An Open Letter

It is important for our fellowship in Jesus Christ, for the sake of unity in His one body, that we learn to practice kindness and tolerance in the area of derived opinions, which are not to be equated with what the Bible actually teaches. Derived opinions are points made by argument that may or may not be accurate, depending upon the validity of the logical process used to arrive at a particular conclusion. These positions must always remain open to debate, and should not be used as points of division. Kindness and love must help us continue our fellowship in the face of such points of disagreement, which are not a matter of "thus sayeth the Lord."

The tendency of some Christians to include derived opinions under the context of 2 John 9, and to refuse fellowship with all who do not agree with their opinions, is an unbiblical doctrine, no more than the teaching of men. While I do not question the sincerity of many who practice this heresy, I am convinced that it is very detrimental to the cause of Christ. The practice of calling men "faithful gospel preachers," because they adhere to the same opinions as the one who uses that designation, needs to be exposed for what it is, a method to enforce opinions that cannot be supported by the facts of the scriptures.

I call upon my brethren to find a different basis for unity than agreement on opinions as the rule of fellowship in our brotherhood. Unity is the work of the Holy Spirit resulting from our determination to be bound together in one body by the love of God, which is the bond of perfection. Under the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must support what the Bible teaches. But we must not become exalted in our estimation of the value of our personal opinions. The Holy Spirit revealed in the scriptures what is valuable and essential in agreement with the will of God, and according to the wisdom of God. We should learn to accept revelation on a more complete level, looking at the total revelation, rather than arguing about words and opinions. All that the Bible teaches is essential to complete understanding, and choosing one text as the basis for argument is not proper Bible study or Bible teaching. Diligently studying all that the Bible has to say on any topic is proper Bible study.

Therefore I ask you to help us move beyond this divisive argumentation that equates agreement on opinions with faithfulness to the scriptures. The restoration movement thrived on the basis of practicing love in all things, with an emphasis on giving up opinions in favor of "thus sayeth the Lord." Unfortunately, we have some in our fellowship today who seem to have formed a schism in the body based on enforcement of their derived opinions, which divisive practice goes against what the Bible actually teaches.

Paul instructed Timothy about the purpose of teaching and observing the commandments of God, 1 Tim 1:5-7 - "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." NASU

Unity in Christ results from our allowing the love of God and man to become the dominant principles in our lives. This includes the love of truth, which is not to be confused with the love of our own opinions. We should be concerned that we avoid falling into the same category as those who "turn aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of law, even though we do not understand either what we are saying, or the things about which we make such confident assertions."

Randolph Gonce, 276 Co Rd 56, Stevenson, AL 35772

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