Question:

I have some questions regarding your response about unity and such. You said:

“Unity for unity sake alone is not acceptable. Unity can only exist when everyone is living according the one and only standard -- God's word. Disunity happens because we don't always live up to the standard, but while people are trying their best to mold their lives to conform to God's will, then harmony and fellowship results.”

What if both sides of the issue wholeheartedly believe they are trying their best to conform to God’s will despite there being only one truth to the teaching on divorce and remarriage? 

How do I keep unity with my congregation that has a different view on divorce and remarriage?

In II Timothy 2:23-26, what does it mean by “God giving them repentance”? Does this mean repentance can only come from God or does this mean something else?

You said:

"Chapters, such as Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, and I Corinthians 10 deal with how to relate with one another while those differences are being resolved."

With Romans 14, how does this chapter relate to issues, such as divorce and remarriage, where there are commands from God, but different interpretations rather than the issue of eating meat which is not commanded against in the new covenant?

These issues discussed in these verses talk about things that aren’t commanded by God universally or in the New Testament, how would I relate these passages to the issue of divorce and remarriage or even baptism where there are commands that are more specific to the New Testament or universally?

You said,

“Of course, there are going to be times when a person insists on staying in his sin or insists on teaching false doctrine. At this point it no longer becomes a matter of helping others grow, it is plain false teaching. "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple"

What if the people are the elders and a minister, and that their intentions are not to cause division by their beliefs, as is the case in my congregation? Am I called to avoid these people, and also the entire congregation if the teaching persists?

It seems to me that my congregation, or at least a majority of the congregation at least tolerates if not believes in this different teaching on divorce and remarriage. What does that mean for me and my part in persuading them of the truth? 

You said,

“God understands our hardships. What He wants from us is our best effort. Even though our best effort will never be good enough, we have faith in God that He will forgive us and welcome us home.”

What if those who believe in the different teachings on divorce and remarriage claim to be following with the above mindset where they are giving their best effort to God? Will God still accept those that live this way? I think it may be the case that both sides in my congregation have this mindset.


Answer:

If you ask people on the street if they will go to heaven when they die, about 80% will tell you, "yes" even though they are actively doing sinful things and will admit it. It is human nature to think the best of ourselves. Thus it is more rare to find someone teaching a false doctrine knowing it is false. Most false teachers sincerely believe they are in the right. Sincerity is not the issue because people can be sincerely wrong. Paul is an example, he said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1), yet there was a time when he persecuted the church.

Therefore, unity can only be promoted by encouraging everyone to follow what the Scriptures teach. You won't find everyone willing to listen, but you do what you can. Until unity is reach, you have to decide if their differing belief will cause you to act against your faith. If it doesn't impact you directly, then you can stay and teach truth as the opportunity arises. If it does, then see if you can find a congregation that is closer to the truth.

What sometimes happens is that you try to teach the truth, but others reject it and they don't want you around. When that happens, you just move on. You did the best you could.

The idea of "God giving them repentance" is that you pray that God grants them the opportunity to repent. God doesn't make a person repent, if that were true, then everyone would since, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

Even in the topic of eating meat, God did give a command. He stated several times that eating meat is acceptable. What you had were some Christians with different interpretations of when it was acceptable. The ones teaching avoiding meat were wrong, but their erroneous belief did not cause them to act in a sinful manner. To chose to be a vegetarian is not a sin, but to force others to be vegetarians or to tell others it is a sin to eat meat was sinful. A good example is the war issue. Some believe it is wrong to take up arms of any sort, others recognize that you can be a soldier or a policeman and a Christian at the same time. The pacifists are wrong in that they are binding what God has not said, but their choice for themselves does not lead them to wrong action. But to condemn a brother for following what God has allowed is wrong.

On the other side, those who recognize what God has allowed can still worship with those who have a wrong view on an issue so long as that wrong view is not being pushed. Paul says they are not allowed to pick fights or constantly debate those who are weaker in their understanding of God's laws. In other words there must be chance for people to grow. Thus the one with better understand doesn't force the issue by putting the weaker person in a position of having to go against his beliefs, wrong as they might be. For example, it would be impolite to invite a pacifist brother to a soldier's boot camp graduation ceremony.

In the various issues of marriage and divorce, there are certain positions I can co-exist with without problems on my part. For example, some believe that any divorce is wrong, period. I know that the position isn't support by the Scriptures, yet there is nothing wrong with a brother ruling out divorce completely from his married life. There are other positions I cannot accept. For instance, a person who claims his marriage is acceptable because he was baptize after entering an adulterous marriage. He is living in adultery from my understanding of the Scriptures and I cannot worship with an adulterer or those who accept adultery in their midst. I would move on.

There was a short time that I went to a congregation that thought it was acceptable to use the Lord's money for supporting institutions. I asked if it was actually being done. They said, "no" because they were too small of a group and had no extra funds. So I attended there for a while because there was no mismanagement of the funds at the moment. I didn't contribute there because of their attitude; instead choosing to send my contributions to a congregation with a better view of what God had taught. But in the meantime I had brethren I could worship with without compromising my beliefs. And the time I had there gave me a chance to study with people about this issue.

If I ran across a congregation that believe baptism fixed up an adulterous marriage in some way, my first question would be whether there actual cases of it among the members or was it just something talked about in theory. If it was the later and there wasn't a better choice nearby, I would probably stay and try to persuade the people out of the false belief as best I could. Otherwise, I would move on. Life's too short to spend a lot of time banging up against the brick walls of "set in their ways" beliefs.

How God will judge in the end is in His hands. "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (Romans 14:22). I strongly suspect there are many who are going to be surprised that God isn't as tolerant of sin as they are. But I'm content to let God handle the matter. Meanwhile, I try my hardest to live according to God's teachings and to teach others to do the same. "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences" (II Corinthians 5:9-11).

"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).