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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
Titus: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
Paul’s epistle to Titus is a shorter book, nevertheless it still contains instruction on doctrinal unity and excommunication.
In Titus 1:3, Paul makes his typical reference to his apostolic commission. He again parallels Christ’s instructions to his disciples (in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1) to go and teach all things whatsoever he had taught them to all men in all nations, which Mark’s account refers to simply as the gospel.
Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; 3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
In verse 5, Paul provides another confirmation that the apostles taught the same things consistently in every church just as Jesus had instructed them and just as Paul has himself repeatedly stated in his other epistles.
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
In verse 9, Paul again requires that Christians hold firm to what the apostles taught. And he likewise states that what the apostles taught should be used to refute those who had other ideas and diverged from apostolic teaching. 
Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince (1651) the gainsayers (483).
The word translated as “gainsayers” is the Greek verb “antilego” (Strong’s number 483.) It is formed by joining the Greek preposition “anti” (473) meaning “against” to the Greek verb “lego” which means to “speak” or “teach.”
483 antilego
from 473 and 3004; v
AV-speak against 5, deny 1, contradict 1, gainsay 1, gainsayer 1, answer again 1; 10
1) to speak against, gainsay, contradict
2) to oppose one’s self to one, decline to obey him, declare one’s self against him, refuse to have anything to do with him
473 anti
a primary particle; TDNT-1:372,61; prep
AV-for 15, because + 3639 4, for ... cause 1, therefore + 3639 1, in the room of 1; 22
1) over against, opposite to, before
2) for, instead of, in place of (something)
2a) instead of
2b) for
2c) for that, because
2d) wherefore, for this
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
Paul is telling Titus that sound doctrinal understanding is useful for refuting those who teach anything other than what the apostles taught. In fact, the Greek word translated as “convince” is “elegcho” (1651) which we have seen used in Matthew 18:15, Ephesians 5:13, 1 Timothy 5:20, and 2 Timothy 4:2 to refer to warning those who are in danger of excommunication.

Just a few verses later in Titus 1:13, Paul repeats this same instruction to rebuke those who taught false views and subverted houses (churches.)
Titus 1:10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers (3151) and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped (1993), who subvert (396) whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke (1651) them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (96). 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
Paul’s instruction to refute those who teach any thing contrary to correct doctrine mirrors other passages where Paul told Christians to avoid those who taught other doctrinal views (Galatians 1:6-9 and 1 Timothy 1:3.)
In verse 10, Paul identifies those who speak contrary to sound doctrine as “vain talkers.”
The phrase “vain talkers” is translated from the noun (“mataiologos,” Strong’s number 3151) from which we get the Greek verb (“mataiologia,” 3150.) We have seen Paul use these same words in 1 Timothy 1:6 to refer to those who have erred (swerved) from the faith and taught false doctrine.
3150 mataiologia
from 3151; TDNT-4:524,571; n f
AV-vain jangling 1; 1
1) vain talking, empty talk
3151 mataiologos
from 3152 and 3004; TDNT-4:524,571; n m
AV-vain talker 1; 1
1) an idle talker, one who utters empty senseless things
Likewise, we saw that in 1 Timothy 6:20-21, Paul spoke similarly of those who had erred from the faith and engaged in “vain babblings.” Although the Greek word for “vain babblings” is different than for “vain jangling” and “vain talkers,” it conveys a similar meaning.
2757 kenophonia
from a presumed compound of 2756 and 5456; ; n f
AV-vain babblings 2; 2
1) empty discussion, discussion of vain and useless matters
In both cases (1 Timothy 1:6 and 6:20-21) Paul is discussing those who have erred from the faith and teach vain ideas that differed from apostolic teaching. In 1 Timothy 6:19-21 we saw that Paul was specifically identifying the teachings of Gnosticism as “vain talk” and opposed to apostolic teaching. In 2 Timothy 2:16, Paul spoke of the “vain babblings” (“kenophonia,” 2757) of those who overthrew people’s faith by teaching the erroneous doctrine that the resurrection had already occurred.
Here in Titus 1, Paul likewise states that these teachers subvert whole houses with their false teaching. Both 2 Timothy 2:16 and Titus 1:11 use the same Greek word translated as “overthrow” and “subvert” respectively. It is the Greek verb “anatrepo” meaning “overthrow, subvert, destroy.” According to verses 11 and 14 of Titus 1, these false teachings destroyed whole houses and turned people from the truth. Since the New Testament church met in their houses, Paul is here referring to false views which invalidated the faith of entire churches. (See Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42, Acts 8:3, Acts 12:12, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 3:6, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2.)
In verses 11 and 13 and 15, Paul states that those who teach things contrary to sound doctrine must be stopped and rebuked. The word translated as “stopped” in verse 11 is “epistomizo” (1993.) It refers to making something silent.
1993 epistomizo
from 1909 and 4750; ; v
AV-stop the mouth 1; 1
1) to bridle or stop up the mouth
2) metaph. to stop the mouth, reduce to silence
The word translated as “rebuke” in verse 13 is “elegcho” (1651.) By now, we should expect this sort of warning to someone who is in danger of excommunication for teaching differing doctrinal views.
As we can see Paul’s purpose in silencing and rebuking these men is twofold. First, he wants to prevent the subversion of entire churches by preventing these false teachers from spreading their erroneous understanding of the Christian faith. Second, Paul wanted to correct those who had false views so that they would instead receive the sound understanding of the faith (verse 13.)
Verse 16’s use of the Greek word “adokimos” (96) again presents the contrast between the sound understanding approved by the apostles and views that were unapproved. In the very next verse (which begins chapter 2,) Paul instructs Titus to instead speak the things which become sound teaching and were consistent with apostolic understanding. The Greek word translated as “become” is “prepo” (4241.) Here Paul contrasts unapproved doctrinal views (“reprobate”) with the sound understanding of Christian teaching that the apostles taught.
Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become (4241) sound doctrine:
4241 prepo
apparently a root word; ; v
AV-become 6, comely 1; 7
1) to stand out, to be conspicuous, to be eminent
2) to be becoming, seemly, fit
This statement is repeated a few verses later in Titus 2:7 where Paul again instructs Titus to be uncorrupted in his doctrinal understanding.
Titus 2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness (90), gravity, sincerity,
The word translated as “uncorruptedness” is “adiaphthoria” (90.) It is the negation of the Greek word “diaphtheiro” (1311) which Paul used in 1 Timothy 6:5 to identify those who had a corrupt (“diaphthoria”) mind (or understanding) and must be withdrawn from. In contrast to those we must withdraw from who have corrupt understanding, Paul tells Titus to not be corrupted in his understanding. Instead, Titus should hold to sound doctrine as it was taught by the apostles.
