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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


Unity and Excommunication

Introduction: Unity, Excommunication, and Essentials Only
Excommunication: Historical Context, the Gospels (Part 1)
Excommunication: the Gospels (Part 2)
Excommunication: Acts and Romans
Excommunication: Corinthians
Excommunication: Galatians
Excommun.: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
Excommunication: Paul’s Letters to Timothy
Excommunication: Titus, Hebrews, James, Peter’s Epistles
Excommunication: John’s Epistles, Jude, and Revelation
Excommunication: Biblical Assessment
Excommunication: Historical, Logical Assessments, Conclusions


Part Two: Biblical Study
The Gospels: Jesus’ Instructions Regarding Doctrinal Unity and Doctrinal Tolerance
 
We have seen that Christ did, in fact, authorize the excommunication of Christian brothers. This is the first clue that Christ was not tolerant of doctrinal divergence among his followers. However, questions remain as to the scope of Jesus intolerance for differing doctrinal understandings and practices. In this section of our study we will begin to investigate these related questions.
 
Did Christ intend for excommunication to be applied broadly to any and all violations of his teaching? Or did Christ intend to limit the scope of excommunication only to essential, core teachings? Both of these questions deal with the idea of doctrinal tolerance. Did Christ allow for differing doctrinal points of view among his followers? Or did Christ expect all of his followers to have a single, unified, and uniform understanding of all the subjects he taught about? The gospels provide valuable insight into these questions.
 
There are at least 10 biblical indicators that Jesus was intolerant of doctrinal divergence on any and every subject on which he taught. 
 
1. As we have seen, in Matthew 18, Jesus gave instructions which indicated the scope of excommunication. Here again, for reference, is Matthew 18:15-20.
 
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass (264) against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
 
We must recognize that Jesus does not provide any specifications or limitations regarding the particular issues that warrant separation. There is no restriction to apply excommunication only to a select set of critical or essential teachings. (There isn’t even any expression that Christ conceived of God’s word in the categories of essential and nonessential teachings.) Instead, Jesus simply authorizes excommunication for “trespasses.” The Greek word here is “hamartano” (Strong’s number 264.) It is most often translated as “sin.”
 
264 hamartano
perhaps from 1 (as a negative particle) and the base of 3313; TDNT-1:267,44; v
AV-sin 38, trespass 3, offend 1, for your faults 1; 43
1) to be without a share in
2) to miss the mark
3) to err, be mistaken
4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong
5) to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin 
 
We should take note of the broad nature of the definition of “hamartano.” It includes the concepts of erroneous understanding and violations of God’s law. As such, Matthew 18 strongly implies that Christ intended for any contradiction of his teaching to be subject to excommunication whether that violation was a theological “error” or a “violation of God’s law” in a moral sense.
 
We should also note that Jesus introduces his teaching on excommunication with the phrase “if a brother trespass against thee.” This description indicates that even inter-personal issues can justly warrant excommunication. The inclusion of personal offenses as justification for excommunication directly contradicts the idea that Jesus intended to limit separation to only essential and critical theological topics. To the contrary, by authorizing excommunication for personal offenses, Jesus’ comments exhibit a lack of concern for tolerance among his followers.
 
If Christ’s intention was to convey tolerance for doctrinal differences of opinion, we would expect him to have been careful to restrict excommunication solely to a particular set of teachings. And we would expect him to have identified a specified list or definition of what those restricted doctrinal topics were. He does not. And instead, he authorizes his disciples to excommunicate in a very general and broad manner. The apostle Matthew also seems just as unconcerned about making sure his readers understood excommunication to be applicable to a limited set of critical doctrines outside of which we should be tolerant of doctrinal differences. 
 
On this point, statements like “Judge not, let ye be judged” from Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:36-42 might jump quickly to mind as examples in which Jesus provided such restrictions and demanded tolerance. However, these passages must be reconciled with the practice of excommunication given by Jesus in Matthew 18. Therefore, they cannot constitute general prohibitions on judging and criticism, otherwise Matthew 18 would be impossible and Jesus’ teaching would be self-contradicted. In addition, these passages must be weighed against the totality of other New Testament passages, which like Matthew 18 require the exercise of judgment against other Christians. Moreover, the context of both Matthew 7 and Luke 6 reveals that these instructions are not meant to prohibit judgment of sin, but rather to further purge sin by requiring the party performing the judgment to first ensure that they themselves are avoiding sin and error. The passages are clear that so long as sin and error have been purged, a person is fit to correct others. In this sense, these passages become easily compatible with Jesus’ instructions to excommunicate in Matthew 18. Ultimately, these passages are only reconcilable if they are interpreted as instructing cautiousness and self-reflection before the process of excommunication rather than as teaching tolerance of sin and universal, unconditional acceptance of our fellow Christians. And finally, such passages clearly do not contain any list delineating which doctrines or behaviors should be tolerated and which should be subject to excommunication. For more on biblical teaching on judging please see our articles on Forgiveness and Judging.
 
Furthermore, it is clear that Jesus expected that his followers were entirely capable of carrying out excommunication without any specific direction on what issues it should properly be applied to. Matthew 18 leaves us with the conclusion that Christ (and Matthew) did not feel an exact specification of excommunicable issues was necessary in order for Christians to carry out Jesus’ instructions for separation. This failure to restrict excommunication solely to a limited set of “essential doctrines” indicates that Jesus’ did not intend such a limitation at all and, likewise, exhibits no concern for tolerating doctrinal divergence.
 
While Matthew 18’s presentation of Jesus’ view of doctrinal tolerance is informative, it is also admittedly somewhat limited. This passage simply doesn’t provide direct statements on the matter. However, the gospels do provide clear indications about whether Christ was tolerant of the idea of differing doctrinal understandings among his followers. This leads us to our next indicator of Christ’s intolerance for doctrinal differences of opinion among his followers.
 
 
2. In several passages Jesus is recorded as prohibiting his disciples from incorporating the teachings of other mainstream Jewish sects.
 
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees…11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
 
Mark 8:15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
 
Luke 12:1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
 
The reference to avoiding “leaven” is interesting in light of Deuteronomy 16:1-4, which we mentioned earlier. Deuteronomy 16:1-4 forbids the Israelites from having any contact with leaven during the time of the Passover. Contact with leaven meant disqualification from participating in the Passover meal. To the Jews, the Passover symbolized God’s deliverance from death when he judged the Egyptians during the Exodus. And Passover is the meal that Jesus’ commanded his disciples to continue in the form of the regular Christian communion meal. Consequently, instructing Jews to avoid leaven would immediately invoke the idea of the loss of purification before God, the inability to participate in the communal meal of God’s people, and loss of deliverance from death. By equating “leaven” with teaching, Jesus is displaying doctrinal intolerance on a level that would effectively ban people with certain beliefs from shared communion among his disciples.
 
Consequently, Matthew 16, Mark 8, and Luke 12 clearly depict Jesus as doctrinally intolerant of the differing understandings of other Jews. Both Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus condemned these mainstream Jewish sects for contradicting God’s word and replacing it with their own teachings and traditions.
 
Matthew 15:6 Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 7:13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."


Christ’s condemnation of the religious leaders for violating and replacing God’s teachings shows that, in Jesus’ view, God’s word had a particular intended understanding that was not legitimately open to differing interpretations. If it was, Jesus could not have condemned these sects. Rather, if he was tolerant, Jesus would have expressed sympathy concerning the textual difficulties that lead to their sincere, albeit misguided, differing points of view.
 
It is also extremely important to take note of what Jesus is condemning the Pharisees and Sadducees for in these passages. Now, the argument might be that Jesus’ is condemning the Pharisees for their arrogant and hypocritical attitudes. And that maybe true, but the point is that Jesus’ cites these topics as the grounds upon which he condemns them as arrogant and inconsistent. The specific topics that Jesus addresses here are hand-washing and dedicating gifts to the Temple instead of one’s own needy parents. We might also consider Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23, where he addresses the topics of their phylacteries, the borders of their garments, their seats in the synagogues, their enjoyment of being called “Rabbi,” what religious titles men are allowed to use for each other, the length of their prayers, their motives for making converts, their oaths, tithing, cleaning cups and platters, their building tombs for the prophets and their acknowledgement that their fathers killed the prophets.
 
