So said Mark Dever in his sermon yesterday on Revelation 20.
He was referring specifically to the issue of the Millennium, but his comments obviously apply to lesser issues (like the timing of the rapture). (And obviously his comments don’t apply to fundamental doctrines like the second coming and final judgment.) Here’s what he said:
“I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.” (italics added)
I couldn’t agree more. Dever’s comments fit well with Tom Schreiner’s recent discussion of whether or not eschatological questions should be considered non-negotiable (see Jason Button’s blog for a transcript of some of Schreiner’s comments).
What I appreciate about Dever’s comments is that they emphasize a vitally important truth–one that many people have failed to understand: unity among believers is a non-negotiable absolute in Scripture, and anyone who breaks fellowship or cooperation when it is not absolutely required by Scripture is sinning. Period. Unity and cooperation among believers is not optional. The N.T. does allow for (i.e. requires) separation from professing believers in certain extreme circumstances of blatant, unrepentant sin, but the norm is clearly unity and cooperation.
BTW, Dever’s whole series on Revelation is simply excellent, and a breath of fresh air from the “Left Behind” preaching so prominent on Revelation today. As a premillennialist, however, I prefer Tom Schreiner’s premil treatment of Revelation 20 to Dever’s amil treatment.