How should we live (Part 4)

How should we live (Part 4:)

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 3:8-14; Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23; Ephesians 4:1-3

Introduction

We have been studying through the book of 1st Peter. We read through a passage explaining “how we were to live, because of our position in Christ.” One of the issues mentioned was our marriage relationship, but the concepts extend into all other relationships. The key relationship for all believers is our relationship with Christ, which is reflected in all other relationships.

The relationship which most closely pictures our relationship with Him is the marriage relationship, so it receives some fairly specific attention. But we are told that how we treat others—how we relate to others—will determine how the World sees Jesus. This is the central message of John 13:35, which says “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This was the first commandment given by Jesus, after Judas left: Only believers— the eleven remaining disciples—were there to hear the New Commandment. Only believers can do this, and even they can only do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Last week, we read 1st Peter 3:5-7, which is specific to marriage, but now Peter returns to the main theme: how we are to live as believers, because of our new position in Christ.

1st Peter 3:8-14

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled:


Before we move on to the rest of the teaching regarding how we are to behave in general, we have one more place to read about marriage. Over in Colossians, Paul treated this topic in a similar manner, “sandwiching” the marriage relationship between all the other behavioral instruction. Two short sentences, to sum up all that is included in that precious relationship.

Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

All the other relationships are important, of course, but the marriage relationship is the only one given before sin entered into the world, and it is the only one which was specifically designed by God to let us see the Relationship between Christ and the Church.

General Commands Still Apply

All the rest of the “behavior pattern” commands apply even more stringently to the marriage relationship. Marriage is supposed to be the most secure and permanent relationship outside of parent-child relations that can exist. So violating that relationship, whether by abuse or deceit, or unfaithfulness is even more repugnant to God than doing the same things in other relationships.

So let’s look at what he says as far as general commands in relationships, in Colossians 3:13-17:

  • Forbearing one another (putting up with and accepting each other as we are.)
  • Forgiving one another (accepting the loss and the cost of forgiveness…without either reparations or recriminations.)
  • Love one another (“Charity” is the KJV word for Agape love.)
  • Live at Peace with one another…let the Peace of God “Rule” (umpire) in your hearts.
  • Be thankful. You do have a lot for which to be thankful! Think on it!
  • Let the Word of Christ Dwell in you richly in all Wisdom:
    • Teaching one another and admonishing one another, (how?)
      • In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
      • Singing with Grace in your hearts to the Lord
  • Do all in the Name of (under the authority and auspices of) the Lord Jesus,
  • Giving Thanks to God and the Father by Him.

How do these commands correlate with the commands back in in 1st Peter 3:8-14?

  • Be ye all of one mind (maintain unity).
  • Have compassion toward one another. Care about others: and do something about it.
  • “Love as Brethren” (this is the “phileo” love, given as a command. This means being genuinely friendly: preferring one another’s company as brothers and sisters.
  • Be empathetic (“pitiful”: having pity for others.) Weep with those who weep!
  • Be courteous: polite…we do not have license to be less than courteous “because we are family”—quite the opposite: Courtesy is part of brotherly love.
  • No “payback”—no revenge: instead, provide blessing in place of payback.
    • Jesus said “…do good to them that hate you…” (Matthew 5:44)
    • We are called to bless, so that we can inherit blessing.

Application

So, how can we apply all the above information? It is easy to see that there is such a thing as a Biblical pattern, a standard we are to use. It is also easy to see that we are to apply the standard to ourselves, not to others: Not to other married couples, not even to our own husband or wife. The “mirror” is pointed at you! At me! Don’t use it to look at others!

We are to accept one another as we are: if there is definite sin involved, we are given specific instructions as to how to deal with that, but the fact is, most of what irritates us in other people is just that: Irritation. It is not thereby “sin” that needs to be “confessed and renounced and have guilt thickly spread over the poor wretch who dared to offend us.”

Notice that in Colossians 3:19, it says, “Husbands love your wives and be not bitter against them.” And, there are no qualifiers added…no “ifs, ands or buts.” Furthermore, over in Ephesians 4:31, 32, it says: “31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.

(Don’t you just love that word “All?” It really covers a lot of territory, and eliminates a lot of “loopholes.”) Notice that the passage in Ephesians is to all believers: not just husbands and wives. So this thing in Colossians, about “bitterness” (hard-hearted grudges and bad feelings) applies to everyone, not just husbands.