These are hardly “core” or “essential” issues such as the nature of the Godhead, God’s unity, God’s sovereignty, the sinful depravity of man, the creation of the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Messiah’s coming to judge the world and deliver his people, or eternal damnation. The Pharisees and Sadducees were, after all, Jewish monotheists who adhered to God’s general theocratic and ceremonial system for Israel and believed in the authority of God’s Word in the Old Testament. Aren’t these the “core essentials” of the Old Testament? Shouldn’t that have been enough for Jesus to consider their devotion to God to be meaningful and acceptable to God?
 
But again, the problem is perhaps most apparent in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 where deviation from God’s word on topics as seemingly minor as hand-washing and monetary gifts are seen as important enough to condemn someone as worshipping God in vain. Just imagine condemning a pastor or entire denomination today as deviating from God’s word, as arrogant, and as worshipping God in vain on the grounds that they encourage people to give money to the wrong cause or use inappropriate titles or take inappropriate oaths or wear certain clothing for the wrong reasons. You’d instantly be condemned as arrogant yourself and being an extremist fanatic for condemning church leaders and whole sects of Christianity on such “non-essential” and potentially superficial issues. Yet that’s how intolerant Jesus was being in these passages.
 
We have already seen that despite their doctrinal differences, the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees accepted on another as legitimate Jews and even shared collective authority on their highest religious body, the Sanhedrin. These sects did not excommunicate one another over their doctrinal differences. Here we see that while the religious leaders viewed God’s word as reasonably open to diverse interpretations, Christ did not. In contrast to these Jewish sects, Jesus viewed God’s word as sufficiently clear. It was after all, Jesus himself (the pre-incarnate Word of God) who gave God’s word to men in the Old Testament. (For more on this please see our Trinity Study.)
 
As we read Jesus’ criticisms of these two sects we must be clear. It was, in fact, their different interpretations of God’s word that created the sectarian differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first place. Their differences were the result of divergences from the original intentions of God’s word. Had they maintained the original intent of God’s word, they would not have diverged into sectarian differences of interpretation. In condemning their divergences from God’s word, Christ necessarily condemns their doctrinal differences of opinion. Christ indicates that these sects should have been united in preserving biblical teaching as it was originally given by God. Instead, they developed different understandings and united with one another despite these differences.
 
It is important to our study to recognize that Jesus sternly prohibits his followers from following in the footsteps of the Pharisees and Sadducees on these matters. Put another way, Christ forbids his followers from developing or tolerating different sectarian opinions regarding God’s word (which is, of course, Jesus’ own teachings – See John 8:28, John 14:24, and John 15:15.) It is clear that Christ did not want his followers to be like the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two groups excommunicated others for disagreeing with their shared views. But they did not excommunicate one another where they differed. Surely, this was hypocritical and Jesus forbids this kind of hypocrisy. But more than that, we must recognize that Christ was also prohibiting his followers from diverging in their understandings of his teachings just as the Pharisees and Sadducees had done with the Old Testament.
 
Jesus’ statements clearly show that his own view doctrinal tolerance obviously strongly differed from that of the main Jewish sects of that time. Jesus’ instructions indicate that he intended the unity of his followers to go beyond that of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These Jewish sects had unity in spite of doctrinal diversity. In contrast to this, Jesus instructed his followers not to accept or tolerate teaching from other groups (such as the Pharisees and Sadducees.)
 
In addition, Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees and Sadducees demonstrate that Christ’s conception of doctrinal unity was different from the concept of doctrinal unity offered by an Essential Only View. In contrast to an Essentials Only View, Christ objects to the idea of “unity despite divergent doctrinal understanding,” an idea which was exemplified by the Pharisees and Sadducees. He forbids his followers from adopting this type of practice and, instead, requires them to continue to adhere to what he taught them.
 
As we continue we will see that in contrast to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus was intolerant of any doctrinal divergence among his followers. Instead, he expected universal doctrinal uniformity among his disciples as they remained in the correct understanding of his teachings.
 
Finally, we must note of Jesus’ statements in Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7. Because these groups had deviated from the original teachings of God’s word, according to Jesus their worship of God was in vain. Yes, they worshipped God and believed in the God of the bible. But they had deviated from the intentions of His commands and so, their worship of God did them no good. This is similar to Jesus’ statements in Matthew 7:22-23 and Luke 6:46, which bring us to our next indicator of Jesus’ intolerance for doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
 
3. In Matthew 7:22-23 and Luke 6:46, Jesus discusses people who claim to be his followers, but who don’t keep his words (Matthew 7:21-24.)
 
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (458). 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
 
In Matthew 7:23, Jesus identifies these people as “working iniquity.” The Greek word translated as “iniquity” is “anomia” (Strong’s number 548.) It is a compound word derived from the Greek particle of negation “a” (Strong’s number 1) joined to the Greek word “nomos” (3551) which refers to commands, laws, or rules.
 
458 anomia
from 459; TDNT-4:1085,646; n f
AV-iniquity 12, unrighteousness 1, transgress the law + 4160 1, transgression of the law 1; 15
1) the condition of without law
1a) because ignorant of it
1b) because of violating it
2) contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness
 
459 anomos
from 1 (as a negative particle) and 3551
AV-without law 4, transgressor 2, wicked 2, lawless 1, unlawful 1; 10
1) destitute of (the Mosaic) law
1a) of the Gentiles
2) departing from the law, a violator of the law, lawless, wicked
 
3551 nomos
from a primary nemo (to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals); TDNT-4:1022,646; n m
AV-law 197; 197
1) anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command
1a) of any law whatsoever
1a1) a law or rule producing a state approved of God
1a1a) by the observance of which is approved of God
1a2) a precept or injunction
1a3) the rule of action prescribed by reason
1b) of the Mosaic law, and referring, acc. to the context. either to the volume of the law or to its contents
1c) the Christian religion: the law demanding faith, the moral instruction given by Christ, esp. the precept concerning love
1d) the name of the more important part (the Pentateuch), is put for the entire collection of the sacred books of the OT
 
In effect, Christ is stating that, despite their claims to the contrary, these people are not his followers precisely because they don’t keep his teachings. Luke 6 captures Jesus’ words more concisely.
 
Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say (3004)? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
 
3004 lego
a root word; TDNT-4:69,505; v
AV-say 1184, speak 61, call 48, tell 33, misc 17; 1343
1) to say, to speak
1a) affirm over, maintain
1b) to teach
1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct
1d) to point out with words, intend, mean, mean to say
1e) to call by name, to call, name
1f) to speak out, speak of, mention
 
From previous passages we have seen that Christ expressed no tolerance for the Pharisees and Sadducees who had diverged from the original intent of God’s word. It was apparent that Jesus felt God’s word was clear enough that they should have been able to retain the correct, originally intended meaning without deviation. Likewise, Jesus indicates that his own followers were perfectly capable of properly understanding and obeying his teachings. Those who did not adhere to and remain in his teachings would not actually be Christ’s disciples. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, these people’s worship of Christ was in vain because they didn’t actually follow his teachings. (We will see the apostles echo these words later in the New Testament as they warn Christians against adopting false views and, therefore, believing in vain.)
 
So here in Matthew 7:21, Jesus rejects those who claim to be his followers but don’t actually keep his teachings. It is also noteworthy that right before these verses, Jesus gives another indication of his intolerance for doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
 
4. Another indicator of Christ’s intolerance for false doctrinal views comes by way of his warnings about false prophets.
 
Matthew 7:15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.

Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible.
 
The Greek word translated as “false prophets” is “psuedoprophetes” (Strong’s number 5578.) In basic terms, a false prophet is someone who speaks falsehoods as if they are God’s word.
 
5578 pseudoprophetes
from 5571 and 4396; TDNT-6:781,952; n m
AV-false prophet 11; 11
1) one who, acting the part of a divinely inspired prophet, utters falsehoods under the name of divine prophecies
2) a false prophet
 
Exactly, what was it that concerned Jesus about false prophets? What did false prophets threaten that was so alarming?
 
