Dealing With Controversy
A. Someone once said, "Let the people know the truth and the country is safe". The
same is true in the Church - John 8:32.
B. David Lipscomb: "Apostasies have come and will come. They will come where the
cause is popular and where an easy-loving and popularity-seeking spirit prevails, and
always manifest themselves among those who AVOID CONTROVERSY AND
C. CONTROVERSY - "The action of disputing or contending one with another;
disputing, debate, contention; disputation on a matter of opinion; the contending of
proponents one with another on a subject of dispute, discussion in which opposite
views are advanced and maintained by opponents, discussion of contrary
D. Freedom begets controversy! The church is made up of people of
every possible background, controversy is inevitable.
1. No earthly headquarters nor creed-making, doctrine-deciding councils.
2. Bible only standard. We must study for ourselves( Acts 17:11; 2 Cor. 13:5 ).
3. Some conclusions will be error,
4. Controversy is the price we pay for freedom in Christ.
E. The history of the church is filled with controversy.
1. In Acts, Christianity is called the "sect that turned the world upside down."
2. 1 Corinthians deals with controversy that divided the church.
3. Ephesians deals with the controversy over Jewish and Gentile Christians.
4. Colossians deals with the Gnostic controversy.
F. Controversies since the Restoration Movement began.
1. The last century:
a. Should one be rebaptized who had been baptized as an infant.
b. Open or closed Lord's Supper.
c. Instrumental music in worship, The Christian Missionary Society.
2. This century:
a. 1920's - No Class Question, One Cup Question, Paid Located
Preachers, Church Supported Colleges.
b. 1930's - Women Teachers, Classes For Children, Divorce-remarriage,
Premillennialism, Missionary societies, Foundations.
c. 1940's - War Question, Premillennialism, Sponsoring churches.
d. 1950's - Herald of Truth Program, Church Supported Orphan's Homes.
e. 1960's - Work of the Holy Spirit, Unity in Diversity, .
f. 1970's - Crossroads Movement, Music Question, Grace-Faith-
Fellowship Question, Person of the Holy Spirit.
g. 1980's -Boston Church Movement (Formerly the Crossroads
Movement), Unity Movements, Roman's 14, Law and Alien Sinner.
h. 1990's - New Hermeneutics, Women's Role in the Church,
Nature of Jesus.
G. SOME ARE TROUBLE BECAUSE BRETHREN DIFFER..
1. Brethren don't want controversy in their congregation. Peace and harmony is
good, but unless it is built upon the law of Christ, it is nothing but hollow
mockery( Prov. 23:23; Jer. 6:14 ).
2. Failure to instruct members of the Church concerning a controversy produces
weak and uninformed members( Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-4 ).
3. No one can feel sure of truth until it has been thoroughly tested( Job 34:3 ).
a. We test to determine if something is genuine( 1 Pet 1:7; 1 John 4:1 ).
b. Prove - dokimazo-" to test, to examine, to prove, to scrutinize (to see
whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals."
4. A steady growth toward truth will take place under "FAIR" investigation.
H. Controversy, handled right, is beneficial to the Church.
1. Controversy is God's method of sifting out those in the Church who are not
really interested in Bible truth about a matter( 1 Cor. 11:18-19 ).
2. It is NECESSARY in the life of a Christian, promoting spiritual growth.
a. Differing viewpoints on any given subject involve controversy.
b. Differing viewpoints generally lead to study with the purpose of
changing the other person's viewpoint( 2 Tim 2:15 ).
3. Two people who love the truth with honest hearts can find it( Prov 18:17 ).
A. Jesus debated the devil( Matt. 4:1-11 ).
B. Paul was engaged in controversy with:
1. Aliens( Acts 17:16-17 ). Disputed( KJV ) Reasoned( ASV ), dialegomai,
"To converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss.
2. Brethren( Acts 15:1-7 ). Disputation( KJV ) Dissension( ASV ), zetesis,
"A seeking, inquiry; a questioning, debate; a subject of questioning, or debate;
a matter of controversy".
C. We are commanded to "CONTEND FOR THE FAITH"( Jude 3 ).
1. Contend, epagonizomai, "Contend about a thing, as a combatant".
Aorist tense - "To keep on earnestly contending".
2. We are to contend Earnestly( 1 Tim. 6:12 ). Revolution! It's important.
3. We are to contend for "The Faith" (Bible) as our standard in controversies.
a. 1 Cor. 4:6. Our interest is in what Bible has to say rather than what
some brother has written or said or how we feel.
b. Some contend without knowing what Bible teaches.
