November 7, 2007

Heart to Heart: How Do I Respond to the “Crossless” Gospel? Part 2

In the previous article we took a brief look at the word “mark” as it appears in our theme passage Romans 16:17. In Philippians 3:17 the same word “mark” appears, but in an entirely different context.

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example,” (Philippians 3:17).

In the Philippians passage Paul instructs believers to be “followers” of those who set the proper example. Paul instructs the believers to “mark” those who by their life demonstrate what biblical Christianity is and then to imitate those persons. In this usage of the word, “mark” believers are to scrutinize spiritual men and women and imitate them. This is the positive side of marking for the purpose of identifying and imitating the pattern of godly men and women. Paul could set the kind of example to imitate, not many can today. In Philippians 3:17 Paul refers to more than just himself. From other passages we might conclude that Paul had in mind Timothy and Epaphroditus who also set that pattern to be imitated.

In Romans 16:17, however, the usage of “mark” indicates that believers are to scrutinize doctrine and “avoid” those who are found to be teaching “contrary” doctrine. Therefore, there is a positive and negative side when we are commanded to “mark.” The positive side is for identifying and imitating the pattern of godly Christians. The negative side is for avoiding those who cause “divisions” and “offences” through the teaching of “contrary” doctrine.

Dr. Mark Minnick continues on the imperative of dealing with doctrinal error, which leads to divisions among believers:

“When people are converted and receive a love of the truth, they are baptized into a body that has an inherent organic unity. Jesus Christ prayed in John 17 for a unity that came to pass at Pentecost. And every person who is baptized into Christ is in union. The unity is God and Spirit created. There is no unity to be created, the unity is there. It is only a unity that is to be maintained. Those who teach contrary to the body of revealed truth that is the center of this unity, they are the ones who create the divisions and create the stumbling blocks.”1
Crossless Gospel” advocates use orthodox terms to teach as truth that which is antithetical to Scripture. Although in many areas of doctrine those who hold to the “Crossless Gospel” are fundamental and orthodox, but error is error, and the “Crossless Gospel” is “contrary” to the biblical doctrine of the Gospel.

The issue becomes what our biblical obligation is, in fidelity to God's Word, toward any teacher of false doctrine. The Scriptures instruct and mandate how we are to respond to those who teach contrary doctrine: admonish a brother, and expose the one who brings the false doctrine.

“Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

We must realize that there are consequences to contradicting the Bible’s clear commands. Difficult as it may be to “mark” and “avoid” the teachers of false doctrine, ignoring the biblical command because of a personal friendship or cost involved will result in consequences. In other words, ignoring those who teach false doctrine opens the door for divisions to be created in the church, maybe even in your church. Such divisions damage the natural unity of the church.

Many pastors are teetering on the brink of the “agree to disagree” philosophy when it comes to the tough choices regarding those who teach the “Crossless Gospel.” The following appeared in the Calvary Contender:

“Doctrinal differences necessitate division. However, it is not those who separate who cause the division, but those whose doctrine or behavior necessitates the separation (2/00 FrontLine). The Fundamentalist (who, by definition, practices Biblical separation) does not cause division between believers. Divisions are caused by the brother who does not hold to sound doctrine (e.g., separation), and the Lord requires separation from that errant brother (2/00 Foundation). The Fundamentalist thus is forced to choose between the fellowship of light (obey God, I John 1:7) and the fellowship of darkness (disobey God, Eph. 5:11). It is not unloving for the Fundamentalist to choose light over darkness, God over a disobedient brother. The disobedient brother by not practicing separation (abiding in light) is the one who is unloving (1 John 2:10) and the one who causes division. If he loved his Fundamentalist brother he would abide in the light.”2
Many a Christian has made a shipwreck of his walk with God for not having turned aside from false teachers. Once you make friendship and personality the test of orthodoxy and fellowship, you have set foot on the slippery slope of compromise. Growing numbers of Christians are willing to minimize the importance of doctrine for the sake of unity. When a man betrays the Scriptures for the sake of friendship and unity, he is no friend of the Bible or believers. Separating from and marking the teachers of false, “contrary” doctrine, i.e. the “Crossless Gospel,” sets a proper example of true Bible Christianity for believers who have been raised in an atmosphere that is not easily discriminated from the type of compromise found in political circles.

I would like to offer this expanded translation of Romans 16:17: “Now brethren, I strongly urge you to look at, to fix your eyes upon those who produce and author divisions and stumbling blocks contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and I command you to continually shun, avoid, turn aside, and deviate from them.”

Avoiding a man is synonymous with separating from him.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The word separate in 2 Corinthians 6:17 is (aphorizo). It means “to mark off from others by boundaries, to limit, to separate.” In the negative sense, to separate is to depart from and exclude. In the positive sense, it is to appoint or set apart for some purpose. In the negative, a man is avoided and separated from to set him apart so that others will also avoid him. In the positive sense it is an act of dedication to God. We set ourselves apart from the man so that we will not be turned aside or stumble over the false teaching.

In the next article we will look further into the biblical mandate in regard to brethren who are teaching “contrary” doctrine commonly known as the “Crossless Gospel.”


1. Mark Minnick, The Scriptural Response To Teachers of Doctrinal Error, a sermon recorded November, 1997 at the Mid-America Conference on Preaching.
2. Calvary Contender, March 1, 2000.

Please proceed to Part 3 of the series, How Do I Address False Teaching From the Brethren?

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