The danger of a false prophet was that they would lead people astray by teaching them things that were contrary to the things of God. Perhaps the false prophet would get people to worship false gods. Perhaps the false prophet would teach people things contrary to God’s will, which would lead to their destruction and/or rejection by God. The Old Testament contains false prophets of both kinds. In either case, Jesus’ comments convey that he was concerned about those who would speak falsely about God and lead his followers astray. Later in the New Testament we will see that the apostles equated Jesus’ warnings about false prophets to false teachers (2 Peter 2:1.) As such, these passages provide further indications that Jesus was intolerant of doctrinal views which diverged from his own teachings. These passages also show that Jesus and his apostles were aware of a need to give the church the resources to resist doctrinal deception or deviation. One of the primary means of equipping the church to avoid being led astray was providing Christians with the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching. As we will cover in the segment immediately below, providing a record of Jesus’ teaching on any given subject automatically suggests that it was considered important that the church not deviate or drift into speculation on that particular subject.
 
 
5. A survey of the gospels shows that Jesus taught on a wide variety of subjects, some of which are considered nonessential doctrines by today’s standards. The list below captures the various issues that Jesus taught about and which the gospel writers felt were necessary to preserve for later Christians.
 
Jesus teachings to his disciples included the following issues:
 
1. Repentance from sin:
Matthew 3, Matthew 5, Matthew 18; Mark 1:15, Mark 2:17; Luke 15, Luke 17
 
2. The Kingdom of God (the Kingdom of Heaven):
Who inherits it; what is inherited, what it is like –
(Matthew 3,) Matthew 8:10-12, Matthew 10, Matthew 11:11-13, Matthew 13, Matthew 19:28, Matthew 20, Matthew 21, Matthew 22, Matthew 24-25; (Mark 1:15,) Mark 4; Luke 13, Luke 17, Luke 19:12, Luke 22:28-30, John 3, John 18:36-37, (Acts 1:3)
 
3. End Times, Eschatology:
Including the order of events preceding His return –
Matthew 24, Matthew 26:64, Mark 8:38-39, Mark 12:24-27, Mark 13, Mark 14:62, Luke 21
 
4. Old and New Covenant Issues:
Matthew 11:11-13, Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12; Luke 20
Also including dietary restrictions –
Matthew 15; Mark 7; Acts 10:11-16, Acts 11:6-10
 
5. Murder, Violence:
Also including being angry without just cause, pacifism, suffering injustice –
Matthew 5; Luke 6
 
6. Adultery, Divorce, Remarriage:
Matthew 5, Matthew 19; Mark 10 
 
7. Speaking Honestly:
Matthew 5
 
8. Giving, Contentment:
Also including: not seeking material wealth, abuse of God’s house because of greed – Matthew 6, Matthew 19; Mark 10, Mark 11, Mark 12:43-44; Luke 12, Luke 16, Luke 18, Luke 19:45-48
Communal Sharing –
Matthew 19, Matthew 25; Mark 10; Luke 18
 
9. Forgiveness:
Matthew 6, Matthew 18; Luke 15, Luke 17,
 
10. Loving our neighbor:
Matthew 7, Matthew 22, Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 12; Luke 10:30-37,
 
11. Protocols for Traveling Evangelists:
Matthew 8:21, Matthew 10, Mark 6:10-12, Luke 9, Luke 10;
 
12. Salvation through His Atoning Work:
Matthew 26:28, Luke 24:47
 
13. Families:
Matthew 10, Matthew 12; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21, Luke 14:26
 
14. Blaspheme:
Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 12
 
15. Belief, Enduring in the Faith and Turning from the Faith:
Matthew 13, Matthew 24; Mark 4, Mark 13; Luke 8; Luke 14:16-24
 
16. Setting Aside God’s Commands for the Sake of Human Traditions:
Matthew 15, Mark 7
 
17. Authority and Service in the Church:
Matthew 16:17-19, Matthew 18, Matthew 20, Matthew 23, Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 9:35, Mark 10; John 20:22-23
 
18. His Physical Resurrection:
Matthew 17, Matthew 20:18-19, Matthew 22:29-32; Mark 8:31, Mark 10:33-34; Luke 9:22, Luke 18:33, Luke 24 
 
19. Excommunication:
Also including cutting off members of the body that sin and cause others to sin, division for His sake –
Matthew 10, Matthew 18; Mark 9; John 20:22-23
 
20. The Beginning and Creation:
Matthew 19, Mark 9
 
21. Paying Taxes:
Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20:21-25
 
22. The Communion Meal:
Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22
 
23. The Gospel – What the Apostles Were to Teach and What We Must Believe:
Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-19, Acts 1
 
24. Prayer:
Matthew 5, Matthew 6; Luke 11
 
25. Issues related to the Sabbath:
Matthew 12; Mark 3, Mark 7; Luke 6; John 5, John 7
 
26. Life After Death:
Matthew 10:28, Matthew 22; Mark 12:24-27; Luke 12:5, Luke 20:37-38
 
27. Angels:
Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20
 
28. On God, the Father, the Holy Spirit:
Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 12, Matthew 18:19, Matthew 24:36, Matthew 28:19; Mark 3, Mark 12:36, Mark 13:11, 32; Luke 11:13, Luke 12:12; John 5-6, John 10, John 14-17, John 17:1
 
29. Baptism in Water and the Holy Spirit:
(Acts 1)
 
30. Sin Lists Including:
Fornication, Covetousness, etc. –
Matthew 15, Mark 7
 
31. Eternal Punishment and Hell
Matthew 5, Matthew 10, Matthew 18, Matthew 25, Mark 9, Luke 10, Luke 16
 
The above teaching topics are attributed to the person of Jesus Christ directly. However, the gospels also preserve teaching on topics that are not directly attributed to quotations from Jesus. These include:
 
1. Repentance:
Matthew 3; Mark 1, Luke 3
 
2. Baptism in the Holy Spirit:
Matthew 3, Mark 1
 
3. The incarnation and virgin birth of Christ:
Matthew 1-2; Luke 1; John 1
 
4. Jesus’ Baptism by John and the Holy Spirit:
Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3; John 1
 
5. Jesus’ Transfiguration:
Matthew 17, Mark 9; Luke 9
 
6. Jesus’ Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Resurrection, Appearances to the Apostles, and Ascension:
Matthew 27-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; John 18-20, Acts 1
 
7. Miracles:
Matthew 8, Matthew 9, Matthew 12; Mark 1, Mark 3, Mark 5, Mark 9; Luke 4,-5, Luke 7, Luke 8, Luke 10, John 9, John 11
 
8. The Kingdom of God:
Including what it is –
Luke 1:68-75
 
9. Jesus as God and Christ:
Matthew 1, Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 1:49, John 4:25-26; John 6:62; John 8, John 10:30; John 14, John 17:5, John 20:28
 
10. Communal Sharing:
John 12:6, John 13:29
 
The above listings are fairly complete. However, the purpose of these lists isn’t to be absolutely exhaustive. Rather, the reason we draw attention to these issues is so that we will be aware of what Jesus’ taught his disciples.
 
The key point is that these are the doctrinal subjects that Christ felt were important enough to instruct the disciples on. Furthermore, these are the doctrinal issues that the gospel writers were inspired by God to preserve for later generations. This conveys the critical importance of these teachings for Christian life, faith, fellowship, and for division. Writing down Christ’s teaching on these subjects inherently demonstrates the intent that the church should preserve a correct understanding of Christ’s teaching in those areas. This fact is even more apparent when we consider the next biblical indicator of Christ’s intolerance for doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
 
6. The gospel writers record Jesus’ instructions concerning what the apostles were to teach and be witnesses of as well as Christ’s requirements for what future disciples must believe to be saved. The details of these accounts provide another indicator of Jesus intolerance for any doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
The final chapters of Matthew and Mark’s gospels provide parallel accounts of Jesus’ final instructions to his apostles regarding his teachings.
 
Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth (4100) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth (569) not shall be damned.
 