90 adiaphthoria
from a derivative of a compound of 1 (as a negative particle) and a derivative of 1311; see also apyoria apthoria af-thor-ee’ah (TDNT 9:103); n f
AV-uncorruptness 1; 1
1) incorruptibility, soundness, integrity
1a) of mind
Titus 2 concludes with yet another reiteration of Paul’s instructions to use sound understanding as the basis to rebuke with all authority. Again, “rebuke” is translated from the Greek verb “elegcho” (1651) which is used in Matthew 18:15 and elsewhere to refer to warning a Christian brother who is in danger of being excommunicated. We continue to see Paul using what the apostles taught everywhere as the standard for correct doctrine, Christian fellowship, and excommunication.
Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke (1651) with all authority (2003). Let no man despise thee.
Lastly, we come to Titus 3:9-11 where find another mention of being excommunicated for having differing doctrinal views.
Titus 3:9 But avoid (4026) foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick (141) after the first and second admonition reject (3868); 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted (1612), and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
The Greek word translated as “subverted” in verse 11 is “ekstrepho” (Strong’s number 1612.) It refers to “twisting something” or “changing it for the worse.”
1612 ekstrepho
from 1537 and 4762; ; v
AV-subvert 1; 1
1) to turn or twist out, tear up
2) to turn inside out, invert
3) to change for the worse, pervert, corrupt
Although “ekstrepho” is not the same word Paul uses in Titus 2:7 or 1 Timothy 6:5 to refer to “corrupted” views, it does convey a similar meaning. Here in Titus 3:11, Paul is using the idea of corrupted views to identify heretics.
Paul’s instruction for Christians to reject those who have been warned twice mirrors his statements in 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 and 1 Timothy 5:19. In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul warned the Corinthians on three occasions and mentions the necessity of two or three witnesses to accuse someone. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul instructed Timothy not to receive an accusation against an elder unless it was established by two or three witnesses. Paul appeals to the same standard here in Titus 3. In all three passages Paul is referencing Christ’s own teachings on excommunication.
In Matthew 18:14-18, Jesus required two or three witnesses in order to separate someone from the church. Likewise, Jesus requires that a brother who is in sin must be given three notices before being excommunicated. First, one man would approach him. If he refused to listen, the man must bring one or two others to establish the case. This was the second warning. And if he refused to repent, he would be brought before the church. This was the third warning. If he refused to hear the church, he was excommunicated.

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.
So, in Titus 3:9-11, Paul states that a man who remains a heretic after the first and second warning is subject to being rejected. The word translated “heretic” is the Greek word “hairetikos” (Strong’s number 141.) It is closely related to the Greek word “hairesis” (139) which is often translated as “heresy.” As we have seen, these words refer to sectarian divisions based on differing opinions, interpretations, and understandings. Here Paul is using the word “heretic” (141) to refer to anyone who introduced or held to a doctrinal understanding that diverged from what the apostles had taught.
In this passage, Paul invokes Jesus’ own instruction on excommunication and tells Titus to avoid those who have divergent beliefs and to reject such persons. The word translated as “avoid” is the Greek verb “perilistemi” (Strong’s number 4026.) This is the same word Paul used in 2 Timothy 2:16 as he instructed Timothy to avoid the vain babblings of men who erred regarding the truth and overthrew people’s faith. Like the other words Paul uses to describe excommunication, “perilistemi” conveys the idea of avoiding or shunning.
4026 periistemi
from 4012 and 2476; ; v
AV-shun 1, avoid 1, stand by 1, stand round about 1; 4
1) to place around one
2) to stand around
2a) to turn one’s self about for the purpose of avoiding something
2b) to avoid, shun
The word translated as “reject” in Titus 3:10 is the Greek verb “paraiteomai” (3868.) It too conveys the idea of “avoiding” and “shunning.”
3868 paraiteomai
from 3844 and the middle voice of 154; TDNT-1:195,30; v
AV-refuse 5, excuse 2, make excuse 1, avoid 1, reject 1, intreat 1; 11
1) to ask along side, beg to have near one
1a) to obtain by entreaty
1b) to beg from, to ask for, supplicate
2) to avert by entreaty or seek to avert, to deprecate
2a) to entreat that ... not
2b) to refuse, decline
2c) to shun, avoid
2d) to avert displeasure by entreaty
2d1) to beg pardon, crave indulgence, to excuse
2d2) of one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation to a feast
We can see that in Titus 3 Paul is instructing Christians to excommunicate those who diverge into sectarian differences of doctrinal understanding. Paul’s word usage conveys that these people corrupt apostolic teaching just as Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees for their sectarian divergences from the original intention of God’s word in the Old Testament.  
We have now completed our look at unity and excommunication in Paul’s letter to Titus. As usual, we will summarize our findings in relation to doctrinal unity and excommunication. Titus doesn’t directly provide any new or specific information on which doctrinal issues warranted excommunication. It only speaks broadly of excommunication for views that differed from apostolic instruction.
However, in his letter to Titus, Paul does provide ample confirmation of his ongoing authorization of excommunication to prevent divergent doctrinal understandings from being present in the church. In this short epistle, Paul makes three references to excommunication and continues to apply it to those whose understanding diverged from what the apostles passed on to all the churches. Paul’s letter to Titus also bears further evidence that the apostles taught the same things in every church. As with his writings to the Corinthians and to Timothy, Paul instructs Titus on gender-related issues concerning the role of husbands and wives as well as the requirement that those who would lead the church must be men. We can see that these doctrinal issues were among the things the apostles taught everywhere. The repeated instruction on these subjects throughout Paul’s letters, coupled with Paul’s instructions that nothing could be taught besides what he was teaching in all the churches, shows that these topics were among those things that Paul required adherence on.
Hebrews: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
The next book of the New Testament that we turn to is Hebrews. The first few chapters of Hebrews make remarks that closely parallel Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. In those passages, Jesus instructed his apostles to be witnesses of all he had taught them, that those who believed their word would be saved, and those who didn’t believe their teachings would be damned.
Hebrews 1:1 explains how God spoke through Jesus Christ. As the discussion continues into chapter 2, the text states that we ought to give earnest heed to the things that Jesus taught the apostles and which the apostles then taught everywhere. According to these passages, if we neglect these things which the apostles taught then our salvation is in jeopardy. This is very similar to Christ’s own statements in the accounts of Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles.
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Hebrews 3:12-14 warns Christians again to take heed so that they do not depart from God through unbelief. All of this is consistent with Christ’s teaching that those who believed what the apostles taught would be saved. Those who let that apostolic understanding slip and believed something else instead were departing from God.
Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Hebrews 4:1-2 repeats the theme from Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. Those who believe the gospel message that the apostles would be saved. (As we have seen by comparing Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1, the term “gospel” is equivalent in these passages to all things whatsoever Jesus’ had taught them.) Those who didn’t continue to believe in what the apostles taught would miss out on what Christ has promised us.
Hebrews 3:16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. 4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
Notice that in the final verses of chapter 3, Hebrews refers to some of the Israelites who came out of Egypt with Moses. It is worth pointing out that Hebrews, like Galatians, equates the promise we receive through faith in Christ with the rest that was given to the descendants of Abraham through their inheriting the Promised Land. Just as Galatians 3:8 states that the gospel was preached to Abraham, so Hebrews 4:2 states that the gospel was preached to Abraham’s descendents in the Old Testament, the Israelites of the Exodus in particular.
