(The danger of presenting a Hard Case)
Doctrine definition: a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church.
Synonyms: creed, credo, dogma, belief.
Interpretation definition: the action of explaining the meaning of something.
Opinion definition: a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Synonyms: belief, judgement, thought, school of thought, way of thinking, point of view, slant, perspective, standpoint.
Hermeneutic: method of interpretation. e.g Allegorical or literal.
Exergesis: focuses primariy upon the word and grammar of texts and the ways in which they are understood.
Eisegesis: the interpretation of a text by reading into it, ones own ideas.
Is it possible to maintain unity in the Holy Spirit if there are differences of opinion or different interpretations of scripture?
It is possible to maintain unity in the Holy Spirit if Christians share the same doctrine, even if they do not share the same point of view on the interpretation of a teaching.
Depending on the Hermeneutic, (method of interpretation), two people can come to a different view on a passage of scripture.
James 3:1My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
There are great responsibilities on those that teach the Word of God. There are those in the body of Christ that are called to be teachers of the Word but according to the Bible, not all are called to be teachers.
1 Cor 12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
The Apostle Paul here is stating a fact, basically saying, not all are teachers, are they?
On these people who are called by God to teach, is the responsibility to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
2 Tim 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
It is imperative to avoid schism in the Body of believers. There must be unity in our doctrine.
Galatians 1:8-12 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
There are certain teachings in the Bible that are fundamental to the Christian faith, things that are necessary to maintain unity.
Such things as The divine origin and absolute reliability of the Bible, The Gospel of Salvation, (Sin, Separation, Regeneration by grace through faith and eternal life), The Virgin birth, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, The divinity of Christ, The Persons of the Godhead, (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) Heaven and Hell, The Resurrection of the dead, Eternal Heaven and Hell etc.
However, there are many differences on certain teachings in the Bible. Christian’s interpretations and opinions differ greatly depending on which denomination they are fellowshipping with. Or which Bible teachers they listen to, or which books, videos or commentaries they read.
Differences in fundamental doctrine do separate, whereas difference of interpretation and opinion should not separate.
1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1Jn 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
1Jn 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Where fundamental truth, (doctrine) is concerned, we can be dogmatic and indeed should be dogmatic.
However, where interpretation or opinion is concerned we should be open and ready to listen to others. It may be the case that we learn something new.
The Apostle Paul was quite clear on these things. There were things that he made clear about what was doctrine and things that he made clear about interpretation and opinion.
One example is when the Apostle Paul was addressing the church in Corinth on sexual matters.
Speaking to the church at Corinth on the subject of sexuality and marriage he gives his opinion, (sanctified opinion) and also command of God.
1Co 7:6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
1Co 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
1Co 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
1Co 7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
So, there are teachings that are fundamental and are not up for human interpretation, these are supported by the scriptures.
E.G. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to God except by Me”. John 14:6.
This is a doctrinal fact and there can be no other interpretation or opinion. It is the literal truth.
No one can interpret this statement any other way. Jesus is the only way to the Father. About this we can be dogmatic.
Then there are things that are up for discussion and maybe seen one way and someone else may see it differently.
For example, the timing of the rapture of the church or whether there are one, two, or three resurrections.
There are also differences of opinion on a pre, mid or post tribulation rapture of the church. Whether there is a literal millennial reign of Christ or an allegorical interpretation of the millennial reign.
However, both sides accept that there is, or will be a rapture and millennial kingdom. The teachings on the rapture or the millennium are generally accepted by both camps but the interpretation of these can be very different.
Where teaching comes in, it is expedient and safe to present all opinions and interpretations on these subjects. Otherwise, one could very easily find themselves in the position of having to apologise to the hearers at some future date when one finds that they have changed their opinion or interpretation.
When I was first converted, I fellowshipped at a church that believed in a pre tribulation pre millennial rapture. The church was predominantly Arminian or Molinist. The church was a Charismatic fellowship and was a church that practiced the Pentecostal gifts of the Holy Spirit.
This is what was taught in the meetings and studies, so I did not know any different.
I eventually left that church and began to study scripture apart from the influence of those teachers and through my studies came to a completely different understanding of such things.
I saw in scripture something completely different.
I saw that the scriptures taught a pre wrath, pre millennial rapture. I found that for me the scriptures revealed predestination, more in line with Calvinism rather than Arminianism.
I found that the Bible revealed a more Cessationist view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit rather than a Continuist view.
The Gospel message from the scriptures remained the same, salvation by grace through faith. The truths concerning the Divinity of Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the teachings on heaven and hell all remained the same. I found that the structure of a local fellowship was as I had been taught, the priesthood of ALL believers. The system of church government was local Bishops, Deacons and several ministries.
All the fundamental doctrines were as I had been taught, however the interpretations of certain teachings altered for me and I saw some things completely differently.
Was the church that I had just left a heretical church? Absolutely not.
It was a sound Bible based church filled with born again believers with sound Christian doctrine but with differing opinions on certain subjects.
I was in the position of having to back track on some of my opinions, realising that whilst my fundamental doctrine was sound, my interpretation and opinions had changed.
I now know that I cannot just accept what preachers or teachers of scripture say but I must be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Whenever I find myself in a position of sharing what I believe from scripture, I must realise that there are different opinions on a subject and make it quite clear that this is my personal opinion and that any listener must check it out for themselves.
The Apostle Paul challenged believers who said, “I am of Paul or I am of Apollos or I am of Peter”. He pointed out that Paul, Apollos or Peter did not die for us but it was Christ.
So, we are of Christ and we should work diligently to preserve unity in the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Although there may always be differences of opinion and interpretation on certain biblical subjects, truly born again believers are all part of the same body of Christ and we are exhorted to love one another.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 17:21-23 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me…
Often it appears that behaviour is more important than beliefs, in maintaining unity in the church. For example, in any church there are many different beliefs about such things as prophesy, healing, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Rapture, and the gifts of the Spirit, and yet there can be unity.
However, I could absolutely destroy this unity by my misbehaviour.
We occasionally hear about church splits, but very few can be traced to bad theology. But many church splits can be traced to behaviour. Therefore, Paul quickly and directly deals with behaviour and treats it as the main priority.
Paul begins with behaviour, because it has everything to do with
Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
In spite of all our opinions and differences, we can all be one.