Is the Church what we think it is?
What is the ‘big picture’ in the Church today?
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
This could be today’s headline. These people are among us and we need to get back to our Bibles and refute them, marginalise them and publicly reject them for the sake of true Christian unity. They claim to be Christian but their words and actions condemn them. Don’t listen uncritically to their words, but be like the Bereans.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Watch their actions, particularly the shenanigans off-camera. What sort of lives are they leading, how are their marriages, what do they say in their unscripted, unguarded moments? Remember ...
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
We are called to love our fellow Christian brothers and sisters for the sake of unity but without compromise. What this means in reality is that we must show love for all true brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we need to show humility because of secondary theological differences, gentleness to those with whom we are unfamiliar and patience for those whom we would normally find quite challenging.
A friend was telling me about meetings he took part in, to plan for a huge mission in his town. The interesting point was that those present were from a complete spectrum of the Christian world, from ultra-charismatics who hear from God every few minutes to older folk from Brethren backgrounds, with very firm reservations about spiritual gifts. What was special about this meeting was that, because the focus was on worshipping Jesus and reaching the lost, all differences were irrelevant. What bound them together as Christian brothers and sisters was stronger than what divided them, in doctrinal differences. Action outweighed words.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
We tend to think very parochially, a result of the chopping up of the Body of Christ into congregation-sized portions, each with a geographical sphere of influence. If we could see the big picture, this spiritual being with Christ at its head, the Church rather than individual churches, then it would be easier for us to accept each other as fellow, functional members of the Body.
To each true brother and sister we must show demonstrable love for the sake of the Gospel. In my case it means loving those who have embraced replacement theology, as well as the Anglican vicar down the road with whom I have absolutely nothing in common (apart from a love of Jesus). You will of course have your own set of challenges.
Calvinists and Arminians will need to start talking to each other again. Christian Zionists and Supercessionists will have to conduct their public debates without emotion or recrimination. Theistic evolutionists and Creationists will need to stop sneering at each other. Reformers and (born again) Catholics will have to kiss and make up. All for the sake of the Gospel.
And why do we do it? It is because Jesus commands us to do so and I believe blessing will come to us as a result. By this all men will know that you are my disciples. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.