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
Likewise, the opening chapter of Acts includes Luke’s account of these same events and instructions.
 
Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
 
These three passages all include similar details. First, all three passages take place in the same timeframe, after Christ’s resurrection and before his final ascension to heaven. Second, we see that Jesus is meeting with the eleven apostles. (That is the twelve apostles minus Judas.) Third, in all three sets of verses, Jesus instructs the disciples regarding baptism. And fourth, Jesus instructs the apostles on evangelizing in all three passages. These facts give us little reason to doubt that Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 are all recording the same instructions from Jesus to the apostles. But there are several additional observations that we can make by comparing these passages.
 
One, the gospel authors each used slightly different terminology to indicate where the apostles were to go. Mark uses the phrase “to all the world.” In Acts 1, Luke uses the phrase “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Alternatively, Matthew uses the phrase “to all nations.” Two, alternate wording is also used regarding who the apostles were to preach to. Mark states they were to go to “every creature.” Matthew uses the phrase “all nations.” And in Acts, Luke simply refers to “Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost part of the earth.”
 
These are not different sets of instructions on different issues. Instead, Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 are simply using alternate wording for the same instruction on the same topic that Jesus instructed his apostles about in the days before his ascension. The phrases “all the world,” “all nations,” and “Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost part of the earth” are all referring to the same thing. They are effectively synonymous phrases. They all refer to the apostles going to the entire world beginning in Jerusalem. Likewise, “every creature,” and “all nations” are both referring to all men everywhere both Jews and Gentiles. It is obvious then that Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 are all recording the same instructions about evangelism that Jesus gave to his disciples during the period between his resurrection and ascension.
 
It is important then that we also take note of the different wording these passages use to describe what the apostles were to tell those they encountered. In Mark’s account, Jesus tells the apostles to “preach the gospel.” In Matthew’s account, Jesus tells the apostles to “teach…to observe all things whatsoever he commanded them.” And in Acts 1, Luke first mentions “all things that Jesus did and taught” and then explains that Jesus “gave commandments to the apostles,” taught them about “things pertaining to the kingdom,” so they could be his witnesses. These are also effectively synonymous phrases.
 
John’s gospel records a comment from Jesus that is similar to the statements Luke records in Acts 1.
 
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
 
Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God…8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
 
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
In both Acts 1 and John 15:26-27 Jesus is discussing the coming of the Holy Spirit and the apostles being witnesses. Likewise, both passages indicate that the apostles were witnesses of what Jesus had said among the apostles since the beginning of his ministry. And similarly, Acts 1:1-3 and Matthew 28:20 both corroborate the fact that Jesus instructed the apostles to be witnesses of all things whatsoever that they had seen him do and teach.
 
This comparison of Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and John 15 shows that the phrases “preach the gospel,” “teach all things whatsoever Christ commanded,” “all that Jesus did and taught,” and “things pertaining to the kingdom” all necessarily refer to the same thing. They all tell us what the apostles were to share with all men everywhere. And they, likewise, tell us what all men were to rightly believe in order to be saved.
 
For the purposes of our study, Matthew’s qualification of Jesus’ instructions to teach “all things whatsoever” is particularly informative. This phrase is translated from the Greek words “pas” (Strong’s number 3956) and “hosos” (3745.)
 
3956 pas
including all the forms of declension; TDNT-5:886,795; adj
AV-all 748, all things 170, every 117, all men 41, whosoever 31, everyone 28, whole 12, all manner of 11, every man 11, no + 3756 9, every thing 7, any 7, whatsoever 6, whosoever + 3739 + 302 3, always + 1223 3, daily + 2250 2, any thing 2, no + 3361 2, not tr 7, misc 26; 1243
1) individually
1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
2) collectively
2a) some of all types
 
3745 hosos
by reduplication from 3739; ; pron
AV-as many as 24, whatsoever 9, that 9, whatsoever things 8, whatsoever + 302 7 as long as 5, how great things 5, what 4, misc 37; 115
1) as great as, as far as, how much, how many, whoever
 
The English phrase “all things whatsoever” adequately conveys the meaning of these Greek words when they are connected together. It is a way of referring to all things in a broad, unrestricted sense. Compare the use of this same phrase in the following passages with its use in Matthew 28:20.
 
Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things (3956) whatsoever (3745) I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things (3956) whatsoever (3745) ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
 
Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all (3956) that (3745) he hath, and buyeth that field…46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all (3956) that (3745) he had, and bought it.
 
Matthew 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all (3956) that (3745) he had, and payment to be made.
 
Matthew 21:22 And all things (3956), whatsoever (3745) ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
 
Mark 12:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all (3956) that (3745) she had, even all her living.
 
Luke 18:22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all (3956) that (3745) thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
 
John 10:41 And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things (3956) that (3745) John spake of this man were true.
 
In all of these passages the meaning of the phrase “all things whatsoever” is clear. For instance, we understand that in Matthew 13, the man doesn’t just sell a few, important possessions in order to purchase the field. He sells everything. In Matthew 18, it isn’t just some high value items that the servant lost to cover his debts. He lost everything, even his own freedom and that of his wife and children. In Mark 12:44, the widow doesn’t just give some things. She gives everything she had. In Luke 18:22, Jesus’ doesn’t ask the rich young ruler to give up some of his wealth. He tells him to give it all. In John 10:41, it wasn’t that only some of the things that John the Baptist said about Jesus were true, while others were false. Instead, everything John said about Jesus was true.
 
The same is true for Matthew 28:20. Jesus isn’t instructing the apostles to teach only some of the things he’d taught them about. He isn’t telling to share only the important and central things but they could leave out other things. He’s telling them to share everything, all things whatsoever. Or, according to Acts 1, the apostles were to be witnesses of all the things that Jesus said and did.
 
By comparing the language used by the gospel authors, we gain a clear picture of what it was that Jesus intended his apostles to tell others. According to Mark, those who would be saved would have to believe what it was the apostles shared with them. Mark identifies the apostolic message as “the gospel” or “good news.”
 
Matthew and Luke’s accounts provide insight into what Mark meant by “the gospel.” According to Matthew and Luke, “the gospel” is “all the things whatsoever (everything) that Jesus had taught and commanded the apostles” and it included “his commandments,” “things pertaining to the kingdom,” and “all things that Jesus did and taught.”
 
Taking all these accounts together we arrive at the conclusion that those who believed all things whatsoever that Jesus taught the apostles would be saved. Those who did not believe all things whatsoever Jesus taught the apostles would not be saved.
 
We should pay attention to the fact that both Jesus and Matthew are here speaking of what must be believed in order to be saved. The Greek words that Matthew uses here are “pisteuo” (Strong’s number 4100) and its negation “apisteuo” (569.)
 
4100 pisteuo
from 4102; TDNT-6:174,849; v
AV-believe 239, commit unto 4, commit to (one’s) trust 1, be committed unto 1, be put in trust with 1, be commit to one’s trust 1, believer 1; 248
1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in
1a) of the thing believed
1a1) to credit, have confidence
1b) in a moral or religious reference
1b1) used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul
1b2) to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith
1bc) mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith
2) to entrust a thing to one, i.e. his fidelity
2a) to be intrusted with a thing
 
569 apisteo
from 571; TDNT-6:174,849; v
AV-believe not 7; 7
1) to betray a trust, be unfaithful
2) to have no belief, disbelieve
 
571 apistos
from 1 (as a negative particle) and 4103; TDNT-6:174,849; adj
 
All of these Greek words are related to one another and are derived from the Greek word for “faith” or “belief” which is “pistis” (4102.)
 
4102 pistis
from 3982; TDNT-6:174,849; n f
AV-faith 239, assurance 1, believe + 1537 1, belief 1, them that believe 1, fidelity 1; 244
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
1a) relating to God
1a1) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
1b) relating to Christ
1b1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
1c) the religious beliefs of Christians
1d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
2) fidelity, faithfulness
2a) the character of one who can be relied on
 
This Greek word “pistis” (4201) is the general word used in the New Testament to refer to the Christian faith and Christian beliefs. This is exactly what Jesus is referring to here as “the gospel” and “all things whatsoever he had taught and commanded the apostles.”
 
