Life in Ministry, Quotes, Thinking Biblically


I have heard (and read) much within the past week on so-called Christian “unity.” (And, frankly, the quotation marks could, and probably should, be placed around both words.) It has been in the news – as pastors and presidential candidates face off, and the meaning of “cult” is, once again, (re)defined.  It has been the topic of much debate within some conservative, reformed, Christian circles.

‎”…it may appear unkind to suggest a professing Christian is not a true follower of Jesus. And it may seem kind and gracious to call someone a true Christian just because he professes to be and thinks he is. But if he is not a true Christian who believes in the true Christ revealed in Scripture, it is terribly unkind. Why? Because the worst possible condition for unbelievers is to think they are believers.” ~Randy Alcorn

Today, it is deemed intolerant or judgmental to disagree with someone’s profession of “Christianity.”  We are expected to nicely “Agree to Disagree,” as the saying goes…for the sake of “Christian” “unity,” of course.

Although written/preached to the church in 19th century England, J.C. Ryle’s words are just as timely, just as relevant (to use another favorite post-modern buzz-word), and just as applicable today as they were in centuries past.

Specifically, in his commentary on the book of Matthew, addressing chapter 10, verses 34-42, Ryle says this:

“…remember that his Gospel will not cause peace and agreement wherever it comes.  ‘I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’ (verse 34).  The object of his first coming on earth was not to set up a millennial kingdom in which all would be of one mind, but to bring in the Gospel, which would lead to conflicts and divisions.  We have no right to be surprised if we see this continually fulfilled: we are not to think it strange if the Gospel tears families apart and causes estrangement between the nearest relations.  It is sure to do so in many cases, because of the deep corruption of the human heart.  So long as one person believes, and another remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins, and another is desirous to give them up, the result of the preaching of the Gospel must be division.  For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the human heart.

There is deep truth in all this which is constantly forgotten and overlooked.  Many talk vaguely about “unity,” “harmony” and “peace” in the churchof Christ, as if they were things that we ought always to expect, and for the sake of which everything ought to be sacrificed! Such persons would do well to remember the words of our Lord.  No doubt unity and peace are mighty blessings; we ought to seek them, pray for them and give up everything in order to obtain them, except truth and a good conscience.  But it is an idle dream to suppose that the churches of Christ will enjoy much unity and peace before the millennium comes.” (Matthew, pgs. 78-79, emphasis added.)

And with that, the words of Ecclesiastes come to mind…
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new?’ It has been already in the ages before us.” ~Ecclesiastes 1:9-10


  1. Melonie

    “…the result of the preaching of the Gospel must be division. For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the human heart.” Very true. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Amy

    “So long as one person believes, and another remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins, and another is desirous to give them up, the result of the preaching of the Gospel must be division. For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the human heart.” I know God came to cause division but I always thought it was between those who would become Christians and those who would not. For all Christians not being united I personally blame the devil. Paul told us to all be of one mind so I just don’t see how the division among Christians can be from Jesus. I agree that we should tell other people if they are sinning, but it must be done so gently. I am starting to see that telling them why their sin is wrong is key. To not just say “that is a sin” but to show them the why, that God has something better in store for them. I loved in your own personal story that you see God saved you from heartache because of your early conversion. I know this is true because I see it in myself and others who were not so lucky. I also think we can tell others what we believe but we should not force it upon them. I have a friend that was weary of a (well meaning) overzealous new convert but she is more willing to listen to me because I do not try to shove it down her throat as he did. It is just that it has taken us six years of friendship to get to where we are in our discussions. We would probably win more converts if all Christians stuck together in what they believe but we don’t even do that so it drives people away in droves. Again, the devil sees it as a great tactic-get the Christians to fight amongst themselves and then no one will want to be one. It is why Ghandi never became a Christian, he said he agreed with Jesus but had never met a Christian-ie someone who acted like Jesus. I agree with the point that Mormons are not Christian in the sense that you mean it, but we must be gentle with them because they do not understand why we feel that way. I had Mormon friends growing up and they were some of the nicest faith filled moral people I knew, they were just raised in a theology that is a little off, but it is all they knew. I wish I could have helped them more but at the time I wasn’t even sure I believed in God… Now I am more into the Catholic faith I grew up with. Yes, I am Catholic, so you as a Calvinist would not agree with me on some things, but we probably have much more in common than you realize. I hope someday all Christians can be reunited. (We see all denominations as Christians, but separated brothers. Yes, we are just kind of like warring siblings at times.) In time I think God leads us all to where He wants us, which is Home with Him in Heaven! 🙂 (Sorry this is so long, but I have been reading about inter religious dialogue today and then saw this post…. 🙂 )

  3. You have some good insight here. Words to encourage and I thnak you for that. So much of this world is discouraging. Thanks for spppuring me on to good works!
    my son’s Christian blog

  4. Really appreciated the Randy Alcorn article…
    Hadn’t read it yet–thank you.

    About this topic of “agreeing to disagree”…
    Seems that it totally depends what the issue/concern/disagreement is about.

    There are the crucial-salvation-issues which we hold in a tight grip, a closed fist, and which we cannot Scripturally agree to disagree on without agreeing to a false gospel…without leading others away from Christ.

    But then there are the side issues (not crucial to salvation and not mandated in God’s Word)–that godly men and women disagree about–that we hold in an open palm, with the understanding that each person is held accountable to God’s Word and His Holy Spirit.

    So when a particular issue isn’t clearly spelled out in Scripture…we do at times agree to disagree…

    1. Kara,
      You are absolutely right! There are non-gospel, non-salvation issues that we as genuine believers can “agree to disagree” about. (Romans 14 comes to mind!)
      But, this was directed to the idea that we should simply agree to disagree on key matters of doctrine that are essential to the message of the true gospel, simply because some who profess “Christianity” disagree, or dislike it. In that case, we must disagree.

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