“In all things, love.” –I Corinthians 16:14
That’s one test of a believer and a mighty important one it is. Our Lord said it is the mark of a disciple. (John 13:34-35)
Look for the love. Otherwise, you know this one with whom you are discussing scriptures and doctrines is no follower of Jesus.
The cultist you’re talking religion to across the table or across the continent feels no need to love you since he/she has decided you are not a follower of Jesus since you disagree with their doctrine. I’ve sat at a table with a Jehovah’s Witness who was brutal and mean-spirited and who may as well have thought of me as a child-molester by the scoffing and belittling he was dishing out. (I was a younger pastor, and had not learned that there comes a time when it’s all right to say, “This meeting is over,” and walk out.)
But while love is the first mark of the believer, there’s another test for determining whether the person across the table is an honest seeker.
Ask them to cite a verse that troubles them because it seems to contradict a doctrine they believe.
Here is mine….
In our previous article about discussing (or debating) religion, I cited a verse that does not seem to agree with a doctrine I hold dearly. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
The passage says as clearly as possible that this individual has been born again and truly came in to the family of God, and yet if they fall away–and it definitely states it as a possibility–they cannot be saved a second time. All of that is as clear as anything in the Word. (I’ve read a dozen commentaries on this and know the arguments and explanations. But none are satisfactory. Sorry, if you do not agree.)
The reason that passage troubles me is because I believe John 10:28-29. “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” This promise is consistent with the Lord’s teachings. Over and over Jesus spoke of eternal life for believers, the saved becoming children of God, that we will never perish, etc etc. Scripture says we are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Our salvation is secure, eternal, and guaranteed.
So, what am I to do with Hebrews 6:4-6? My answer is to leave it as an open question. I have no answer for it, although the overwhelming testimony of the New Testament seems to say something otherwise. And I’m fine with leaving this as an open-ended question, one for which I have no answer.
Only the immature and lazy among us cannot abide a mystery, that is, something he/she does not understand. Which, if you stop and think about it, should be an amazing thing, since life is filled with mysteries and those who know their Scripture will always have questions for which they have no answers. And it’s perfectly fine. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Now, let’s hear yours….
Here’s one for a particular group among us.
If I were a Mormon who truly and sincerely wanted to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and honor His word, I would have a huge problem with Galatians chapter 1. In verse 8, we read: “Even though we or an angel from heaven bring any other gospel unto you than what I have brought to you, let him be accursed.” The entire LDS religion goes back to an appearance of an angel to Joseph Smith. Then…
The question for the sincere Mormon, based on Galatians 1:8, is: “Okay, then did the angel from heaven bring a different gospel from what Paul preached?” The good news is we have the gospel which Paul preached. It’s the book of Romans. The Epistle to the Romans is the best explanation of the message which the Apostle Paul preached up and down the Roman Empire. We are not in the dark about that. And no one who is honest can claim (as some groups are wont to do) that it was translated wrongly. (That, incidentally, is a cop-out for any group that does not want to deal with the plain truth of Scripture. By saying it was mistranslated, they can put their own spin upon it. The Jehovah’s Witness people grew tired of claiming this, so they published their own translation of Scripture, one in which they made the Word say exactly what they wanted it to say. No honest Greek scholar would pay a dime for a JW Bible. It is a corruption.)
So, the “sincere Mormon,” one who wants to know the will of God and do it, is driven to read Romans and then compare with what he/she is taught by all the doctrines of the LDS church, few of which line up with the Gospel Paul preached.
So, what’s your verse? The one that troubles you because it doesn’t seem to agree with what you believe the rest of Scripture teaches?
If you say there is none, then we know you are not honest and can end the discussion at that point.
Every group has its Achilles’ heel. God set it up that way, in my opinion. As we’ve stated elsewhere, instead of this being a weakness, it ends up being one of the strengths of the faith since it proves beyond all question that no little group of church leaders sat down and wrote or tweaked or whatever the Holy Scriptures. Had they done so, they would have taken out the hard places. But they’re still there. And we can be eternally grateful for that.
If I were a member of the Church of Christ–the denomination which refuses to call itself a denomination; the group which teaches baptism is an essential part of the act of salvation–I would have a huge problem with I Corinthians 1:17. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” This is from the same apostle who gave us Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe….” Baptism is a lot of things, but it is not a requirement for salvation. (We believe it to be the first act of obedience following one’s profession of faith.)
If I were a member of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination, I would have a problem with Colossians 2:16-17. “Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
And what are we to do when we find Scriptures that do not agree with what we believe the Bible teaches?
We are to stay on our knees and stay in the Word.
We should ask ourselves, “What is the overall and consistent teaching of Scripture?”
And we should leave room in our theology for questions for which we have yet to find answers. Because they will always exist until the time comes when “we know even as also we are known” (I Corinthians 13:12).