Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Christian Unity"

As a Facebook user I have taken notice of what seems to be an unusual number of posts calling for Christian Unity in one manner of phrase or another. I have read so called prophetic messages giving warning of coming divisive factions.  As I have followed this for a while now and viewed the associated comments, it seems it might be of interest to write about these issues.

Facebook is a wonderful tool, but it can be a troublesome one. I would liken it to the use of a gun, guns are wonderful items, but you do need to know how to use one safely and effectively. Using a gun carelessly can hurt you and others, but used properly can be very enjoyable and life saving. Facebook as well can help or hurt, so caution is recommended with it's use. Because of the nature of Facebook I have chosen to use my blog as the venue to address this subject.

So what is Church unity? Perhaps it is better stated, what do we mean when we call for Church unity? It seems mostly what I hear is some variation of loving one another and agreeing to get along. Sometimes you hear something like, we just need to preach Jesus and lay aside all our disagreements. Then at other times it is said we need to agree on the all important things and the secondary things can be overlooked.

There is an element of truth in all of those statements. We do need to love one another and get along. We do need to preach Jesus and there are some things that are of the utmost importance. But those statements are surface statements and give very little substance to the issue.

Loving one another carries many aspects, sometimes loves requires confrontation. And if you are going to preach Jesus, I need to know what you believe about Jesus to be able to walk with you. So, this Church unity gets a bit more complicated than those surface statements that have a nice ring to them.

Paul does tell us in 1Co 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Co 1:11  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 

This certainly should be true of a local Church. Contentions in a local body is a very unsettling thing and a great hindrance to the effectiveness of that body of believers. That is why teaching sound doctrine is so important so the body can all be on the same page. You will also need to study on your own and not just depend on the teachings you receive, in other words be good Bereans (Acts 17:11). Having done so, don't go and nit pick every little detail you might discover and disagree with. But with issues of real concern, go to those you trust and converse with them. Many times these things are just mis-understandings of terms and phrases that lead to disagreements that in reality don't exist. Then there are real differences that arise as we grow and study together, and it is incumbent upon us to be patient as we attempt to work these things out over time. Getting angry and pulling up roots to find a more pleasant atmosphere rarely ever solves the problems.

Then Jesus tells us himself, Joh 17:21  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

As good as it would be, I think you would agree that more is indicated here than us just being able to understand scripture the exact same way. The truth is, from what we see in Scripture, find in Church history, and from our own experience, this unity thing is difficult. The Church has struggled with it from the beginning and we should not expect it to go away for us.

When you consider the nature of our fallen state, and the perfections of God in contrast, it is a wonder we agree at all. As He does in all things, God uses these difficulties to work in us and through us His good pleasure. It is out of the great errors and bad theology in Church history that the great documents of faith and doctrines of understanding were developed and refined. The error compelled us to search more deeply for the truth. As Scripture instructs us to walk in unity, the same Scripture instructs us to defend the faith that was once delivered to the Saints (Jude 1:3).

“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” ~ John Machen (1881-1937)

"Indeed, truth cannot be stated clearly at all without being set over against error. Thus a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches." ~ John Machen (1881-1937)

So, while we should be cordial to one another, and we must love one another, the focus is not unity at the expense of truth. Truth must be preserved or all is lost. I have heard it said that John MacArthur is divisive when he calls out the Charismatic groups, I say well done, seems like no one else will do it. We should all be challenged on our beliefs, and when we are, it should drive us to the Scriptures.

But it seems we are so fickle with our faith, if anyone challenges us on our modes of worship we just cry foul and publish how unloving and un-Christian one is for questioning our actions. The Gospel is stated so clear in the Scriptures you will need a lawyer to help you mis-understand it. The Gospel is also so deep and mysterious to the minds of men that the greatest theological minds of history have only touched the surface in all their struggles. We must remember it is not our understanding that saves us, it is but a means by which we are brought to faith, Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

So when you find someone you believe to be a true Christian, yet it seems you cannot agree; think that not a bad thing if it drives you both to converse with the Scriptures. Search out your differences, test them against the Scriptures, test them against sound church doctrines that have already been established, listen to the lessons of Church history, perhaps this battle has already been fought before. We can do all these things and still love one another. It will require grace, for we will have to exercise our patience with one another and bear with one another. The fruit of the spirit, Gal 5:22 . . . love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. These all will have to be exercised. What a great benefit this is to each of us as we wrangle with each other and the Scriptures to un-mine the wonders of the truth.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,


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