Who are you to judge another’s servant?
To his own master he stands or falls.
Indeed, he will be made to stand,
for God is able to make him stand.
I recently heard a teacher use this verse as a reason why we should not correct someone publicly, even when what they believe is demonstrably incorrect according to scripture. It was all in the context of one person thinking they knew better than the other and that such things must not be so. The bottom line, it's not for any of us to correct anyone on the nebulous "non-essentials."
But where are those "non-essentials" listed? I have not seen them.
But wow, Romans 14:4, we shouldn't judge another servant?
Does Romans 14:4 apply to that teacher's opinion regarding correction?
Well, the context for Romans 14 deals with people's conscience that Paul calls "weak" or easily offended.
Matters of foods, days, feasts etc. Paul says the mature should take into account their weak conscience and
defer to them so as not to stumble those with a weaker conscience.
So, the chapter is clearly misapplied to doctrine, should one try to use it that way.
Now, as far as doctrine is concerned, do we let it ride so as not to offend those with wrong doctrine? Can we make the leap from conscience to doctrine using Romans 14? Not hardly. In the very same book of Romans, Paul tells the same readers (not pastors) in 16:17:
Now I urge you, brethren,
note those who cause divisions and offenses,
contrary to the doctrine which you learned,
and avoid them.
He has a much different standard for doctrine as opposed to conscience. If a doctrinal view is unscriptural,
it needs to be addressed. Doctrine is the dividing line that triggers the identification of the one peddling
bad doctrine and then emploring the healthy to avoid the unhealthy doctrine. Pretending there are not
differences or avoiding their discussion is not unity, it's ignorance. Especially those who are teachers
and love the flock God has entrusted to them. If they do not warn that flock, then who will?
That is why Paul also told Timothy in II Timothy 3:16 that correction and reproof
is one of the reasons Scripture was provided.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness...
It begs the question, can a person (a pastor in Timothy's case) teach Scripture and not correct and reprove?
Is not most all of Paul's writing for the purpose of correction of doctrine in the early church?
Should we ever have an opinion, then find a passage that sounds similar and then claim scripture agrees with me? The answer is, of course, no. Scripture is the arbiter of truth and we need to agree with it.
How could it be any more simple?
People like using Ephesians 4:16 to show why we need to forget about divisive doctrine and fighting over
non-essentials. Here is what it says:
16 From whom the whole body, joined and
knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which
every part does its share, causes growth of
the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Pretty compelling, right? Wrong. Look at Verses 14-15
14 that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about
with every wind of doctrine, by the
trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness
of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may
grow up in all things into Him who is
So which is it? The answer is yes.
For the body to be knit together and functioning properly there must be a knowledge of what is true and correct doctrinally.
Nowhere does Paul mention essential and non-essential.
That is an error of modern pragmatism within the church.
Paul was no such man.