These are striking and telling instructions from Jesus recorded in these passages. The apostles were instructed to teach and bear witness to all things that Christ taught. Their writings (the New Testament) are the preservation of this apostolic witness. The gospels in particular are a written record of all the things which the apostles felt that these instructions from Jesus required them to teach and bear witness to and required Christians to rightly believe in order to be saved. Therefore, the apostles (and their writing associates) recorded all of the various teachings of Jesus that we find in the gospels. The apostle John confirms this at the close of his gospel and in the opening of his first epistle. Everything the apostles recorded in the gospel accounts was written to witness to Jesus’ deeds and teachings just as Jesus had commissioned them in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and John 15:26-27.
 
John 21:24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
 
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
 
And what we find recorded here fits very consistently with Jesus’ teaching on excommunication in Matthew 18 as well as his condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Just as Jesus’ instructions on excommunication were broad-ranging and not limited, Jesus’ instruction for what topics disciples must be taught and must believe is equally broad and unlimited. Similarly, we have also seen that Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees was not limited to only “core, essential topics.” This leads us to our next indicator of Jesus’ intolerance for any kind of doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
 
7. The next indicator that Jesus authorized excommunication for any kind of doctrinal divergence comes from comparing Matthew 28 and Matthew 18. There is good reason to conclude that Matthew intends for his readers to connect Jesus’ instructions in chapter 28 with his instructions in chapter 18. Both passages of Matthew’s gospel contain several particular details.
 
First, it is worth noting that these same Greek words “whatsoever” (“hosos,” 3745) and “all things” (“pas,” 3956) are used in both Matthew 28 and Matthew 18. As we saw earlier, these verses record Jesus’ description of the scope of the apostles’ authority to bind and lose. He states that their authority to excommunicate applies to “whatsoever” (verse 18) and to “any thing” (verse 19.) Jesus’ intention is to convey the broad and unrestricted nature of the things that the apostles could exercise this authority over.
 
Matthew 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever (3745) ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever (3745) ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any (3956) thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
 
Second, in both chapter 18 and 28 Matthew records Jesus’ references to his heavenly and earthly authority (Matthew 18:18-19 above and Matthew 28:18 below.)
 
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
 
Third, in both passages, Matthew records Jesus’ statement that he will be with his apostles as they carry out these tasks (Matthew 18:20 and Matthew 28:20.)
 
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
 
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
Fourth, another similarity that exists between Matthew 18 and 28 is that in both passages Jesus speaks broadly and generally.
 
In Matthew 18, Jesus instructs his followers to excommunicate brothers for trespasses. He does not specify any particular trespasses. He does not make any particular trespasses off limits for excommunication. Instead, he uses the generic Greek verb for sin (“hamartano,” Strong’s number 264.) Likewise, Jesus indicates that excommunication can be conducted even for inter-personal offenses. This is a broad scope for excommunication which defies the idea of a limited range of excommunicable issues.
 
Likewise, in Matthew 28 we find Jesus instructing his followers to “teach all things whatsoever he had commanded them.” This is another deliberate and clear indication that Jesus wasn’t referring to a limited set of critical teachings. Instead, Jesus commanded the apostles to teach others everything that he had taught them. Furthermore, Jesus’ stated that in order to be saved, new converts would have to believe and receive all these things.
 
This is similar to John 8:30-31, where Jesus states that to be his disciples we must remain in his teaching. 
 
John 8:30 As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
 
Likewise, in John 15:6, Jesus discusses the same idea of remaining or abiding in his words.
 
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
 
We must note that in John 15:6, Jesus’ statements reflect the same idea conveyed in Matthew 18 regarding excommunication. In Matthew 18, Jesus described excommunication through the idea of cutting off and casting away a part of the body. Here in John 15, Jesus speaks of casting forth branches that are part of the vine. To be clear, John 15 seems to use the idea of burning with fire to discuss being cast out of the kingdom and into hell. He is not, therefore, specifically addressing church disciplinary measures like excommunication. However, to be fair, the two subjects (excommunication and eternal damnation) are intentional connected both conceptually and scripturally (as we will see in our study of the rest of the New Testament.) The purpose of excommunication was to demonstrate that violating Christ’s teachings meant a loss of fellowship in the church now and in the kingdom when it arrived. It makes sense then for Jesus to describe these things similarly in Matthew 18 and John 15.
 
In both cases, we see the idea that people can be cut off for not remaining faithful to Jesus’ teachings. Again, in John 15, Jesus does not specify only a particular, limited set of teachings that he has in mind. He only speaks broadly. Matthew 18 and Matthew 28 (as well as Mark 16 and Acts 1 by extension) clearly include instructions for the apostles to teach others everything that Jesus taught them and to excommunicate for virtually anything. We must keep in mind our survey from earlier showed that the gospel authors felt it was critical to preserve Jesus’ teaching on many doctrinal issues that an Essentials Only View categorizes as nonessential.
 
Similarly, we can see from Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 that the apostles were to teach all men everywhere everything that Jesus had taught them. The result of this process would be a universal uniformity of belief among all Christians everywhere. Such a uniform and universal understanding of Christ’s teachings on all subjects shared by all Christians everywhere would more than adequately serve Christ’s intentions of preventing his followers from being led astray by false teachings. Such a prescription to teach all his teachings everywhere is also consistent with Jesus’ intention to prevent his followers from the kind of doctrinal divergences he condemned in the Pharisees and Sadducees.
 
The conception of total doctrinal unity that the gospel authors attribute to Jesus is in direct contrast with the diversity allowed in the greater first century Jewish community, in the modern church, and in the Essentials Only View. The Pharisees and Sadducees exhibited a difference of interpretation and understanding on various biblical teachings, yet they didn’t dissociate from one another. The same is true of most denominations today.
 
And yet, Jesus required the unity of his followers to go beyond unity shared by the Pharisees and Sadducees who provide the paramount example of “unity in spite of diverse interpretations.” In contrast to these groups, Jesus instructed his followers not to accept teaching from other groups (such as the Pharisees and Sadducees.) He also instructed his followers not to develop their own teachings that differed from what he had taught them. He warned his followers of the necessity to remain in his teachings and not to be led astray by those offering false understandings of God’s word. He instructed his apostles to teach other men all the things that he had taught them. Restrictions against incorporating outside views and developing divergent understandings coupled with the demand to teach everyone everything would inherently result in a single, universal, uniform set of beliefs shared by all Christians everywhere. We can see then that Jesus clearly intended to prevent any possibility of or tolerance for sectarian doctrinal divergence. Sadly, this is not what the church requires today.
 
This demand for comprehensive doctrinal unity fits quite well with Jesus’ instructions on excommunication in Matthew 18. Because he prohibited sectarian division and required all men to be taught all of the same things, Jesus could instruct his disciples to excommunicate in a broad manner, without specifications or limitations, and in conjunction with their agreement. Similarly, because the apostles were warned against sectarian practices and were commanded to teach everything to all new converts, the scope of the early church’s agreement would be utterly comprehensive regarding every subject Christ taught about. It could even be applied to personal offenses. Therefore, Christ’s institution of excommunication (in Matthew 18) would therefore serve the purpose of removing people who didn’t keep his teachings from the community of his followers.
 
 
8. Our next indicator of Jesus’ intolerance for any doctrinal divergence among his followers examines a common conception of essential doctrines in light of the gospels’ accounts of Christ’s teaching.
 
