And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume X, Number 38 July 08, 2007
In this issue:
The ability to communicate when differences arise is an asset in preventing the disruption of peace (Prov. 10:11-21). More than anything, we must have an unwavering commitment to the revealed word of God, giving diligence “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
A recent email helps us focus on how to address differences among brethren in God’s way. The man introduced the subject:
“I find that there are some disagreements between four churches of Christ located in my hometown. Having visited three of the four I find it confusing to be certain which one is a church of Christ or just a church claiming to be a church of Christ. I am sure that they will all claim to be scriptural.”
Our concerned writer has duly noted that not every church identified as a “church of Christ” truly belongs to Christ (see Rom. 9:6 where this same principle is applied). Many factors can lead to multiple congregations in a town; some godly and some ungodly. For example, was it a matter of starting another congregation in a large city to help expand the effectiveness of the cause of Christ? Or, do they exist because some refused to abide in the doctrine of Christ to the point that faithful brethren were compelled to cease fellowship with them (2 Jno. 9-11)? Is it the result of sinful conduct toward brethren that would not be repented of and corrected? Factiousness, while sinful, can nevertheless help identify those following Christ and those following Satan (1 Cor. 11:19).
One must hear a matter before wisely and successfully determining each case (Prov. 18:13; 15:28). Jesus warned against judging by appearance when he commanded us to “judge righteous judgment” (Jno. 7:24).
When one has investigated why there are multiple churches in a town, he must “test” the answers by the word of God to arrive at God’s will in the matter (1 Ths. 5:21-22; 1 Jno. 4:1, 6). Then, one must commit himself to God’s word as right and final (Psa. 119:128).
So, let us direct our attention to the word of God on the questions raised, and encourage our writer to use what the Bible teaches on all these matters to decide with which church to join himself (Acts 9:26-28). “Here are some differences,” he wrote:
#1: “One consists of a most if not all Black congregation with a Black preacher. (Just wondering what if it was the other way around?).”
The gospel of Christ is color blind: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). If congregations exist because of racial prejudice, they have sinned and need to repent (Acts 10:34-35; Jas. 2:1).
#2: “One has meals in the building while another states it is unscriptural to do so.”
The Biblical issue is whether a local church has authority to plan, promote and provide social activities as a part of its work. To reduce the subject to “eating in the building” does not address the real issue. The New Testament reveals a pattern of work for the local church: evangelism, edification and benevolence to needy saints (Acts 2:42-46; 6:1-7; 11:22, 26, 27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9). To add social events – whether they be pot lucks, knitting circles, sports, etc. – is to add another work that the Bible does not authorize. There is no Bible pattern to support it (Col. 3;17; 2 Tim. 1:13). Churches that engage in such unscriptural activities are not following the New Testament.
#3: “One supports missions or outside entities needing help while another states it is only called to support the local congregation.”
In the NT, churches supported preachers to preach, not “missions” and “outside entities.” Churches sent support directly to the evangelist, and should do the same today (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-16). Local churches did not set up and use other organizations or sponsoring churches to do their work. Such are without Bible authority, and churches that do such work violate the divine pattern and minimize the sufficiency of the local church to do the work given it by the Lord. The local church, as organized by the Lord, is sufficient to do the work the Lord has given it to do, without supporting additional “missions” or “outside entities” (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
#4: “Another provides youth activities while another again says it is not scriptural to engage in these activities.”
Please see the answer to #2. When a local church has social activities as a part of its work, whether for the youth, the middle aged or the elderly, it has added a work to what God has given it to do. If a church will not abandon such unscriptural practices one cannot have fellowship with it (Eph. 5:11).
#5: “One has been working without Elders or Deacons for years (at least 4 or 5).”
It is the will of God that each church has qualified elders to lead it and qualified deacons to serve it (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). Churches can exist without elders and deacons (Acts 14:21-23). When there are no qualified men, brethren must patiently work toward that goal and not put unqualified men into the work. That would truly be a disastrous sin!