4. Phil. 1:7;17; Phil. 4:9. Paul was "Set for the defense of the gospel".
a. Defense, apologia, "Verbal defense, speech in defense." Judicial term.
b. Set, keimai, "To be by God's intent, set, destined, appointed".
c. 1 Pet 3:15, Answer, apologia, a Scriptural, verbal defense.
d. We can't defend something we haven't studied( 2 Tim. 2:15 ).
e. We're not to defend a Party Position but rather our Conviction.
D. Before we CONTEND, we must TEST( 1 Thess 5:21 ).
1. Before we make an investment, we investigate the investment?
2. Some TEST religious matters in light of:
a. Strong opinions based mainly upon emotions.
b. Party spirit or religious prejudice( Matt 13:13-16 ).
c. Worldly teaching or upon the "say-so" of a close friend, favorite
preacher, elder, or Bible teacher( 1 Cor. 4:6; 2:5 ).
d. Word of God( Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6 ).
3. What is involved in TESTING?
a. Truth seeking attitude of mind( John 7:17; 2 Thess. 2:10-11 ).
b. A sincere or honest heart( Heb 10:22 ).
c. STUDY( Eph. 3:3-4; 1 Tim. 4:13 ) Study What?
d. Prayer for wisdom( Jas. 1:5 ).
e. Courage to change when proven wrong( Phil 3:7-9 ).
4. After, and only after, we have tested, by God's word, the religious
matter under consideration are we to HOLD to it.
D. FREEDOM INVITES CONTROVERSY. Where people are allowed to think
and speak for themselves, controversy is unavoidable.
1. There is no controversy among Catholics or Communist Nations.
2. In an environment of freedom, questions can be asked, arguments can be
carefully studied, and time is allowed to meditate upon the matter.
A. Heb. 11:6. We cannot please God unless we have faith( Rom. 14:23 ).
1. Heb. 11:1. Description of faith.
a. Substance or assurance, hupostasis - "In Heb. 11:1 it has the meaning
of 'confidence, assurance'"(Vine )
b. Conviction or evidence, elegchos, "proof, conviction"( Strong ).
2. Where does such confidence come from?( Rom. 10:17 ).
3. To please God, we must have conviction based on earnest study of the Bible.
B. Prejudice- What is it?
1. "An opinion formed without taking time and care to judge fairly ; an opinion
or judgment without a good basis; an opinion formed beforehand with no
basis except personal feeling, an opinion or judgment that is slanted against or
in favor of someone or something because of personal liking or a fixed idea"
( Prov. 18:13; Matt. 7:24-27 ).
2. Prejudice is an attitude of mind that allows one's feelings, emotions, loyalty
to a party, or friendship to lead them to a conclusion without careful study..
3. Religious Prejudice blinds one to God's truth(Mat. 13:13-18; John 8:43 ).
C. One can have a zeal for God, but be misguided( Rom. 10:1-3; Prov. 19:2 NIV ).
1. Knowledge, epignosis, "Full, correct, vital knowledge".
2. Ignorant, agnoeo, "To be ignorant, not to know".
a. Ignorant, not without opportunity to know, they were prejudiced.
b. Blinded by prejudice, they were lost in spite of their zeal.
3. They sought to establish their personal views as law. Their system of
Righteousness would glorify them and not God( Matt. 15:3, 6; 23:5-7 ).
4. Many "zealous" Christians have turned away from God's teachings because it
does not confirm their emotional, Prejudicial feelings. Nothing is more
dangerous to the cause of Christ than a misguided zealot. They will divide the
body of Christ while operating under the misapplied application of Jude 3.
5. We must always remain intellectually in control of ourselves.
D. Faith(so called) on a religious matter is often nothing more than mere Prejudice
because it does not know the grounds upon which it rests( 1 Pet. 3:15 ).
1. Blind Faith is not Bible generated faith. It is Prejudice( Rom.. 10:17 ).
2. A position held through Prejudice or bigotry will not profit one spiritually.
E. Some people say they Disagree when in reality they know so little about the
subject they can't explain their own position and know even less about the one
they Disagree with.
F. Religious Prejudice is evident when a person can't give "Book, Chapter, and
Verse." The position they hold may even be the truth but it is a truth they hold to,
not by Bible conviction (Faith) but hold to by Prejudice.
G. 2 Pet. 3:18. We are to grow in knowledge so that we hold to our views as a matter
of faith. In that way we can please him( Heb. 11:6; 1 Pet. 3:15 ).
1. Manage; "To take charge or care of; to handle, direct, or control in action or
use; to succeed in accomplishing a task or purpose."
