Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Bond of Peace, Part 2 of 2

There are other doctrines, to be sure, of greater or less importance. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the eternal nature of the human soul, the reality of Hell, the reality of the Devil, personal holiness, etc. are all doctrines that a Christian searching God’s word by the light of the Holy Spirit will eventually come to on his own…or not, as some cases go. We are commanded to reach a state of spiritual maturity, and to walk by the same mind; and for anyone who does not possess this understanding, God will reveal even this to you, if you are willing.

Yet for what a man knows, by this he must walk, and as he walks he will grow stronger, and be ready for more truth, which will only serve to refine and mold the Christian’s character more and more, until there is much less of us, and much more of Jesus Christ visible. Young Christians (spiritually speaking) are generally quite full of themselves; it is difficult for the Holy Spirit to impart much truth, and to fill us with Himself when we are already so full. As time goes by and we learn, and grow in grace, we will have room to be filled. I think this was why Jesus told His disciples that He had much more to tell them, but they could not bear it presently. They were far too immature spiritually to comprehend the truths He wished to divulge. But Christ our Lord is wonderfully patient, and in course of time He will direct and mold our thoughts to follow His own as we learn from His word and submit to His Spirit. A Christian who conjures subjective opinions in opposition to the revealed will of God is clearly rebelling. They are calling God a liar.

Back to the matter at hand. Recall John’s words to Christ, and our Lord’s short response. How many times have we set ourselves in opposition to someone who is a fellow Christian, merely because they do not preach or practice quite the way we do? I will give two examples from my own past in the hopes that it edifies.

#1: My little sister is a believer who indulged in some music, movies, and mild language that I found offensive. I was shocked that she would subject herself to such things, and wept and prayed about whether or not I should confront her. I chose to do so, and wrote her a long and (what I considered) sagely counsel about her behavior and how poorly it reflected her faith. I was not so kind as I ought to have been, and I was downright legalistic in other portions, to my shame. She sent a scathing letter of rebuke, and a year lapsed before we spoke again. We only live fifteen minutes away from one another, so this was a significant happening. My zeal overcame my concern and love for her, and I addressed her with much less tact than I should have. Was I entirely in the wrong? Doctrinally speaking, we are to put away all filthiness and pursue personal holiness. Did I come to her in the wrong spirit? Yes. Whatever her errors as a younger believer, I erred more as one who is more accountable, being older and more mature in faith. This schism was created by otherwise small items that should not have even disjointed fellowship, and since that time I have witnessed her maturity increase, with the increase that is from God.

#2: There is a Christian man named Mike who runs a website entitled “Search the Scriptures.” He and I clashed because he is a pastor who teaches that believers can fall away and lose their salvation. Otherwise, he appears to be a very orthodox Christian. I wrote him an email and tried to correct his error, to which he wrote back a short response of Scriptures that he believed verified his position. I proceeded to retaliate with a long letter of rebuke that was short and less than kind or brotherly; and far from loving. Needless to say, he never answered back. In time (months later) the Holy Spirit convicted me of my need to speak to him again. I emailed him once more and apologized for my outburst and demeanor, and prayed that he would forgive me. He wrote likewise, and not only forgave, but asked forgiveness for his own terse answer. It was hard to admit I was wrong in my treatment of him, but it was harder to ignore the fact that I treated a brother in Christ like the enemy.

Brethren, why do we want to label ourselves? The body of Christ is fractured and divided, with Christians in every genuine denomination, and many more (like myself) who hold no affiliation with any church organization. Unbelievers see this disaster clearly and turn away from any hope of finding answers from us. Here on my Blog, I do not care what you claim as a title when you fellowship with other believers. I am firmly convinced that the title of Christian is more than sufficient; this title alone ought to unite all genuine disciples of Jesus Christ under one banner. While Christ’s name should be a rallying point to which every born again believer comes running to for shelter from the world and fellowship with their fellow saints, other names cloud the issue and create distraction and division. Likely, the men who started such factions were godly; but their name does not belong before any denomination or church. All the saints are Christ’s saints; all the faithful are His flock, and those who shepherd them are only “hired hands” who have been given charge for a time. These shepherds too are a part of Christ’s flock.

What a tragedy non-critical disagreements have done to the body and name of our Lord! We have divided over methods of baptism, how to take the Lord’s Supper, whether or not gifts like healing and tongues yet exist, or the controversy between free-will and predestination. Do any of these things make one a member of the church universal? No. We do well to heed our Lord’s words then, when He says, “Why do you consider the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”

Are such divisions frequent? My step-father knows a man who swears that unless you speak in tongues, you are not saved. I have encountered another who teaches that only the Calvinist gospel is the true gospel, everything else is Arminian heresy. Both of these statements are untrue, because they are unbiblical. Tongues do not save or damn: having or not having the Son of God decides this. There is no such thing as the Calvinist or Arminian gospel: there is only the gospel of Jesus Christ, and all who believe it are saved; eternal life is their immediate and everlasting possession.

John was overly critical about this man who worked miracles in Christ’s name. Yes, there are times to reject divisive men, as the Bible informs us (see my above note about Rick Warren and Rob Bell). There are times to contend for the truth, and to turn out heretics. There are even times to remove carnal believers from fellowship who refuse to repent, so as to discipline them. Brethren, if someone accepts the tenets of the Christian faith, and demonstrates in their lives the fruit of the Spirit as Christ lives through them, can we not accept them and love them as brothers in Christ? Lutheran, Methodist, Calvinist, Baptist, etc. the Holy Spirit does not acknowledge these human divisions; for we have been baptized into ONE body through ONE Spirit, by ONE Lord. In this body there is no more division; male, female, poor, rich, barbarian, etc. There is only the church universal, with Christ as its head. What damage our trivial hairsplitting has caused Heaven will in due time reveal, and for my part I repent, and I grieve that I have thrown fuel on the fire of contention. My brothers in Christ, if we have Jesus in common, it is well.

God bless anyone who reads this, and may He use it for His glory. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Ian. God called us to preach the truth, not to attack error. Even when he is clearly wrong, II Thessalonians 3:14-15 tells us we are not to attack them. "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

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