Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Unity of the Body: Unity In Word And Truth


Here is a slogan which seems to have been hanging around the church for more than a few centuries. It has been attributed to various and prominent figures in church history from Augustine to Wesley, and is even found in the first papal encyclical of John XXXIII. Recent scholarship attributes it to Rupertus Meldinius, a relatively unknown 16th century Lutheran theologian.

Regardless of who actually coined this phrase, the fact remains that at it's premise, it is pure poppycock. In order for it to work, there must be at least two opposing points of view which would seem to pretty much ruin any prospects of unity. The main questions being; what things are essential and/or non-essential in any given debate? Who decides what is or is not essential?

In order for the church to discern what is or is not essential, there must be unity in the interpretation of scripture. This alone blows the "unity" of the visible church out of the water, as the visible church goes to great length to show that there is no unified interpretation of the scripture. This "unity" is a self defeating proposition.

The visible church seeks to portray unity in the same way the world does, i.e. agree to disagree., celebrate diversity, etc. The reality is that neither of these noble and lofty concepts can be found in scripture. They are not even hinted at. As a matter of fact, where do we find support for the argument that there are ANY doctrines and/or teachings found in scripture which are non-essential?

2Timothy 3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Gal 3: 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Col 3: 10 and (you) have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

We are told to have the mind of Christ, to be of one mind, to be of the same mind. How is that accomplished? First of all we are united with Christ, and with each other through Him. This is the work of the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. We are incapable of creating such a unity.

Eph 2: 18 For through him we both (jew and gentile) have access in one Spirit to the Father.

1 Cor 12:
13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1Cor 6: 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

From all of the scripture cited above, it should be apparent that the Body of Christ is the place where diversity no longer exists. It is HIS body, therefore the unity that is shown is manifested only in the person of Jesus Christ. When looked upon, the entirety of Christ is seen, not His Lutheran hands and Baptist legs demonstrating "unity in diversity", When we attempt to " do" unity and tout our brotherhood, we are glorifying man and not God.

The story of Babel in Genesis 11, is the story of a "unified" human race desiring to exalt itself by making a name for itself. Men had one language and one purpose. Diversity was the consequence of God's judgment, which He accomplished by confusing of their common language into many tongues. This confusion of language has forever thwarted man's efforts to come together peaceably, as true peace is found only in the Prince of Peace.The attempts by men today to unite in that confusion, and "celebrate their differences" is a deliberate spitting in the face of God. In the world we have the United Nations. In the church we have ecumenism, and slogans like the one which is quoted at the beginning of this post.

We see that all true unity comes from God and is found only in His Son. This unity is a reconciling in Christ of creator to creation, and of creation to creation. We become sons of God, and brothers to one another. This found only in the new creation.

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Romans8: 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

The Body of Christ grows up, and matures in, the unity into which it has been placed:

Eph 4:
1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
9( In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

There is only one Body, one Spirit, one hope ,one Lord, one faith one baptism, one God and one Father of all, who is over and through all. This is in perfect agreement with the scriptures which were brought out at the beginning of this post, that is, we are baptized into His Body by one Spirit, through whom we also have access to the one Father, thus joining us in and to Christ, as one Spirit.

The apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers are members of the Body, empowered in their respective calling to ministry and given as gifts to the Body to build it up to a full maturing into the one man. The mature body is seen in the manifestation of the one man, Jesus Christ. The believer's maturity is a corporate maturity which exists in the individual, Jesus.

In this corporate maturing the individual saints also mature with this result:

14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

How is this put into practice? By SPEAKING THE TRUTH in love. Jesus is the Truth and His Word is Truth. Therefore we speak Christ, teach His word and doctrine, exhort, correct, rebuke. Is this not what Paul said to Timothy about ALL scripture? When this is happening, then the Body grows into the head and all the joints and parts began working properly and in love.

