There is no real discussion of issues of fellowship and authority until and unless we are first on the same page regarding God Himself. Do we have the same source of authority and are we working from the same starting premise? If we do not first believe in “loving the Lord your God will all you heart”, mind, soul, and strength, and that He is to be exalted and hallowed above all else, and if we do not first believe that God has expressed His will completely in the scriptures (2 Tim.3:16-18), and if we are not first interested in doing God’s will above our own, then we have no common ground from which to build commonality on particular issues.
Let us take any issue in 1 Corinthians 5 as a test. If this local church at Corinth does not have the same level of belief in loving God above all else, then they will not see the issue of sexual immorality in the same way as Paul. If they do not believe that God has expressed His will in scripture or inspired men like Paul, then they will not care about the issue of sexual immorality and doing God’s will in this matter. Without belief that we must love God with all our heart AND that God has expressed His will on moral issues in the scriptures, we will have no basis for unity and correction of such issues.
If one does not “correct” the viewpoint of God’s absolute greatness and authority, and does not correct the view of how to know God’s will by means of the scriptures, then God becomes to man whatever man wants God to be. God becomes subject to each man, and each man gets to imagine God as each man sees fit. Such people think it is wrong to discuss religious differences because they reject the very idea that God’s word is expressed in scripture and that we MUST adjust our views and behavior to the scriptures. They want the full authority to reside in each man’s own imagination and desire.
On the other hand, those who want to love God and know His heart and will as expressed in scriptures know that this will mean that we have to let the scriptures be the authoritative expression of God’s mind. We must be willing to bend our will to His will. Before the man at Corinth would turn from his sin of sexual immorality, he would have to first love God with all his heart, be willing to do God’s will above his own will, and agree that Paul was expressing the will of God and not Paul’s own will. Until then, this man would not care what Paul said. The scriptures are given for “correction” (2 Tim.3:16-17). They correct our understanding of God and our understanding of His will. We search them to find out “what is so” or true (Acts 17:11). One does not really know and love God without being a person who is determined to adjust his thoughts, values, and will to that which is proven true by the scriptures.
All discussion of religious difference must first start on the agreement that the Bible alone expresses the mind of God and the will of God and that it “completely furnishes the man of God.” From there we can correct ourselves and study to show ourselves approved to God, handling aright the word of truth (2 Tim.2:15). Begin with the love of God and His will and progress can be made in the testing of all other religious issues of difference. Failure on the first point makes all other discussion fruitless. TWB