“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
These words of Peter Meiderlin we quoted at the end of our discussion of these matters of spiritual sensitivity last time.
In themselves these words can stand and can even serve as the basis for an ecumenical movement. In essentials there must be unity. Where it does not exist, there can be no merger of churches. No church may possibly merge with a church that refuses to maintain essentials of doctrine. Where there is no unity of doctrine there can be no agreement on discipline and there can be no living and walking together. Then we say with Paul; “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”, II Corinthians 6:15b. In nonessentials there must be liberty. And nonessentials may never be the reason for separation and separate existence as churches. In all things there must be love, or else there will be no unity in essentials or liberty in nonessentials.
But we find in the world today so many denominations, sects and parties exactly because essentials have been classified as nonessentials and because the love of God is not exercised in all things. We can begin with at last element. Love in all things< sad to say, usually means a love toward man that reveals hatred towards God. Among men we must surely give the accused the benefit of the doubt when there is no clear cut evidence of his guilt. But we may never give man the benefit of the doubt over against God: We may never assume an attitude over against man that reveals an attitude of hatred against God. In all things there must be love; but that love must always be love toward God. Thus when men begin to call essential truths of Scripture nonessentials, we cannot and may not show love toward these departures from the truth, lest we show hatred towards the God Who is insulted by denials of the truth and by the freedom given to the lie and to evil practices. If we love God an8 are spiritually sensitive, it will hurt us to have God called a liar by man; and in love to God we will fight that false doctrine even though it means expulsion from the fellowship of a church and the disruption of organizational unity.
We often feel so sensitive about hurting the feelings of fellow men. And consider it an act lacking in love to say something that might offend them. And yet we can stand all manner of evil being said about our God. His Word can be distorted, theories map be expressed that make Him less wise and intelligent than man, philosophies are taught which make Him be dependent upon the creature that He sustains, and these things never bother us. In fact so spiritually insensible are some that they clamor for love to man in his works of hatred against God. That the glory of God that is due His name is denied does not bother them. To this they are sensible. But the poor feelings of man, his name, and his honor are the things concerning which they are so sensitive. That is not in His fear and is not the spiritual sensitivity of the man of God. That is of the flesh. “In all things, love,” indeed, but let it be the love of God.
When that is the case we will unite on the truth; and that truth is essential. The only proper basis of union, is on the truth of Scripture. And that means the whole truth. Union that pleases God is a union of defense for His Word. Never may one point of that truth be classified as a nonessential so that factions with different opinions in regard to this truth are given liberty to think as they will concerning it. Even if it can be proven that a philosophy, a theory of man’s mind, that is generally held by the denomination, is not a binding doctrine and is not considered an essential element of the faith of that church, one joining that church, in order to walk so that his principle is, in all things, love to God, must oppose that heresy, must fight against it with all the power and talent at his command. Those who do not intend to do that, before God have no business uniting with that church and ought rather to remain a separate church where they may show true love to God by maintaining His truth. In all things, love to God. And therefore in essentials, unity in love to God and in nonessentials, liberty in love to God. The great commandment is that we love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. But that love to the neighbor must not militate against that love to God. It must be a love to God and for His sake.
The sad situation today in the undenominational and ecumenical movements that have appeared is that they advocate in some essentials, unity, in others, liberality that in all things we may live in the love of man to man. Meanwhile God is insulted, His truth is not defended, the heretic is pampered and approved and in all things love to God is glaringly lacking. Fancy slogans are adopted: No Creed But Christ. Ay, yes but then let us have a union of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches once again! Both confess Christ. Let us call all the rest nonessentials and in all things live in love with one another.
That is not the word of God!
Turn, if you will to that “love chapter,” I Corinthians 13. We may read in verse 6, that charity or love, “Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth.” He who has that love of God in His heart will seek no affiliation with a church that shows hatred towards God by defending and approving iniquity and that rejoices in the lie. Such a one will not plead with such a church simply to declare these false doctrines and this support of wicked practices not binding for them; should they join. Instead such an one who loves God and in that love rejoices in righteousness and in the truth will call the church that maintains these wickednesses to repentance in the love of God. And he will maintain his own separate existence in his own church in order not to be guilty of giving liberality and freedom to the corruption of essentials.