Furthermore, Hebrews 6:11-19 explains the need for Christians to maintain the same faith and hope so that we too can inherit the promises made to Abraham. According to verse 17, God made the effort to ensure us that we will receive that which he promised to Abraham and that this promise would never change. According to verses 18-19, this hope (inheriting what was promised to Abraham) is the anchor to which we must remain fixed and steadfast.
Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
In all these passages the gospel clearly involves a promised earthly inheritance. In both Galatians and Hebrews the promise given in the gospel of Christ is described in these same terms. Again, this demonstrates that the New Testament provides a particular teaching on the nature of salvation and our inheritance in Christ. It is not left open or unexplained. Rather, the apostles taught about and explained these issues explicitly while emphasizing their critical importance in regard to our faith and salvation. Contrary to the Essentials Only View, the New Testament makes it clear that understanding doctrinal topics related to the nature of the inheritance in the kingdom of God is a critical issue of faith over which Christians cannot develop divergent ideas without putting their own salvation at risk. Moreover, since false views on this topic put salvation at risk, it is reasonable to conclude that the apostles would not want such false view to spread in the church, and therefore such views would be excommunicable.
Like 2 Corinthians 10, 2 Timothy 3:16, and Titus 1:9, Hebrews 4:12, affirms the use of God’s word as a canon for judging a broad range of beliefs, thoughts, and intentions.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 5:12 through 6:2 describes those who do not understand what the apostles taught as immature. Likewise, Hebrews describes those who properly understood what the apostles taught as mature. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and Ephesians 4 show that it was common for Paul to use the term “immature” to refer to those whose understanding of doctrine diverged from what the apostles taught.
Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection (5047); not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
We should note that verses 1-2 of Hebrews 6 include repentance, baptisms, resurrection, and eternal judgment as foundational doctrines. Notice that these basic doctrines include repentance from immorality and even eschatological (“end times”) issues such as the resurrection and judgment, even baptisms. These are topics that many Christians today consider of lesser importance and as things we can disagree over. But Hebrews 5 lists them as necessary for Christians to have a mastery of. Moreover, Hebrews insists that our understanding of apostolic teaching must go beyond these things. To be sure, we must understand these issues, but the apostles expected that our grasp of Christ’s doctrine would not be limited to such things. Christians (as individuals and as the church) are not to be perpetually in the dark and unable to come to a full and complete understanding of Christian doctrine (2 Timothy 3:7, John 8:12, John 12:46, Ephesians 1:13, 18, Ephesians 4:17, 20, Ephesians 5:7.) We shouldn’t remain babies in our understanding of New Testament teaching. Nor should our understanding of New Testament teaching be limited to basic doctrines such as repentance, baptisms, resurrection, and eternal judgment.
In Hebrews 6:1, the word translated as “perfection” is “teleiotes” (Strong’s number 5047.) It comes from the Greek word “teleios” (5046) which is used in the New Testament to speak of those who have a correct understanding of the things that the apostles taught and who do not differ on any of them (1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:13, and Colossians 1:28.)
5047 teleiotes
from 5046; TDNT-8:78,1161; n f
AV-perfectness 1, perfection 1; 2
1) perfection
1a) the state of the more intelligent
1b) moral and spiritual perfection
Hebrews requires that Christians are to become mature without having any misunderstandings about what the apostles taught. This mature understanding was to go beyond just basic doctrines of the faith. In contrast to Hebrews, an Essentials Only View accepts that Christians in general have not completely worked out the proper understanding of many doctrinal issues including some of the topics Hebrews specifically mentions. (For example, neither baptism nor repentance were on the list of essentials provided by Dr. Geisler or CRI.)
Furthermore Hebrews 6:12 prohibits someone from being a teacher in the church if they don’t have a mature and correct understanding of what the apostles taught on more than just these foundational issues. In other words, according to Hebrews (as well as Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3), those who would be teachers in the church must properly understand all of the things that the apostles taught about. They must be mature and not babies.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in the modern church. In our experience, it is not even uncommon to hear a pastor or see a Christian author express that the more they have studied God’s word, the more they don’t know. Such sentiments may sound wise or humble, but they are completely contrary to New Testament teaching and requirements for pastors and for Christians in general. Statements like these sound more like Paul’s description of those who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But Paul clearly portrays such trends in a very negative light. As we have seen the New Testament clearly and repeatedly states that pastors and leaders must be aptly able to teach all the things that the apostles taught (1 Timothy 3:1-2, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:9, Hebrews 6:12-14.) Likewise, no Christian should remain in doctrinal obscurity after coming to Christ (John 8:12, John 12:46, Ephesians 1:13, 18, 4:17, 20, 5:7.) Rather, through the teaching of the apostles, Christians can properly believe and understand all things whatsoever that Christ taught (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and 1 Corinthians 2:16.)
The next passage we will look at is in Hebrews 10. In this chapter we have several statements that are relevant to unity and excommunication.
First, verse 23 instructs us to hold the profession of faith without wavering. This is another appeal (related to Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts) to continue to believe all the things that the apostles taught so that we will be saved.  
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Second, in verse 25, there is instruction to continue to regularly fellowship with those who faithfully hold to the profession of faith.
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (1997), as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
This brief quote in Hebrews informs us that Christians are not to stop meeting together with other faithful Christians. This passage uses the Greek noun “episunagoge” (Strong’s number 1997) to refer to “an assembly or assembling together.”
1997 episunagoge
from 1996; TDNT-7:841,1107; n f
AV-gathering together 1, assembling together 1; 2
1) a gathering together in one place
2) the (religious) assembly (of Christians)
This Greek word is a compound word based on the Greek verb “sunago” (4863.)
4863 sunago
from 4862 and 71; ; v
AV-gather 15, be gathered together 12, gather together 9, come together 6, be gathered 4, be assembled 3, take in 3, misc 10; 62
1) to gather together, to gather
1a) to draw together, collect
1a1) of fishes
1a2) of a net in which they are caught
2) to bring together, assemble, collect
2a) to join together, join in one (those previously separated)
2b) to gather together by convoking
2c) to be gathered i.e. come together, gather, meet
3) to lead with one’s self
3a) into one’s home, i.e. to receive hospitably, to entertain
We find this same Greek word used in passages like Acts 4:31, 11:26, 14:27, 20:7-8, 20:8, and 1 Corinthians 5:4 to refer to Christians gathering together to discuss God’s word and have communion.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together (4863); and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves (4863) with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together (4863) for to consider of this matter…30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered (4863) the multitude together (4863), they delivered the epistle:
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together (4863) to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together (4863).
1 Corinthians 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together (4863), and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Greek verb “sunago” (4863) is closely related to the Greek word for synagogue (4864.) As we have seen early in our study, the Greek word synagogue can be used of Christian assemblies and is listed as a synonym for the Greek word “ekklesia” (1577) which is more commonly used to refer to the church gatherings of Christians.
