Several weeks ago, I immensely enjoyed sitting in a Sunday morning class that Kevin Cauley taught. Within the overall framework of the theme of “Denominational Doctrines,” his topic that day was on “Denominational Doctrines about Denominationalism.” As such, he covered such common ones as, “Belief in Jesus alone is sufficient to have fellowship with other denominations,” “Attend the church of your choice,” “We are all going to the same place, but on different paths” and such like. As he was covering this fundamental and edifying material, I thought of a few important things that may help us whenever we handle Biblical discussions with others.
First, the presentation of truth will silence those who practice falsely. As such, we must always remember that the power is not in any innate ability of the arguer, but in the presentation of truth itself. Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Jesus stated to those Jews who believed on him, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32), to which he later clarified in prayer to his Father, “…thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Remember that as effective as the apostle Paul was, even he conceded, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God…And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Corinthians 2:1, 4). Thus, truth itself will conquer all who follow error. The power is in the message of truth and not necessarily in the messenger. Whenever Jesus spoke truth, he always silenced his critics (cf. Matthew 22:46).
Second, not everyone will accept the truth. We set ourselves up for discouragement and failure if we think that everyone will accept the truth. Sometimes, I believe our zeal may get carried away into thinking that if we do not convert everyone, we have failed. Such is simply not the case. As perfect as Jesus himself was, even he did not convert everyone: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to becomes the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12). Just as many of the Jewish leaders of his day would simply not let go of their preconceived religious ideas and traditions (cf. Matthew 15:1-9), many of those steeped in denominationalism simply will not uproot themselves from similar circumstances, even upon presentation of the simple truth. Our job/purpose is not to convert everyone, but to share the good news of the gospel with everyone (cf. Mark 16:15)—those who gladly receive it will convert, and those who refuse will refuse. Indeed, the promise of the Bible will sadly be true: “…for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13).
Finally, let us remember as we conduct Biblical discussions with non-Christians that our focus is to address the heart and not simply to win an argument. Sometimes brethren seem self-satisfied to have made an argument for the sake of the argument rather than the proper pursuit—reaching the heart of a non-believer. The Pharisees toiled tirelessly at making arguments with Jesus, much less among themselves. The lawyers loved to debate about which was the greatest commandment within the Law of Moses (cf. Matthew 22:36). Yet, Jesus was not simply trying to prove a point with his teachings—he was trying to reach the hearts of his hearers, and it saddened him deeply whenever his hearers would not respond appropriately (cf. Mark 10:21). Members listened to a sermon that a wise preacher preached and responded, “Preacher, you sure hit my toes today,” to which the wise preacher stated, “I was not aiming for your toes—I was aiming for your heart!”