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Aug302019

The Weekly Encourager – August 30, 2019 – Theological Disagreements Among Believers

What happens when you have a difference of opinion? Well, that’s easy if you’re discussing ice cream flavors, but what if it’s a theological issue being discussed among brothers and sisters in Christ?

A Bible study group I’m in has chosen to study the book of Revelation this year, starting next week. Understandably, this is a courageous move. I know mature godly ministers who are reluctant to preach/teach on this book, due to all the confusing content. Revelation is filled with fantastic events and images, but are they past, present, or future? Is every image to be taken wholly literally since the Bible is inerrant, or are some things symbolic since Jesus often speaks in parables? If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you know that there are many different interpretations of the same passages of Scripture.

One of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to study Revelation before is that I didn’t feel I was mature enough in Christ. Well, I’m 62 years old now, and I shouldn’t be shying away from studying a book that promises a blessing to its hearers. If not now, when? All Scripture is profitable, and I need to profit from whatever God says in that book. It’s a gift from God that I want to open and enjoy! I’m not going to leave a Christmas gift forgotten under the tree. The second reason is that discussing it can lead to divisive arguments rather than uplifting encouragement; however, the book we’re using as a study guide seems designed to use Revelation to worship God. The author focuses on what unites us rather than on what can divide us. The third thing that gives me confidence in studying Revelation now is that I believe this particular group of women will be thoughtful and kind to one another as we go.

That said, before our study begins, I’m taking the opportunity to read up on various viewpoints, so I’ll be prepared when we get to the relevant passages. With such a complicated book of the Bible, I don’t expect everyone to agree 100% on everything in it. I’m not even sure yet what I believe about some of it. I am going to approach this book prayerfully, engaging both mind and heart, before coming to conclusions about difficult passages.

This is the approach I recommend when having theological debates with other believers. Before you start, pray together! Recognize that you are speaking with those for whom Christ died. Make love your highest aim, not winning an argument. Let the fruit of the Spirit be seen in abundance. No yelling! Listen carefully to alternate points of view – you just might learn something. Lovingly accept brothers in Christ who differ.

Also, be able to defend your view from Scripture alone, not just from church tradition. Yes, we rightly respect those in authority over us, but we also test everything that they say according to the Bible, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). It’s not enough to say that Pastor A or Professor B or Elder C or Teacher D told you so. A wise teacher can give us a good place to start, but then we must do our own research. In the end, each person is called to follow Christ.

Our attitude must be one of humility, always willing to be corrected in future. Consider the other as more important than yourself. Never let disagreement destroy unity, for that would not honor Christ. Of course you can quietly try to convince others that your view is correct, but you do so with patience, tenderness, and respect. You are sensitive to appropriate time and place, as well as the age, condition, and relative position of the other party. Godly men and women are strong but gentle, confident but careful. A mature Christian knows that he won’t need to bang the truth into people’s heads. The truth will speak for itself if you are in the Spirit. Those who speak by the Spirit obey the two great commandments: love God and love one another.

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” - I Timothy 1:5

Just some thoughts. As usual, I welcome your comments.

God is faithful,
j

 

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