Is Agreeing Important?
When using the scriptures to show God’s authority, or the lack thereof, for some act or practice, it has been my experience that people often become annoyed and usually want to completely stop discussing whatever the subject. To bring a close to the conversation and let it be known they don’t wish to continue the discussion, they often say, "Well, that’s just the way you see. We can’t all agree on everything. Some things are just too hard to understand. We just have to do what we each feel is right." I even had a friend once say while discussing the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, "Well we can agree to disagree on that. I don’t think that should keep us from fellowshipping". Agreeing to disagree is the basis of a false and absurd doctrine often referred to as "unity in diversity", which teaches we can somehow be united while all believing differently concerning God’s word. Try meshing this teaching with Jesus’ prayer in John 17:11,20-21 and with Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians in I Cor. 1:10 and you’ll see why its false and absurd. It seems that agreeing on the teaching found within God’s written word simply isn’t important to many people. Since we supposedly "can’t all agree on everything" there is no real need to try to do so, right? Let’s just all agree upon disagreeing and we’ll all get to Heaven. We’ll just take different routes. Is this indeed true? Is agreeing important or can we all just believe the way we desire and be pleasing to God?
First let us examine the statement "We can’t all agree on everything". Is this really true? Why can’t we agree? Isn’t this exactly what Jesus was praying for and what Paul was pleading to the Corinthians concerning in the above mentioned verses. In John 8:31-36, Jesus told those that believed on Him that if they continued in His word that they would know the truth and the truth would make them free from sin. What is truth? The word that they were to continue in, God’s word (v. 28), was truth according to Jesus. In John 17:17 we again find it specifically stated that God’s word is truth. So by the very fact that there is truth, there must be error or false beliefs, doctrines, and concepts. Concerning God’s word/truth, Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16, that "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Since it is God’s word/truth that thoroughly furnishes unto all good works and makes one free from sin why can’t we agree on its meaning? Jesus very plainly said that if we continue in his word we would know the truth. Now certainly there are things contained in God’s word that "are hard to be understood" (2 Pet. 3:16), but does this mean they can’t be understood and understood alike? Are we saying that the omnipotent and just God of the universe that created all things couldn’t or didn’t create a book containing His word that we could all understand and that alike? Is this "non-understandable" word still going to judge us in the last day (John 12:48)? I, for one, do not intend to make such statements or even imply such. However, when we make statements such as, “We can’t all agree", we are boldly inferring just that!
There is a growing push toward not "overly" concerning ourselves with trying to know and agree on the truth but instead just making sure our hearts are right and we are sincere in what we believe and teach. Certainly having the right kind of heart and being sincere in our beliefs and teachings is critically important (Mt. 5:8; 13:15; 15:19). If our hearts are not right and we are not sincere, why would we even have beliefs or care enough to teach them? Having the right kind of heart and being sincere is but the first step in knowing and agreeing on the truth. Even though, many men are leading others away from the truth and telling them that our interpretation of the Bible and therefore how we establish Bible authority has very little to do with our salvation, instead it is our hearts that matter. This kind of doctrine breeds disagreement in its followers and teaches that it is okay as long as we are each sincere. While indeed this may seem to be a warm and fuzzy doctrine that no doubt brings great comfort to many who are practicing and living in sin while sincerely believing they are living godly lives, it is false and will cause many to lose their eternal soul. We read that the first century Christians "were of one heart" (Acts 4:32). How can we possibly be of one heart if we all don’t believe the scriptures alike?
How we interpret the scriptures and how we establish Bible authority for all that we do as Christians is of utmost importance. And, therefore agreeing is of utmost importance as well. Our souls depend on it because we will be judged by God’s word (John 12:48). We are told that whatever we do "in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17). How can we do something in someone’s name for which they gave us no authority? The apostle Paul said in 2 Tim 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." What a preacher says, what our loved ones believe, nor what we sincerely but mistakenly thought the Bible said is going to approve us before God. It is study that will approve us unto God. It was those at Berea who where more noble than those at Thessalonica because "they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Recall from John 8 that it is Christ’s word/truth that shall makes us free, but only on the condition that we continue in it (v.31). This is how we learn or know God’s will. This is how we are freed from our sins. This is how we agree on God’s word and become of "one mind" (Rom. 15,16; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8). We must continue in the scriptures that are by God’s inspiration and that thoroughly furnish us. We must have a sincere, open and receptive heart and study God’s word in light of it (Acts 8:30-35).
Disagreement, at its root, is the result of man’s will conflicting with God’s will. Whether we admit it or not, it starts as man’s desire to do something for which God’s word has given no authorization. Thus men go about twisting and perverting scripture, lifting it from its context to prove their positions (2 Pet. 3:16). Or perhaps sometimes they even seek to "find" authority through some other means than the Bible (the Pope, church creeds, etc), or maybe they just all together do away with the need for authority (at least in their own minds) and let their heart be their guide. After all, it is to them a "sincere" effort to serve God, even though it is as they so desire and not necessarily as God would have it. Then disagreement comes full circle when someone questions someone else’s actions or practices based on scripture or perhaps sometimes even their own false belief. As we can see, the problem is that we let our desires and wishes take precedence over God’s desires and wishes. God certainly has desires and wishes (I Tim 2:4). The pages of His word are filled with His will for man and give “us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3).
Sadly, there is not an easily executed solution to resolve disagreement. Yet, just to avoid discussing it and take comfort that we are somehow pleasing to God when we mutually agree to disagree is a terrible mistake. It is a mistake that will lead to more division and more souls being lost. As before stated, it requires sincere and continual study of God’s word to "know the truth" (John 8:31). It means studying the Bible to establish God’s will, not searching the Bible in an effort to prove our own (Acts 17:11). This involves putting aside our emotions. This is never a simple task when the beliefs that we may hold so strongly and feel so deeply about come under attack. Yet, it has to be done to see and accept the truth. Was it easy for the children of Israel to see and accept the truth? Certainly not, they killed the Messiah and many others whom taught the truth (Acts 2:36; 7:54-58). Was it easy for Saul/Paul to see and accept the truth? Apparently it wasn’t because it took Christ’s appearing unto Him while on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians to change his life (Acts 9:1-3). Was Paul sincere in his persecuting of Christians? Did he think he was doing God’s will? Unquestionably he did and even said so (Acts 22:3-5). Did his sincerity make it right and justify him before God? Certainly it did not. It may seem that it would be much easier for us today to see, accept, and agree on the truth if we had a personal encounter with Christ as Paul, but keep in mind we don’t need that. We, unlike Paul, have God’s inspired word in its entirety and neatly contained in one bound book at our disposal (I Cor. 13:12; 2 Tim 3:16,17). It’s just a matter of actually using it. Let’s earnestly use it and learn the truth so that we can all agree in our beliefs. It is vitally important because God’s truth is absolute. It does not change in meaning depending upon the person, neither the situation, nor from generation to generation (2 Pet. 1:20; Psa. 100:5). If you and I each hold to a different belief it means that at least one of the beliefs is erroneous. So let us search the scriptures to insure that our belief is indeed truth and then hold fast to it (Prov. 23:23). —Ruben Hall