2. We cannot and ought not to try to escape controversy, and yet we fail to
prepare ourselves to constructively deal with conflict.
3. The dynamics of controversy need to be considered.
A. THE PRESSURE OF CONTROVERSY.
1. Confrontation creates an atmosphere of pressure. Unless we are prepared
and feel competent in what we are doing, we will not do well.
2. We can succumb to the pressure to "Win". Thus, we reduce the matter to
there having to be a winner and a loser. We then become "competitive" and
not "cooperative" in the matter.
ACTIVITY COOPERATIVE COMPETITIVE
Communication Open and honest; Missing or misleading
Perception of Accents similarities; minimizes Accents ; differences
Situation differences minimizes similarities
Attitudes toward Friendly, trusting Suspicion; hostility
Task Orientation Views it as a mutual problem; Solution by imposing
one side's view
3. Confrontation is not:
a. Blaming, condemning, and humiliating someone.
b. Backing a person in a corner or putting an individual on the defensive.
c. Rebuking sharply in a mean spirited way.
d. A contest where there is a winner and a loser.
4. Confrontation is the bringing the issue into sharp focus for the purpose of
finding a Biblical resolution.
5. The "pressure" we need to yield to is the word of God; not our emotions,
opinions, pride, or the pacification of friends and family.
B. VALUING THE PERSON WE MUST CONFRONT.
1. In successful conflict management we must value the other person.
2. Consider how God values each one of us.
a. We are made in His image( Gen. 1:26 ). God values us as His creation.
b. Thus that value is constant and unaffected by what one does or believes.
c. God desires every man to be with Him eternally( 2 Pet 3:9 ).
d. God demonstrated to what extent He values us( John 3:16 ).
3. We are to value each other even though we may disagree with each other.
4. We have a tendency to pull away from those who disagree with usand focus
upon their faults and failings. The important thing is to "beat them" or "win".
5. We put them into a "Gang" with others like them (those who disagree with
me) and cease dealing with them as individuals.
6. We feel closer to those who agree, overlooking the faults and failings of each
other. We give each other the benefit of the doubt because "we are
standing for the truth" and fighting the "enemies of the truth".
7. This false standard is a major difficulty in dealing with controversy.
C. MANAGING OUR ANGER IN CONTROVERSY.
1. Strong emotions will exist on all sides of a conflict encounter.
2. We are often unaware of how our emotions influence us in conflict.
3. Emotions need to be channeled in the right direction( Prov 19:2 NIV).
4. Anger is common. It can work to our benefit or destruction( Jas. 1:19-20 ).
5. We must and can control our anger( Eph. 4:26-27 ).
a. No one can "Make" me act in an ungodly way when I'm angry.
b. Anger controlled is righteous indignation. This anger will move us to
do what is right in a godly manner( Mark 3:5 ).
6. Anger uncontrolled will cause one to do the following:
a. Prov. 27:4. Being cruel.
Wrath, chemah, "Heat; anger, poison, hot displeasure, furious, rage...."
Cruel, akzeriyuwth, "cruelty, fierceness, cruel"
Outrageous, sheteph, "a flood, a downpour."
b. Prov. 10:18; 26:24-26,28. Lie.
c. Prov. 29:22; Prov. 30:33. Stirring up dissension and strife.
Strife, madown, "A contest or quarrel; brawling, contention, discord..."
Furious, chemah, (See above)
Forcing, miyts, "Pressure, churning, forcing, wringing."
d. destroy the good name of one with whom there is a conflict.
8. We must control our emotions. One controlled by emotions will be useless
for good in such cases.
D. COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY TO MANAGING CONFLICT.
1. Effective communication exists between two individuals when the
receiver interprets the sender's message in the way the sender intended it.
2. Effective communication involves two things: listening and speaking.
God gave us two ears and one mouth.( Jas. 1:19; Prov. 3:7 ).
3: Matt. 15:10. Hear, akouo, "Come to the ears; give attendance; a thing
comes to one's ear, learn; to perceive anyone's voice; to give ear to one; to
harken to one's voice." Understand, suniemi, "To put together; mentally to
comprehend; toset or join together in the mind."
4. An "In your Face" approach to conflict will surely turn the other off and set
the stage for an unpleasant experience in the conflict.
5. We must listen in order to understand Much of our misunderstandings
come from poor listening. We tend to hear a little of what is said and
assume a whole lot.
6. We have a responsibility to be effective hearers. The words HEAR and
LISTEN are used many times in the Bible( Matt. 13:13; Mark 4:24 ).
