The Essential/Non-Essential Doctrine Debacle
Unity is the Command that Produces Fellowship
There is a simple and beautiful OT text:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
As I stated in a previous article,
True fellowship is possible only in the presence of true unity. Therefore, the result of this is that fellowship and unity are not interchangeable terms!
Unity must logically precede fellowship; fellowship logically depends on unity.
In this article I present the Scriptural evidence that unity is the underlying principle of fellowship. Let’s therefore review what the Scripture says regarding true unity among believers. As you read these, please note both the “natural” condition of unity within the first disciples as well as the Lord’s command to be unified.
Unity was the initial, natural, expected and common experience of the early saints.
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.
At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico.
Unity is one condition when multiple believers are gathered for effective prayer.
"Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
Unity is both assumed and commanded.
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 13.11
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
1 Pet 3.8-9
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
The idea of unity is the foundation for the Apostle Paul's reasoning to the Corinthians in this well-known section:
1 Cor 12.12-13
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The futility of mutually-exclusive beliefs (ie., doctrine!) within the same body of Christ should be obvious to anyone who reads the Bible without preconceived, humanistic notions of "fellowship".
Division is inherently destructive.
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.”
1 Cor 1.10-13
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?
Now, attempt to reconcile the following utterly foolish, irresponsible statements expressed by so many within current, conservative evangelical "churches":
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, charity.”
"Agree to disagree."
Each of these statements is an attempt to justify the theological carelessness and indifference which is endemic to most churches. Moreover, both statements assume that the lack of complete theological unity in the name of fellowship is acceptable to the LORD.
It is not!
There will be division when those who believe the Word oppose those who don't.
In the following article, I detail how sometimes the presence of disunity has a cleansing effect on the error and biblical distortion that invariably creeps into the assembly. Such error should be identified and challenged by those who are able to do so.