle blower” is the one who gets wrongly called “divisive.”
But now let me move on and list the passages that instruct the Christian to separate himself or herself from a lost person who is promoting wrong doctrine. I’ll again use boldface type to emphasize the relevant part of each passage. Here are the passages (again, all from the N.K.J.V.):
- 2 Corinthians 6:14-15: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
- Galatians 1:8-9: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
- Ephesians 5:11: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
- 2 Timothy 3:1-5: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despiers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
- 2 John verses 9-11: Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
In closing, let me draw your attention to a particular phrase from that last reference (2 John verses 9-11). The apostle John describes a person who does not abide in “the doctrine of Christ.” Okay, so what exactly is “the doctrine of Christ”? Well, I would say that it includes each of the following:
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s deity (divinity)
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s eternal existence even before He came to earth
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s virgin birth
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s sinless life
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s miracles
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s substitutionary death for the sins of the world
- right doctrine in regards to the fact that Christ’s shed blood is the only basis upon which God can forgive sin
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s resurrection
- right doctrine in regards to the salvation offered to anyone who will believe/place faith in Christ as Savior
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s formal ascension back to heaven forty days after His resurrection
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s role as the Christian’s heavenly Mediator/High Priest
- right doctrine in regards to Christ’s eventual return to this earth
This list, I think, is a good starting point for any discussion concerning right doctrine. We might debate lesser doctrinal issues, but there really shouldn’t be much debate as to these foundational basics of “the doctrine of Christ.” Therefore, if you as a Christian are wondering what doctrines are “separation worthy,” this list will at least get your mind headed in the right direction. Obviously, separation should never be undertaken lightly, but the truth is that if there weren’t times when it is necessary, there wouldn’t be so many passages in the Bible that call for it.