Every Christian denomination, nondenomination or subgroup faces the constant tension between a desire to focus on Jesus Christ, the core gospel, and the truths which Christians share alike, and a desire to emphasize its own history and purpose and the issues which distinguish it from other Christians. This is particularly true when the group was founded to reform or to renew the existing church, or to restore the original or ancient church of the first or early centuries.
Individuals in group also tend to reflect one or the other of these points of view. Some people are converted to Jesus Christ — and happen to be part of a specific Christian subgroup. Others, however, are converted to “the true church” or to “right doctrine,” and they tend to feel threatened by an emphasis on Jesus and the core gospel — those truths which all Christians hold in common. We may be encouraged that many such churches today are learning to depend on God’s grace in Jesus Christ and to better appreciate the biblical gospel of justification by grace through faith. Many are leaving old legalisms and sectarianisms, and are acknowledging the broader fellowship which inevitably follows a greater dependence on Jesus Christ alone.
This gospel-based improvement has two opponents, however. Hardline forces in every such camp are galvanizing opposition to change, which they regard as a departure from “the truth” or “the old paths.” This is quite natural, since they confuse their own traditions with the way of Christ. And many who have been freed of legalism and sectarianism, but who lack a solid biblical perspective and gospel balance, easily fall into a ditch of indifference, license and indulgence which is no better than the bondage they have escaped. What all of us need instead is a clear gospel perspective based on the solid foundation which is Jesus Christ — through which to gain a vision of our own specific church group with its particular history, function and future.