Sin Based Unity
Looking bad, due to their inability to defend their positions with scripture, errorists will often attempt to change the subject from someone being right to everyone being wrong. The advocates of the Grace-Unity movement employed this tactic. Rather than focusing their attention on the princely principles of New Testament unity (Jn. 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 3:16), these brethren focused their attention on the principle of sin. Rather than appealing to the New Testament pattern and platform in order to attain and maintain unity (Heb. 8:5; Eph. 4:1-7), these brethren appealed to the prevalence and practice of sin. Their mantra was shouted long and loud - "we're all sinners anyway, so how can we exclude others from our fellowship?" Thus, they were united in sin and error, rather than in truth and righteousness.
This same spirit of error is seen in the present Unity-in-Diversity movement. Promoters of this concept do not spend their time examining God’s word that they may achieve the honorable goal of “approving things that are excellent; that they may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). Rather, they search the scriptures looking for stories and examples that they may easily construe as excusing unscrupulous and sinful behavior. They may not spend much time studying passages that outline what we must believe, teach, and practice, religiously. They may not give much thought to doctrine, morals and ethics. They may not talk much about the plan of salvation, or the work, worship, and organization of the local church. But they are very familiar with passages of scripture that appear to teach that one may violate God’s moral and religious patterns with impunity.
Of course, there are no real loophole passages, but some passages may be made to appear that way. For this reason, some people love the story of David and the shewbread (1 Sam. 21:6). They see David as sinning, and further, they see Jesus, in Matthew 12:4, endorsing his sin. They especially like the Lord’s words that David did that “which was not lawful for him to do.” They mistakenly conclude that Jesus casually dismissed a flagrant violation of God’s law. Thus, they have David sinning against God, and God’s own Son defending that sin! This position is more than just untenable; it is entirely blasphemous. One mistake is made in concluding that David’s actions were sinful. Then a worse mistake is made when one represents Jesus as ignoring that alleged sinful behavior. This point is worthy of particular consideration. If David sinned by eating the shewbread, and Jesus cited David’s actions in defense of His own actions, then one would have to conclude that Jesus also sinned! Do you see what I mean about this being a blasphemous position! In their zeal to indict David as a sinner, the sin-based unity crowd finds itself indicting God Himself!
Had they read just two verses earlier in Matthew 12, they would have understood why Jesus used the wording He did. The Pharisees had just accused Him and His disciples of “doing that which is not lawful” when they picked corn on the Sabbath day. Jesus explained that Sabbath laws were for the purpose of encouraging worship, not for discouraging it! Eating corn on the way to the synagogue did not violate any Sabbath laws. Jesus did not cite and commend David as an example of law breaking! Such would be ludicrous for the pure and holy Christ to do. He cited the example of David as an Old Testament example of mercy and expediency.
Matthew 12:4 does not accomplish what some of our brethren desire. Jesus simply turned the Pharisees’ argument against them. They had failed to consider the consequences of their argument. That is, had their reasoning been correct, the argument that they had constructed against Jesus would have also indicted and condemned their hero David! Most certainly, “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath day” (Matt. 12:8). He demonstrated such on this occasion.
Joshua 2 tells the story of how Rahab assisted the Jewish spies by first hiding them, then later, sending them out another way. Joshua records that in order to protect these men she lied to the king of Jericho. Unity in diversity advocates like this story because it seems to emphasize the big picture, rather than any particular point of conduct. They argue that Rahab sinned, but that this sin was dwarfed by the larger picture of her love for God and her concern for her fellow man. “After all,” they argue, “nowhere does the Bible say that God condemned her for her actions!” To this I would point out that Rahab was not a covenant child of God. She was a sinner, and as such, she was in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Specifically, she was a prostitute. Will it be argued that since God did not specifically condemn her for her prostitution that we should “look at the big picture” and fellowship all prostitutes today? Is it possible that the liberal argument proves too much? Have they looked at Rahab’s example the wrong way?
There is, of course, another way of looking at Rahab’s actions, and it is much safer. Rather than viewing her actions from the skewed perspective of those who are looking for loopholes in God’s standards, let us view her actions from the viewpoint of inspiration.
