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July 7, 2010


Ecclesiastical Separation, Part 3

Recognize the difference

We must recognize the difference between heresy and error. We treat neither lightly, but we do not presume to treat brothers in Christ with whom we disagree about non-fundamentals the same way we separate ourselves from those who eviscerate the Gospel by denying its fundamental truths. Paul was very clear: There is to be no love lost with people who are perverting the Gospel and sending people to hell by their teaching. We do not have to be unkind, but those who pretend to be Christians yet are deceiving people about what is required for salvation, are to be anathema to us.

On the other hand, when we consider a brother who agrees with us about the fundamental truths of the Gospel, yet differs on other areas, we are not faced with heresy that leads unsuspecting souls into hell. Error is not heresy. I am fully convinced the Bible teaches what I believe and practice, but a brother’s tradition may differ. One day he may discover he was mistaken, but honestly so, or we may discover we both were mistaken.

My attitude toward him must not be like the attitude I hold toward a teacher of heresy. We must be discerning about the difference between error and heresy, and we must be careful to not use inflammatory terms about those with whom we only disagree on non-fundamentals. If we are confronting heresy, then we say “heretic” without hesitation. Error, however, is like a child getting a question wrong on a math quiz; another child who knew the right answer shouldn’t abuse him for being in error. The attitude of Ecclesiastical Separation is every bit as important as the doctrine’s substance. With heretics, there is no compromise. We turn them over to God; we certainly don’t preach with them. Our attitude about non-fundamental disagreements, however, must be entirely different.

Romans 14:1-10 is most helpful on this point. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (v.5b) The believer in error is not my servant, but another’s: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” (v.4) Not only is he another’s servant, but he also is my brother: “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (v.10) Paul clearly identifies the brother in error as “weak in the faith” but exhorts us to receive him, as long as he is not one determined to engage us in “doubtful disputations.” (v.1) Indeed, an argumentative spirit – whether it is mine or another’s – is a sign of carnality. Paul admonished the church at Corinth that the strife and divisions among them were evidence that they were walking as men, rather than following the example of Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 3:3)

  1. Brad Gilbert
    Jul 7 2010

    I think you put it into good terms that are easily understood by attacking it from the angle of heresy and error. Looking forward to the rest of the post.

  2. admin
    Jul 7 2010

    Thanks Brad. The last post of the 5 is the most practical. The upcoming post (post 4) will take a more historic look at Ecclesiastical separation. Blessings.

  3. Daniel Riddick
    Jul 7 2010

    Clay, These are great thoughts. I wish, as ifb churches, we could hold other areas of our theology in such high regard as we do ecclesiastical separation. I believe the Gospel comes into amazing clarity when an unbelieving world sees who we are; not who or what we are not.

  4. admin
    Jul 7 2010

    Thanks Daniel. Would love to see the next in the blog series you guys were working on. Blessings

  5. Jul 7 2010

    “Indeed, an argumentative spirit – whether it is mine or another’s – is a sign of carnality.”

    This is a great reminder, thanks! Disposition is important, as well as position.

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