Every church is at every time in danger. Every church is in danger of disruption and disunity when Christian turns on Christian or Christian turns away from Christian. In Paul’s letter to Titus he offers four sources of discord and warns us to avoid them (“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”). Here, for your consideration, are four sources of disunity that may just exist in your church.
Foolish Controversies. God calls us to avoid foolish controversies. It’s not that we need to shy away from engaging in all controversy but that we must not become enamored with foolish ones. Foolish controversies are those that arise when we speculate about the truth rather than depend on what God has clearly declared to be true. According to 1 Timothy 6:3, such controversies end up breeding envy, dissension, slander, and other ugly fruit. This is theology that obsesses with molehills while overlooking the mountains. We need to be careful not to succumb to such controversial silliness and perhaps not even bother engaging it lest we end up wasting precious time.
Genealogies. According to George Knight, genealogies are “speculations about the origins and descendants of persons which are erroneously thought to have religious significance.” This is coming up with novel interpretations of genealogies and perhaps even fabricating allegorical interpretations of them. It is reading far too much into simple lists of names. While this may not be a major source of conflict today, we might broaden it to include the kind of speculative theology through which we take things that are outside of the Bible and give them both the authority and prominence of the Bible. This always breeds division because instead of being unified over matters of first importance, we become divided over matters of personal preference.
Dissensions. Dissension is strife, it’s contention, it’s an argument that leads to a falling out, it’s selfishness instead of love. It’s getting into squabbles over matters of faith and doctrine whether they are big or small, major or minor. It’s thinking the worst of people instead of the best, permitting division instead of pursuing agreement. It’s a broad category that includes all kinds of pointless disagreements.
Quarrels about the law. These are your classic Bible fights, your squabbles about the extent of the law in the Christian life. In Paul’s context he is writing about the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant and the transformation in issues such as sabbath and dietary restrictions. He teaches that when we encounter such issues, each of us will give an account to God and, therefore, each of us must be convinced in our own mind. Then he insists that we refuse to despise or pass judgment on those who come to other conclusions. Whatever the case, we must avoid division over such issues. We can discuss them, but we must not separate over them.
Each of these is a waste of time. Each of these is an unfitting pursuit for the Christian. Each of these threatens to undermine the unity of the church and the love between believers. As MacArthur says, “Arguing theology, doctrine, or morality with those who distort or disregard God’s Word is unavoidably fruitless.”
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