Most modern Christians would use the gospel as a synonymous term to refer to a select set of essential Christian teachings. In his article Dr. Geisler provides an example of this type of usage of the term “the gospel.” Here Geisler explicitly states that “the gospel” entails his select set of the 14 essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
 
What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?...Another way to answer this is to take a logical approach. This approach is better…The logical approach simply begins with the teachings of the New Testament on salvation and asks, What are the essential doctrines on salvation without which salvation would not be possible?...Salvation as described in the Bible, based in the deity, death, and resurrection of Christ—which is the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1–6)—entails all these essential doctrines, including: (1) human depravity, (2) Christ’s virgin birth, (3) Christ’s sinlessness, (4) Christ’s deity, (5) Christ’s humanity, (6) God’s unity, (7) God’s triunity, (8) the necessity of God’s grace, (9) the necessity of faith, (10) Christ’s atoning death, (11) Christ’s bodily resurrection, (12) Christ’s bodily ascension, (13) Christ’s present high priestly service, (14) Christ’s second coming, final judgment, and reign. – Norman L. Geisler, The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith (Part Two), The Logical Approach, JAE100-2, http://equip.org/articles/the-essential-doctrines-of-the-christian-faith-part-two-
 
In the above quote, Dr. Geisler answers the question: what are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith? Geisler explains by citing New Testament teaching about what makes salvation possible. He then states that teachings on Christ’s deity, death, and resurrection are the basis for salvation and then identifies these teachings as “the gospel.” Afterwards he explains that the gospel entails the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Many Christians today may use the term “the gospel” in the same way to refer to a limited set of essential Christian doctrines. As Geisler’s article demonstrates, “the gospel” is commonly contrasted with nonessential biblical teaching, which is therefore not part of the gospel.
 
It is also important to note that Dr. Geisler does not include the nature of the kingdom of God and its coming as essential doctrines. In the view of Geisler (and many other Christians today), the nature of the kingdom and its coming are not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his apostles.  
 
However, the phrase “the gospel” is first introduced in the New Testament as “the gospel of the kingdom.” A word search in any online bible program for the word “gospel” will demonstrate that early in the gospels “THE gospel” is normally attached to “the kingdom of God.” Furthermore, the English word “gospel” is translated from the Greek noun “euaggelion” (Strong’s number 2098) which comes from the Greek verb “euaggelizo” (Strong’s number 2097.) The noun refers to the “good news” and the verb refers to “preaching the good news.” Here are some samples of the usage of these words from the early New Testament beginning with John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus and continuing after Pentecost into the ministry of the apostles.
 
Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel (2098) of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
 
Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel (2098) of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
 
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel (2098) of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
 
Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel (2098) of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (2098).
 
Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach (2097) the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
 
Luke 8:1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings (2097) of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
 
Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached (2097), and every man presseth into it.
 
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching (2097) the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
 
A study of the usage of the phrases “the gospel” and “the kingdom of God” in the New Testament shows that the two terms are inseparably linked. In a biblical sense, there is good reason to conclude that we cannot talk about the gospel without talking about the kingdom. Jesus Christ, his teachings, and his atoning work are the means by which we can enter into that kingdom and participate in the life and fellowship that it offers. In total, the good news was that through Jesus Christ we can enter into the coming kingdom of God. We must realize that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, this “good news” did not often include a mention of Jesus’ impending death and resurrection. Imagine Jesus spending three years roaming across Judea preaching to the crowds that he was going to die and be raised from the dead for the forgiveness of their sins. The gospels record that this was not the case. Instead, Jesus’ teaching time was spent entirely on other subjects, including various aspects of the kingdom of God. The preaching of his death and resurrection were added after Jesus’ atoning work was complete. Yet many Christians today define the “gospel” almost exclusively as pertaining to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Perhaps equally ironic is the fact that many modern Christians regard most of the topics that Jesus’ spent time teaching about as nonessential and as not directly related to the “gospel,” including a definition of the kingdom. But from the beginning of the New Testament to the end, “the gospel” is that through faith in Jesus Christ we can enter God’s kingdom.
 
From a New Testament point of view, it therefore seems strange to suggest that rightly believing in “the gospel” is an essential doctrine, but rightly believing in “the kingdom of God” is not. That would be like saying the good news is important, but not what the good news is about. It would be like telling someone you have good news for them and then being incapable of explaining to them what the good news was in regards to. Or, it would be like telling someone that the content of the good news was not particularly important. Surely, people would want to know what the good news is about. And if you can’t be clear, concrete, certain, and specific – how can you even say you have good news for them? Or, if the object of the good news is not very important, then how important is the good news? This is the case with a gospel that doesn’t contain or require a firm, specific, and correct understanding of the kingdom. It is after all the good news of the kingdom.
 
Furthermore, the kingdom that John the Baptist and Jesus preached was a gospel about the expected earthly, Jewish, Messianic kingdom. In passages we will look at later (such as Romans and Galatians,) we will see the apostles teaching about the inheritance of Jews and Gentiles in the coming kingdom of God. In these New Testament texts an earthly inheritance in the kingdom is presented as an essential component of the gospel message. This makes sense because Jesus’ ministry largely focused on things pertaining to the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to Jews who were expecting the fulfillment of promises for an earthly kingdom. In addition, Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 show that Jesus instructed his apostles to teach all things he’d commanded them. These passages demonstrate that the apostles understood the phrases “teach all things that Christ taught them,” “the preaching the gospel,” and “things pertaining to the kingdom” to be synonymous phrases articulating their apostolic charge from Jesus.
 
The gospel authors show that the modern conception of the gospel as a limited set of doctrines is not founded on biblical teaching. To the contrary, the New Testament authors and apostles understood the gospel to include “all things whatsoever Jesus had taught about” and “things pertaining to the kingdom.” Incidentally, the parallel nature of these phrases also implies that everything Jesus’ taught was important to the kingdom. This is a direct contradiction of an Essentials Only View which limits “the gospel” to a few select doctrinal issues which alone are required for salvation.
 
It is very strange then that today many Christians would view the gospel as an essential doctrine while viewing issues related to the coming and nature of the kingdom of God as nonessentials. Online we offer an outline that covers the biblical details of the gospel and the kingdom in a more in-depth manner. The outline is titled “Covenant and Dispensational Theologies.” It also discusses the fundamental relationship between New Testament teachings on the gospel, the kingdom, and the inheritance of Jewish and Gentile saints. These are all issues that today’s denominations consider nonessentials and which they freely disagree about. But, as we will continue to see, the New Testament clearly identifies these same issues as critical components of the gospel itself.
 
 
9. Another biblical indication that Christ and the apostles required all Christians to adhere to a single, uniform doctrinal understanding on all points comes from a comparison of the New Testament’s treatment of supposedly “essential” and “nonessential” teachings.
 
Modern church denominations differ significantly from one another in their understanding of end times’ (eschatological) doctrines and how to understand the coming of the kingdom of God. Most denominations are open and accepting of other Christians despite disagreements they may have on these subjects. On the other hand, we demand strict agreement on doctrines related to the nature of God, the Trinity, and the nature and person of Christ. Under an Essentials Only View, Christians accept those with different eschatological interpretations because a shared understanding of eschatology is not essential for fellowship. However, the Trinity is considered to be essential for fellowship. Therefore, we divide from those whose view of God is non-Trinitarian.
 
But, between these two issues (eschatology and the Trinity), which is given more explicit attention, detail, and treatment by Jesus Christ and the gospel authors? Doctrinal issues on the end times and kingdom of God? Or doctrinal issues on the Trinity and the nature of Jesus Christ?
 
Our understanding of Trinitarian issues is compiled from various statements over the course of the scripture. We can perform a similar survey regarding the biblical teachings on the kingdom of God. But, we must also realize that Christ taught extensively and directly about the kingdom of God and issues related to its nature and the events that will herald its arrival. By contrast, no such dissertation from Christ on the Trinity is recorded in the scriptures.
 
To be clear, the revelation of the Trinity and the nature and divinity of Jesus Christ (in the bible as a whole, in the gospels, and in the later New Testament) is decisively clear and not open to alternate understandings or interpretations. And we are right to separate from those who hold to erroneous views on these doctrines.
 
However, when we consider the attention that Jesus gives to instructing his disciples on various topics, can we honestly conclude that he did not consider teachings on the end times and the kingdom of God to be essential and critical subjects for his followers to properly understand? When we compare the biblical treatment of eschatology and the kingdom of God to other doctrinal issues that we know are essential (like the Trinity) it hardly seems possible to conclude that Christ felt eschatology was not a critical issue for his followers to properly understand. Likewise, it doesn’t seem reasonable to conclude that Christ felt his teachings on these subjects were insufficient or unclear. On the contrary, it seems clear that Christ (and the gospel authors) felt that end times’ prophecy and kingdom-related doctrines were sufficiently understandable and a matter of central importance for Christ’s followers.
 