The current ecumenical move stresses speaking in love at the cost of speaking the Truth. How we need the five-fold ministries today especially the prophets. The church is sorely lacking those who will take the sword of the Spirit and wield it. I am not referring to what is commonly called prophecy by most of christianity, which is more akin to an ESP/mindreader Vegas act.

If we cannot be unified in the understanding of God's Word, then none of these "five-fold" gifts can function as they should, and the Body would never grow together.

John 5: 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us................................

Jesus is the living Word made flesh, revealed in the living spoken/written Word.

1Timothy 6:
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,
5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

This speaks even louder today. Sadly the ones accused of craving controversy are the ones desiring to see that the Truth is preached and that the strongholds of the post-modern church be torn down. It is the bringing in of false teaching which creates friction. It is those who refuse to read scripture literally who quarrel about words, and cultural/historical context, etc.

1Peter 3: 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Also sad to say that this is interpreted agree to disagree. There cannot be a unity of mind unless all agree on doctrinal Truth. The apostles, even the Lord, spoke dogmatically and literally. Therefore our unity is found in agreement with them.

1Cor 1:
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Again there is no "agree to disagree" found here. Paul is asking for unity in all things. Jude puts it another way:

Jude 1:
1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The phrase to "contend for" in the Greek is; epagōnizomai.

You might notice the word from which we get "agony" set right in the middle of the word. We are to struggle,that is agonize for the faith. We contend for the Truth in unity. This hardly portrays the watered-down christianity that is being presented today. The church of the first 3 centuries should be insulted. They struggled and died foir the faith. We hardly whimper whenever the latest abomination rolls in.

Acts 13:
13Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

Acts 15:
36And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." 37Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

This type of contention would never be "tolerated" in today's visible church. The work of the Kingdom did not suffer loss because of this division. The sovereign, omnipotent,and omniscient God worked His will through it. The church thrived.

We must have unity in orthodoxy. The scriptures are more than a history book,and more than a story book. They transcend time and culture. They come from God Himself, and were not meant to be limited by a particular place and cultural setting. Coversely they do not have a different meaning something different in each ensuing era. They are written by divine fiat (not an arbitraray fiat), and are understood through divine interpretation.

Sola Scriptura

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One Bad Apple Can Spoil The Barrel

Matthew 7:
13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Build Your House on the Rock 24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

The above passage is without a doubt one of the most abused and misrepresented in all of Scripture. So let us without further ado, look at this in a verse by verse manner.

Verses 13 and 14 speak of two gates. The gate that opens to destruction is wide and easy to enter, and many enter into destruction through it.
The gate that opens into Life is narrow and the way through is hard. In addition Jesus tells us that it is difficult to even find this gate. Only those who know the voice of the Shepherd, i.e. those who are already His, hear His voice and enter in. (no one seeks for God, Romans 3:10-18)
This leads us to the obvious conclusion that the first gate, which leads to destruction, is also extremely easy to find since many enter it. Those who do are not "God-seekers".
Jesus who is the Truth, and therefore telling the Truth, is the Gate, the Way and the Life.
John 10:7 and John 14:6
This is the foundation set for what He says next.

In verses 15-20, the Lord speaks of false prophets and the distinctions which make them false prophets:

They are "ravenous" wolves which come disguised as sheep.

Acts 20:
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

They are ravenous as they desire to draw away the disciples after them.
They are the ones who do not enter by the gate. They do not know the voice of the Shepherd, and He does not know them. John 10:14

They "jump the fence" to steal away the flock. Some of these seem to be part of the flock, but in reality are not. They are wolves that have have already infiltrated the flock, and soon leave after creating havoc.
Their goal being to draw as many of the flock away unto themselves as possible.

1John 2:
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

It must be plain that they are not of us. Jesus said they will be recognized by their fruits. They will be recognized today, not at the end when the Lord returns. In fact He tells them in verse 23 "I never recognized you", which will occur upon His actual return.

Thus the real meaning of this statement in 1John 4:4;

"for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."

is made clear.

