Wholeheartedness is what anyone should expect of Christianity if he were to read the life of Christ in the gospels. Jesus called for complete obedience to everything that He said. So why is it that we don't see this occurring today in churches? I'm not talking about sinless perfection but a striving to sort out all of Scripture and live every detail by faith. A first way that even professing believers shirk this responsibility is by saying that "Many Things in God's Word Are Doubtful." Anything else?
"We Must Stay Together for the Gospel"
As good as this sounds to some, there is something about it that is slightly off. It isn't exactly taught anywhere in Scripture. It has some truth in it and could be completely true if interpreted a certain way. But what is wrong with this? Mainly, Scripture doesn't say it.
The closest thing to this, I believe, is in Philippians 1:27, and I think we can be sure that Philippians 1:27 is where the seed for the idea comes.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.I'd love to stay together for the gospel if the Bible taught that. However, notice what the verse says at the end---"with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Of course, first here, it isn't "staying together," but "striving together," and then it isn't "striving together for the gospel," but "striving together for the faith of the gospel." The Greek word translated "striving together" is found only one other place in the New Testament and that is in Philippians 4:3, which says:
And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Philippians 4:3 is closer to the "striving together for the gospel" idea. It is easy to see what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4, however. There was a conflict going on in a single church, the one gathering at Philippi. Two women revealed in v. 2 were having a major fight in the church and that was causing instability there. There were all sorts of false teaching and practice in that area, which Paul mentions in chapter three, that could have caused dissension in the midst, but that wasn't even the issue with these two women. They just weren't getting along for personal reasons. They were two women who had before been working harmoniously together when Paul was there, but now they weren't. They were involved in the work of the Lord, preaching the gospel to the lost in the Philippi area but after Paul left, they started bickering at some point. He wants the church to help them, it seems, get it stopped, for the stability of the church and the well-being of these women.
That isn't anything like---"let everybody in the world who professes the gospel get along and stop fighting over anything other than the gospel." And then there is Philippians 1:27. What does it say we're striving together for? The Faith. Not the gospel. The gospel produces the faith. We can't believe or practice what Scripture teaches without the power and work of the gospel. We can't separate "the faith" from the gospel. However, the striving together is for the entire content of the Bible---that is THE faith---the Christian faith, the truth in Christ, the once for all delivered to the saints faith (Jude 3).
The verb "striving together" speaks of a contest and we are in a struggle, working together in concert as a church. This is the church at Philippi doing the job that God intends in a dark and wicked city. Like their church, our church is in a conflict to preserve and protect the faith from those who attack and destroy. Our members are in a conflict over the truth.
"The faith" isn't the gospel. You can't disconnect it from the gospel, but it isn't synonymous. A parallel passage is Jude 3. Jude wanted to write concerning "the common salvation." He would have gone on and on about the gospel, because he loved it. And it was something that those to whom he was writing had in common. That's something he would have gladly parked on. But he didn't. Why? He neededed instead to exhort them that they "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." So Jude contrasts the common salvation from "the faith." Certainly they were related, but they weren't the same thing.
If men can widdle away and strike down several, various truths of Scripture, then they can also impact the authority of Scripture. If they affect the authority of God's Word, then they will also negatively impact the gospel, which is part of the faith once delivered.
Romans 10:1-10 and Deuteronomy
There's something else that anyone should consider that thinks that they are emphasizing and highlighting and adoring the gospel of Christ, when they ignore other teachings of Scripture for the sake of what they call "unity." God saved us to keep the details. The gospel changes us into detail believing and practicing people. I can show this in many places, but we'll consider Romans 10:1-10.
In Romans 10, Paul assures Israel that he really is interested in their salvation. If they did not get saved, it wouldn't because Paul didn't have the desire. He had it big time (Rom 10:1). If they didn't obtain salvation, it would be because of their own zealous, yet perverted thinking---being ignorant of God's righteousness, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting to the righteousness of God (vv. 2-3). If they wanted righteousness, they needed to understand that Christ was the opportunity for righteousness for them (v. 4).
