“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:19-23

The unity of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) is not just a requirement; it’s a treasure. It’s a treasure that guides us in our conformity to the teachings of the New Testament. It’s a non-negotiable. However, for some, there are loopholes in the system—contingencies of the rule—allowances for our cause. Unfortunately, many, if not all, of these are flawed in and of themselves as they result from their feelings of opposition instead of a proper understanding of doctrine. In many cases, I have encountered the two getting mixed up to the point that one may not know the difference between them. They have somehow unified the two, making them indistinguishable from one another, thus driving a person to believe they are the same when they are two different things. 

Let’s define each one to help us understand the difference before we go further. 

  1. Feelings of Opposition: The way we feel when someone or something opposes our belief system, traditions, or ways of thinking
  2. Proper Understanding of Doctrine: Understanding the Bible’s teachings on the laws of God in their purest form. To see Scripture for what it is and not through a paradigm or traditional way of thinking. 

Let’s consider the positives and the negatives regarding our feelings of opposition. In a positive light, We can find new perspectives and challenges to our beliefs, see growth, and progress through these opposing arguments. These are what make us stronger; our differing opinions are what make us smarter; our different ways of thinking make us sufficient to the point that we can excel in all that we are doing because those differing thoughts and possibilities are all things that can make us better. Differing perspectives can shed light; other thought processes can bring new possibilities, and various experiences can teach. When all of these find the ability to line up with biblical teaching, wonderful things can happen. So, from this perspective, opposition can be a good thing.

From a negative perspective, we understand that nobody likes to be opposed in their argument, or at least many people don’t. We generally like other people to agree with where we are and the stances we take; however, life doesn’t always work out that way. But if it did, would it be so great? If everybody always agreed, would we be any further in life than we were 1000 years ago? The problem many face is simple: because we do not like to be opposed, we often raise our arms in disbelief that anyone would disagree. Many people have taken upon the idea that they are the only ones who are right, and how dare anyone stand against their way of thinking? Of course, there is a sense of sinful pride that takes place here. This is when the blood pressure rises, conversations begin to get heated, and relationships begin to get damaged. From this perspective, opposition can be a bad thing.

Our feelings of opposition are different from a proper understanding of doctrine, and these two things should be separate—not mixed, not confused, not tangled together. These are two different things. Why? Because feelings and biblical doctrines are two separate things, and when we begin to get them confused, we begin to act and speak in ways that we should not on things that we should not and create a recipe for division. As you may have heard someone say before, feelings are unstable and can change from moment to moment and day to day, but the teachings of God will always remain the same. Therefore, it is crucial for us to strive for a deep understanding of these teachings to ensure we are not led astray by our emotions.  

Does this apply to drawing lines of fellowship? Of course, it does. However, when these lines are drawn solely based on differences, it can lead to division and hinder the church’s unity. This is a situation we should strive to avoid. 

In an article written by Scott Trettenero entitled “Why We Are So Divided,”  he wrote: 

It is no secret that human beings are divided in the way they think, feel, and act. These divisions often lead to conflicts with our inability to resolve our differences in an effective manner. A common human problem we face is that conflict easily and readily appears when someone’s values are the exact opposite of someone else’s. 

He hit the nail on the head, didn’t he? That “conflict readily appears when someone’s values are the exact opposite of someone else’s.” After all, that is what tends to happen when everything blows up in your face. When someone opposes something I value, I protect what I value, which could be some tradition from the past in the Church. Maybe it is that we have bible classes before worship, meet at five o’clock, partake of the Lord’s Supper before the lesson, have a Christmas party each year, use nothing but the songbooks, or only have the King James Bible in the pews of our auditoriums. Often, when a person begins to challenge the traditional ways of a group, we tend to protect what is either precious or comfortable to us. 

But what happens when that same challenge comes to our belief in scripture? What most we call biblical teaching. Does the same thing apply here? It does. As a result of doctrinal teaching, many of us hold dear and value a number of things. Such as…

  • The necessity of baptism for salvation…Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:21
  • The non-use of instruments in worship…Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15
  • The partaking of the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week…Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 16:2; cf. Jn. 20:19-29

Do we have scriptural backing for each of these doctrines? Yes, we do, as we have provided here. So when someone begins to challenge us on such issues, where do we go? We go directly to God’s Word, which shows us its importance and verifies Christ’s commands. 

However, here is what I have found. We sometimes treat certain traditions as if they were doctrines. Does this surprise us? Probably not; it was identified long before I began writing this article. We often call this “binding where God has not bound, which includes things like. 

  • Sunday and Wednesday night services
  • Wearing a suit and tie on Sunday morning
  • Our order of worship

For each of these, scripture does not identify one thing or another regarding our meeting times, what to wear, or the order of our worship service. However, here is what we know. 

  1. It is always good to meet as the Lord’s Church to study, worship, and think about godly things…Mt. 18:20; Acts 2:42,46; cf. Mt. 6:33; Col. 3:1-2 (Note: as we are also under the care and observance of our shepherds/leadership, we are equally to abide by their instruction to meet and not forsake the assembly in that process)
  2. If we are trying to mold ourselves into the early church, as many preach (including myself), then we are most definitely wearing the wrong thing. None of them wore suits and ties, jeans, dresses, shorts, or anything that we may see in our Church buildings. We would be wearing the dress of that day. 
  3. The Bible does not teach the order in which things are to be done in worship; it teaches what IS TO BE DONE IN worship. Nothing more. 

