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Pointers along the way #110

Doctrines, doctrines
- Jacob Ninan

A lot of quarrels among the people of God are because of differences in doctrines. One interprets a verse in one way, and another in another way. That is enough for people to stop talking to each other, leave churches, break fellowship, start new churches, etc. But think about it. Can any two people on earth see all things exactly in the same way, and can they agree on every point of doctrine? No!

Now doctrines are important. We can't accept just any doctrine. If someone brings a heresy, we must reject him, and not even give him greetings (Tit.3:10;2Jn.1:7-10). This is for our safety and his rebuke, because it is our doctrines, or what we hold as teachings from the scriptures, that give us direction for our lives.

But there are doctrines and doctrines. Not all of them are equally important as far as our life is concerned. If you and I differ on the meaning of 666, that is not going to decide which one of us is more spiritual. This doctrine has its value, but it is not so important that you and I should part our ways because we disagree about it.

OK, but what about doctrines that have immediate practical applications? Can we afford to disagree about them? One man believes in celebrating special days in honour of the Lord, and another man thinks that all days are equally important (Ro.14:5). One man thinks it is wrong to eat pork, and another enjoys it. What about the way a church meeting (or service - see the difference) is to be held? How often should we have the Lord's table (Lord's supper, holy communion, breaking of bread!)? Should women be allowed to preach? Who should be baptised, who should baptise them, how should they be baptised? Etc.

My question is, can we ever find someone who agrees with us on every one of such doctrines? Perhaps in places where there seems to be a semblance of agreement people are not encouraged to think for themselves or allowed to express their opinions!

Obviously our fellowship cannot be based on agreement over all doctrines. If God has accepted you and me and made us both His children, with all our differences in doctrines, shouldn't we accept each other as a brother or sister in Christ? (Ro.15:7). Then what are those doctrines that we have to have as minimum on which we need to agree? The answer seems to be obvious - those doctrines that are related to God's nature and character, and our relationship with God as His children.

Can we agree to disagree on lesser aspects of doctrine without being disagreeable about it? Of course it is not that we don't have strong convictions about some of them (Ro.14:22). But let us give the others freedom to be different from us and yet accept them in the same way that God has accepted them.