We would posit that the sheer amount of the gospels that pertain to eschatology and kingdom-related doctrines gives us good reason to reconsider whether these doctrines can rightly be considered nonessential and noncritical issues of faith. On the contrary, Jesus’ statements about the end times and (the nature, timing, and coming of) the kingdom demonstrate that he felt a correct understanding of these issues was of critical importance to his followers’ faith and salvation.
 
Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
 
Mark 13:4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? 5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
 
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
 
Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
 
We should note that Jesus’ statements about false teachers specifically refer to persons who spoke falsely concerning end times teachings. This is the very context of Jesus’ remarks on false prophets in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. The context of these passages makes it clear that Jesus felt that correctly understanding eschatological issues was of critical importance to his followers’ faith and salvation.
 
(There are many other comments that Jesus makes when teaching on the end times and the kingdom of God that indicate the importance he placed on correctly understanding these teachings. We will not quote them all here. For more information read the Olivet Discourse, particularly Matthew 24:37-51, Matthew 25:1-13, Mark 13:14-16, 13:33-37, and Luke 21:7-8, 21:19, 21:36, and Acts 1:3.)
 
Our point here is not to specifically emphasize teachings on the kingdom of God and the end times. Jesus also gave comparatively significant attention to other doctrinal issues that today are typically considered to be nonessential. (These topics include teaching on pacifism, living contently in terms of material wealth, adultery, divorce, and remarriage, and excommunication – just to name a few.)
 
Our point is simply that the gospel record of Jesus’ teaching may indicate that our modern categorizations of essential doctrines may need to be reconsidered and revised. According to a standard Essentials Only categorization, subjects which Jesus gave significant attention are labeled as nonessential and noncritical doctrines. End times and kingdom-related doctrines are not the only issues of this kind. These biblical observations lead us to consider whether Jesus’ conception of essential doctrine was much broader than that of the modern church. As we continue we will find further evidence that the biblical conception of essential doctrine is, in fact, much broader than that offered by an Essentials Only View.
 
 
10. The final indicator of Jesus’ intolerance for any doctrinal divergence among his followers is his requirement for agreement as a condition for excommunication.
 
By making excommunication contingent on the agreement of his followers, Jesus provides additional indications that, in his view, his followers would necessarily all have the same understanding of his teaching. A church where doctrinal variation is possible, permissible, and occurring is going to have a great deal of difficulty legitimately separating anyone for violating a correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching. After all such persons could perhaps merely be faithfully acting in accordance with a different understanding of what Christ taught.
 
Now, perhaps some might suggest that Jesus’ requirement for agreement is itself a means of limiting excommunication solely to a select set of teachings. In other words, excommunication would be possible only if there was widespread agreement on an issue. The presumption is that only the most “essential” topics would have widespread agreement and there would be differences of opinion about other, less important topics. This suggestion must be rejected for several reasons.
 
First, such a suggestion necessarily assumes the ridiculous conclusion that Jesus anticipated that after over 3 years of teaching his apostles (including 40 days of teaching them after his resurrection), the apostles (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) would not have all shared a proper understanding of all his teachings. Likewise, we would have to assume that Jesus found this outcome (that the apostles didn’t share a proper understanding of all his teachings) acceptable. These assumptions are clearly unsound.
 
Second, the most reasonable explanation of Jesus’ requirement for agreement is that Jesus expected his followers to have a uniform understanding of his teachings on all points. Thus, having a wide range of agreement, they would be able to carry out his instructions for excommunication without logistical obstacles. This of course, necessarily requires that Jesus thought that the correct understanding of his teachings would be sufficiently clear to the apostles. (In other words, Jesus felt that he was a competent teacher.) In this light, Jesus instructions require that the church could only justly excommunicate by remaining in a universally agreed upon and uniform understanding of his teachings on all topics without any divergence. Simply stated, this requirement for agreement was really a requirement to remain in the correct understanding of his teaching.
 
The fact that agreement was really a requirement to remain in Christ’s teachings is illustrated by the fact that the requirement called for the agreement of two or three witnesses. This is a clear and intentional parallel to Old Testament requirements that there be two or three witnesses for carrying out capital punishment.
 
Deuteronomy 17:6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
 
Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
 
Matthew 18:16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
 
The first point we want to draw attention to here is the function of the agreement of the witnesses. The function is not for these men to create the truth.
 
In a legal matter, the truth is not created by the agreement of the witnesses. It is not as if the truth never happened and then the witnesses confer together and decide what the truth should be. Rather, the truth of the matter exists prior to and independently of the two witnesses’ testimony. This is not to say there isn’t a relationship between the truth and the testimony of the witnesses. It is only to show the direction of the causal relationship. The agreement of the witnesses is created by the independent existence and prior occurrence of the truth of the matter. The truth is the cause. The witnesses’ testimony and agreement is the result of the existence of the truth and their experience of it. The truth is NOT created by the testimony or agreement of the witnesses.
 
This distinction is important because in Matthew 18, Christ states that the truth of the matter is established by the agreement of the testimony of two or three witnesses. The nature of Jesus’ appeal to the Deuteronomy shows that in the case of excommunication and Christian teaching, the apostles’ agreement simply testifies to the correct understanding of what Jesus had, in fact, taught. Jesus’ teachings are the truth that created the apostles’ understanding, agreement, and testimony. Jesus taught, the apostles listened, understood, and later testified. Or, as Matthew 28 and Mark 16 convey when harmonized with Acts 1, the disciples were to be witnesses of all things that Jesus had taught and commanded them including things pertaining to the kingdom.
 
Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth (4100) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth (569) not shall be damned.
 
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them…8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
 
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
 
John 21:24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
 
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
 
Lastly, the comparison to Deuteronomy’s requirement for witnesses reveals that the agreement is not really agreement about the correct standard or understanding. In other words, Jesus was not setting up a system in which excommunication hinged on getting at least two people to agree to the same doctrinal opinion. In Deuteronomy, the witnesses were not being called to testify about the meaning of Moses’ Law. The meaning of the Law was considered to have been promulgated and clear already among the people. The function of the witnesses was merely to testify that someone had indeed broken that Law. In other words, the witnesses were testifying about the occurrence of the crime, not about what the legal standard should be or how to interpret it. The same is true with Jesus’ instructions regarding witnesses in the process of excommunication. The witnesses are not there to agree about what true Christian teaching should be or how it should be interpreted. They are merely there to testify about the occurrence of a violation of that teaching. Consequently, once we understand the function of the witnesses in excommunication, we can see that Jesus’ presupposed that the meaning of his teaching would be sufficiently clear among his followers, just like Deuteronomy presumed about the Law of Moses. Therefore, in Jesus’ eyes, the only thing necessary was proof about the occurrence of a violation, not proof to establish the meaning of his teaching.
 
Jesus’ appropriation of the two or three witnesses from Deuteronomy shows that the agreement required for excommunication simply equated to remaining in his teaching. The apostles were witnesses of that teaching. What the apostles witnessed to was all things whatsoever that Christ had taught them. Therefore, the apostolic witness authorizes excommunication on all the doctrinal subjects they report to us in the New Testament writings. Like witnesses in legal matter or a capital crime, the apostles had all witnessed and understood the same thing from Christ’s words as he had taught them. Christ gave the correct teaching and the apostles simply remembered it, reported on it, and enforced it.
 
And as we have seen Christ instructed the apostles to witness to and teach to all men all things whatsoever he’d taught them. The expected result would be that all Christians everywhere would have the same apostolic understanding of all things Jesus’ taught about. In such a system, there would be little room for sectarian divergences to arise and little need for tolerance of such sectarian doctrinal differences if they began to emerge.
 