These are things that are fought about, mainly because of a challenge that has taken place that threatens the traditional ways and values of a person who has done something for so long. Is it inherently wrong to do something that has been done for many years? If it is not against scripture, the answer is no. Does it mean that there is not a better way of doing things? No, there are several things that we could be doing better and need to be doing better at. It is when these things are challenged that problems can begin to occur. 

But how about when doctrinal things are brought into the picture? What then!? Here is what I have also found regarding doctrinal things. To ensure we are all on the same page, the word doctrine comes from a place such as 1 Timothy 4:6, which states, 

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

The word doctrine comes from διδασκαλία (didaskalia) and means the act of teaching, teaching, or instruction.  So, when we talk about the doctrines of the Bible, we are talking about the teachings of the Bible. 

There seem to be at least three types of people regarding conflict within the Church especially. 

  1. People who draw lines of fellowship based on true biblical DOCTRINE, such as baptism being necessary for salvation. 
  2. People who draw lines of fellowship over their OPINION OF A DOCTRINE who mainly rely on sayings such as, “This says to me” or “I think,” rather than simply accepting the context of the teaching 
  3. People who draw lines of fellowship over OPINION itself, saying, “I don’t like that,” or “You should have done this differently.”

Now, is there a problem with any of these? That is a good question. Drawing lines of fellowship over Matters of Opinion is the most common among our divisions. In second place, but possibly the most damaging, are the Opinions on Doctrines that cast a dark shade upon the Church itself. What is in last place is the actual Doctrine itself. Why is that? Unfortunately, I believe it is because we have a growing number of people who aren’t studying to know what the Bible says on any particular subject but choose to get involved in arguments they should not be in. Taking the side of someone they know or love, regardless if that person is right or wrong on the subject matter. 

At some point, we must be reminded that we have been called to be of the same mind as Christ (Phil. 2), NOT with each other. We were never called to agree on everything we wanted; we have been called to submit to His desire. This has been the cause of such problems. People who say, “They are not like-minded with us,” draw lines of fellowship over just about any subject they want, doctrinally or not. However, there is a significant problem with this. One that cannot be overlooked if we say that we care about doctrine. 

In Philippians 2:3-7, the apostle Paul wrote, 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

The phrase of importance here is that we “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” This seems to the point. I mean, who are we to conform to? Who are we to walk with? Who are we to act like? Who are we to love like? When it comes to the Bible’s New Testament teachings (doctrines), all of these questions must be asked. 

When someone says, “We are all to be like-minded,” what do they mean by that? In many cases, the most likely definition is that we are“in agreement with each other” or “you are to agree with me.” The problem, however, is not that we need to agree; it is with whom we agree.

Have you ever been in a class and asked a question by the teacher that you did not know the answer to and asked a friend you trusted what the answer was only to find out that when you said it, your answer was wrong? I have. Here is the point. If we desperately need to agree with one another and be like-minded, the questions must be asked: What if you are wrong? What does that make us, then? It makes us like-mindedly wrong. I don’t want that! 

In this letter, Paul demonstrates that we are not to be like-minded with each other but rather to be like-minded with Jesus. Therefore, if you are like-minded with Jesus, and I am like-minded with Jesus, that accomplishes our desires. We are, at that point, like-minded with one another. Not because we agree with each other but because we agree with Him, which is why, as we continue to read in verse 21, Paul says, 

“For they all seek after their own interests, NOT those of Christ Jesus.” 

When we begin to seek after our interests rather than those of Christ, does that not start to cause an issue? Of course, it does because now you have a situation built on your desire, pride, and personal interest. That is not what the Church or New Testament Christianity is built on. Our ways are nothing more than a weak foundation ready to collapse at any minute, but the foundation of Christ will stand forever. To overcome the division of our day, we MUST align our minds with His mind so that we can accomplish true unity the way He desired it to be! 

Our next article will focus on Dividing Over Doctrine: When should we or shouldn’t? How should that be done? What is the right and wrong way to approach it? I hope that you have found these thoughts helpful. I encourage you to find strength and use true knowledge to fight for unity in a biblical way! 

Excel Still More! 

All questions and comments regarding the thoughts in this article or a current situation that you are in can be directed to Garrett Bernethy @ garrett@excelstillmore.net. 


1 Trettenero, Scott. “Why We Are so Divided.” Psychreg, 18 Dec. 2020, www.psychreg.org/why-we-are-so-divided/. 

2 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 240.

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Garrett married his wife, Cristen, in December 2005 and has four wonderful boys! Parker is married to his beautiful wife Claire and their daughter Taytum, Cohen, Ryder, and Kamden. Garrett has directed and participated in many camps, retreats, conferences, and workshops and serves on the national staff for Lads to Leaders. He is the President of Excel Still More and an annual writer and instructor for ESM. Garrett currently serves as the pulpit minister for the Hydro Church of Christ in Hydro, Oklahoma, where he and his family reside.