Servants' News

Mar/Apr 2001

Doctrinal or Spiritual Unity?

By Tommy Willis


Some may not consider this a “Bible Study” article because it does not cover technical or complex aspects of the Scripture. Yet, it is the Bible and needs to be read because these things are declared to be most important by Scripture and are not understood by some Bible students.

Knowledge unapplied can easily turn to vanity. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1Cor 8:1).

When God says, “Great peace have those who love Your law” (Ps 119:165), it does not mean those who just know the principles and doctrines of the Bible intellectually; but it means to have a closeness with the Prince of Peace. “He Himself is our peace” (Eph 2:14).

As our knowledge of God grows, fear will be decreased (1Jn 4:18). Think of the fear that has been there among many of the Churches of God over the past decade with all the scattering—few have been at peace as they should be.

We need to cease disputing and spend more time in fruitful searching for God. He says: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). Isn’t that the bottom line? What has been wrong? Wouldn’t finding God give us the closeness and unity that Paul said we should have in Philippians 2:2? If more of us were following the lead of God’s Spirit wouldn’t more of us be of one mind as the above scripture commands that we be?

But we have put knowing about the Bible above coming to let the Word lead us to build a personal relationship with the Living Word. It is not enough to know doctrine—if that’s all we have then we become like the Pharisees preaching the Ten Commandments.

Many things will have to change in the Churches of God if He is going to have us walk with the closeness to Him that we should have.

Barriers are broken down as we get to know God. We then allow one another the freedom to function and disagree with respect. Instead of being dogmatic about our beliefs we keep an open mind and do not push our ways on others. Those who would continue to learn before God cannot afford to have pride: God resists the proud heart (Jms 4:6).

There are oceans of ink on pages that tell us about the Bible; but it is not enough to know about God, we must come to know Him personally. For the nourishment necessary we need to receive the spiritual portion of the Bible, not just the physical part. But many think doctrine in itself is sufficient. Notice what Paul says:

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:16-19).

As believers we are identified with Royalty—only a righteous being can come into the presence of the Father. And two brethren who may believe different about some doctrine, but are of one mind about the blood of Jesus Christ and have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ, are both spotless in God’s sight (John 1:7). Hebrews 10:19 and 4:16 tell us that because of the blood of Jesus Christ we have access to the throne room of God. You are spotless in Christ and His shed blood—if you had one spot on you then you couldn’t approach the Father’s throne room. This means the babe in Christ and the mature believer are equally as spotless in God’s sight. The babe in Christ may be sinning more in their condition than the mature believer—but their heavenly position is just as spotless!

Now ask yourself—what doctrine is it that one doesn’t understand that will keep them from coming into the throne room of God? If the disagreeing believers disagree over some doctrine but both have truly repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ shed blood then they are under the blood of Jesus Christ—then both are able to approach the Father with the righteousness of Christ. But this is where we often go astray—we think we become more righteous if we are more “doctrinally pure”. And I am not trying to say the doctrines are not important, because they are (Matt 4:4). We often have the right doctrines (so did the Pharisees), but like the Pharisees we often fail to see the importance of building up a personal relationship with God.

Too often we get into a religious spirit, but without a growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ all we have is religious activity. And this fans the flames of our own righteousness. Paul said he had more reason to boast of righteousness than anyone else (Phil 3:4). He went on to describe all that he did right (vv 5-7). But he concluded this:

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil 3:8-12).

As stated above, knowledge that is unapplied can easily turn to vanity. We can become a spectator of life and not a doer of the Word (Jms 1:22).

We have often praised the doctrine we preached above the living God. And all too often we have had doctrinal unity but not spiritual unity.

Just look at the revelation God gives us with being able to come before His throne room because of the blood of Jesus Christ—there’s no arguing over doctrine here—just pure revelation. Wouldn’t this give us more unity if we centered on this fact even though we are of different opinions on certain doctrine?

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