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Gospel Centered, Doctrine Bounded

September 12, 2012

I am concerned that within the current generations of fundamentalism the lines of separation are being drawn in too far. The boundaries of separation are currently being defined by many based only on the doctrines of salvation. Other doctrines, because they are secondary to the gospel, are treated as important for function within a church, but not something which should separate churches or believers. Some have taken this logic to the point of accusing those who separate over non-gospel doctrines as being unloving and divisive. Of course, the issues directly impacting the gospel are the clearest and most important delineations between professing Christians.  However, the New Testament does not limit separation only to gospel issues. Romans 16:17 indicates separating from those who are teaching doctrines contrary to those taught in Romans. Besides the gospel (and its application to the believers life through sanctification) this also includes the application of the gifts, interpersonal relationships, response to government, personal purity, and unnecessary divisiveness over preference issues. Romans 16:17 shows a very clear line of separation to be drawn, removing oneself from teachers who are promoting doctrines opposed to those laid out by Paul in the Roman letter. The same line can be seen in Philippians 3:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 and Titus 3:10. All these passages indicate that we are to withdraw ourselves from those who are teaching a doctrine- not just gospel doctrine, but any doctrine- that is not in line with Biblical doctrine. Whether that doctrine be the cessation of Divine revelation or the means of sanctification, when the divergence from the Word is clear, there should be a clear division from the erroneous teacher.

This is not to suggest that we limit fellowship to only those who maintain the same practices as we do. Fellowship should not be cut off because of differing, but still modest, dress standards. This is also not to suggest that unclear doctrines be allowed to limit fellowship. Agreement on the nature of election should not be a standard to determine fellowship. This is to state that we should determine fellowship based on those doctrines which the Bible expresses clearly and which the Bible instructs we separate over. We must allow the Bible to teach us which doctrines determine our unity.

We must also recognize that not every limitation of fellowship is the equivalent of identifying someone as an apostate or liberal. 2 Thessalonians 3 commands that we remove ourselves from the erring brother, not treating him as an enemy- one who opposes the Gospel or who denies Christ- but as an erring brother who we desperately love and want to see walking in righteousness. We can limit fellowship without rancor and without the need to always identify the one in error as an apostate or liberal. We must allow God’s Word to set the standard of our fellowship.

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