the truth and sell it not', is the strident cry of Proverbs 23. 23.
Surely as believers we desire to know truth and not error so that we
can think and live to the glory of God. We should give other believers
credit for being similarly motivated. And yet we must admit that
believers differ on certain doctrines of Scripture. How did the early
church come to know truth and discover the doctrine they would follow?
Paul urged that the meetings of the church be open for several to speak
as the Lord led them. ‘Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge’,
1 Cor. 14. 29. There was confidence that God could speak through gifted
servants and there was confidence in the judgement of the assembly that
His people could come to know the mind of God. Error would be corrected
see an example of this in the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The
elders and apostles were gathered to consider the issue of Gentile
admission to salvation and to the church. Must they become circumcised
and live like Jews? There was ‘much dispute’, v. 7, an open discussion
with various ones taking part. Then Peter stood up and told of his
experience of seeing Cornelius saved without circumcision and law
keeping. Paul and Barnabas stood and
narrated their experiences in evangelizing the Gentiles. Finally James
stood up with his suggestions for a solution. This found agreement with
the whole church. The conflict was resolved through wise leadership
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
the 1820's a number of men in Ireland began to meet together with deep
spiritual concern. As they discussed Scripture they became convinced
that the system of having an ordained cleric in total control of a
local church was not biblical and that a group of believers could meet
together to celebrate the Lord's Supper without an ordained clergyman
was radical thinking and it resulted in a number breaking away from the
state church to meet in a simple way. Later, the subject of prophecy
became prominent in their discussions. Here, these same men did not
find the same agreement as they did on church order. Some became
strongly convinced of the coming of Christ to the air solely to rapture
His people was a pre-tribulation event. J. N. Darby became a powerful
exponent of this position and because of his extensive writing had
great influence. Others were convinced the coming would be
post-tribulation and believed the church would go through it first.
men were all searching for truth. We would never once question their
motives. They still disagreed on the details regarding prophecy but
truths about the church were much clearer to them. Many today have been
influenced by the views of these godly men.
danger is that theology becomes fossilized. No longer is there an open
discussion of Scripture. The correct interpretation was settled long
ago, the understanding goes, and now one needs only to refer to the men
of the past. Thus each denominational faction indoctrinates its
ministers in the correct theology for its form of churchmanship. Luther
is revered by the Lutherans; Calvin by the reformed churches and other
groups have their patrons of the past.
Darby, Muller, Chapman and others were great and godly men, they would
be the first to urge believers today to study the word of God for
themselves. There is always a danger in coming to Scripture with a
rigid, theological grid. They would encourage us to do as they did, to
meet with open hearts to discuss and to learn from the word of God.
are considerable areas of difference among Christians today. Is it
possible to be open to the views of others and to consider them? Could
we cultivate the mindset of the Bereans, who 'received the word with
all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether
these things were so', Acts 17. 11. Can we not trust the Holy Spirit of
God to lead us into all truth? Of course we can!
requires love and patience to live in harmony with others who may
disagree with you. Are we not told to receive one another 'but not to
disputes over doubtful things', Rom. 14. 1. If one is part of a church
where most have a differing position from yours on a minor point of
doctrine, would it not be the part of grace to be quiet about the
matter and not create an issue? Even Christ at times restrained His
teaching because He said, 'you cannot bear them now', John 16. 12. If
it is a major difference and one cannot be comfortable in that church
then you should quietly leave. Hopefully you can find a fellowship
where there is greater compatibility. However, take warning: you will
probably never find a church where all agree completely with you! Be
content to realize, 'We know in part and we prophesy in part', 1 Cor.
13. 9. Our knowledge in this life is always partial. 'Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God', Matt. 5. 9.