Unity in Truth

As churches stray from the biblical teachings, they will generally become more man centered and less God centered.  This means that the purity of the church needs to be examined next to the unity of the church.  Unity is God’s will for the church and this is a large way the gospel is displayed to the community.  God calls us to seek for unity in both the visible local church and the invisible universal church.  We can do this through being gracious to those in our church in understanding differences, as well as cooperating with like-minded churches to spread the gospel and serve the community.

But an important aspect of these two things (unity and purity) is how they relate to one another.  Both purity and unity in the church are important, but there are clear situations where the need for purity must be placed ABOVE a desire for unity (See 1 Cor. 5 and 2 John).  There does come a time where doctrinal differences, matters of conscience, and simple practical issues require people to split off from a church or churches to stop working together with certain things.  Though Christians should seek to bring change within the church in biblical ways, leaving the church is sometimes the best option.  There are many examples of this in Church history.  For the first part of the early church, there was unity despite some need for the removal of false teaching.  But, the protestant reformation was sparked when Luther raised issues with Catholic doctrine (as they were taking money from people in exchange for claimed forgiveness from God) and was excommunicated in 1521.  Purity and Unity in the church are important and they relate in many parts of church life and as I talked about in the sermon, this unity is rooted in love.

Unity at All Cost?

As churches stray from the biblical teachings, they will generally become more man centered and less God centered.  The purity of the church needs to also be examined next to the unity of the church.  Unity is God’s will for the church and this is a large way the gospel is displayed to the community.  God calls us to seek for unity in both the visible and invisible church.  We can do this through being gracious to those in our church in understanding differences, as well as cooperating with likeminded churches to spread the gospel and serve the community.

An important aspect of these two things though is how they relate to one another.  Both purity and unity in the church are important, but there are clear situations where the need for purity must be place below a desire for unity (See 1 Cor. 5 and 2 John).  There does come a time where doctrinal differences, matters of conscience, and simple practical issues require people to split off from a church or some churches to stop working with other churches.  Though Christians should seek to bring change within the church in biblical ways, leaving the church is sometimes the best option.  There are many examples of this in Church history.  For the first part of the early church, there was unity despite some need for the removal of false teaching.  But, the protestant reformation was sparked when Luther raised issues with the Catholic doctrine of his day (as they we taking money from people in exchange for claimed forgiveness from God) and was excommunicated in 1521.  Unity apart from the gospel is meaningless.  If we set aside the truths of God’s word yet we hold onto unity, this unity will not bring about God’s good will of reaching the nations.  Our Goal must be first to proclaim the gospel.  When unity and cooperation with other gospel church is possible it should be perused.  When unity and cooperation with churches that reject the gospel will hinder that work, unity must be place aside for the salvation of the lost.

Three Exhortations for the Church to Obey Together

I would like to encourage you to remember the three exhortations given in Hebrews 10:19-27

  • Let us draw near to God (v. 22)
  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23)
  • Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (v. 24)

Notice that the author ends these commands by saying, while you obey these three things, don’t neglect to meet together but encourage one another (v. 25). All the commands start with “let us”. God did not intend for us to do these things alone but rather they are to be done together as the body, as the Church, as we meet together on Sundays and during the week.

When one turns to Jesus, they are united to him and in effect become united to every other person that is in Christ. Becoming part of a local church and obeying these three commands together with other Christians is a direct outworking of your salvation. It is evidence that you are truly in Christ. This becomes clear in the next verse. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (v. 26) We need one another in order to live out these commands as God intends.

 

The Mission of the Church

In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul exhorts Christians to put on the character of Jesus and exemplify Christ likeness in the church.  Why is it important for the church to exemplify the character of Christ?  The answer is quite simple, to put the gospel on display.

Matthew 5:13–16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

The mission of the church is to put the gospel on display.  When Faith Baptist Church lives in harmony with one another, putting on love while bearing with one another in humility, meekness, and patience, those outside the church will notice.  Those who do not know Jesus will see the harmony that we have, and be amazed.  With Paul, I exhort you to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” so that it overflows into the community, bringing many people to faith in Jesus through your actions, and through your faithfulness in sharing the gospel with them.

A Note from the Old Pastor Concerning the New Pastor

As you transition from one pastor to another, here are some things to consider…

(1) Recognize him as your pastor. You do me, nor him, nor yourself any favors by either trying to guess what I would have done in a situation (or what Pastor Simpson would have done) or by telling him that Jeremy would never have done whatever it is he has decided to do. Is Faith my church? “Is Christ divided? Was Paul”—or even Jeremy—“crucified for you?” (1 Cor 1:13) Is it not Christ’s church? May your only loyalty be to Jesus as you follow the pastor you have called, ever looking forward, not looking back.

(2) Understand his priorities. If he is to be an effective pastor, his priority must be to his personal relationship with Christ, then to his family, and then to you. This is the model we see in 1 Timothy 3:4-5. If he cannot manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? Understand that his first priority in terms of earthly relationships must be his family. They will validate or invalidate his ministry to you.

(3) Recognize his gifts. He will have greater and lesser gifts in particular areas than either of his predecessors had. Pastor Simpson was an evangelist. Pastor Jeremy was an expositor. Maybe Jonathan will be both, but in very different ways. Give him the latitude to use his gifts. Pretending to be something that he is not will never grow this church.

(4) Don’t let him do everything. He does not have every spiritual gift and neither does the Bible allow him to do everything for the church. Many of you understand this only too well and have done phenomenally. It may still do well to take this question to heart: Does our understanding of a pastor’s job more closely fit with the model of a mom-and-pop store where the proprietor (or pastor) provides a service that we come and consume, or does it fit a team approach with the pastor as captain or coach leading us into action. Come alongside of him and work next to him. The church was never meant to be a one-man show. That is why it is referred to as a body with many parts (1 Cor 12:20) and as a spiritual house, being built up together (1 Pet 2:5). Use your gifts: to reach out to those outside the church, to minister to those inside it, and to consider that we have not come to be served, but to serve (Mat 20:28).

(5) Love him and his family. Don’t wait to get to know him; don’t hesitate to love his family. Christian love involves loving the unloveable as Christ loved us. You have called a man and wife who are extremely loveable. They will be easy to love. Don’t use that as a temptation to love like the world. God calls us to love in this way: patiently, kindly, humbly, respectfully, non-irritably, and truthfully as you bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Cor 13). Do not believe an accusation of him unless it has been established by the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). Keep in mind that unless he leaves town, you’re the only family he has. I praise God for your Christian love towards my family and I. Do so even more towards him and his.