In conclusion, the doctrinal unity that Christ intended was both absolute and comprehensive on all subjects. It is not the limited doctrinal unity of the Pharisees and Sadducees, of an Essentials Only View, or of the modern church. Furthermore, Christ’s conception of unity contained no restriction against dividing over “nonessentials.” In fact, the doctrinal unity that is described in the gospels speaks inclusively and broadly of all Jesus’ teachings and never in categorizations about things that were essential and nonessential for Christians to believe.
 
For review here are summaries of the 10 points above, which show that not only did Jesus institute excommunication among his followers, he did so without any restrictions or limitations. Rather, the gospels show that Jesus was intolerant of sectarian doctrinal differences and instead required his followers to remain in a shared understanding of everything whatsoever he had taught the apostles and which the apostles subsequently were instructed to bear witness to and teach all men everywhere. Anyone who didn’t accept and believe in these things would not be saved. Those who accepted and then diverged were subject to excommunication from the church.
 
1. Rather than specifying particular issues as excommunicable, Jesus provided instructions on excommunication that are broadly worded and authorize his followers to refuse fellowship to Christian brothers for persisting in sinful behavior, err, personal offenses, and anything the apostles witnessed Jesus teaching about. Jesus clearly expected his followers to be able to excommunicate effectively and justly even though he did not specify any doctrinal issues in particular that it applied to. These factors indicate that Christ was intolerant of any divergent doctrinal belief or behavior.
 
2. Jesus is intolerant of the doctrinal views, doctrinal variation, and practices of the Jewish sects of his day. One of the distinct features of the relationship between the Pharisees and Sadducees was that they joined together with one another and did not excommunicate one another despite their doctrinal differences of opinion. However, Jesus condemned these groups for their divergent doctrinal views and forbid his followers from engaging in such practices.
 
3. Jesus repeatedly expresses his disapproval of anyone who claimed to be his follower but did not actually follow and remain in his teachings. His comments include general references to his teachings rather than specifying only a limited set of critical issues that could not be deviated from. Such statements show a clear intolerance for those whose understanding would diverge from the original intention of Jesus’ words.
 
4. Christ expressed clear intolerance for false prophets and false teachers who would speak falsely in God’s name and deceive his followers. He specifically expressed concern over his people being deceived about eschatological issues that today are considered open to diverse interpretations.
 
5. Jesus taught on a wide variety of doctrinal issues and the gospel authors chose to preserve Jesus’ teachings on all of these subjects. This indicates that both Jesus and the gospel authors felt it was important for Christ’s followers to properly understand these particular teachings. In other words, any teaching recorded in scripture was considered necessary for Christians to understand correctly.
 
6. Jesus instructed the apostles to teach all men everywhere all things whatsoever he had taught them. These requirements could only result in a single, uniform understanding of Christ’s doctrine that was universally held by Christians everywhere. This left no room for doctrinal divergences and differences of understanding. Likewise, the gospel authors indicate that “teaching all things whatsoever that Jesus had taught about” was equivalent to “the gospel.” Therefore the gospel was not limited to a select set of important teachings. It included all of Jesus’ teachings which the gospel authors preserved for us in the New Testament. According to the gospel accounts, to be saved a Christian must believe and accept what the apostles taught on all things whatsoever that Jesus had instructed them. Again, Jesus’ statements express intolerance for and a clear intention to prohibit doctrinal divergence among his followers.
 
7. In Matthew, Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles includes four parallels to an earlier passage which recounts Jesus’ instruction on excommunication. These parallels show a connection between these two passages. In both passages Jesus is speaking broadly regarding Christian doctrine. He is not limiting excommunication or teaching the gospel simply to a select set of critical doctrines. He is requiring right belief and obedience to all of his teachings. These conclusions are expressly preserved in John’s account of the broad statements with which Jesus indicates that his followers must remain in his teachings or else be “cut off” from him. All of these factors show that Jesus was intolerant of doctrinal divergence among his followers and authorized the application of excommunication broadly to apply to any divergence.
 
8. In an Essentials Only View, the term “the gospel” is used to refer to a limited set of essential Christian teachings. However, in the New Testament “the gospel” is used to refer to a much broader set of Jesus’ teachings including specific subjects that an Essentials View excludes, particularly the nature and coming of the kingdom of God.
 
9. Jesus gave at least as much focus and attention to doctrinal issues that today are considered nonessential as he did to subjects that we consider to be essential. Likewise, it is sometimes argued that excommunication should be limited to doctrines that are sufficiently clear in the scripture. However, in many cases, the simplicity and clarity of New Testament teaching on “nonessentials” meets or exceeds that of some essential doctrines. And finally, Jesus expressed at least as much concern about properly understanding supposedly nonessential doctrines as he did regarding those doctrines that we consider to be essential. These facts show that for Christ these supposedly nonessential doctrinal issues were just as critical to a Christian’s faith.
 
10. Jesus made agreement of two or three witnesses a condition for excommunication. This was the direct incorporation of the Old Testament requirement of two or three witnesses for sins that warranted capital punishment. In the Old Testament, the function of the witnesses was not to determine the meaning of the Law but simply whether or not a violation of the Law had occurred. It was assumed that the meaning of the Law was considered sufficiently publicized and clear. The parallel to excommunication likewise assumed that the meaning of Jesus’ teaching had been sufficiently publicized with clarity. This publicizing and explanation of Jesus’ teaching was established by the preaching of the apostles. Therefore, Jesus was making excommunication contingent on apostolic witness. In Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and John 15:27, Jesus instructed the apostles to be witnesses of all things whatsoever he had taught them. By making excommunication contingent on apostolic witness and making the apostles witnesses of all things whatsoever he’d taught them, Jesus was authorizing excommunication on that which he had made the apostles witnesses of, which is to say, all things whatsoever he’d taught them about. Consequently, the apostles were bearing a collective, uniform witness to what Jesus’ teaching was. However, the general requirement for witnesses in excommunication was not to determine Jesus’ meaning but simply to testify that a violation of the established teaching had occurred.
 
Our study of Jesus’ teachings on doctrinal unity, sectarian differences, excommunication, and apostolic teaching creates several expectations to keep in mind as we turn to the rest of the New Testament.
 
1. We should expect to see the apostles teaching the exact same things to all Christians everywhere on all topics that the gospels record Christ taught the apostles about.
2. We should expect to see the apostles exhibit an intolerance for sectarian differences of opinion on Christian teaching.
3. We should expect any sectarian tendencies to be rebuked and corrected through appeals to a universal faith taught by the apostles everywhere on everything.
4. We should expect to find Christian brothers excommunicated for any violation of any of Christ’s teachings and for having understandings which differed from what the apostles taught to the churches everywhere.
5. We should expect to see the apostles instruct others not to teach anything different than what they themselves were taught by Christ.
 
All of these expectations contradict the conceptions and expectations of an Essentials Only View.
 
As we conclude our study of Jesus’ teachings we can summarize our findings with respect to Jesus’ teaching on doctrinal unity and excommunicable issues.
 
Jesus taught the apostles to divide over anything they all collectively heard him teach, over sinful actions generally and broadly defined, and even over personal offenses. He did not restrict excommunication solely to a limited set of doctrines singled out as essentials. He did not categorize his teaching into classifications of essentials and nonessentials. Instead, he required his disciples to teach and believe in all things whatsoever he had taught. Christ did not label any of his teachings as nonessential for salvation or prohibit his followers from dividing over divergence from anything he’d taught. On the contrary, the gospels indicate that Christ was seriously concerned with certain doctrinal issues that modern Christians think are nonessential.
 
Likewise, Jesus authorized his disciples to practice excommunication in an open-ended way. He did not limit excommunication to any particular set of doctrinal issues. Rather he indicated that a Christian brother could be excommunicated for: 1) any sin (any error or violation of God’s law) including personal offenses, and 2) anything that the apostles collectively witnessed him teaching. And, Jesus anticipated this apostolic witness regarding his teaching would including all things whatsoever he had taught them.
 
Having completed our study of Jesus’ teachings on doctrinal unity and excommunication in the gospels we now turn to the Book of Acts to see how the apostles carried out Jesus’ instructions. As we proceed we will keep these same questions in mind and determine whether or not the apostolic ministry confirms expectations for total doctrinal unity and a broad application of excommunication.