And this is the point, men begin to seek merger with such churches when they lose their spiritual sensitivity. In one way or another they become dull of hearing, they become calloused to the lie and to sin, no longer feel its sting and therefore pounce on the words of Jesus, “That they may be one” to soothe yet what little speech there is of their consciences. But God is not mocked. And unless it is a unity in the essentials, unity in the truth in love to God, it is not a union in the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer but rather an act that militates against that very oneness of which Christ speaks. For it is a movement in the direction of worldliness and of the unity which for a time the anti-Christian kingdom shall achieve, a unity of a false love to man in all things.
Therefore we wish to set down a principle from Scripture concerning merger and affiliation with a church other than the one to which at the moment we belong: Unite with ether? only when the cause of the truth is thereby advanced; Continue to maintain separate existence when there is any danger of any one of the essential truths of Scripture being denied. Is that really a principle of Scripture? Indeed, for one passage alone would suffice to prove that. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?, II Corinthians 6:14, 15.
Of course, for it was written by one who loved God, whose principle was, In all things, love God. The believer who loves God will not want to be unequally yoked with one who denies Him in any point of doctrine. Together they cannot serve the cause of the truth. It is an unequal yoke; and one drop of poison in the water does not make the poison Jess poisonous, it makes the water polluted. Never mind seeking the good of the poison; be concerned with the pure water of life. That point of unbelief that remains when such a union is sought will not be swallowed up and will not be neutralized by your faith on this point. You will find yourself unequally yoked to that unbelief; and your faith will suffer. For your motive of such union is and must be wrong, for it is contrary to the text quoted above. Other texts can be quoted and the above text can be explored further. But let us consider yet briefly that oft-corrupted yet important text in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” It is the figment of man’s imagination that makes this the door of the heart, which is not mentioned anywhere in the text or context. The letter is sent to the church at Laodicea that has corrupted its way; and Christ will no longer be in that church or speak His blessing there. But He bas a few elect children there, who by virtue of that election are given to believe and to hear His voice. At the door of that church, which He will not enter (because He wrote II Cor. 6:14, 15 through Paul) Christ calls to these elect to come out and be a separate people to maintain His truth—which is no longer possible in that church at Laodicea, which is neither hot nor cold—and then He will come in to them in this new church and sup with them, and they with Him. Christ is not pleased with heresies and denials of the essential doctrines of the Scriptures. And He detests, therefore, all mergers that are hot motivated by the desire for the advancement of the cause of the truth. For that cause of the truth is His cause, for He is the way, the truth, and the life. He cannot approve of a merger that does not seek the good of His cause. And He will never bless it. And those whose spiritual senses are dulled to that extent that they seek merger for any reason that militates against the furtherance of the truth will find that they will become more and more dull of hearing and less and less, sensitive to the will of God, till they classify more and more of the essentials of the truth to be simply a matter of emphasis, and so nonessentials in which one ought to have liberty of thought; and more and more they will boast of love to man, while they walk in this hatred against God.
Merger of a church with another or affiliation of an individual with another church must always be a step forward. Never may it be backward. Always must it be for more enjoyment of the truth. Never may it be for more liberty and freedom of thought in regard to the essentials of the doctrine of Scripture. Always must it be to promote a more godly life. Never may it be consummated where the danger lurks that we and our children are encouraged to a more worldly life. Always must it be to strengthen and entourage the saints in the good fight of faith. Never may it be consummated where one has to lay down the weapons of this spiritual warfare in order to retain in the fellowship of and to retain the friendship and favor of these who have ceased the battle—to any degree whatsoever—and who let unrighteousness have free sway.
Union of churches and affiliation of members must be in His fear, and must be done, therefore, in the consciousness that it is before His face.