And, over in Proverbs 31, when it describes the “perfect wife,” what if we were to apply that passage to the Church, the Bride of Christ? Remember, God designed marriage to show the relationship between Christ and the Church!

Proverbs 31:10-31 lists a number of features, but the key idea is in verses 11 and 12: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Then it goes on to describe her industrious character, her kindness toward others, her hospitality, her wisdom in speech and behavior: How she cares for her household, especially her husband and children. The bottom line is that his reputation, his belongings and his children are safe in her care: He can confidently back her in everything she says or does, because she always acts in his best interest, and in such a way as to honor him.

Of course that is a great standard for a wife to consider, but, if we are collectively the “Bride of Christ”, shouldn’t we all, every one of us, apply those truths to our own lives? Consider:

  • In what way am I “honoring the Lord in everything I say and do?”
    • In what way do I enhance His reputation by my behavior?
  • Can Jesus really count on me to faithfully treat others as He would treat them?
    • Providing for those He has entrusted to my care, putting their needs ahead of mine?
    • Speaking kindly to (and about) others in every circumstance?
  • Do I open my mouth in Wisdom? (Or keep it shut, when that is the best response?)
  • Do I provide the Gospel to those around me? (See 1st Corinthians 15:34, 1st Peter 3:15)
  • Am I being “about my Father’s business” as He was?

In the end, we saw that the “virtuous wife” was rewarded, and honored. We are the Bride of Christ, and, collectively, we will be rewarded and honored. But as individuals, we need to ask, “Will my present actions, thoughts and attitudes be deserving of reward? Will the Lord say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful Servant’ regarding what I am doing right now?” And if the answer is “no!” then we need to confess it as sin and go do what He has commanded us to do.

Now: is all that just about marriage? Of course it isn’t!

But what better place to practice the life He has called us to live, than in our own homes? If it is real there, then it will spill out into other relationships as well, affecting our children and our extended families, as well as all others around us.

Peter moves on to talk about how we are to fit into society at large, in the rest of this passage: he says, 10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled:

In effect, then, he says:

  • Watch your mouth! Don’t be a source of evil talk or falsehood!
  • Stay out of trouble! Stay away from bad situations. Look for ways to do good!
  • Make Peace! Look for ways to build peaceful relations, and follow that way.

He says the Lord is always watching, and His ears are attentive to our prayers, but that he will resist any who are doing evil. The Lord is a perfect supervisor: He sees everything and He understands everything, including our motives and intentions. He never wavers in his righteous response, though sometimes it seems to take a long time, from human perspective. (If you are wondering how to explain the apparent ease in which the wicked people of this World live, and how they seem to “get away with it,” I would invite you to read Psalm 37 and Psalm 73. Between the two of those psalms, I hope you can get God’s perspective on that matter.)

Is it possible that we may suffer for doing right? Absolutely! It is possible! In some places in the world it is not only “possible” but highly probable! And He says we are blessed if that occurs!

What are Our Choices?

When we look at any of God’s commands to us, ultimately we always find only two choices:

  1. Obey, striving to do exactly and completely as He commanded us, or,
  2. Not. If I choose to “partially obey,” I am choosing to disobey. If I choose to do something that somehow “parallels” what He says, but is different, I am still choosing to disobey.

I heard about an entertainer, a singer, who was faced with an inebriated customer demanding that he sing a certain popular song. He wasn’t going to sing that song, for a variety of reasons, but he also didn’t want to cause a public quarrel, so he assured the customer that while he couldn’t sing that particular song, the very next song would have a lot of the same notes! The customer was drunk enough to not understand that virtually all songs have “a lot of the same notes,” so he sat back down and the singer simply pressed on as planned.

When we try to do something other than what God asked, even though it may even be something “intrinsically good,” remember that He is not some drunken fool in a bar, who is unable to see that we are flat-out not doing what He commanded. He knows! And, the truth is, we also know that we are not doing what He said to do.

It comes down to a daily, moment by moment “multiple-choice test,” with only two choices for each problem:

  1. Will I submit my will to that of God and do what He asks me to do, or
  2. Will I not.

Those are the choices.

You can choose, moment by moment, how to respond to God; how to respond to your husband or wife, how to respond to your children, your coworkers, your employers, your neighbors, or even that “bozo who just cut you off in traffic.” (Or you can make excuses: that is a choice, too!)

Every single step is a choice. That is why we call it “walking:” We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and constantly looking to the Lord for direction, both from His written Word, and from His Holy Spirit.

