By RANDY WHITE, D.Min.
Founder and CEO
The doctrine that is the opposite of separation is the teaching of ecumenism. As we have seen in the opening posts, this involves the uniting of all professing Christians—regardless of doctrinal differences—into a single group for the purposes of worship or service. The danger is that a group such as this may be easily led into false teaching or unbiblical practice.
All around us we see examples of ecumenical ways of thinking—adapted for and implemented on the local church level. One is the trend among churches that remove the denominational labels from their names. The hope is that, in eliminating any reference to distinctions involving doctrine, the church will have a wider appeal to more people. Some have even gone to the point of thinking that the word “church” is offensive and have removed that from their names, as well. We have almost come to the place in the Christian world where we have eradicated any references that define us as believers. Sometimes the result is that a “church” settles on a name that is so nondescript that no one could reasonably be expected to know what it means.
The danger that ecumenism offers is summed up in 2 Timothy 2:16: “They will increase unto more ungodliness.”
We see this result in our culture—even in our Christian culture—today. There is no area of society, or even of the church, which appears to be increasing in godliness.
I actually believe that if we would define ourselves with sharper lines—more clearly in sectarian terms—godliness would increase.
By contrast, what will happen if we allow “profane and vain babblings” (v. 16) to continue unopposed? Two dreadful consequences: “Their word will eat as doth a canker (lit. gangrene)” (v. 17)—“and overthrow the faith of some” (v. 18).
How does this happen?
One of the two men responsible for this devastating result, Hymenaeus, was also mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20. Paul explained the error that was taught by him and Philetus, stating: “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already” (v. 18).
The term “erred” is a very strong word that carries the meaning of “rejection”—or really of “aiming away from the target.”
Where did Hymenaeus and Philetus go wrong in their teaching on the resurrection?
Remember that this is the Apostle Paul’s last book, so we realize that he is not speaking about the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which had obviously occurred in the past. Rather, the doctrinal error taught by these two men undermined the promise of future resurrection for individual believers in Christ—at the rapture and the second coming.
Does such a doctrinal distinction really matter? Could we not still worship together with people who hold a different view of the finer points of the resurrection?
We will begin with that question as we take up the fourth and final installment of this series.
(Read Part 4)
Copyright © 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the King James Version.