As God’s church approaches the celebration of the birth of God’s Son I’m reminded of the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Sadly many of God’s churches are not experiencing the fullness of the Prince of Peace. In fact they would confess if they were honest that what they are living is the exact opposite of peace. I spoke with a Pastor’s wife this week who wept as she described the way the enemy had destroyed their church through conflict and quarreling over doctrine.
If we want to experience the true peace of Christ this holiday may we follow these powerful biblical principles for resolving conflicts within God’s family.
Quarreling over doctrine can be one of the most useful weapons in the arsenal of the enemy to bring down even the strongest churches. In Titus 2:1 we are encouraged, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” The first question we need to as is, “Are we teaching or allowing anyone to teach false doctrine?”
In 2 Timothy 4:3 Paul write to Timothy, “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.” The second question we need to ask is, “Are people subverting the gospel, or twisting Scripture in an effort to justify sin?
In these two passages we are warned both not to teach bad doctrine and to beware of those who twist the Scriptures in an effort to suit, or justify their own sinful behaviors.
If this is happening at your church God’s word directs us how to respond. Galatians 6:1a, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
I’m going to be blunt here. If your motivation and method in resolving doctrinal differences in your church are not gentle restoration you are not acting in accordance with Scripture.
The Apostle Paul also speaks of those who have differing opinions or interpretations of doctrines. He warns us not to quarrel over them and to avoid petty controversy, as seen in the next two passages. Romans 14:1-4 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
2 Timothy 2:14 AMP Remind the people of these facts, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God to avoid petty controversy over words, which does no good, and [upsets and undermines and] ruins [the faith of] those who listen.
Further we are called to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
When dealing with conflict in the church it is vital we keep this principal in mind. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” God’s plan is always redemption, and the enemies plan is always destruction. The question we need to ask ourselves is this, “Are my actions and attitude leading to redemption or destruction?” “Are my actions and attitude summed up with the words from Scripture such as, ‘Quarreling, passing judgment, and petty controversy’, or are you ‘eager to maintain unity and peace?’”
When dealing with doctrinal issues within the church the key questions you need to ask yourself are these:
1. In the current situation do we have anyone teaching that which is not in accord with sound doctrine? If you asked them not to teach a particular belief they have that is contrary with the teaching of the church or denomination have they complied with that request?
2. In the current situation do we have anyone who is misusing the Bible as is spoken of in 2 Timothy 4:3 where people twisted the scriptures in an effort to pervert the gospel or justify sin?
3. Is the heart of the church to restore that individual in a spirit of gentleness as commanded in Scripture?
4. Are we really just quarreling over opinions with one who is weaker in the faith as we are commanded not to do in Romans 14:1?
5. Are we passing judgment on God’s servants as we are warned against in Romans 14:4?
6. Are we avoiding petty controversy over words as commanded in 2 Timothy 2:14?
7. Are we eager to maintain the spirit of unity and the bond of peace as is commanded in Ephesians 4:3?
8. The Bible says the enemy came to destroy and He came to redeem; are my actions and attitude leading to redemption or destruction?
Answering these 8 questions will help you enter into the redemption God has in store for you!
God’s best blessings! Pastor Brian H. Fontaine