4864 sunagoge
from (the reduplicated form of) 4863; TDNT-7:798,1108; n f
AV-synagogue 55, congregation 1, assembly 1; 57
1) a bringing together, gathering (as of fruits), a contracting
2) in the NT, an assembling together of men, an assembly of men
3) a synagogue
3a) an assembly of Jews formally gathered together to offer prayers and listen to the reading and expositions of the scriptures; assemblies of that sort were held every sabbath and feast day, afterwards also on the second and fifth days of every week; name transferred to an assembly of Christians formally gathered together for religious purposes
For Synonyms see entry 5897
5897 Assembly, Church.
See definition for sunagwgh [synagogue] 4864
See definition for ekklhsia [ekklesia, church] 1577
All of these related words refer to the general idea of gathering together and are used in the New Testament to refer to the religious assemblies of both first century Jews and Christians. Therefore, Hebrews 10:25 is a reference to regular church gatherings. As such, it is a command to continue to attend church meetings with other faithful Christians.
After telling Christians to continue to fellowship with faithful Christians, verse 26 discusses Christians who sin after they have received the knowledge of the truth. Then verse 28 mentions the punishment given under Moses’ Law at the testimony of two or three witnesses. In Matthew 18, Christ specifically referenced Moses’ requirement for two or three witnesses and established this as the same standard for excommunication in the church. Hebrews has already made several warnings for Christians to faithfully remain in the teaching of the apostles. And now, after instructing Christians to remain in fellowship with those who are faithful and after instructing Christians not to sin once we have come to the knowledge of the truth we have a reference to punishment coupled with two or three witnesses. All of these factors make it very likely that Hebrews 10 is mentioning excommunication. In fact, the reference to death under Moses’ law is easy to equate with communication on a metaphorical level given the fact 1 Corinthians 5 equates excommunication with delivering someone to the angel of death during the Passover of Exodus.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

The brevity and limitations of Hebrews 10 prevent us from drawing any further conclusions about circumstances which require separation and a refusal of fellowship. However, Hebrews 10 does provide indirect references to excommunication alongside clear prohibitions against withdrawing from regular fellowship with those Christians who do remain faithful to Christ’s teachings.
In Hebrews 12 we find some additional remarks on the chastisement and punishment of Christians. While Hebrews 12 does not refer to excommunication explicitly, it does make some points that relate to the subject.
Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked (1651) of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
We have already seen that excommunication involved a process of church discipline designed to prevent sin among Christians both individually and corporately. According to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18, the process began with a rebuke or warning to Christian brothers who were in sin. Jesus used the Greek word “elegcho” (Strong’s number 1651) to convey the idea of telling a Christian brother his fault. Likewise, Ephesians 5:11, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:9, 13, and Titus 2:15 all refer to excommunication using this Greek word (“elegcho”.) This same Greek word is also used in Hebrews 12:5 where it is translated as “rebuke.”
As we know from Matthew 18, excommunication was not the first or only step in the process. Excommunication was not immediate. Rather, a Christian brother who violated Christ’s teaching was given three chances to repent. First, one brother would approach them privately. If they didn’t listen, then one or two others would be involved. If they didn’t listen, then the whole church would testify to them. In each of these opportunities, a Christian was being chastened, rebuked, corrected, and warned with the hopes that they would conform to sound doctrine. Only if they refused to repent after all three steps would they be excommunicated from Christian fellowship. And as we have seen from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians this process was difficult on the church and on the Christian in sin.
Furthermore, Hebrews 12 acknowledges the difficulty of correction and discipline of Christ’s followers. This is similar to Paul’s comments about the difficulty of excommunication in 1 and 2 Corinthians as well as Christ’s own metaphorical reference to excommunication as the cutting off of a part of the body.
Of particular importance to our study is verse 8’s indication that it is not appropriate for these types of corrective processes to be absent from Christian communities. According to verse 8, Christians who do not engage in disciplinary measures and accountability are not God’s children at all.
The final passage that we will look at in Hebrews comes in chapter 13. Verses 7-9 provide yet another New Testament reminder that Christians are to remain in the teaching of Christ as the apostles had passed it on to the earliest church. Verse 7 instructs Christians to follow the faith of the apostles who had taught the word of God to the New Testament church. Verse 9 tells Christians not to be carried away by new and divergent doctrinal views. Verse 8 states Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. In this context, it is clear that Hebrews 13:8 means that Christ’s teaching and the correct understanding of his teaching will not change over time. Therefore, we should follow the faith as the apostles taught it and not be carried away by new and different understandings of Christian doctrine. We have, of course already seen this in earlier epistles such as Ephesians 4, and we will see this same idea expressed in Jude’s epistle also.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
In conclusion, our study of Hebrew’s teaching on doctrinal unity and excommunication shows that this epistle does not specify any particular issues that required excommunication. It only speaks indirectly of excommunication in general on several occasions.
However, Hebrews does require Christians to have fellowship with Christians who did not diverge into alternate understandings of Christ’s teaching. Likewise, Hebrews talks about the importance and need for Christians to be accountable to correction. In addition, there are repeated statements upholding the New Testament standard that Christians should be mature in their understanding of the apostles’ doctrine on everything whatsoever that they taught about ranging from repentance and baptism to eschatological issues like the resurrection and eternal judgment. Contrary to an Essentials Only View, Hebrews states that Christians are not to be limited in their doctrinal understanding to only a few, foundational or essential teachings. Likewise, Hebrews articulates the critical importance of not deviating from the understanding of Christian doctrine that the apostles taught to the earliest church. To be influenced by divergent doctrinal ideas was to risk salvation according to Hebrews. This parallels Jesus’ own comments in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 where he states that only those who believed what the apostles taught would be saved. And like Galatians, Hebrews defines the gospel in a way that inherently includes a specific understanding of the promised inheritance that we receive through faith in Christ Jesus. Both books connect the gospel to the promise God gave to Abraham and his seed to receive an earthly inheritance of land. These biblical teachings do not fit very well with an Essentials Only View which identifies the specifics of the gospel, the kingdom, and our promised inheritance as nonessential issues of faith over which Christians are free to disagree.
James: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
The opening verses of James’ epistle include a statement that God will give wisdom to any who lack it and ask for it.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom (4678), let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave (2830) of the sea driven with the wind (416) and tossed (4494). 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded (1374) man is unstable (182) in all his ways (3598).
The word translated as “wisdom” is “sophia” (Strong’s number 4678.) As its lexical definition conveys, “sophia” is used to refer to a “broad and full intelligence or knowledge of diverse matters” both “human and divine” including what is “required for godliness and upright living” as well as “skill in imparting Christian truth.” It is also the word used to refer to worldly wisdom, such as the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) or the Greek philosophers (1 Corinthians 1:20-24). Consequently, James first point is that Christians should not seek the wisdom of the world but, in seeking wisdom, should pursue the wisdom that is from God. This in itself is a warning not to pursue mixing worldly philosophy into the teachings of Christ.
