Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15: 1-2)
There were both Jewish and Gentile believers in the church of Antioch. Although their original backgrounds and beliefs were different, they all lived in harmony with each other because they all believed in Jesus Christ. Several believers from Judea taught those in the church at Antioch that salvation is not through Jesus, a teaching that returned the church to legalism. Of course Paul and Barnabas rejected this teaching and did not compromise or unite with them in the slightest. Because the two sides could not agree they went to the church in Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders. But Paul and Barnabas still held to the truth, preaching and arguing for the truth along the way.
In this last age, the church is facing both external and internal challenges, but those within the church are the larger. The biggest challenge to the church is the constant battle against emerging heresies. Even the slightest mistake can cause the whole church to stray from the truth and fall into heresy. This is true not just for the church in this age; various heresies appeared in the early days of the church. But to maintain so-called unity, even though many churches know there are wrong teachings and error, they dare not point out the mistakes or argue for the truth like Paul and Barnabas.
In fact, these people often worry that conflicts lead to a decrease in the number of believers, and then a decrease in offerings. Another kind of unity which is contrary to the truth is caused by ignorance. So Christians must have a bottom line when they speak of unity, and not concede basic truths in the quest for unity. If others are in error and violate Biblical truth, there can be no unity. Rather you need to contend with others and strive for the truth.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu