Never! That’s the answer that we all would like to be able to give to the above question. After all, what good can come out of our disagreements? This may surprise you, but there are actually many good things that can come out of our disagreements when we handle them biblically.
This past Sunday, part of my sermon lent itself to a brief discussion of eschatology (or the doctrine of the end times). As I preached that section of my sermon, I stated that eschatology was a third-tier doctrinal discussion. First-tier issues are those doctrines that we must agree upon to be considered Christians; doctrines like the authority of Scripture, justification by faith, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the full deity and humanity of Christ, and the trinity of the godhead.
Second-tier issues are those doctrines that we must share agreement on to be in church fellowship with one another; in other words, you can still be considered “Christian” if you don’t agree on these things, but they are clear biblical teachings over which we join or separate fellowship with one another. These doctrines include believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, church discipline, perseverance of the saints, election, church polity, and other similar doctrines.
Third-tier issues are doctrines where there is difficulty discerning a single, clear biblical interpretation or doctrines where Scripture allows for freedom of our preferences. At this level, we can have disagreement yet still have church unity and fellowship with one another. Such doctrines include millennial views in eschatology, worship styles, church structures, and methodologies of church ministry.
Now, back to the subject of my Sunday sermon, I stated in my sermon that disagreement at this level of third-tier issues is “good,” and I wanted to clarify my meaning at this point. I was not saying that disagreement in and of itself is good. Having disagreement with brothers and sisters in Christ over any matter of Scriptural teaching is a result of sin being in the world and limiting the understanding of our minds and hearts. Sadly, our post-modern culture says that such disagreements and differences in perspective over the idea of “truth” are acceptable and even valuable. Such an idea is completely contrary to Scripture and to the Person of Christ who has told us that He Himself is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
What is good is what can come out of our disagreements when we handle them biblically. The first good thing is a more faithful study of Scripture. When we disagree with another believer over a matter of Scriptural teaching, it should turn us into Bereans. Acts 17:11 says that when Paul and Silas preached at Berea, the people there received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to make sure that what they were hearing was the truth. Any disagreement between believers should lead us to do likewise. The basis of our fellowship is the gospel of Christ and the Spirit of Christ, and that spirit of love is what should drive us to intense study, that we may strive together to discern the truth of God’s Word which is our ultimate authority.
A second good thing that can come out of our disagreements is humility. You all know as well as I how quickly we can boast in our own knowledge, how quickly we can become prideful and puffed up in our viewpoints. In 1 Cor 8:1, Paul wrote, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” We can be arrogant about a certain doctrinal position, arrogant about our traditions, arrogant about our worship preferences, and even arrogant about our piety. In such cases, having brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us (or confront us!) and who take us to the truth of Scripture is a good thing. Thus, God will often put people in our lives who will disagree with us so that we may be brought down from our position of boasting to a position of humility in our understanding.
A third good thing that can come out of our disagreements is dependence upon and rest in our sovereign, omniscient God. In Scripture, God has given us everything we need for salvation, sanctification, and exaltation. He has not told us everything we want to know, but He has told us absolutely everything we need to know. So when it comes to matters that God has not revealed, or something that He has not revealed with the specificity we would prefer, we must trust and rest in Him rather than turning human conjecture into doctrinal dogma. Logic and reason that is based upon Scriptural truth may lead us to a certain position, but we must be very cautious of speaking in absolutes where Scripture has not spoken in absolutes. Only God has perfect knowledge, and it is only by His grace that we know and understand anything of spiritual significance.
Remember these pertinent truths next time you find yourself disagreeing with your spouse, your parents, your co-workers, your neighbors, or your fellow church members. God has made us all different and has given us to one another not as an exercise of frustration, but as an exercise of edification and accountability; so that iron can sharpen iron. I love you all dearly!