Finish the following Bible passage: “By THIS all will know that you are My disciples…” (John 13:35—emphasis mine, mb).
- “if you sing a cappella (i.e., without instrumental accompaniment) in your worship assemblies.” Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19
- “if you observe the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week.” Acts 20:7; 2:42
- “if your women do not lead in the assembly or usurp authority over a man.” 1 Tim. 2:12-15; 1 Cor. 14:26-35
- “if you do not tithe, but rather engage in a free-will offering each Lord’s Day as you have been prospered.” 1 Cor. 16:1-2
- “if you teach and practice that divorce is sanctioned for only one reason—and that is the sexual unfaithfulness of your spouse.” Mat. 19:9
- “if you baptize penitent believers for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21
- “if you correctly employ the appropriate biblical term for the brother who proclaims the gospel from the pulpit as a ‘preacher’—and not a ‘pastor’.” 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
- “if you correctly interpret and teach what the Bible says about the coming of the Son of Man/Christ.” Mat. 16:28; 24:29
- “IF YOU HAVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.” Lev. 19:18; John 15:12; Rom. 13:9; 1 Pet. 2:17; 4:8; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 4:12
“Preacher, are you saying that doctrine doesn’t matter?” Nope—I’ve never said that, I’ve never taught that, nor have I ever even thought that. Right doctrine is ESSENTIAL. Period. Dot. End of sentence (Acts 2:42–“in the apostles’ doctrine”; 1 Tim. 1:3—“teach no other doctrine”; 4:6—“good doctrine”; 4:12—“doctrine”; 4:16—“the doctrine”; “doctrine”—5:17; 6:1—“God and His doctrine”; 6:3—“the doctrine”; 2 Tim. 3:16—“for doctrine”; Titus 1:9, 2:1—“sound doctrine”; 2:7—“in doctrine”; 2:10—“the doctrine of God”).
But sometimes well-intentioned brethren emphasize the right thinking about doctrine (and they should), but they unfortunately fail to first emphasize the right practice of doctrine—and that is in and with patient LOVE.
Ya’ll ever notice this…?
In Ephesians 4, in that grand chapter about unity, before the apostle Paul talked about one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God, he predicated them all with LOVE. “I…beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in LOVE” (vv. 1a, 2—emphasis mine, mb). Question. Did Paul ever say in this chapter (or anywhere else for that matter) that doctrine was unimportant? A thousand times no! But what active heart attitude did he say must first be practiced in order for doctrinal unity to be enjoyed? Read the latter part of verse two again and then commit it to memory. “Bearing with one another in LOVE.”
But now watch it again.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the same apostle through divine inspiration said, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” In the context of speaking in foreign tongues (cf. Acts 2:4, 6-11), Paul said—now get this—“If I am miraculously endowed with the ability to teach God’s Word in a language which I’ve never studied before, but I don’t possess or either speak the truth in LOVE (Eph. 4:15), then all I’m doing is making a bunch of loud racket” (e.g., sounding brass and a clanging cymbal).1
But keep reading.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy (i.e., the miraculous gift to speak for God—cf. Mat. 7:22), and understand all mysteries and knowledge (i.e., miraculous gifts of comprehension)…but have not LOVE, I am nothing” (v. 2a, c). Paul said, “Even though the Holy Spirit revealed to me truths, ideas and concepts, which the church as a whole has neither known nor grasped up until this time, if I fail to exhibit Christian love, then his special capacity and discernment is absolutely worthless to either me or the church.” In other words, his knowing the truth without first practicing truth (i.e., LOVE) would have been meaningless.
Our Lord made this very same point in Matthew.
Jesus told the doctrinally fastidious scribes and Pharisees of His day, “You pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (23:23b). These guys were so “gun-ho” about keeping every facet of the law that they actually gave ten percent of the seeds (which were used to spice their foods) in their herb gardens. Now watch, Jesus never condemned them for their religious fervor in terms of sacrifice; He did censure them, however, for their failure to harmonize their efforts with expressions of genuine love. The Jewish world knew theses religious leaders by their devotion and ardor—even to the point of minutia, but they didn’t know them as a group by their LOVE. And as important as it was to properly and fully sacrifice, these devotees of the law didn’t keep the, watch it—“weightier” matters of the law—at all. They got doctrine right, but they missed the heaviest doctrine of all—love.
So many of my good brethren today in their zeal for doctrinal accuracy wholly miss this concept of love. They “bite and devour” one another (Gal. 5:15) over important, yes—even essential matters, but they overlook THE MOST IMPORTANT, THE MOST ESSENTIAL matter of all—Christ-like LOVE.
Our Lord said, “By THIS all will know that you are My disciples, if you have LOVE for one another” (John 13:35).
Beloved, are you known by your love?
1/ John MacArthur, “In New Testament times, rites honoring the pagan deities Cybele, Bacchus, and Dionysus included speaking in ecstatic noises that were accompanied by smashing gongs, clanging cymbals, and blaring trumpets. Paul’s hearers clearly got his point: unless it is done in love, ministering the gift of languages, or speaking in any other human or angelic way, amounts to no more than those pagan rituals. It is only meaningless gibberish in a Christian guise.” The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, 331).
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike