It is evident that leading neo-evangelicals believe our main goal
is to eliminate doctrinal distinctives and to emphasize unity among those claiming to be
One of the basic ideas of today's philosophy of ecumenical evangelism is that love is more important than doctrine. Ecumenical evangelists say that doctrine divides, whereas love unifies. What does the Bible say? Is it true that in the New Testament love is more important than doctrine, or Truth? In the so-called Love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, we are told:
Now abideth in faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love (agape).
Some say -- That settles it: love is supreme! But when we
examine that chapter more carefully, we discover that Truth is also mentioned in
the chapter. In verse 6 we are told that, love rejoices in the truth. In other
words, faith, hope, and love are virtues but Truth has an altogether
different status. It is the frame of reference, the foundation, the atmosphere
without which virtues such as love cannot exist at all.
Love rejoices in the truth. Why? Because without Truth to define it, to interpret it, to protect it, to guide it, to channel it -- love can become a total disaster. We dare not place Truth on the same level as virtues. Virtues would shrivel up and die if it were not for Truth.
We cannot imagine life on this planet without water. Water is absolutely essential for life, as long as it stays within proper channels, within its canals, aqueduct, and pipes. But when water gets out of control, it is the second greatest catastrophe that can happen to this planet, second only to fire. On the one hand, it is an absolute blessing, but on the other hand, it can be a total disaster. So it is with love.
God's Definition Of Love
Love without divine definition (God's revealed channels within which it must flow) becomes the most horrible thing on earth. It can destroy human beings by the millions, and can be reduced to satanic sentimentalism.
Love, as defined by God, is doing for a person that which is best for him in the light of eternity, no matter what the cost may be. That is how it is defined by God. Somehow, when it comes to world evangelism, many people have forgotten God's definitions and have fallen into sentimentalism. Consider some key Scriptures which illustrate the distinction between love and Truth.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -- John 8:31,32
Ultimate freedom may only be achieved by total
unconditional surrender to Truth. There is nothing here about love.
Love Obeys The Truth
There are many who speak glowingly of their love for Jesus Christ and for lost men. In John 14:15,21,23,24, He stresses that obedience to Truth is the best form of love:
If ye love me, keep my commandments He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keeps not my sayings: ...
This is what we call the acid test of love -- does a man obey the
commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ? It makes no difference how much we talk about our
love if we do not obey Christ. It is obedience that counts, not words. Obedience without
love is theoretically possible, but love without obedience is, in practice, impossible. It
is a satanic substitute for God's plan.
Love Teaches the Truth
John 21 gives an example of one who said much about his love for Jesus. But when it came to obedience, it was not there. When the pressure came, his resolution collapsed and he denied his Lord. After the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord confronted Peter lovingly, but in truth:
... Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs Feed my sheep Feed my sheep. -- John 21:15-17
How do we express love to the Lord Jesus according to the lesson
of this confrontation? By feeding His sheep, as He also commanded in the great commission,
by teaching His people and training them in the whole counsel of God, teaching them
whatsoever I have commanded you.
In Acts 20, we find a good example of an apostle who obeyed the great commission. He says nothing about love to the Ephesians in this passage. But he exhibited the supreme love of any disciple toward the Ephesians. What did he do for them? Did he say, I love you, I love you, I love you? Acts 20:26-27 gives the answer:
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Love Leaves Nothing Out
The result was that all which dwelt in Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord Jesus. Paul based his evangelism on sound doctrinal instruction. That is God's key for world evangelism. The words of Paul in Galatians 1:6 were blunt and necessary as Paul says in Galatians 4, in order to tell them the Truth.
Ephesians 4 tells us how we can achieve the perfect balance. Note the gifts God gave the true Church, the body of Christ, for service and ministry in this age: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers. -- Ephesians 4:11
Every one of these gifts in the form of a person is a doctrinal person. They are all totally involved in Truth. All were totally involved in preaching, teaching, and discipling in the light of revealed Truth. There is no teaching whatsoever in the New Testament suggesting that love is more important than doctrine or Truth.
Love is referred to in Galatians 4:15 where we read of, speaking the truth in love. Love is the manner and method of speaking Truth. Love is the servant of Truth. It makes it easier to receive, absorb, and digest. But it must never be allowed to eclipse or set aside Truth. God's Truth can never change, but God's Truth in the hands of human messengers is a very delicate and fragile thing.
Love Resists Poisons
There is no living system known to science that can survive without an intricate, elaborate, and constantly-used system to purify itself from poisons. This is true of God's Church. It is impossible for any organization to survive unless it has a system to purify itself from poisonous influences.
We need to remember we are in a highly poisoned environment. We are immersed in Satan's world. He has constant access to every servant of God through his fallen nature. How can the relative success of a Christian's ministry be evaluated apart from God's infallible inerrant Word? Who is to determine what success means?
Love Protects the Flock
Did the Lord Jesus encourage His disciples to listen sympathetically to other religious leaders of that time? His answer is given in Matt. 7:15, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Yet we are told today by neo-evangelicals that we should both teach and study in liberal universities and colleges of theology. There is one thing worse than division and that is peace with compromise. Truth is infinitely more important than the false unity of the world.
Love Corrects Error
Why? Because for the sake of Truth, even families will be split with hostility so that at least someone within that unit can perpetuate God's Truth. In Romans 16:17 Paul says,
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which causes divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
If we honor and love the Lord Jesus we will watch for anything
which may destroy His Truth. We will avoid such people.
A good way of life or good doctrine is always contaminated by a bad environment or bad associations. A mere association of the good with the bad will never make the bad thing better. The good gets worse; the bad does not improve. It is the same with a rotten apple in a barrel. The bad one never gets better, but the good ones go rotten (1 Cor. 15:33). Is it right for doctrinal purity to be blatantly submerged for the sake of worldly ecclesiastical unity? Surely this is a total denial of the Holy Spirit's Word through the Scriptures.
-- Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr.
Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 10/98