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The Basis of Separation- Doctrine

February 14, 2011

Since the gospel is the boundary of our fellowship, and since we must place a premium on fellowship with those who hold to the gospel, then the matter of what actions or doctrines deny the gospel becomes of utmost of importance.   Withing the spectrum of evangelicalism-fundamentalism there are many who profess to hold to the gospel who are treated as deniers of the gospel by others.  One emphasizes the Lordship of Christ in salvation and he is called a heretic.  Another denies the need of repentance and he is labeled a preacher of a false gospel.  One has contemporary bands playing in the church service and he is called a liberal compromiser.  Another demands preachers wear white shirts and ties and he is called a legalistic pharisee.  Yet, many of these who have been labeled in one derogatory form or another have also clearly attested to an unwavering conviction to the basic gospel message.

At what point then does our disagreement over points within our understanding of the gospel become a barrier of separation across which we cannot cooperate?  In my estimation, the answer lies in two places.  First, the clarity of Scriptures upon a particular topic and second the impact of a belief on ones communication of the gospel.  On the first point, there are some matters related to the gospel that are clear within the text.  The perfect Divinity and humanity of Christ is one such point.  While it is not clear how this was accomplished, the Bible is clear that Christ was fully God and fully man and completely perfect as both God and man.  One cannot deny the perfection, full Divinity or full humanity of Christ without ultimately denying the gospel itself.  However, election is a far less clear matter.  One may believe that election was individual before the foundation of the world and another may believe that election was national and only in relation to Israel.   Scriptures teach election, but there is enough ambiguity and our finite fallen mind is sufficiently inept, that one can deny anothers view of election without necessarily denying the gospel message.

However, when one preaches a doctrine concerning the gospel that is clearly different from that preached in the Bible, then we not only can separate, we are commanded to separate.  Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”  In the book of 1 John we are commanded, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.”  (Free, modern day application- don’t watch TBN) When one’s doctrines of the gospel distorts the true Gospel, we are commanded by God to separate from that one- even if they profess to believe the same gospel we do.

Follow up question:
Are you saying that we only separate from someone when they are preaching a false gospel?

Absolutely not.  The Bible clearly commands us to separate from individuals based on reasons other than a false gospel message.  When we separate from disobedient brethren, we still do so because of the gospel.  In future articles I will attempt to explain that further.  So far, what I am saying is that we by default extend fellowship to someone professing Christ until they show they are in fact holding to a false gospel.  There is much more that needs to be said on this topic before we come anywhere close to considering all that the Bible teaches.
-Dave

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