4678 sophia
from 4680; TDNT-7:465,1056; n f
AV-wisdom 51; 51
1) wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters
1a) the wisdom which belongs to men
1a1) spec. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, and summed up in maxims and proverbs
1a2) the science and learning
1a3) the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice
1a4) the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision
1a5) skill in the management of affairs
1a6) devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth
1a7) the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living
1b) supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God
1b1) to Christ
1b2) the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing counsels in the formation and government of the world and the scriptures
For Synonyms see entry 5826 & 5894
According to James, if a Christian lacks such a broad understanding of the Christian faith, he can ask God for it and he will receive it. However, there is a condition to his receiving it. According to verse 6, we must ask without wavering. The word translated as “wavering” in verse 6 is “diakrino” (1252.)
1252 diakrino
from 1223 and 2919; TDNT-3:946,469; v
AV-doubt 5, judge 3, discern 2, contend 2, waver 2, misc 5; 19
1) to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer
2) to learn by discrimination, to try, decide
2a) to determine, give judgment, decide a dispute
3) to withdraw from one, desert
4) to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend
5) to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt
Verse 6 gives us insight into what James’ means by “wavering” when he describes those who “waver” as “waves of the sea drive by the wind and tossed.” We have already seen this phrase “tossed by the wind” in Ephesians 4:14. There Paul contrasted Christians who agreed with the apostolic faith with Christians who were “tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” In the context of that passage, Paul is referring to immature Christians who aren’t in unity with those who have the correct understanding of what the apostles taught. According to Paul, disagreement with a correct understanding of the faith resulted from the influence of false doctrinal views. This language from James reinforces the overall picture. When seeking wisdom, Christians should look to God’s wisdom, not intermingle pagan philosophy.
James 1:8 describes those who are “tossed by the wind” as “double-minded” and “unstable.” The Greek word translated as “double-minded” is “dipsuchos” (1374.) It refers to someone whose interests are divided.
1374 dipsuchos
from 1364 and 5590; TDNT-9:665,1342; adj
AV-double minded 2; 2
1) double minded
1a) wavering, uncertain, doubting
1b) divided in interest
This Greek word is formed from the Greek adverb “dis” (1364) meaning “twice” and the Greek noun “psuche” (5590) which can refer to the seat of our “feelings, desires, affections.” In chapter 4, James provides more information on this problem of asking God and not receiving. As verse 3 explains, the reason that these Christians didn’t receive what they asked God for was because they were seeking after their own unspiritual desires (lusts.) In James 4:8, James says that Christians whose interest is divided are “double-minded.” These are the only two occurrences of this word “double-minded” in the New Testament.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts…8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (1374).
We can see that for James a double-minded Christian was one whose interests were split between the things of God and their lust for things that this life offers. Therefore, James 1:5-7 is saying that Christians who seek after things of this life, will not be able to receive wisdom and understanding from God. In these verses James is simply saying something we’ve already seen Paul discuss elsewhere.
Hebrews 5-6 discussed those who didn’t have a solid understanding of Christian doctrine because they were immature. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 and 3:1-3 likewise refer to immature Christians who, because they seek after carnal things of this life, cannot understand the things of God and have sectarian divisions. Romans 8 discusses how those who seek after carnal things have an understanding that is contrary to God. And again, Ephesians 4 equates immature Christians with those who are swayed by false doctrinal views. In John 8:12 and 12:46 Jesus compares his teachings to light and says that his followers will not remain in the darkness. In John 3:20, Jesus states that those who remain in the darkness do so because they don’t want to set aside their sinful deeds. In Romans 1:28, Paul discusses how people didn’t retain the knowledge of God because of their desire to do things that were contrary to that knowledge. And in 2 Timothy 2:6-7, Paul spoke of those who were led away by false teaching through their lust for sinful things. In that passage, Paul explained that these types of Christians were never able to come to a correct knowledge of the truth.
From these comparisons we can see that James is likewise explaining that Christians who seek after things not permitted by Christ’s teaching will not be able to come to a wise understanding of Christian doctrines. It also seems plausible that James intends to exclude seeking to incorporate pagan philosophies into one’s Christian worldview as likewise inhibiting the ability to come to a correct Christian doctrine. As all of these passages explain, the reason such persons cannot properly understand sound teaching is because they don’t really want to come to the light of the truth. Instead, they avoid seeing things correctly because they are unwilling to give up things that a correct understanding would require them to set aside. By not properly understanding what is prohibited, they allow themselves to continue in things that they shouldn’t persist in. For, if they did properly understand, they would have to give these things up. But they don’t want to give them up. So, they instead (either subconsciously or perhaps deliberately) avoid coming to a right understanding.
As we continue with James’ epistle we come to verse 16 of chapter 1. Here James tells Christians not to “err” and instead compels them to receive the word which is able to save our souls. This is a possible reference to Christ’s statements in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Act 1 where Jesus instructed his apostles to teach all things whatsoever that he had taught them and then stated that those who believed their teachings would be saved. Likewise, in John 15, Jesus states that those who remain in his words will remain in the Father’s love and not be cast forth into the fire and burned.
James 1:16 Do not err (4105), my beloved brethren…21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
The Greek word translated as “err” is “planao” (Strong’s number 4105.) It refers to going astray from the truth.
4105 planao
from 4106; TDNT-6:228,857; v
AV-deceive 24, err 6, go astray 5, seduce 2, wander 1, be out of the way 1; 39
1) to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way
1a) to go astray, wander, roam about
2) metaph.
2a) to lead away from the truth, to lead into error, to deceive
2b) to be led into error
2c) to be led aside from the path of virtue, to go astray, sin
2d) to sever or fall away from the truth
2d1) of heretics
2e) to be led away into error and sin
The same Greek word for “err” is used in Matthew 18:12-13 to talk about Christians who are straying from the faith. It is used in Matthew 22:29 and Mark 12:24-27, where Jesus says that the Pharisees were in error because they misunderstood the scriptures. And it is used in Matthew 24:4, Mark 13:5, and Luke 21:8 where Jesus tells his followers not to be “deceived.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul warns Christians not to be “deceived” regarding things that will prevent us from entering into the kingdom of God. Titus 3:3 couples being “deceived” with “seeking after diverse lusts which James discusses in chapter 1 and chapter 4.
It is clear that James is here expressing a similar concern. He does not want Christians to be deceived and led astray from the truth of Christian teaching. Instead, we are to continue to keep the teaching that the apostles passed on to the churches.
In James 5:19, James uses this same word for “err” (“planao,” 4105) in what seems to be a likely reference to the process of excommunication. Here James talks about Christian brothers who err from the truth. He states that if any Christian brother does err from the truth and another Christian brother converts them, they have saved his soul from death.
James 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err (4105) from the truth, and one convert (1994) him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth (1994) the sinner from the error (4106) of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
We have seen that in Matthew 18, the first steps of excommunication were to approach a Christian brother who was violating Christ’s teaching. If the sinning brother was persuaded and repented then we had gained our brother back.
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.
In fact, in Matthew 18:11, Jesus says, “the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Verses 12-14 then recount the parable of the lost sheep before verse 15 begins Jesus’ instructions on excommunication. The Greek word for “saved” in Matthew 18:11 is “sozo” (Strong’s No. 4982), which is the exact same word translated as “save” in James 5:20 in the phrase “he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death.”
Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on excommunication is briefer than Matthew’s. However, Luke refers to the repentance of a Christian who is involved in sin as “turning again.”
Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke (2008) him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again (1994) to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
The phrase “turning again” is the same Greek word that James 5:19-20 translates as “convert.” In both passages it is the Greek verb “epistrepho” (1994.)
1994 epistrepho
from 1909 and 4762; TDNT-7:722,1093; v
AV-turn 16, be converted 6, return 6, turn about 4, turn again 3, misc 4; 39
1) transitively
1a) to turn to
1a1) to the worship of the true God
1b) to cause to return, to bring back
1b1) to the love and obedience of God
1b2) to the love for the children
1b3) to love wisdom and righteousness
2) intransitively
2a) to turn to one’s self
2b) to turn one’s self about, turn back
2c) to return, turn back, come back
In fact, James’ reference to saving a sinner “from death” also relates to excommunication. When Jesus gave his instructions for excommunication in Matthew 18, he borrowed the requirement of two or three witnesses from the law of Moses which required two or three witnesses to put a man to death for violating Moses’ teaching (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15). In addition, when discussing excommunication in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul referred to Jesus as our Passover sacrifice and then commanded that the sinning Christian should be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. In the context of Passover, Paul’s comments clearly refer back to the fact that any Israelite who was banned from the communal meal of Passover was subjected to the angel of death that passed through Egypt. The analogy to the Christian communal meal was obvious since it was the last supper was the Passover meal and served as Christ’s model of the communion meal that he enjoined upon his followers. It seems more than likely that early Christians understood excommunication to be a replacement for execution under Moses’ law. Since they also understood eternal life as available only to those within the fellowship of the church, to be excommunicated was metaphorically associated with a death sentence at the judgment seat of God. Consequently, James’ reference to saving a soul from death is most likely incorporating language pertaining to excommunication from various passages and angles.
We can see then that James is talking about the same thing as Matthew 18 and Luke 17. It is a situation in which a Christian brother has become involved in a sin. His fellow Christian approaches him to warn him of his error. If he repents then we have won back our brother to the true understanding and practice of the teachings of the Christian faith.
Lastly, we should mention James 2:5. In this verse James identifies Christians as “the heirs of the kingdom” again showing the inherent connection of the gospel and salvation to the kingdom and the inheritance promised to Abraham.
James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
We have now completed our study of James’ teaching in relation to the topic of doctrinal unity and excommunication.
Though James is perhaps less explicit than other authors, we can see that James does indicate that Christians are to remain in the teaching the apostles handed on to the church. Furthermore, James also makes reference to the process of excommunication. He speaks directly of approaching Christians who are in error with regard to Christian teaching and trying to bring them to repentance. And James’ language parallels Jesus’ teaching on excommunication as it is recorded in the gospel accounts. However, though James does discuss both doctrinal accountability and excommunication, he does not provide any direct information on specific excommunicable issues. In other words, James does not provide limitations for which doctrine are required for unity or excommunication.
Peter’s Epistles: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
Early in 1 Peter we have another reference by an apostle to Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. Here in 1 Peter 1:12, Peter speaks of having been empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. In verse 25, he again mentions the preaching of the gospel unto the Gentiles. And in between, in verse 13, he tells Christians to gird up the loins of their mind.
1 Peter 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind (1271), be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;…25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The word translated as “mind” in verse 13 is “dianoia” (Strong’s number 1271.) It is formed from the Greek preposition “dia” (1223) and the Greek word “nous” (3563) which we have seen repeatedly used in our study of the New Testament. Both words (“dianoia” and “nous”) refer to “understanding, way of thinking, thoughts, mind.” In fact, both terms are listed as synonyms of one another.
1271 dianoia
from 1223 and 3563; TDNT-4:963,636; n f
AV-mind 9, understanding 3, imagination 1; 13
1) the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring
2) understanding
3) mind, i.e. spirit, way of thinking and feeling
4) thoughts, either good or bad
For Synonyms see entry 5917
5917 Mind, understanding.
See definition for nouv [nous] 3563
See definition for dianoia [dianoia] 1271
In verse 12, Peter is referring to the apostles teaching all things whatsoever that Jesus taught them. With the words “gird up the loins of your understanding,” Peter then instructs his readers to remain in that understanding that the apostles passed on to them through their teaching.
We should notice that in 1 Peter 3:1-7, Peter discusses the relationship dynamic between a husband and wife. The reason we mention this is because we have already seen Paul discuss this same topic elsewhere in his writings. In 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul stated several times that he taught the same things in all churches including specifically his teachings on men and women. We have since seen that Paul wrote about these and related issues to Timothy and Titus, two men he charged with overseeing the affairs of churches. Peter provides additional corroboration regarding the consistency with which the apostles taught the same things to all Christians everywhere, including issues about gender roles and dynamics. Concerning the main topics of this study, it is interesting that Peter and Paul would find the need to establish a specific relationship dynamic based on gender roles in all the churches particularly because the modern Essential Only View considers such matters to be quite unessential.
As we move forward into 2 Peter, we come to some relevant remarks in the opening verses of this epistle. In 2 Peter 1:1-4, Peter first mentions his apostleship and then states that Christians of the first century had already been given a knowledge of all things that pertain to life and godliness through Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Peter’s words here are reminiscent of what we have repeatedly seen from Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and Paul’s writings. The apostles passed on the knowledge of all of Jesus’ teachings to Christians everywhere. Therefore, Christians of the first century had a full knowledge of all things pertaining to life and godliness.
In 2 Peter 1:12, Peter discusses being able to always remind the church of the things that he’d taught them. Again, in verses 13 and 15, Peter reiterates his desire to remind them of what they already knew. We can see that (like Paul) Peter doesn’t feel that the church needs new revelation and new understanding. Rather, they already had a full understanding of all things because the apostles taught it to them. Consequently, Christians only needed to remember and keep the understanding that the apostles had taught them. We will see Jude and John both make similar statements in their epistles.
2 Peter 1:12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
In verse 15-16, Peter speaks again of the apostolic ministry given by Christ. In Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 the apostles were commissioned to bear witness to and teach all things whatsoever Christ taught them. In verse 19, Peter tells Christians to heed what the apostles had taught them. And in verses 19-21, he compares the apostolic teaching to the Old Testament scripture and prophetic words. Here Peter is equating apostolic teaching with the authority of the Old Testament scripture.
In the gospels we saw Jesus chastise the religious leaders of his day for their sectarian divisions caused by divergence from the original intent of the Old Testament scripture. Jesus then prohibited his disciples from following in that same pattern of diverging from the original intent of his words. As Peter instructs Christians to remember those things that the apostles taught and to remain in that understanding, he equates the apostles’ teaching with Old Testament scriptures. (For more information on Peter’s comparison of apostolic work and writings to Old Testament scriptures please see our study on The New Testament Canon.)