D. HOW WE COMMUNICATE OUR VIEW IS VITAL.
1. Eph. 4:29. Not Corrupt,( sapros,"Rotten, worthless; bad; corrupt; poor
quality; unfit for use.") but Edifying,( oikodomme, "Building; edifying")
2. The tongue can buildn or destroy( Jas. 3:2-12 ). It is completely under our
control( Matt. 12:36-37 ).
3. Destructive use of our tongues:
a. Prov. 15:1; Prov. 12:18.Is tone of voice included in these?
b. Gal 5:15. The Greek for "Bite, Devour, and Consume" used to
describe wild animals in a deadly struggle with each other. Be careful!
c. 1 Pet 3:16. Evil, kataleo, "To slander; speak against."
d. Prov 18:13.
4. Constructive use of the tongue:
a. Prov. 15:1,4, 23,28; Prov. 16:23,24.
b. Eph. 4:15 - Two things are important to notice here:
i. Truth not opinion to be spoken( John 8:32; 1 Pet 4:11 )..
ii. It is to be spoken in AGAPE (love)( 1 Cor 13:4-8 ).
iii. Truth used without love is cold and calculated to either put down
or hurt the other. Remember it is likened to a sword( Eph 6:17 ).
A. IN CONFLICT THE TEMPTATION IS TO PUT SELF FORWARD.
1. When our passions take control we are blinded to the benefit of others.
2. We will be both threatened by other and tempted to try to control them.
3. The only one we really have any control over is ourselves
4. We must approach controversy with a concern for truth, and for both our
opponents and others who will be influenced by the controversy.
B. SINCE CONTROVERSY IS UNAVOIDABLE, WE MUST BE COMMITTED
TO HANDLING IT IN A CHRIST-LIKE MANNER. WE MUST PREPARE.
1. Remember our object and our weapons( 2 Cor. 10:1, 3-6 ).
2. Remember our attitude( Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26 ).
A. THE PARTY SPIRIT: It has to do with siding with a particular group or
viewpoint more from a personal feeling rather than a conviction that can be
explained and defended by Book, Chapter, and Verse( John 12:42 ).
1. This spirit or attitude develops in individuals for various reasons.
a. Personal liking or friendship with a prominent member of the PARTY.
b. Being raised with a particular viewpoint and never really making a
personal study of the issue.
c. The opposition acts in such a ugly manner they turn people off.
2. There is a tendency to Parrot the "PARTY LINE".
B. OFTEN partisans, for sake of party, MISBEHAVE( Prov. 28:13 ).
1. No man, for the sake of truth, should do wrong or condone sin( Rom. 3:8 ).
2. Love of party perverts faith and destroys morality, virtue, and unity in truth.
3. God seeks a unity of faith and not in a party spirit( Eph. 4:3 ).
4. Instead of using specific terms in disputed matters there is a tendency, by
those with the party spirit, to use inaccurate and often prejudicial
terminology (Moyerite, Frostite, Fuquaite, Liberal, Anti, Non-Cooperative,
Non-Progressive, Campbellite, Welchite, etc)( 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Prov. 10:18 ).
5. For one infected with the party spirit it is very easy to allow personal feelings
and desires to be elevated above the desire for truth( 1 Cor. 4:6 ).
7. Often one caught up in the party spirit will pervert, ignore, or misuse a
scripture in an attempt to gain a point or advantage and be accepted and
praised by their party( 2 Pet 3:16; 2 Cor 4:2 ).
8. It brings together "Strange Bedfellows"( Luke 23:12 ).
C. The party spirit discourages a real study on an issue. THE
PARTISAN puts faith in a man rather than God( Gal. 1:10 ).
D. It's COMMON to "Cluster" around those who SHARE OUR view.
1. Nothing wrong with this unless we are influenced by those to hold their views
higher than the word of God( 2 Cor. 6:11-14 ).
2. The party discourages dissent( 2 Tim. 4:1-4 ).
a. Endure, anecho, "To hold up, to hold one's self erect and firm, to
sustain, to bear, to bear with, endure".
1). They will not listen to any other view except the party line.
2). You must listen to understand the other viewpoint( Matt 15:10 ).
b. Heap, episoreuo, "To heap up, accumulate in piles, lit.".
c. The party line becomes the standard, the word must conform to it.
d. Jer. 5:31, The Jews had this problem.
d. The party thrives on oratory of its members, not on the truth( Ezek
33:32; Rom. 16:17-18 ). It depends on the people's impression of their
eloquence and wisdom, not their handling of the word( 1 Cor. 2:1-5 ).
e. The sad thing about the party spirit is that, by clinging to it, we may be
turning away from the truth. To have religious zeal, without
becoming a religious partisan, is great proof of true devotion.
