Yesterday we looked at how to deal with controversies that arise within the body of Christ. We saw the need to study out Scripture for ourselves, and the need to accurately handle the Word of God as we study it. This requires the use of Biblically-sound resources such as commentaries, concordances, study Bibles, and basic doctrinal study books.
Something else we must keep in mind as we study different passages of Scripture are the basic principles of hermeneutics (interpretation), which can guide us in accurately understanding the Word of God. These principles lead us to comprehend multiple aspects of Scripture, including the reverential aspect (all Scripture is given by God), the grammatical (meaning of specific words), the historical (providing social and cultural background), the literariness (distinguishing between literal and figurative or symbolic), and the coherence of Scripture (all Scripture is in harmony with itself). Hermeneutical principles also emphasize the significance of studying the local context surrounding a specific verse and/or passage, and the literality and simplicity of interpreting Scripture – in other words, the simplest, clearest, and most literal meaning of a passage is often the best way to interpret it (no double meanings or hidden innuendos).
So then, if we have truly studied what Scripture has to say on a topic, reading with these principles in mind, and utilizing other available Biblically-sound resources such as commentaries and concordances, then what are we to do next? How do we respond if the person purporting such an unbiblical opinion refuses to listen to correction and continues to spout off inaccurate or ignorant beliefs?
Paul tells us quite simply in his epistles that we are to avoid any such foolish controversies of men (or women!) who simply like to hear themselves speak. We must refuse to even listen or read those unprofitable ramblings and suppositions, for they lead only to contention and division. This is stated so clearly within Paul’s first epistle to Timothy:
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words…” 1 Timothy 6:3-4
And he states it again in his second letter to Timothy:
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.“ 2 Timothy 2:23
You see, we are told that Scriptures provide all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We know that Scripture in its entirety is profitable for us in every way, and that it is enough on its own to teach and correct us, to train us and make us competent and well-equipped followers of Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
And if we read it regularly, and study it consistently, and understand it accurately, then we will not be deceived by false teaching or ignorant controversies. We will not be pulled into foolish squabbling over unprofitable opinions. But our concern must be for more than ourselves; we must care for that brother or sister in Christ who is stirring up such division. Paul writes in his letter to Titus:
“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:9-10
So study. Make sure you are accurately handling the Word of God. Seek wise counsel. And then, if the person won’t listen to Scriptural reasoning, avoid them. Pray for them, love them as fellow men created in God’s image, but avoid their controversial attitudes and words. This is not cruel or unloving; it is what God commands us to do.