After repeatedly telling Christians to remember what the apostles had taught them, Peter warns them of false teachers who will introduce different views.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in (3919) damnable (684) heresies (139), even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
The word translated as “privily bring in” is “pareisago” (Strong’s number 3919.) It refers to something which is done secretly or craftily. As Peter explains, these false teachers will not openly declare or acknowledge that what they are teaching is diverging from the understanding that the apostles taught.
3919 pareisago
from 3844 and 1521; TDNT-5:824,786; v
AV-privily bring in 1; 1
1) to introduce or bring in secretly or craftily
More importantly, Peter describes the activities of these false teachers using the Greek word for “heresies” (“hairesis,” 139.) We have already seen that this word is used in the New Testament to refer to sectarian divisions that are caused by divergent views. The Pharisees and Sadducees typified this behavior. As we have seen, Jesus condemned them for it and explicitly prohibited his followers from following in their footsteps.
139 hairesis 
from 138; TDNT-1:180,27; n f
AV-sect 5, heresy 4; 9
1) act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city
2) choosing, choice
3) that which is chosen
4) a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party)
4a) of the Sadducees
4b) of the Pharisees
4c) of the Christians
5) dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
For Synonyms see entry 5916
Peter attaches the word “damnable” to these “heresies.” The Greek word translated as “damnable” here is “apoleia” (684.) It simply means “destructive.”
684 apoleia
from a presumed derivative of 622; TDNT-1:396,67; n f
AV-perdition 8, destruction 5, waste 2, damnable 1, to die + 1519 1, perish + 1498 + 1519 1, pernicious 1; 20
1) destroying, utter destruction
1a) of vessels
2) a perishing, ruin, destruction
2a) of money
2b) the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell
Peter’s description of destructive, sectarian divergences from apostolic teaching is similar to what we have already seen throughout in the New Testament. In his letters, Paul consistently identified views that diverged from apostolic teaching with such phrases as “an err of the faith,” as “subverting the faith,” as “overthrowing the faith,” and as “making faith shipwreck.” The word Paul used for “overthrow the faith” in 2 Timothy 2:18 and “subvert” in Titus 1:11 was “anatrepo” (396.) The word simply meant to overthrow or destroy.
396 anatrepo
from 303 and the base of 5157; ; v
AV-overthrow 1, subvert 1; 2
1) to overthrow, overturn, destroy
2) to subvert
Likewise, in 2 Timothy 2:14 Paul used the word “catastrophe” (2692) to refer to false teachings which subvert their hearers. This word also refers to “destruction” and is used in 2 Peter 2:6 to refer to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
2692 katastrophe
from 2690; TDNT-7:715,1093; n f
AV-subverting 1, overthrow 1; 2
1) overthrow, destruction
1a) of cities
2) metaph. of the extinction of a spirit of consecration
Here in 2 Peter 2, the apostle Peter similarly refers to views that differ from what the apostles taught. Like Paul, he says such deviant teachings are destructive.
In verse 13, Peter describes these false teachers as spots and blemishes at the Christian communal meals. They beguile unstable souls. James identified unstable Christians as those whose interests were divided between the things of Christ and the things of this world which were contrary to Christ. Like Jesus in John 3:19 and Paul in Romans 8, 2 Timothy 3, and 1 Corinthians 2-3, James said that such persons don’t understand Christ’s teaching correctly because of their desire to have and do things that Christ prohibited. Like Paul in 2 Timothy 3, Peter says that these types of Christians are the very ones that are targeted by these false teachers.
2 Peter 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Peter’s description of these false teachers in verse 17 is similar to that of Paul in Ephesians 4:14 and James in James 1:6. All of these passages use the idea of being “carried about by the wind” as a reference to false doctrinal views. (Later we will see Jude use this same metaphor for similar reasons.)
In contrast to these false views, the apostles constantly instructed the church to remain in the knowledge of Jesus’ teachings that they had passed on to them. The first verse in 2 Peter 3 is another example of this.
2 Peter 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
In the verses that follow 2 Peter 3:3-14, Peter (like Jesus and Paul) goes on to instruct Christians on issues related to Christ’s return and its timing. Once again, this shows the critical importance that the apostles placed on these doctrinal issues. They were not nonessentials in the apostles’ view.
In the final verses of his second epistle, Peter makes another set of remarks that are relevant to our study. In 2 Peter 3:9 and 15, Peter discusses the longsuffering and patience of God as it relates to salvation. He then makes statements about God’s will regarding who gets saved. As an explanation of what he’s discussing, Peter references Paul’s writings saying “even as Paul has written unto you as in all his epistles speaking in them of these things.”
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us–ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable (793) wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
In verse 16, Peter acknowledges that some of these issues are difficult to understand. We must note that while Peter does say that these things can be difficult to understand, he does not say they can’t be understood. To the contrary, he attributes trouble understanding these issues not to the difficulty of the subject matter, but rather to people being unlearned and unstable.
The word translated as “unstable” is the same word that is used in 2 Peter 2 to refer to Christians who seek after things that are not appropriate for followers of Christ. The Greek word translated as “unlearned” is “amathes” (Strong’s number 261.) It is the negation of the Greek word “manthano” (3129) through the addition of the negative prefix “a” (Strong’s number 1.) It refers to someone who has not learned or been appraised of relevant information.
261 amathes
from 1 (as a negative particle) and 3129; ; adj
AV-unlearned 1; 1
1) unlearned, ignorant
3129 manthano
prolongation from a primary verb, another form of which, matheo, is used as an alternate in certain tenses; TDNT-4:390,552; v
AV-learn 24, understand 1; 25
1) to learn, be appraised
1a) to increase one’s knowledge, to be increased in knowledge
1b) to hear, be informed
1c) to learn by use and practice
1c1) to be in the habit of, accustomed to
In this passage Peter is attributing misunderstanding of difficult New Testament doctrinal material to whether people have been properly and fully informed and whether their interests are still set on things which are not acceptable for Christians. As Jesus, Paul, and James have said, such persons will not come to the light of the truth. According to Peter, doctrinal misunderstanding of difficult issues is not due to the incomprehensible nature of the teaching. Rather it is due to problems with the student.
Again, Peter does not mean that difficult teachings can’t be properly understood. To the contrary, Peter criticizes those who do not understand these issues correctly. This can be seen clearly in Peter’s criticism of those who “wrest” Paul’s writings to erroneous interpretations. The Greek word translated as “wrest” is “strebloo” (4761.) It means to “twist” and conveys the idea of “perverting.”
4761 strebloo
from a derivative of 4762; ; v
AV-wrest 1; 1
1) to twist, turn awry
2) to torture, put to the rack
3) metaph. to pervert, of one who wrests or tortures language in a false sense
We have seen Paul similarly speak of those who would pervert apostolic teaching in Acts 20:30, Galatians 1:7, and 1 Timothy 6:5. Here Peter is pointing out that people were even taking Paul’s writings and perverting what he had written in order to promote a false view.