Is it easy? No! In fact, apart from the Holy Spirit living in us, it is impossible! In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing!” Now, if anyone else said such a thing, it would be incredible arrogance: but when the Lord Jesus said it, it was simply the truth.

So what do we do?

We can’t walk on water. Peter was commanded to walk on water, because he dared to ask Jesus to command him to do so. But what did Peter have to do about it?

  1. He had to keep his eyes on Jesus!
  2. He had to get out of the boat!
  3. He had to put one foot in front of the other, regardless of circumstances.

He started out OK, but he soon forgot #1…he failed to keep his eyes on Jesus! That is where we all most frequently fail, I think. But, I still have to “get out of the boat!” I confess that I simply cannot live the Christian life, but I am commanded to live it! So, I have to “get out of my comfort zone:” look to God to find out what I am to do today, even if it is utterly mundane or really uncomfortable, and then go for it!

Look to Jesus, pray for strength and guidance, and step out! Start putting one foot in front of the other. I’m told that, if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, pretty soon we’ll notice that we are actually “walking!” That is what walking is!

Lord Jesus, teach us to walk with you as your disciples, doing exactly what you command. We know that we fail you constantly, and we depend upon your grace and forgiveness. Please teach us true obedience, and lead us day by day in your service.

Church Unity

Unity in the Church

© C. O. Bishop 10/31/16 THCF 11/6/16

Romans 15:8-13: The Gentiles in Prophecy; Unity between Jewish and Gentile believers.

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
 

Introduction:

The Old Testament is full of promises; mostly (but not all) directed specifically to Israel. In the verses we just read, the Apostle Paul states that Jesus came to serve Israel with regard to the truth of God; in confirmation of the promises made to the patriarchs; but also so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his Mercy.

Paul alludes to Isaiah 42:6, 7, where it says that the Messiah would be a covenant (confirmation of the promises) to the people (Israel,) and a light to the Gentiles, providing healing to the nations. He then gives several examples (by no means exhaustive) of the prophecies specifically referring to the Gentiles. He quotes Psalm 18:49; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:1, 10. There are many other passages that make promises specifically directed to whole Gentile nations, or to all the Gentiles as a group. I suspect that, while the Jewish teachers were aware of the theory that the Gentiles would also inherit the mercy and blessing of God, they were, at best, less than enthusiastic about it. Thus, the seeds of division were still present in the early church, though the foundation for unity had been laid at the Cross.

 

How are the Gentiles to Fit In? And, how can the Jews be at Peace?

Paul’s conclusion regarding the Gentile believers (who were the recipients of this epistle) is, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” They are not to feel inferior to the Jewish believers in any way, nor, as we saw in Romans chapters 9-11, are they to feel superior in any way.

Both groups were condemned under sin, and guilty before God, according to Romans chapters 1-3, and both have been the recipients of God’s Grace through the person of Christ, according to Romans chapters 4-8. They are called to be a blessing to one another and live in unity even regarding things about which they traditionally are in disagreement. (See verse 10: they were to rejoice WITH God’s people the Jews.) Have you noticed that the Jewish believers (as a whole) were never told to drop their customs and start eating foods they considered unclean?

Peter was commanded (Acts 10) to graciously receive the Gentiles who had come to him in obedience to the angelic command given to the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. And the means by which Peter was commanded was by a vision, wherein he was shown some unclean animals, and was told “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!” Was God commanding him to eat unclean food? No; the three repetitions of the command in the vision were only to prepare him for the three Gentile men who were approaching the front door at that moment. God told him three times that if God had made something clean, he, Peter, had no authority to call it unclean. Peter responded correctly to the Gentiles because God correctly prepared him. Romans chapters 14 and 15 are the equivalent preparation for the whole church—the small differences we may have because of cultural backgrounds, diverging traditions within churches, etc. are not allowed to cause division. All believers share in the blessed hope of Christ. But the seeds of division are still there!

The Gentiles were frustrated by the Jews continual emphasis on the Law, and the feast days, and their dietary restrictions. The Jews were horrified that the Gentiles were not in compliance with all these things. Paul said that they were not to be divided over such things, but rather that they were to appreciate one another, and recognize that, just as each part of a human body has a different task (1st Corinthians 12), so we are to appreciate one another for how each fits into God’s Building, the Church.

 

What about Other differences?

