False teachings: Unity Vs Purity

Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth

Romans 16:17–20

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I recall talking to a wise leader of a large missions organization about doctrinal faithfulness. He said something to this effect, “It’s crucial. And so is unity. Some people emphasize one, and some the other. Our organization is made of two kinds of people: purity boys and unity boys.” The unity boys naturally emphasize the preciousness of personal relationships and tend to neglect an emphasis on truth. The purity boys naturally emphasize the preciousness of truth and tend to neglect the nurture of personal relationships.

In fact, you could probably categorize people and churches and denominations and institutions and movements in the evangelical church today (or even in society in general) along these lines: There are those who emphasize doctrinal purity, and there are those that emphasize relational unity.
Loving People and Loving Truth

I hope you are feeling uncomfortable with that description. A good impulse inside of you would be saying right now: “Do we have to choose? Can’t it be both? Can’t you love truth and love people?” In fact, it would be an even more biblical impulse if you found yourself thinking, “I don’t even think you can love people if you don’t love truth. How can you do what is ultimately good for people if you don’t have any strong convictions about what is ultimately good?”

And yet there is no escaping the reality that people and churches and denominations and schools and even whole periods in history lean one way or the other. I think the period of history we live in is not an easy time to be a lover of truth. The most common criticism, if you stand for an important truth and imply by that stand that others should believe it, is that you are arrogant, which is the opposite of being loving (1 Corinthians 13:4), and therefore you are undermining relationships.

For many thoughtful people today the only path to peaceful relationships in a pluralistic world is the path of no truth that deserves assent from everyone. It seems on the face of it to make sense. If no one claims that what he believes deserves assent from anyone else, then we can live together in peace. Right? So peaceful pluralism and diminished truth claims go hand in hand.

But it doesn’t work like that. When there is no truth that deserves assent from everybody, the only arbiter in our competing desires is power. Where truth doesn’t define what’s right, might makes right. And where might makes right, weak people pay with their lives. When the universal claim of truth disappears, what you get is not peaceful pluralism or loving relationships; what you get is concentration camps and gulags.

Pastor John Piper

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