Leaving a church is not something that should be done lightly. Too many people abandon churches for petty reasons. Disagreements over simple matters of preference are never a good reason to withdraw from a sound, Bible-believing church. Christians are commanded to respect, honor, and obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church (Heb. 13:7,17).The underscore is added by me, btw. And the major texts the statement in question explicitly lists to explain its position are these:
Heb 13:7 – to honor leaders
Gal 1:7-9 – that those who turn the Gospel on its head be accursed
Rom 16:17 – to avoid those who cause division and teach false doctrine
1 Cor 5:1-7, 9-11 – that the church should expel those who are unrepentant in sin
2 Thes 3:6 – again, to avoid those who are idle and teach false doctrine
2 Tim 3:5 – again, to avoid those who are idle and teach false doctrine
Which, again, I would own entirely. I would own all of these explicit statements of Scripture. But with the exception of the 2 Tim 3 citation, all of these are addressed to the church and not to a you-personally person. In the case of 2 Tim 3, it’s addressed to a pastor, not just some guy. So when we look at these warnings or commands, we have a problem: we have to see that what Scripture does not once command is that anyone leave the church except those who are explicitly in sin or unrepentant error.
In fact, when we think about how 1 Cor 5 works together with 2 Thes 6, we have to ask ourselves: can we have any basis for a merely-personal and private decision that some teacher is a false teach? What we actually will fall back on in these cases is our belief as Baptists in soul competency – the ability of one person to obey conscience and stand before God for his own spiritual condition.
And that’s fine – it’s just not the highest, most systematically-brilliant point of Baptist theology upon which to make decisions. Yes: you personally have to stand before God and make an account – and if you’re a believer, you don’t get condemned to hell, but you can be saved as through hay, stubble and straw set on fire. That doesn’t sound like any revivalist hymn theme to me.
So here’s the thing to open with here: there is no question that the primary emphasis of the NT on this topic is that we are talking about an utterly-grave matter here, and that the traditional texts we would use to talk about this subject except for one is speaking to the church and not to one believer except for the place where the NT speaks to pastors.
We will get to Dr. MacArthur’s “However ...” next time.