Part One of my article ended like this:
When we die with Christ, we put to death all of our usual sources of happiness and security: being accepted by our community, the need to be right, legalistic righteousness, and even sinless perfection.
Instead, we understand that knowing Christ is more important than temporary relationships (Matthew 10:34-39), being known by God is better than knowing things about God (1 Corinthians 8:1-3), imputed righteousness is far superior than anything we think we can earn (Romans 4:1-8), and acknowledging that we make mistakes frees us from guilt associated with those mistakes (1 John 1:6-10).Daniel Rogers (“Thoughts on Resurrection” 11-10-2020)
Yesterday, we spoke about how tethering ourselves to our community, or even one person, can hold us back from freedom in Christ (i.e. resurrection). Today, I’ll focus on the second item in the list: the need to be right.
This is probably my biggest struggle, and it is probably the thing holding me back from “attaining to the resurrection” in the personal sense that Paul speaks of in Philippians 3.
The need to be right is typically instilled within those who were raised within a culture which taught that being wrong was equivalent to being a false teacher, meant that you don’t teach the full counsel of God, and implied that you were dishonest, blind, and didn’t read the Bible with an open heart and open mind. Most likely, correct doctrine and legal obedience was emphasized over loving God and loving neighbor. Loving God, in these communities didn’t mean caring for the poor, loving the world God created, and loving yourself. Loving God meant attending church every Sunday and Wednesday, teaching the right things about worship, and holding to the correct “salvation-issue” doctrines.
What this view fails to take into account, however, is that nobody has perfect knowledge. That is an impossible requirement of someone. In fact, the New Testament never demands that we all speak the same exact doctrine or hold to the same interpretations of scripture.
Before we get to that passage, let’s talk a little more about resurrection.
Resurrection is passing from death to life. The death that I am speaking of is not physical death but separation from God.
Since, God is love, living a life of true love is resurrection life, face-to-face fellowship with God.
There are a couple of passages in the New Testament about knowledge and love:
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.1 Corinthians 8:1-3
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3
These two passages teach that having love for God and neighbor is far superior to having perfect knowledge. Knowledge, according to Paul, makes a person arrogant, and anyone who claims to have superior knowledge doesn’t know what is truly important: it is better to be known by God than to know facts about God.
Now, someone may say, “Well, Daniel, Paul isn’t talking about necessary doctrines like instrumental music and whether or not a woman can pass a communion tray standing up instead of sitting down, it is about non-essential issues. You know, Romans 14 issues.” (see afterword for my thoughts on salvation issues)
Let’s take a look, then!
Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.1 Corinthians 8:4–7
Paul is not talking about any old issue here. He is speaking of monotheism. Some of the Christians at Corinth were not sold on the idea of monotheism just yet. For them, there is one God, but because of their upbringing, “being accustomed to the idol,” it made it hard for them to grasp the concept of there only being one God. Instead of being monotheists, they practiced monolatry which is the worship of one God without the denial of existence of other gods.
Would the church today that emphasizes knowledge and splits over things like instruments, fellowship buildings, and number of cups be willing to fully accept someone into their congregation from a different background who has a belief in many gods but only serves one?
At this point, a flurry of verses gets copied and pasted to the comments section, so let me go ahead and post those for you:
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.1 Corinthians 1:10
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!Galatians 1:6–9
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.2 John 9
I know there is more, but these work as a good sample, and they are ones that I used, and have had used against me, to condemn other believers for not agreeing with me on certain doctrines.
Before we begin, there are many denominations within the church of Christ who all use these same passages to condemn one another. Please watch this wonderful video by Rick Achtley explaining this sad but fascinating phenomenon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfAAYuNqCs&
Alright, what does 1 Corinthians 1:10 mean by “that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you,” or, as I used to quote, “that you all speak the same thing” (KJV)?
Is this talking about doctrine or something else? You’ll notice that the same author who wrote this passage authored 1 Corinthians 8 as quoted above.
The answer to this is found in the next passage:
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?1 Corinthians 1:10–13
When Paul said they needed to agree and speak the same thing, he was speaking of their quarrels over who baptized them. Some were claiming superiority over the others because of who dipped them down into the water. He wanted them to all say, “I am of Christ.” He isn’t talking about Sunday school, missionary societies, instrumental music, or any of the other things the Church of Christ has split over. He’s talking about their allegiance to Christ. This is exactly what he explains to them again in 1 Corinthians 8.
If Paul thought they could have unity despite not seeing eye-to-eye on monotheism, how much more can we have unity without seeing eye-to-eye on how one worships, our view of the end times, and other typical causes for division?
Now, let’s go to Galatians 1. This, like the passage above, is made clear by reading a few verses ahead:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.Galatians 1:6–12
The gospel to which he refers is the gospel he preached to the Gentiles. They could follow Christ without keeping the Law or even being circumcised. This is the issue he is focused on throughout the book. He’s not concerned with your view of how the Holy Spirit indwells or how many song leaders you have (praise teams: four instead of one). He is worried that people will make the Gentiles feel like second-tier Christians because they aren’t circumcised.
Finally, we come to 2 John 9. Again, we must look at the context:
I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.2 John 4–11
The teaching he wants them to be united on is this: that they love one another and that they believe in Jesus. This is a similar passage to 1 John 2:3-4.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.1 John 2:3–4
The commandments are defined in the next chapter:
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.1 John 3:23–24
These two books, 1 and 2 John, are teaching the same thing. He isn’t concerned with all different types of doctrine. Reasonable, honest people reach different conclusions because of their background. He is urging them to be united in love and in Christ. If someone believes in Jesus and loves their neighbor, they are my brother or sister in Christ. We can work out the details later.
When we crucify the need to be right and trust that we are known by God, we experience true resurrection life. No more are we dependent upon ourselves for salvation but put all of our trust in God. If we were to appear before God in judgement and He were to ask us why we should live in His presence, we would not say, “I worship without instruments, I assemble when the doors are open, and I correctly interpret Revelation” (sounds a lot like Matthew 7:21-23, huh?) No. We would say, “Because of the mercy and great love that you demonstrated towards us in Jesus.” It is upon this knowledge, that God loves us and we are known by Him, that we have unity.
To end, notice this text from Paul:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
Many of us have spent our entire lives excluding people who have these qualities by coming up with all kinds of laws and conditions that Jesus never made an issue. When we relinquish the need to be right, we learn to have peace with others and ourselves. Bible study becomes something to enjoy, not something to keep us from going to Hell. Welcome to the resurrection!
Afterword: “Salvation Issues”
What doctrines are necessary? What is a salvation-issue?
The answer is all of them. All doctrines are necessary, and all doctrines are salvation issues. The problem is that we have a dualistic way of viewing salvation: you are either saved or not saved.
But salvation in the New Testament is spoken of progressively. Notice these texts:
and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.1 Corinthians 15:2, ESV
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and tremblingPhilippians 2:12, NASB95
who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.1 Peter 1:5
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”Luke 19:9
In these passages, salvation is seen as being a present reality, something that they were in process of receiving, and something that they would receive. Which is it? All of them are correct.
As Christians, we have “all spiritual blessings,” but we are not totally aware of all of those in our life. Some days one blessing may be more apparent than another. Salvation from this perspective is not about having versus not having it but about learning more about what has been true all along.
So, all doctrines are salvation issues because knowledge or lack thereof can change your perspective of God. To use Paul’s example, if I know that there is only one God, then I can eat anything regardless of whether or not it has been sacrificed to idols. At the same time, not having this knowledge isn’t going to damn ones soul, but it means that they do not have as much freedom in their lives as others.