I recently read a sermon by John Piper that seems to follow quite nicely the themes of last week’s posts on judgement. His scripture passage was Romans 16:17-20.
He started by saying that some people focus on truth and others focus on unity. Those who focus on unity may be more willing to overlook the truth, or in my view, to even question what truth is, in order to keep the peace. It might seem arrogant to insist that you are right and someone else is wrong, especially in this era when it is so popular to believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and there is no absolute truth. Some people believe that the only way to have peace, or unity, is for everyone to accept the beliefs of everyone else. The term usually used for this is ‘tolerance’.
Piper feels that we should be able to have truth, he used the term purity, and unity together, and that we should have purity for the sake of unity. Romans 16:17 tells us that we need to avoid people who cause divisions. You might wonder if by avoiding them we too are causing divisions. But Paul requires us to be united based on truth, the essential truth of Scripture. There are some things discussed in the Bible that we have choice over, and some things that are part of sound doctrine. The way to be able to tell the difference between these two, which is the subject of much doctrinal debate I might add, is to know the Scriptures and to be led by the Holy Spirit.
This passage must also be addressed in light of other verses in the Bible. We need to love our enemies, (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27) and we need to share the good news of Jesus with everyone. (Mark 16:15) Paul was not advocating that we have no contact at all with those who believe differently, but that our contact makes it clear that if you claim to be a Christian and do not live according to the sound doctrine of the Bible, then we cannot continue to have the same kind of relationship.
False teachers are smooth talkers. They make their point of view sound logical, or loving, accepting of everyone. Their goal is to win you away, so they will do it with flattery, with kind and enticing words. (Romans 16:18) But beware, false teachers do not have your best interests at heart; they serve their own appetites. Knowing what the Bible teaches and being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit will give you the tools to have the discernment you need.
If you would like to read or hear John Piper's sermon, you will find it here.