Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 30, 1970
NUMBER 51, PAGE 1-2a

Unity: Anything More Important?

Jimmy Tuten

Ecumenism is truly a religious fact of our time. Proponents of this movement are concerned primarily with a merger of churches into a single ecclesiastical structure. Most of our brethren will not accept this phase of the movement, but some (who are more broad-minded than sound) are carried into the camp by fostering the idea that differences do not matter so long as we have "Christian unity." Some are not aware of the fact that Ecumenism has a structural or organic side (desire for one worldwide church) and a non-structural side (desire for togetherness and cooperation). The latter poses the greatest threat and danger to the church.

Evidence Among Us

There are many evidences among brethren that the spirit of Ecumenism is being applied to the church. More and more pulpits are being opened and exchanged between digressives, Christian churches and churches of Christ. Some are viewing such doctrinal differences as premillennialism and instrumental music as becoming less and less important. In fact a new unity movement has been launched within recent years, led by such men as Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, Robert Meyers, etc. They are claiming a restoration of the "restoration unity" movement. Unity meetings and forums are the order of the day. There is much talk in Mission Messenger about "Christian commandoes" waging war against so-called "church of Christism." Besides denying the unity of the New Testament church (Restoration Review, Sept., 1964), and the Bible as the pattern of the New Testament church (Restoration Review, May, 1964), it is argued that there are Christians in all denominations and that unity is found in diversity rather than conformity (Mission Messenger, April 1965; Nov., 1964). Our desire for book, chapter and verse (generic or specific authority) for all that we practice is currently under attack. Our plea is labeled an "easy answer attitude" bred in by "church of Christism" (Mission Messenger, Jan. 1970).

For these brethren who are mellowing in their attitude toward authority and no longer feel that they have ready, easy answers for the denominational spirit there should be a reviving of the need for authority. Denials to the contrary, much of what ails us is due to improper attitudes toward truth. There are some things more important by far than the so-called "unity" and "togetherness" currently confused in the minds of some with true unity in a Biblical sense.

Integrity of Doctrine Integrity of doctrine is more important than unity. In spite of this fact there are those among us who are currently arguing that the "gospel" is essential, but that "doctrine" is optional. Instead of allowing conformity in this area to be the basis of fellowship, we are told to seek unity in spite of our differences in this area. It is further argued that the "gospel" is different from "doctrine" and that the former is essential (because by it aliens are enrolled into the kingdom). This absurd distinction between "doctrine" and "gospel" crumbles under the search light of truth. The gospel and truth (or doctrine) are terms that refer to the same body of teaching (II Jno. 1, 4, 7, 9, Jude 3). These terms are used interchangeably in I Timothy 1:10-11, where the writer says, . . . "if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."

Furthermore, the position that argues that the gospel is for aliens and doctrine is for saints is not a sound position that corresponds to truth. It is true, aliens must obey the gospel (II Thess. 1:7-10). Yet the gospel involves doctrine to be believed and obeyed. This is illustrated in Romans 6:17, where "servants of sin" (aliens) are said to have obeyed "that form of doctrine" (DIDAKEE). The form or pattern of doctrine is illustrated in verses one through six. Aliens are inducted into the kingdom by obedience to the gospel and doctrine.

What about Christians? Is it true that the gospel is for the alien's induction into the kingdom and once he comes into the kingdom he is then fed apostolic doctrine? Or to put it another way, can one argue that the gospel is to be preached to the whole world and that doctrine is addressed only to immersed believers? Can the gospel (euangelion) be preached to saved persons?

The apostle Paul preached the gospel to Christians at Corinth and admonished them as Christians to "hold fast" to it, because by it they are saved (I Cor. 15:1-2). He desired to preach the gospel to those at Rome (Rom. 1:15) and marveled that brethren in Galatia were so soon removed from it (Gal. 1:6-9). Peter and other brethren stood condemned because they "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:11-14).

First Timothy is addressed to a Christian and in it Paul admonishes the young preacher to know that " . . . if there be any other things contrary to the sound doctrine (didaskalia); according to the gospel (euangelion) of the glory. Notice that gospel and doctrine are used to refer to the same body of law in this text, and that it applies to Christians, even if they have turned aside to something else. (v. 6).

If doctrine is optional, then why was Paul concerned about "every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14)? Why take heed to doctrine (I Tim. 4:13, 16). Is there a difference between "sound doctrine" (II Tim. 4:3) and optional doctrine?


We cannot have unity while ignoring truth. The truth of God includes sound doctrine, and we must speak the things which befit it (Tit. 2:1). God will not tolerate our seeking unity while corrupting doctrine and ignoring differences in this area. Let us all seek for the intergrity of doctrine and the unity and fellowship will take care of itself.

— 6316 Penrod, St. Louis, Missouri