When brothers separate themselves from one another, a difference in doctrinal belief(s) is often cited as the reason. It is unfortunate when on occasion someone refers to such difference as preaching “another gospel”. Where it is written that we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, it ought be apparent that our beliefs undergo change by God’s design, until the day we fully embrace all the Truth that is God’s Son. How is it then that we are supposed to agree on doctrine, when God is actively changing us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, our whole life long?
What is the “gospel” then? It means “Good News!” and was first announced by the angels, the night the Savior was born. It is written:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news (Greek: euaggelizō; “the gospel”) of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)
There you have it, the Gospel: it is Christ Jesus the Lord, our Savior. He alone is The Way, The Truth, The Life. There is NO other name under heaven by which men may be saved. Only the Savior, the Son of God, saves.
What then is “another gospel?” The apostle Paul wrote about “another gospel” in his letters to the Romans and Galatians, which concerned the Judaizers who preached Jesus AND circumcision. In doing so, they preached a lesser Jesus, who accomplished everything necessary for salvation, EXCEPT circumcision. Thus the Jesus of the Judaizers was weak and insufficient, His atoning sacrifice LESS than perfect and complete! To preach “another gospel” is to preach “another Jesus”; either a lesser Jesus or a different Jesus altogether.
Brothers and sisters, there is NO “and” in the Gospel of Jesus, unless of course it is Jesus AND ONLY Jesus! In order to prove the complete sufficiency of His Son, the Father has set before us a Narrow Path (link) which is designed to force us to cast off our EVERY “and”, to enter into the Kingdom through Jesus alone, who is the only door.
Accordingly, every believer should give sober consideration to the relative importance of doctrine to salvation, in light of what Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 3. In that passage, Paul counts everything he had attained before encountering Jesus, his grasp and practice of the Law, his persecution of those who did not follow the Law, as but “dung”*, except for the knowing of Christ Jesus.
… I count all things but loss … and do count them but dung*, that I may win Christ, and be found in him … that I may know him … (Philippians 3:8-10 KJV) *Greek: skubalon; Translation: odure, dung.
So are doctrinal differences justifiable cause for separation of brothers, when Jesus’ desire for us is unity (John 17:20-23)? Consider well that Jesus admits people into His Father’s Kingdom based solely upon whether or not He has known them (Matthew 7:23). There is no litmus test of doctrine to enter in. There is only knowing and being known by Jesus.
It is well to remember the fate of Adam and Eve. While walking and talking together with God in the garden, they beheld all the beauty of God’s unified creation. It was the enemy, in tempting them to turn their focus from God, unity with God, each other and with all of God’s creation, to focus instead on the one thing in the garden that was different from all the rest; that deadly “forbidden fruit”, of which they ate and were instantly separated from God and each other. There’s a lesson there, albeit a subtle one; the enemy convinced Adam and Eve that the one thing that was different, was “good”, even better than the rest; that the different thing was something to cherish, lay hold of and take into themselves. Adam and Eve believed the lie and brought separation and death to all of us. We have been counting our differences ever since.
How is it then, that those of us who believe in and follow Christ, who desires oneness with us for Himself and for us, are STILL obsessing over and cleaving to our differences, when doing so only causes us to separate one from another and bring death and dismemberment to the body of Christ on earth? Isn’t it time the brethren simply embraced what we have in common: that is Yeshua, the Messiah, our Savior, in whom we are made one?
Authors note: Since the path we follow is a narrow one and few find it, it is a delightful blessing when we are able to walk with a brother or sister, for a time, even a season. But eventually the path narrows and forces us to continue on, alone, single-file. When recently I experienced such separation, I was initially sad and hurt. But then the Spirit spoke to me a word of correction and comfort; when Peter demanded to know how John would die, Jesus said “Peter, what is it to you what I do with John? You follow ME!”
Yes Lord! I will follow, as I know my brother and sister are following You, too.
You see, in this world, sometimes the seasons of our planting separate us, as do our assignments. One sews, another reaps and though they work the same field, they are separated by the seasons, the one for planting, the other for harvest. Separation is something that only occurs “under heaven”. So it is not true in the Spirit that we are separated; only in the body are we separated. The truth of the matter is, by virtue of being IN the Lord, we are one, still.
Truly, you are loved and my prayers are with you. Shalom.