Other potential areas of division (and just as inappropriate) would include styles of ministry, or individual gifting. One Elder may be specifically gifted as a preacher, and he may completely give himself to encouraging, edifying, and comforting the flock (1st Corinthians 14:3). He will be a blessing to all those in his care. People are moved by preaching, and blessed, and their hearts are warmed. They find reassurance, and a stronger faith thereby. All of which is good!

But: another elder in the same assembly may be specifically gifted as a teacher. He may spend countless hours ferreting out the most accurate interpretation for any given passage of scripture, so that he can teach others, also, to clearly understand God’s Word. To those hungering to understand, he, too will be a blessing, but in a different way. No one gets “warm fuzzy feelings” over a well-taught point of theology, though some may be thrilled to see how ALL of God’s Word holds together in full agreement. But the emotional content simply is not the same.

And yet, both gifts are valid, and need one another, as well as being needed by the assembly. Good application is built upon good interpretation. Good interpretation still requires appropriate application, as well. It is not a safe practice to simply “jump” to application in one’s life when reading a passage of scripture. One has to read carefully, and consider what is being said, by whom, to whom, and so forth, before deciding how to apply it. Neither is it appropriate to simply understand a passage. Understanding demands action. This is not just “fun stuff to know and tell.”  Knowledge is for the purpose of conduct. (Think that over.)

There are cultural divides within major cultures, as well. Music, aesthetics, clothing styles, dietary choices, public behavior, table manners…virtually anything can be a source of division, so long as we are willing to take occasion to do so. The key is to not be willing to break fellowship over such things.

 

Jew and Gentile issues, again

So, how does all this tie into the issues between the Jewish and the Gentile believers? Consider: How might it help for the Jewish believers to continue on with the Jewish feast days? How might it hurt? How would it help for the Gentile believers to cheerfully go on with their work, their clothing choices and their diets, without regard for the Old Testament Jewish laws? (This is not in reference to moral issues, or things condemned as sin in all dispensations.)

Paul had Timothy circumcised, as a Jew, because he was a Jew, though he had a Gentile father and was not raised as a practicing Jew. He made no attempt to have Titus become a Jewish proselyte, though he had a seemingly identical ministry. Why?  Because Timothy was better able to reach Jews with the Gospel, and minister to the needs of Jewish believers, if he fully embraced his Jewish heritage, and was someone they did not see as a renegade, or an apostate. Titus, on the other hand, was a full Gentile by birth, and it would have been detrimental to his testimony to become a Jewish proselyte, because it would add confusion to the message of the Gospel. It may have pacified the “Judaizers”, but it would also have strengthened their claim that one has to become a Jew to be saved, which is pure heresy, and which was exactly what Paul was fighting against from the beginning.

This is why it was so important for the believers at Rome to accept one another as they were, without criticism about things that had no bearing on one’s relationship with God. The enemy was already at work to divide the newborn church, to split it into warring factions, and to destroy the credibility of its testimony. They could either overcome the differences by obedience to God’s Word, or allow the Enemy to destroy the church.

What did the apostle James say about the matter? (Acts 15:19) That the Jewish believers were not to “trouble those who from among the Gentiles had turned to God”. The same could be said of the Gentile believers, that they were not to trouble the Jewish believers. The whole issue, here in Romans 14 and 15, is the matter of unity in spite of differences. They could either choose to appreciate one another for the unique ways that God had gifted them, or choose to destroy the work of God through self-centered arrogance.

 

So, What about Today?

Those are the choices today, as well. It is never a question of condoning sin, but rather of allowing and appreciating liberty within the holiness of God. A well-meaning pastor once accused my youngest son of being a “worldly man” while he himself claimed to be a “Godly man,” based entirely upon my son’s choice in music. I felt that it was a sad thing, to destroy fellowship over such a thing, and I privately wondered what the music had been that occasioned such an attack, but I didn’t ask. A week or so later, my son and I were driving somewhere, and he had some pretty rocky-sounding music playing on his car system; then he said “This is the song that the pastor was complaining about, when he called me a “worldly man.” So, I listened more closely to the lyrics, to see what the content of the song really was. This is what I heard: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me! Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me! Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…”

The song was the 51st Psalm, set to music. That is what he was being condemned for. Why? Because the human accuser did not like the music. But the Accuser of the Brethren is not human, and he doesn’t like the lyrics. He will use any means possible to cause division, and to diminish the effectiveness of the Church. Frequently the damage done is irreparable…the wounded brother quietly leaves, and the accuser feels justified, and grimly quotes, “They went out from among us because they were not of us!”