Hebrews 11:31 cites Rahab as an Old Testament example of faith. We are told that she welcomed the spies that came to her. She was commended because she was convinced of the truth of the miracles that God had worked for Israel. She had heard that God had “dried the waters of the Red Sea,” and she accepted this as evidence of God’s existence and power. She acted in firm faith that the true God would give the land of Canaan to the Israelites, and that all opposition made to them would be vain. Rahab is cited, not because of her lie, but because of her faith! And, not just any faith! James also commended this woman, but his commendation focuses upon the action of her faith (Jas. 2:25). She had the kind of faith that many of today do not have – an active, obedient faith.
Let us not be fooled by liberal arguments that would exalt Rahab’s misdeeds above her good deeds. The Bible simply does not address every aspect of Rahab’s life, and this silence does not necessarily constitute approval of any of her particular actions. Let us respect and imitate her for the reasons given by the Holy Ghost, not the reasons given by those who would take comfort and refuge in her sin.
After Saul’s removal from kingship, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king (1 Sam. 16). Of course, given Saul’s rage over his dismissal, Samuel was concerned about how Saul would react if he knew that Samuel was anointing a new king over Israel. For this reason God told Samuel to take a heifer and announce that he had come to Bethlehem to sacrifice. Samuel did as God directed. Upon his arrival in Bethlehem he announced his plans to sacrifice the heifer in worship to God, and he invited Jesse’s family to the sacrifice (1 Sam. 16:2,5).
Sin-based unity advocates like this passage because they think it looses us from rigid, divine standards. They think it proves that God is not concerned so much with what we do, but with what our attitude is while we are doing it. In this view they do not differ much from the advocates situational ethics. This last group would use Samuel’s story to argue that, “the end justifies the means,” (which concept is refuted by Paul in Romans 3:8). Whereas, unity in diversity advocates would use this story to emphasize the attitude above the actions. As you can see, the two positions aren’t far apart. One group justifies a practice by appealing to the outcome of the action, while the other group justifies the practice by the practitioner’s attitude. Neither group is concerned with whether or not the practice is authorized in and of itself!
As for God’s plan for Samuel, I am very comfortable with what the scripture says. I am not comfortable making more of it than the Holy Ghost intended. God told Samuel to anoint a new king at Bethlehem, and he did. God also told Samuel to sacrifice a calf at Bethlehem, and he did. What I learn is that Samuel did everything just as God commanded. Why don’t we hear more people emphasizing this aspect of the passage? Why do so many look to the passage to justify doctrinal diversity, ethical sloppiness, and moral freedom?
When Abraham came into Gerar, he said of Sarah, his wife, “she is my sister ” (Gen. 20:2). Isaac later did the same thing (Gen. 26:7). Many people have appealed to this passage to justify the concept of unity in diversity. They are quick to point out that Abraham was the “father of the faithful,” and that he deliberately lied about his relationship with Sarah. Their conclusion is that, “everyone sins and we have no business excluding others because of their sins!”
Given the additional information in Genesis 20, we must conclude that though Sarah was Abraham’s half sister, yet he intended to deceive Abimelech for purposes of his own safety. Abraham also falsely concluded that there would be “no fear of God” in Gerar, and that because of this they would kill him for his wife (Gen. 20:11). These were matters that Abraham was wrong in, but we are not safe to conclude that God approved of his actions. We may conclude that there were certain instances of ignorant behavior that God did not specifically address or openly condemn (Acts 17:30), but we may not conclude that God approved of lying. It is certainly dangerous for people of today to appeal to Abraham’s actions at Gerar to defend the concept of doctrinal and moral diversity.
Other examples are misused in an attempt to loosen the yoke of God’s law, but the above passages are quite commonly abused. It is one thing for men to appeal to their traditions and creeds to broaden the platform of religious unity, but I consider it shameful and repulsive for them to attempt to use God’s holy word for this purpose. God’s word is designed to lead us out of, and away from, sin (Jn. 15:3; 17:17; 1 Jn. 2:1; Ps. 119:11). It is intolerable that some have so adulterated and twisted the word of God that they are actually appealing to it to justify the acceptance of sin and false doctrine. Honest Christians must stand together and fight against the plague of unity in diversity.