This verse, when read in its' immediate context, is speaking of those, like us who have the Spirit of Christ and those who have gone into the world, who are of the spirit of anti-christ. They deny Jesus has come in the flesh. How? By constantly recreating Him into our image and likeness, the sin of the golden calf. The incarnation has been accomplished, we do not preach the re-incarnation, which is essentially being preached in the doctrines of open theism, among other false teachings.

As for their fruits, grapes are not gathered from a thorn bush, nor figs from thistles. What the Lord is saying literally is, they truly are thorn bushes and thistles. They do not produce grapes nor figs. All fruit bearing vegetation produces fruit fit for consumption, or fruit unfit for consumption. The unfit fruit can even be poisonous. Sometimes distinguishing between the good and the bad is extremely difficult.
Men have learned to recognize good fruit from the bad in the natural. So those that are truly His, will learn to recognize good from bad.

Hebrews 5:
14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The fruits of the false prophets, the wolves, the thorn bushes, are known by saints.
They are unhealthy, diseased trees. A diseased tree cannot bear good fruit and must be cut down and burned.

Matthew 3:
10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 15:
13 He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

Both Jesus and John the Baptist were speaking to, and about, the pharisees. Contrary to popular teaching, the sin of the pharisees was not "legalism", (in fact the common accusation that is thrown out today toward anyone who adheres to sola scriptura, is that they are phariseees and therefore "legalistic"). The fact is the pharisees did not adhgere to what we call sola scriptura.
They denied Jesus was God come in the flesh. That is, they did not believe what the Word of God spoke. John 5:37-47
This is the common error of today's "church" They do not like the way God presents Himself in His Word, therefore they preach a different gospel, and a different Jesus, who is the Word in the flesh. So who are the actual pharisees today? Those who know neither the Scriptures nor the power of the Author.

Gal 1:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--
7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

2Cor 11:
3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.

The super apostles are the ravenous wolves and the producers of bad fruit. Who are the super apostles? Turn on christian TV or enter a christian bookstore. The gate is wide, readily found, and they are leading men through it.

Verses 21-23 present an astounding conclusion. Even though the fruit of bad tree is recognized by the saints, the bad trees do not realize that they are ...... "bad trees".
They will say to the Lord in that Day, didn't we prophesy, heal, teach, etc etc in your name?
Jesus will say, "I never knew you", i.e. I give you no public recognition.
Deception is an easy pathway indeed.

Matthew 24:
4 And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray.
5 For many will come in my (Jesus') name, saying, 'I (Jesus) am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray.

Only those who do the Father's will will enter in. Since this is so, then only those who are truly in Christ, who is the narrow gate, and who does only the will of His Father, enter the Kingdom of heaven. The narrow way is the will of the Father. It is not easy to find, as it is only found through Christ. It must be revealed.

Luke 10:
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

John 6:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--

So the Lord sends them away and calls them workers of lawlessness or iniquity.
In the Greek the word is:

ἀνομία (anomia)

It means a transgression, a violation of the law, an illegality. We must remember that what Jesus is speaking in these last few words of his "sermon on the mount" tie in with what He spoke from the start of this discourse. Matthew 5-6-7
The purveyors of bad fruit are "lawbreakers"

Matthew 5:
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Licentiousness is not grace. Licentiousness is one of the bad fruit.

The conclusion of all that Jesus spoke is this;
All who hear His words and do them are building on solid rock, and their building will stand no matter what storms come.

Those who hear His words, and do not do them, are building on sand and their building
will suffer complete and utter destruction, i.e. "away from me, I never knew you". Those words are hanging over the wide gate.
Those who do the words of Jesus, do the will of the Father, and have entered in through the narrow gate.

Matthew 12:
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

John 6:
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

All who do the will of the Father prove that they and Jesus are born of the same father. They are family.

John 15:
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Proverbs 14:
12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

We will al be known by our fruit.
Soli Deo Gloria