Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (June/August 1987), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA).
Nearly four centuries ago the Puritan William Perkins drew a useful distinction. He suggested that there is a working difference between error and heresy. He wrote that error of itself is no ground for breaking fellowship, that any doctrinal discrepancy between two Christians means that one or both are in error. The Bible does not on that account command them to separate from each other. Heresy is another matter; heresy is error, but error that strikes at the very roots of the faith, and heresy is always grounds for breaking fellowship.
Scripture bears out this latter observation. Paul in 2 Cor. 6:14 commands us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and he follows the command with five unthinkables. John in his second epistle wrote, “For many deceivers are entered into this world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come (or ‘coming’) in the flesh” (2 John 7). Then in verses 10 and 11 he adds,
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.