In the next couple of posts, I would like to present a number of quotes from the book Love Covers, written by the now-deceased Paul Billheimer, and published in 1981 by Christian Literature Crusade. Many who read this blog may not agree completely with all of Billheimer’s doctrinal views espoused in other writings. However, the message contained in Love Covers is a message that has significantly impacted my life and ministry, and a message to which I believe we as Southern Baptists, as well as those in the entire Body of Christ around the world, desperately need to pay attention today.
The quotes from today’s post are all taken from the preface of Love Covers…
"The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected, and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity. The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined."
"What is the basis for the fellowship which represents, defines, and gives content to this unity? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the term "fellow" from the word "fellowship" denotes ultimate identical derivation. In other words, two persons being designated as fellows implies common origin, a common family relationship. Therefore the primary, fundamental and distinguishing basis for fellowship is shared ancestry rather than shared theories, concepts or opinions.
If this means anything at all it means that fellowship between born-again believers, members of the same family, should be on the basis of a common spiritual parentage rather than common opinions on non-essentials to salvation.
For centuries, fellowship within the Body of Christ has been primarily on the basis of conceptual, theological and organizational persuasions and practices. The principal thesis of this book is that in the Church, or Body of Christ, acceptance and fellowship with one another should be on the basis of common spiritual parentage rather than on common views or opinions in nonessentials to salvation."
"For the purpose of this book, the term ‘essentials to salvation’ will be considered as the minimum beliefs necessary for the new birth."
"In this book, the term ‘nonessentials to salvation’ will then be understood as doctrinal matters not related distinctly or directly to the new birth."
It is only natural that the measure or dimension of fellowship may be affected by the degree of agreement or disagreement on various phrases of divergent theological positions. But fellowship based on a common family relationship through the new birth should properly overshadow or even dwarf fellowship based on opinions not essential to divine life. In other words, membership in the same family is a more important foundation for fellowship, especially to the heavenly Father, than intellectual or theological agreement."
"This does not require the abandonment or the compromise of vital principles. It is not a plea to relinquish or reduce any convictions. No one has to give up any precept, persuasion, or canon of faith to love a ‘blood-bought brother.’ It is an appeal to cease making one’s opinions on nonessentials the basis for fellowship or unity in the Spirit.
Neither does this mean that truth in these beliefs is unimportant. It does mean that, in God’s sight, relationship is supremely important. It does not mean that such error may not damage the Body. It does mean that breaking fellowship over beliefs not vital to the new birth does more damage to the Body than the error that caused the break.
Again, this does not mean that the search for truth in other areas of doctrine is wrong. Neither does it mean that having one’s own opinion is wrong. It does not even mean that earnestly contending for one’s opinion in these matters of doctrine is a sin. This is not where the problem lies. In God’s sight, the wrong is in allowing opinions to cause a breach of fellowship between born-again members of the same family."
"According to Church history, the Church has never clearly seen at any one period the supreme importance of this truth. Can this be the one thing that has delayed the fulfillment of the Great Commission and prevents Christ’s glorious return? If so, should not every lover of Jesus give highest priority to His prayer in John 17, ‘…that they may be one as we are one’?"