If you drive away another believer with your criticism, don’t accuse them of being unfaithful, or of being false brethren. It is your critical heart that is doing the damage. Ezekiel 34:15-22 says that God sees such doings, and will judge those doing the damage.

15I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. 16I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

17And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. 18Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? 19And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.

20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. 21Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; 22Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.

Those who are driving away the weaker believers will be judged by God. We need to develop a very tender heart toward such offences, and be very careful about our words and actions.

This is not just about what happens in church, by the way: it is a warning that touches on every human relationship. James says that we all tend to sin with our tongues. We tend to have big mouths, and we need to put a guard on them, so as not to injure others with thoughtless words. The root of the tongue, of course, is the heart. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

The self-will and self-centeredness that controls the heart of every unregenerate man is still there, in believers, but we are no longer its slaves. We no longer have to sin. (Romans 6:1-18) We are dead to sin, just as surely as we are dead to the Law. So, we need to set aside the critical spirit that wells up within us, and embrace the New Life in Christ, to the extent that we no longer reject one another based upon differences in tastes, mannerisms, styles, giftedness, or even minor doctrinal differences. It is simply not acceptable to reject one another over things that God accepts…to reject a person whom God says is “Accepted in the Beloved.”

 

The Result?

Paul says that the church is to be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

We are to abound in hope through whose Power? That of the Holy Spirit. This is not a “do-it-yourself” project. We are told to endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace.” We don’t create that unity, and, as the Psalmist says, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” But we are not to disrupt that unity for the sake of any of the types of things listed here: Not what we eat or drink (both strictly temporal, at worst); not what we wear, not our ministry style, or our taste in music; not what we believe about the end times (which are easily misunderstood at best, and not everyone who is “confused” is necessarily a false teacher.)

We are to be characterized by the Agapé love, not by our many divisions and schisms. Paul sternly warned the Corinthian church against such divisions. (1st Corinthians 1:10-16) They were divided over who their individual mentors had been. Some claimed that Paul was their leader. Others claimed to follow Apollos. Still others took the high road and said “Well I follow Jesus!” That one sounds good, maybe, but what they were actually accomplishing was more division, not corrective teaching. Had they said “Can’t we all just follow Jesus? I mean that’s who both Paul and Apollos follow, right?” Then, I would say they were part of the solution. But as it is, they were part of the problem of contention, self-will and sectarian pride.

That still happens today: There was a fellow with whom I attended high school, who was not a believer when we graduated. I was a brand new believer at that time. We met about eight or ten years later and he was a brand new, enthusiastic, and friendly, warm brother in the Lord. We had good fellowship! But I met him again, perhaps five years later, in a grocery store, and something had changed:

He asked me what church I attended. I had been attending a Baptist church, because it was local, and because, doctrinally speaking, it was the closest thing I could find, nearby. So that is what I told him: “We’ve been attending this Baptist Church, up the street.” He physically straightened up so that he could look down his nose at me, and in a sanctimonious, smug, self-satisfied tone, said, “Well, I’m still gathering to the name of Jesus!” I was so disappointed to have him respond that way. He had not asked me about my beliefs, nor my practices. The only thing that mattered to him was the fact that I fellowshipped with people who were “part of a denomination.” The group with whom he met for fellowship, claimed to have no denominational ties, but, in fact they do! In separating themselves from all other believers, they have become a very tight-knit, world-wide denomination (or at least association). They are tarred with the same brush!

 

Conclusion:

Division is serious business. We are to avoid it like a fatal disease…because it is one! If the Jewish believers were not to reject the Gentile believers because of their worldly habits, and the Gentile believers were not to reject the Jews because of their legalistic bent, and if Paul rebuked the early beginning of sectarianism based on personality cults, then how can we feel we have the right to break fellowship over anything that is not flagrant sin?

We are not to cause division, nor to allow it to continue, if it is possible to heal the rifts. We do not sacrifice sound doctrine to create a false unity…called Ecumenism; but we do seek to maintain unity with those who truly believe the Bible is God’s Word, and who see the Priorities of the Gospel as paramount. It is difficult to sort out, sometimes, but we must be committed to the unity of the true church while not abandoning the Holiness of God.

Lord Jesus, give us the wisdom through your Word, and by your Holy Spirit to discern good and evil, and renew in us a pure heart with which to offer the agapé love to those around us. Apart from your divine help and intervention and empowerment, the task is impossible. Arm us for the fight, and fill us with your Joy, for the sake of your honor and glory.