A. VITAL IN CONFRONTATIONS. WRONG CONDUCT CAN CANCEL OUT
ALL ARGUMENTS FOR TRUTH.
B. 2 Tim 2:24, 25. HOW DO WE CONDUCT OURSELVES - ATTITUDE.
1. "MUST NOT STRIVE".
a. machomai, "to fight, ...b) used of those who engage in a war of words,
to quarrel, to wrangle, to dispute."
b. Paul condemned this conduct in Corinth( 2 Cor 12:20; 2 Tim 2:14 ).
c. We need to keep things peaceful if possible( Rom 14:19; Rom 12:18 ).
d. Our object is not to beat the other guy, but rescue him from error.
e. Rash speech should be avoided( Eph. 4:29 )..
a. epios, "Mild, gentle".
b. Easy to speak to, approachable; not irritable, intolerant, sarcastic,
scornful. We must try to win them over, hence, be gentle with them.
c. Prov 18:19.
3. "APT TO TEACH".
a. didaktikos, "Skilled in teaching, skilful in teaching" 1 Tim 3:2.
b. We must study thoroughly the matter and clearly communicate our
thinking and rational on the matter( 2 Tim. 2:15 ).
c. If not a capable teacher, seek out one who can assist you.
a. anexikaios, "Patient of ills and wrongs; forbearing".
b. At times our teaching will be met with ridicule, abuse, insult, and injury.
We must be patient( 1 Pet 2:21-24; 2 Tim. 4:2 ).
a. praos, "Gentleness, mildness, meekness".
b. We could strike back at those in error, maybe even destroy them, but
that is contrary to our purpose.
6. Remember love. And what is our object( 2 Tom. 2:25-26; Jude 22-23 ).
A. OBVIOUSLY, YES!
1. Matt 7:6; Matt 10:14.
a. Vs. 1-5 deals with making judgments( John 7:24 ).
b. We must make judgments in dealing with those who disagree with us.
2. Note Jesus and Herod( Mark 6:2 >Luke 23:8,9; Mark 6:3 ).
a. Some are factious( Titus 3:10-11; Psa. 120:6-7).
b. Some "Have not a love for the truth"( 2 Thess 2:10, 11 ).
3. With a brother who is closed minded and won't study( Acts 17:11 ).
4. A hot head who won't control his temper( Prov. 14:7; Ecc. 7:9 ).
B. I AM OBLIGATED TO DISCUSS ISSUES:
1. If I see in my brother an honest longing for truth( Acts 17:11 ).
2. If there are little ones who may stumble( 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 4:1-2;
1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:14-18; Rom. 16:17-18 ).
A. CONSIDER 1 Pet 3:15.
1. I must have a scriptural reason for any position I take on a religious issue.
2. I need to have studied the matter sufficiently and have a Bible based faith.
Book, Chapter and Verse
B. ARE THESE ANSWERS SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENTS?(Believe it or not, these
are some responses I've received in the past)
1. "Well, you can say what you want, but I'll just stand with Jesus on the matter".
2. "Well, I don't care what you say, I believe it just like Paul taught it".
3. "Well, it is obvious you have gone "LIBERAL" on the matter".
4. A brother responds to your explanation by handing you a list of scriptures
dealing with the matter and says, "Here is what I believe about it".
5. "Why, your nothing more than a (brother's name)ite".
6. "Well, it isn't any use talking to you, it's obvious you have a closed mind".
7. A very strong statement: "I just don't believe that".
(Usually said in a very firm and sometime loud manner without any
explanation or scriptural defense for what he believes).
8. "The only reason you take that position is because when you read that
scripture you read your opinion into it whereas when I read it I just get the
truth out of it".
9. "Scripture, scripture, that all you ever use, you never use common sense".
C. WE ARE LIMITED AS TO WHAT WE CAN SAY IN RELIGIOUS
DISCUSSIONS( 1 Pet. 4:11 ).
1. The above noted answers are not a defense of the gospel nor are they the
"Oracles" of God on the matter.
2. Many have a strong, non-Biblical supported feeling on many religious matters.
In reality, fit into the category described in Heb 5:12-13.
A. THE BIBLE HAS THE ANSWERS TO CONTROVERSIES( 2 Pet. 1:3 ).
B. MANY ENTER INTO DISCUSSIONS WITH MORE EMOTION THAN GOOD
SENSE AND UNDERSTANDING.
1. They don't understand the issue.
2. They don't understand what God requires of them in controversy.
C. WE NEED TO LEARN HOW AND BE CAREFUL TO DEAL WITH
CONTROVERSY IN A GODLY WAY.