Peter could not condemn people for misunderstanding these things if these teachings were, in fact, impossible to understand. Nor would Peter criticize people for misunderstanding if the topics were nonessential and correct belief was not important or required. Yet he does condemn them for misunderstanding and attribute their misunderstanding, not to deficiencies in the text, but to their own faults. This demonstrates that Peter felt that even the more difficult issues of the Christian faith were comprehensible. More importantly, Peter shows that Christians are to be held accountable for differing views even on those issues which can be more difficult issues to understand. He gives no allowance for divergent understandings based on the difficulty of the doctrine.
Peter’s final thoughts on this subject comprise the final verses of this last chapter of his second epistle. After discussing false teachers and twisting the scripture to false understandings, Peter warns Christians about being led away with such errors. He instructs them instead to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ which they had undoubtedly learned from the apostles’ teaching.
2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away (4879) with the error (4106) of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
The Greek word translated as “error” in verse 17 is “plane” (Strong’s number 4106.) It refers to an error of opinion in relation to religious issues.
4106 plane
from 4108 (as abstractly); TDNT-6:228,857; n f
AV-error 7, to deceive 1, deceit 1, delusion 1; 10
1) a wandering, a straying about
1a) one led astray from the right way, roams hither and thither
2) metaph.
2a) mental straying
2a1) error, wrong opinion relative to morals or religion
2b) error which shows itself in action, a wrong mode of acting
2c) error, that which leads into error, deceit or fraud
This Greek noun “plane” (4106) is where we get the related verb “planao” (4105) that we have seen most recently in James 1:16. As we noted in our study of James, this same Greek word is used in Matthew 18:12-13 concerning Christians who are straying from the faith. Likewise, it is used in Matthew 22:29 and Mark 12:24-27, where Jesus says that the Pharisees were in error because they misunderstood and misinterpreted the scriptures. It is used in Matthew 24:4, Mark 13:5, and Luke 21:8 where Jesus tells his followers not to be “deceived.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul warns Christians not to be “deceived” regarding things that will prevent us from entering into the kingdom of God. Likewise, Titus 3:3 couples being “deceived” with “seeking after diverse lusts” which James discusses in chapters 1 and 4 of his epistle.
All of these passages use the same Greek word (“planao”) which is closely related to the word used in 2 Peter 3:17. All of these verses are talking about false understandings of what is taught in the scripture. In the New Testament, the apostles warn against having false understandings of Jesus’ teaching divergent from how they taught it. As we have seen, Peter even equates apostolic writing with the authority of scripture here in this passage (2 Peter 3:16.) (For more on the apostles’ understanding of their writings in relation to a scriptural canon please see our study on The New Testament Canon.)
In verse 17, Peter connects “error” to “being led away.” The Greek word translated as “led away” is “sunapago” (4879.)
4879 sunapago
from 4862 and 520; ; v
AV-condescend 1, carry away with 1, lead away with 1; 3
1) to lead away with or together
2) metaph. to be carried away with
2a) of a thing, i.e. by a thing, so as to experience with others the force of that which carries away
2b) to yield or submit one’s self to lowly things, conditions, employments: not to evade their power
This is the same Greek verb Paul used in Galatians 2:13 to describe how Peter and Barnabas were acting contrary to Christ’s teaching.
We can see from these epistles that, according to Peter, it is crucial that Christians remember and remain in what the apostles taught. He instructs them not to be led away into erroneous interpretations craftily introduced by false teachers through the twisting of the scripture. As we have seen from Irenaeus, this twisting of scripture to support false understanding was the standard practice of the Gnostic teachers which Paul himself warned Christians not to associate with or listen to. Though he does not seem to be referring to the Gnostics in particular, Peter’s letters provide similar warnings.
As we finish with Peter’s epistles we should draw attention to the fact that 2 Peter 3:16 clearly states that twisting what Paul wrote about in his letters constitutes a destructive error. Peter has just finished discussing aspects of “end-times” events and then he also mentions how God’s longsuffering functions in relation to God’s will regarding men and salvation. It is in reference to these issues that Peter cites Paul’s writings and states that those who twist Paul’s intended meaning engage in a destructive sectarian heresy.
This is important because we know that Paul wrote a lot about both of these subjects: eschatology and soteriology. And we have seen that Paul places a great deal of importance on having a proper understanding of these issues. It is clear from his words here that Peter agrees not only with what Paul wrote on these topics but he also agrees with Paul on the critical importance of rightly understanding such topics. Both men identify false understandings of eschatological and soteriological doctrine as jeopardizing salvation. For the purposes of our study, it is important to note that eschatological and soteriological issues are two of the main doctrinal areas that modern churches and denominations are divided from one another over.
To be even more specific, the question of whether God will’s all men to be saved or only some men is a key issue that separates Reformed/Calvinist churches from Free Will/Arminian churches. Paul and Peter state that diverging from what the apostles taught on this subject constitutes a destructive heresy. While it is true that denominations and churches do separate fellowship over this issue, most would not say that having different points of view on this topic is a grave or necessarily “damning” error.
Likewise, major components of eschatological and soteriological theology are considered to be nonessential doctrines by an Essentials Only View, particularly when it comes to the specific nature of salvation and the timing of “end-times” events. This again is contrary to the words of Peter and Paul who have both consistently and clearly taught that Christians cannot have divergent views on these matters. Furthermore, both men assign grave consequences to those whose understandings differed from what the apostles taught on these subjects. As we have seen Paul clearly identified false views of eschatology as excommunicable issues (2 Thessalonians 2-3.) Similarly, Peter states that false views of these subjects constitute destructive errors which lead Christians astray. Certainly, there is discontinuity between the apostles’ view of these things and that of an Essentials Only View.
Having completed our look at Peter’s two epistles we will now provide our summary of what we’ve found in relation to doctrinal unity and excommunication.
Peter is consistent with the rest of the New Testament in expressing that the apostles had passed on to first-century Christians all they needed to know and understand about Christ’s teaching. He does not leave room for further teaching, improvements, evolution, or innovations in Christian doctrinal understanding. Instead, Christians needed only to remember and remain in the understanding that they had received from the apostles. According to Peter, Christians were prohibited from having differing sectarian views. Rather, the only persons who would advocate such differing views are false teachers secretly introducing divergent doctrines, those who were not sufficiently informed about Christian teaching, and those who twisted and misinterpreted apostolic teaching because they sought things that were prohibited. Whatever the case was, Peter strongly condemned anyone who for any reason diverged from the understanding that the apostles originally intended in their words and writings. While Peter does not mention excommunication specifically he clearly upholds the requirement for Christians to have a comprehensive doctrinal unity and understanding of all things that the apostles taught and recorded in their writings. Like Paul, we find Peter taking the time to instruct the church on subjects that an Essentials Only View deems nonessential. Some of these issues include: God’s will regarding who gets saved, the timing and nature of eschatological events, and gender roles and dynamics.
In regard to excommunication, Peter does not necessarily identify any particular issues as excommunicable. However, he does specifically identify several doctrinal subjects for which false understandings constitute destructive errors. A comparison with other New Testament texts warrants the reasonable conclusion that any destructive and erroneous doctrinal view was certainly considered excommunicable. Therefore, Peter indirectly confirms that false eschatological and soteriological views are excommunicable.