With Christ being their righteousness, they couldn't use inaccessibility as an excuse. To get across this point, Paul uses an Old Testament passage---Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Deuteronomy was an explanation of Israel's salvation. Israel could believe, love God, and they would receive blessing. It is obvious in Deuteronomy that this faith in the Lord was tied into everything that God told them to do in His Word. They were not to add or diminish from anything that God said (Deut 4:2; 12:32). This was the fundamental respect for God and His Word that was believing in Him. Don't turn this into salvation by works. It was never works that were a basis for God's saving Israel, but faith. However, their belief in Him was always directly connected to His being the powerful, conquering, faithful Lord and they being the surrendered servant. That is how the whole book of Deuteronomy is laid out.
And Paul quotes that particular passage to explain what it is to receive Jesus Christ in order to be saved. They could confess Jesus as Lord because God would make sure that everything that He said would be available for them to keep. Man believes unto righteousness. Righteousness is positional, yes, but it is also practical. The practical part is not just some of what God said, but everything that He said.
As a part of what we comprehend in Deuteronomy 30 and Romans 10, it is that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, the saving message, doesn't add to or diminish from what God said. Someone Who understands and then receives Jesus Christ as the end of righteousness does see Him as the end of righteousness. What they couldn't possibly themselves accomplish, Christ could and would.
Separating the gospel from doing everything that He said misses the mission of the gospel. The gospel saves. It doesn't save just from the punishment of sin, but also the power of sin. Jesus said to the woman at the well that it is also about making us true worshipers of God. What unifies us in worship is the truth. We worship in truth. God isn't worshiped by false beliefs and practices. He is worshiped by humble, submissive obedience to everything that He said.
Together for the Gospel?
Consider with me Together for the Gospel (T4G). This is the parachurch organization of a Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney, a Presbyterian, Ligon Duncan, a Southern Baptist pastor, Mark Dever, and a Southern Baptist educator, Albert Mohler. Supposedly, because they get together for the gospel (perhaps together for Calvinism, because Calvinism seems to be the primary common ground with them) despite doctrinal and practical differences---infant sprinkling (paedo-baptism) and signs and wonders (continuationism)---they love the gospel more than others that separate over these doctrines and practices. Is that true? Do people love the gospel more who won't separate over other doctrines and practices? Should they just set aside "the faith" for the sake of "the common salvation?" What does that say about everything else that God said in His Word? What does it say about what God saved us for? If we miss what God saved us for, could we ourselves be misrepresenting the gospel?
The T4G guys have other differences---church polity and government, eschatology, worship, methods, and more. What seems to make them so popular is that they, along with their other friends that you'll see on their conference line up, unify on this one point. As much as they stay together for the gospel, that doesn't mean that they will always separate over the gospel. On the campus of Southern Seminary, where Albert Mohler is president, is the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth. In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes concerning Billy Graham:
Not long ago I saw Billy Graham join Shecky Greene, Red Buttons, Dion Warwick, Milton Beryl and other theologians in a tribute to George Burns [a blasphemer of God] who was celebrating himself for surviving 80 years in show business. The Reverend Graham exchanged one liners with Burns about making preparations for eternity. Although the Bible makes no mention of it, the Reverend Graham amused the audience and assured them that God loves those who make people laugh. It was an honest mistake. He merely mistook NBC for God.
Billy Graham, who denies a literal hell and has taught universalism, is together with Albert Mohler too. Here's some transcript from one of Billy Graham's appearances on Larry King several years ago:
Larry King: "What do you think of Mormonism, Catholicism, other faiths within the Christian concept?"
Billy Graham: "Well I think I am in wonderful fellowship with all of them."
Larry King: "You're comfortable with Salt Lake City. You're comfortable with the Vatican?"
Billy Graham: "I am very comfortable with the Vatican."
Larry King: "You were preaching in his church (Pope) the day he was made pope."
Billy Graham: "That is correct."
You may wonder why Larry King, a Jewish man, would mention Mormons first. He's married to a Mormon. Billy Graham has wonderful fellowship with the pope and Albert Mohler has fellowship with Billy Graham and John MacArthur has fellowship with Albert Mohler. At some point, should someone separate over the gospel, you know, to make sure that we preserve it? Do you find it interesting, like I do, that these men and especially their evangelical and fundamentalist admirers could constantly exhort everyone about careful exegesis and then take the truth of "together for the gospel" so out of context?
The TG4 men should do more emulation of Jude, who, before he would teach of the common salvation, would exhort that they should earnestly contend for the faith. You can't preserve the gospel without even separating over the gospel. God is in the details of Scripture. The gospel isn't a reason to ignore or disregard the details, but a reason to be even more careful with what God said.