“I have not placed membership in any of the churches located where I live because I have difficulty in knowing that not only do these churches have differences, but I know that the Preachers, Elders or Deacons do not even communicate with each other. It is more like they are isolationists as opposed to autonomous. Didn’t Paul and Peter talk when they disagreed?”
One should be careful about the church with which he identifies. In this brief reply we have shown that we can know the truth and use it to make our decision (Jno. 8:32; Col. 3:16-17; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:16-17; Heb. 8:5). Communication is vital to resolving conflicts (Matt. 5:23-25). But, talking is not the same as actually obeying the truth. Proper communication will help when both parties love God’s word and are committed to obeying it (2 Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:21-22).
We should always be open to discussing differences in an effort to resolve them with the word of God (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-6). That is not a license to have ongoing fellowship with those practicing error. We cannot please God and join ourselves to a church that is in error. John spoke of some who “went out from us” due to their sin (1 Jno. 2:19). He did not tell the brethren to insist on continuing fellowship in spite of doctrinal error. Our fellowship must be based on God’s word; anything less than that is compromise, not unity in Christ (Jno. 17:20-21; 1 Jno. 1:3-4; 2 Jno. 7-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-16).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:28-32
Rom. 8:28: Context of enduring sufferings with a view toward future glory.
I. DEFINING PROVIDENCE.
A. God’s Foresight, Care &
II. HOW THEN SHOULD WE LIVE? Faith in God’s providence helps us…
A. Seize Every Opportunity God
Gives You, Eccl. 9:10; Gal. 6:9-10.
1. Many things about God’s
government of this world that we cannot know or fully understand (finite
knowing the infinite), Deut. 29:29.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:6-11
1. In the NT,
everywhere the gospel went everywhere it accomplished God’s purposes, Acts
1:8 (Isa. 55:11).
I. THE GOSPEL WAS PREACHED EVERYWHERE (Rom. 10:17-18).
A. The Great Commission, Matt.
28:19 (Acts 2:5; Acts 8:4-5, 14, 40; 9:31, 2, 10; 11:19-20; 13:4-5;
13:13-14; 16:9-10; 17:15; 28:16); Lk. 12:48.
II. EVERYWHERE THE GOSPEL GOES IT BEARS FRUIT, Col. 1:6.
A. The Gospel Must First Go
into the Heart, Col. 3:16 (Jas. 1:21-22); Lk. 8:12 15.
III. THE GOSPEL IS EVERYWHERE SPOKEN AGAINST, Acts 28:22 (Lk. 6:26).
A. Jesus was Spoken Against by
Most, Lk. 2:34; Acts 4:11.
Conclusion “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Rom. 10:16)
A woman in Pompano Beach, FL who was listening to her iPod while jogging is now in a hospital recovering from being struck by a freight train. Her legs were severed. She was distracted; the sound of the oncoming train was drowned out by the music in her ears.
Sin is like that. Sin is a distraction. It takes our attention away from good things as we choose instead to focus on evil things (Eph. 2:1-3). Consider these examples:
· A two-day old baby girl was found buried alive near Hyderabad, India this week when a farmer driving his tractor saw the baby’s arm sticking out of the ground. The baby’s maternal grandfather had buried her, saying “he feared that he will not be able to bear the burden of the eight females in the family” (AP, foxnews.com). (Dowry payments bankrupt many poor families in India.) The man and his brother were arrested and charged with attempted murder. They were distracted by the material burdens of life to such a point that murder seemed to be the only option left (Matt. 6:25-34).
· Los Angeles, CA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa admitted to adultery this week; his wife has filed for divorce. Earlier this year he denied his marriage was in trouble. The mayor, who is also a national co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said, “I don't believe that the details of my personal life are relevant to my job as mayor.” He was distracted by the lust of the flesh, destroying his marriage and possibly his career (1 Jno. 2:15-17). The woman, a TV news anchor, has been placed on leave pending an investigation. (It seems the details of her personal life may indeed be relevant to her job.) (washingtonpost.com)
We must guard ourselves from sin by keeping our eyes on good things, on heavenly things (Heb. 12:1-2). Don’t be distracted!
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 07/09/2007
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA