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The Unity of Christ's Disciples

The Unity of Christ's Disciples

The Unity of Christ’s Disciples

John, 17:21

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

This chapter presents to our view, the Lord Jesus Christ praying to his divine Father, that not only his apostles, but that also all who should believe on him through their word, may be one. Were we to understand this merely of visible harmony, peace, and concord among his disciples, we should be at a great loss to see how this prayer of his was answered. After the first down-pouring of the Spirit there was indeed a most remarkable visible unity amongst the members of the church at Jerusalem; for it is said “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul,” Acts, 4:32. but in the course of a few years this unity was much marred by a number of Jewish converts, who were zealous for the peculiarities of Moses’ law, and strenuously urged it as a term of salvation upon the Gentile believers at Antioch, at which place, and at Jerusalem, it occasioned much disputation, Acts, 15 and notwithstanding the apostolic decrees which were delivered to the churches upon this point, ver. 24–30; ch. 16:4. yet we find in Paul’s epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, that this contest was in a great measure kept up to the subversion of some from the faith, and the marring of the unity and edification of many. In as far as this dispute affected the point of free justification by faith, the apostles reprobate it in the strongest terms; but when it respected only things indifferent, such as meats and drinks, he exhorts them to a mutual forbearance in love, Gal. 5:2–5; Rom. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:8. In the church of Corinth there appear to be many other grounds of difference, for he charges them with envyings, contentions, strife, and divisions, 1 Cor. 1:11. and 3:3. and with a factious and party attachment to their respective leaders, glorying in them to the disparagement of others, ch. 3:4. The very gifts of the Spirit, which were conferred upon them for the edification of the body, were perverted into an occasion of envy, strife, and glorying over one another. Many other causes of discord took place in the apostolic age, and before the canon of revelation was completed. If we consult the most authentic records respecting the state of matters in the ages immediately succeeding, we shall find the causes of animosity more and more multiplied, together with a departure in many things from the purity and simplicity of the apostolic faith and order, and an addition of various inventions and traditions of men, which were stated as terms of communion, and made an occasion of dividing the disciples.—When the nations assumed a form of Christianity, and the man of sin was raised to his throne, he made use of the kings of the earth, who with (μιαγνωμη) one mind gave their strength and power to the beast to enforce a unity of opinion: but the unity thus produced was not that of the gospel, but a unity of subjection to the beast, and of opposition to the Lamb and his followers; and so we read that the effect of this union was their making war with the Lamb, and the called, chosen, and faithful that are with him, Rev. 17:13, 14.—When this diabolical union came to be broken in a great measure, and men obtained free access to the scriptures, it was far from producing that visible unity among the disciples which might have been expected. For though in protestant countries they all profess to agree that the scripture is the only rule of faith and practice, yet so different are their views and sentiments of this rule, that there never existed such a multiplicity of sects and opinions as at this very day, But what inference shall we deduce from this short sketch of church history? Is it that the disciples of Christ are not one, or that the prayer of Jesus in this particular was not heard? God forbid! for whether we consider the dignity of the petitioner’s person, his relation to the Father as his Son, his interest in his love, or his appointment to the office of mediator and advocate, we may rest fully assured that his prayer was heard and answered, and that all his people are one, whatever appearances there may be to the contrary. We are ready to fall into mistakes here, through not distinguishing betwixt visible and invisible unity, and by our making this oneness to consist of such things as are not essential to it. I shall, therefore, point out from the scripture

I. Wherein the unity of Christians does consist. And

II. Make some use of what may be said.

I. This unity consists in the following things.

1. In their being all members of Christ’s one mystical body. This is one of the unities enumerated by the apostle, Eph. 4:4. “There is one body.” To the same purport are the following scriptures: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another,” Rom. 12:4, 5, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free,” 1 Cor. 12:12, 13. There are an innumerable company of spirits of just men made perfect in heaven, who have died in the faith from the foundation of the world, Heb. 12:23. and there are also a goodly number of believers still in this world; but the difference of place or states in heaven and on earth, does not affect their unity as the body of Christ; for the things in heaven, together with those on earth, are gathered together in one in Christ, the common head of the body, Eph. 1:10. On earth again there are various distinctions among them; some are Jews, others are Gentiles, and these are of all nations, conditions, and sexes; but with respect to the distinction of Jew and Gentile, Christ “hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition betwixt them; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, in order to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby,” Eph. 2:14–17. As for the other distinctions, the apostle reduces them all to this unity of the one body, where he tells us, “There is neither Jew, nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus, who is all and in all,” Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11. There are many visible societies of Christians upon the earth, but they are only representations of Christ’s catholic body, which at present is invisible to us; for Christ’s body is not many, but one. And though many of the children of God may not discern one another in this world, so as to feel themselves at liberty to join together in the communion of the same visible society, yet they are all one in Christ, to whom they are united as the head; they are members of his one body, and so members one of another.

2. This oneness consists in a unity of the Spirit. The apostle tells us there is not only one body, but also one Spirit, which as the soul animates that body, Eph. 4:4. Had the natural body different spirits, endued with different judgments, wills, and inclinations, it would create a strange unnatural schism in the body, and discord among its members; but as in the natural, so in the body of Christ, there is but one spirit, which animates, informs, and directs the whole, works effectually in the measure of every part, and gives a unity of design to all the members in their various functions. This one Spirit is the Holy Ghost, which Jesus when he ascended on high received of the Father; which dwells in him as the head of the body, and is communicated from him to all his members. So Jesus says, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” John, 7:38, 39. This Spirit belongs to the one body, and unites every member to it; “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit,” 1 Cor. 12:13. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” ch. 3:16. This Spirit is essential to every particular member of the body; for “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” Rom. 8:9. and is the surest evidence of our union with Christ; “By this we know that he abideth in us and we in him, because he has given us of his Spirit,” 1 John, 4:13. Indeed this participation of the Spirit of Christ constitutes our very union with him; “for he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit,” 1 Cor. 6:17. It is this which constitutes our bodies his members, ver. 15. even as in the natural body every member by virtue of the animation of one soul, make but one vital system, one whole man. Thus we are constituted “members of Christ’s body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” Eph. 5:30. Now it is this union of the Spirit with Christ the head, and with one another as his members, that Jesus in a particular manner prays for in the text. This will appear evident if we consider that he prays for a union of the same kind with that which he hath with the Father; “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee—that they may be one, even as we are one.” This does not mean, as some have supposed, his union of nature with the Father, whereby he is one God with him; but his union with him by the Spirit, which was conferred upon the man Christ Jesus by the Father, as mediator and head of his body the church; for “it pleased the Father, in the economy of redemption, that in him all fulness should dwell,” as the head of influence, and the medium of communication to his body, which is his fullness, whilst he fills all in all, Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:19. In this capacity the Father gave him the Spirit without measure, John, 3:34. and it is out of this fullness of the Spirit dwelling in him that we all have received, and grace for grace, i. e. grace answerable to what is in him, John, 1:16. It was by this Spirit of the Father dwelling in him that he was qualified to execute his mediatorial offices: by it he was anointed to preach the gospel, Luke, 4:18.—by it he was qualified for government, Isa. 11:1–6.—and by the same Spirit he wrought miracles, Matt. 12:28. Now this Spirit dwelling in him and operating these works, he expresses by the Father’s being in him, and he in the Father, John, 10:38. and when he promises the same Spirit to his disciples, he tells them, that “in that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you,” John, 14:20. which is the very language whereby he expresses the oneness which he prays for in the text; and therefore it must be a unity arising from the same Spirit dwelling in the Father, in Him, and in them. This is put beyond all doubt by John, who uses the very same phraseology with respect to the indwelling of the Spirit: “Hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us,” 1 John 3:24. “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us; because he has given us of his Spirit,” ch. 4:13. And this is still more evident from the end of this union, which is, saith Christ, “that the world may know and believe that thou hast sent me:” for it was by virtue of this Spirit that the disciples testified and made known to the world that the Father sent the Son, John, 4:14. The apostles “were witnesses of these things, and so was the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him,” Acts, 5:32.

3. Their unity consists in all having one faith. The apostle tells us, there is but one faith, Eph. 4:5. i. e. one doctrine of faith to be believed, which is emphatically styled the truth. There are, indeed, many different opinions in the world, but there is but one faith. Many think that the true faith of the gospel cannot be attained without great study, and being thoroughly acquainted with every point of a connected system of divinity; whereas the inspired writers repeatedly reduce the faith that saves to a single plain short proposition, such as that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” or that “God raised him from the dead,” and declare that all who believe this truth upon the divine testimony shall be saved, John, 20:31; Rom. 10:9. They who believe this must necessarily believe every thing that he hath revealed as soon as they know it; but faith does not depend upon the full knowledge of every truth. The first Christians are declared to have had true faith, when they knew only the first principles. In the rest they were to grow up. The testimony of God concerning the person and mission of his Son is the one faith with which salvation is connected. This is the faith once delivered to the saints, for which they must contend earnestly, Jude 3. the faith of the gospel, for which we must jointly strive, Phil. 1:27. with one spirit and mind. Now as all the children of God are partakers of the one Spirit of truth, and taught of the Lord from the least to the greatest, they must all necessarily be possessed of this one faith; they must all have like precious faith with the apostles in the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. 1:1. They have therefore a unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, Eph. 4:13. and they count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of this knowledge, Phil. 3:8. They have, indeed, different measures of the knowledge of this truth, and different degrees of growth in the faith of it, and they are not altogether free from error in this world; but notwithstanding this, they are one in the faith that saves; they all know the truth, and that no lie is of it. They may, perhaps, have different speculations and controversies of words among themselves about what they esteem the faith, and this may greatly affect their visible unity, and lead them to look upon one another as heretics; but it will be found that these differences, ultimately are not about the faith itself, but about something which they have added to it, or some inference or deduction from it, which they hold of equal importance. The faith of the gospel is admitted on all hands, and dwells in each of their hearts, but in reasoning they may in many cases be led to different conclusions. These differences, however, it must be owned, arise from their not having attained the full perfection of this unity; and therefore Christ hath given gifts unto men for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of his body; till they all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that this is a unity into which they are to grow up till they come to the perfection of it, in opposition to their being in a state of children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. They have still room to grow in the knowledge, and in the strength and stability of their faith.

4. They have a unity of hope. So the apostle says, “ye are called in one hope of your calling,” Eph. 4:4. i. e. they have one glorious inheritance in heaven which is set before them as the object of hope, and by a metonomy is called the hope laid up for them in heaven, Col. 1:5. It is called the hope of their calling, because God hath “called them unto his eternal glory, by Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter, 5:10. and so it is termed the prize of the high calling of God, which they have in their eye in pressing forward in the Christian race, Phil. 3:14. As soon as they are called and justified they rejoice in hope of this glory, Rom. 5:1–3. To this lively hope of the inheritance they are all begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter, 1:3–6. This is the inheritance of children which they are all entitled to as joint heirs with Christ their elder brother and first born among them, who is risen from the dead to the possession of it, and who in this chapter prays that they may be with him where he is that they may behold his glory, verse 24. Of this hope the one Spirit is the earnest in their hearts, Eph. 1:13, 14. so that they are one in it. But this hope, as it is in their hearts, admits of growth; and therefore the apostle prays that they may abound in this hope through the power of the Holy Ghost, Rom. 15:13. and in his epistle to the Ephesians, ch. 1:17, 18, 19, 20. he prays for the same blessing to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They know not yet the full glory and extent of their inheritance; and they also need to be more and more established in the belief of that mighty power which raised Christ from the dead to the enjoyment of it, that their hope may be more strengthened respecting their own resurrection to it by the same power.

5. They have a unity of love to one another, from their love to him that begat, 1 John, 5:1. for the truth’s sake dwelling in them, 2 John, 1:2. and for the hope that is laid up for them in heaven, Col. 1:4, 5. This bond of union is called “the bond of perfectness,” Col. 3:14. It is love that properly emits with its object. Without it the most shining gifts, the most beneficial works, and even martyrdom will be of no avail, 1 Cor. 13:1–4. Christians cannot hate one another for the truth’s sake, like Cain, who was of that wicked one. They cannot commit this sin, because the seed of God remaineth in them, and they are born of God, 1 John, 3:9. They may have many differences and quarrels, but it is not for their adherence to the truth as such, but for something they apprehend contrary to it; for they love all that are of the truth in as far as they perceive it dwelling in them, and heartily wish grace, mercy, and peace, to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. But in this also there is room for growth and increase, 1 Thess. 3:12.

6. They have all one Lord, viz. Jesus Christ the Savior, Eph. 4:5. the only Sovereign and Head of his church, who purchased it by his own blood, Acts, 20:28. to whom all authority and power is given both in heaven and in earth, Matt. 28:18. and to whom, therefore, the church is bound to be subject in all things, even as the wife is to her own husband, Eph. 5:23, 24. This one Lord they confess to the glory of God the Father, as “the Lord their Righteousness,” their alone King, Lawgiver, and Judge, acknowledging no other Lord or Master in his kingdom, Matt. 23:8–12. esteeming all his laws of indispensable obligation—laws which they are bound to obey from the heart; and so studying to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded, Matt. 28:20.

7. Their union consists in having all one God and Father, who is “above all,” as the Father of the whole family, Eph. 3:15. and even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the economy of redemption, ver. 14. who is “through all,” by his Son as the medium of his grace; and “in them all,” by the inhabitation of his Spirit, ver. 16. according to the Savior’s prayer, “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us—I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” John, 17:21, 23.

II. I come now to consider how this unity becomes visible in the world, and what belongs to it in that view.

1. This union becomes visible to us in the outward profession of the one faith and hope of the gospel. Though the children of God are all one in the particulars mentioned in the first head, and are all visible to the omniscient God, who searcheth the heart, and knoweth them that are his; yet to us, who can only judge by outward appearances, this unity is not visible till with the mouth men make a scriptural confession of the faith and hope that is in them. Accordingly we find that the apostles admitted none into the visible unity of Christ’s body, but such as made this profession. When they confessed with the mouth that Jesus was Lord and Christ, and gave his death and resurrection as the reason of the hope that was in them, both for acceptance and eternal life, then, and not till then, did they acknowledge them as members of Christ’s one body, Acts, 8:37; Rom. 10:9. This confession must be scriptural in its matter, and couched in such a form of sound words, as is expressive of the faith once delivered to the saints.—It must appear to be hearty, and the effect of a person’s own knowledge and inward conviction from the word of God, in opposition to an implicit assent to custom, traditions, or the authority of men. In short, it must appear to be the effect of divine teaching, in so far as we can judge the state of the mind from the expressions of the mouth.

2. Another thing which belongs to the visible unity of Christ’s disciples is the one baptism. The apostle tells us there is but one baptism, Eph. 4:5. This is not the baptism of the Spirit, as some affirm; for the apostle mentions the one Spirit before, ver. 4. and therefore cannot be supposed to repeat it again in this enumeration. It is distinguished from the Spirit in several places as the outward sign is from the thing signified. So the subjects of Christ’s kingdom are said to be born of water, as well as of the Spirit. John, 3:5. and to have the washing, laver, or bath of regeneration, as well as the renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit. 3:5. Regeneration was an epithet applied to baptism in water by the first Christians, as is plain from Iræneus, Justin Martyr, and Clemens of Alexandria. Though it is essential to every member of Christ’s body to have the Holy Ghost in his enlightening, comforting, and sanctifying influences; yet that which the scripture calls baptism in the Holy Ghost, properly signifies those miraculous and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit which were given to the first Christians for the spread and confirmation of the Gospel; compare Acts, 1:4, 5. with ch. 2:33. and ch. 11:15–18. with ch. 10:44–47. and therefore, in this view, cannot be the one baptism which belongs to the whole body. But supposing the term baptism applied to the ordinary gift of the Spirit common to all believers, yet this is so far from superseding baptism in water as needless, that Peter considers it as the strongest argument for it; and that the refusal of it upon such a clear call would be no less than a withstanding God. Acts, 10:47; ch. 11:17. Those then who make light of water baptism from a presumption that they are baptized in the Spirit, would do well to consider what they are about. But the baptism in water must be the one baptism, because it is the only baptism which Christ hath instituted, and commanded to be administered to those who are made disciples in every nation of the world, Matt. 28:19. Antichrist hath indeed changed both this ordinance and its subjects, and hath invented many things falsely called baptism; but Christ has instituted only one baptism to be observed to the end of time; and that is the immersion of believers in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the one baptism which belongs to Christ’s one church, or spouse, which he loved; for the Apostle says, Ephes. 5:25, 26. he “gave himself for her, that he might sanctify her, i. e. cleanse her in the laver of water by the word.” Three things are mentioned here in sanctifying and cleansing the church.—1. Christ’s giving himself for her to sanctify and cleanse her by his blood; so he suffered without the gate that he might sanctify the people, Heb. 13:12. i. e. separate them from all others to himself, and also wash them from their sins.—2. The laver of water in baptism as the sign, pledge, and visible application of this; and so they are said to be baptized for the remission of sins, Acts, 2:38. 3. The word of the truth of the gospel, which reveals the truth and import of the two former, and by the Spirit brings the believer under the influence and enjoyment of them. Thus we are clean through the word which Christ hath spoken, John, 15:3. and sanctified through the truth, which is his word, ch. 17:17. Let none think that this is making too much of baptism; for our Lord places it in the very entry to his kingdom, John, 3:5. and joins it in the commission with believing and being saved, Mark, 16:16. and so in executing this commission, the apostles call upon men to be baptized for the remission of sin, Acts, 2:38. or that they may wash away their sins, ch. 22:16. and baptism is said to save us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 3:21. Surely, such expressions place it in a very important point of view; and though it is fully granted that it is neither our faith nor baptism that properly saves; but that which we believe, or the thing signified in baptism, yet to separate what God hath so connected, is both daring and dangerous, and this after our Lord hath declared, that it is he that believeth and is baptized that shall be saved.

But then it must here be carefully noticed, that this one baptism belongs only to the visible members of Christ’s body. For this I need produce but one argument which amounts to a demonstration, namely, that the administration of it is committed to men. Now as men cannot discern the members of Christ’s body, but by the confession of the one faith, it follows, that they cannot according to the scripture administer baptism to any of them but such as make this confession. It is plain then, that baptism belongs to the visible unity of Christ’s members. It also appears to be an essential article in that union; because of the authority of Christ who hath expressly appointed it as the one baptism of all his visible members; the first sign of their union with him in his death, burial, and resurrection, and whereby they visibly put him on, Gal. 3:27. and because the apostles admitted none into the visible unity of Christ’s body without it. Though men, therefore, should make an unexceptionable profession of the faith—though their conduct should in general correspond with that profession—and though we must unavoidably respect them in so far as we perceive their conformity to Christ; yet should they either make light of the one baptism which Christ hath appointed, or content themselves with that which Antichrist hath substituted in its place; however honest and sincere we may suppose them in this matter; and whatever allowances we may make for the prejudices of education and their mistaken views of some texts of scripture, we can have no visible church union, or fellowship, with them according to the New Testament.

Let none say, that by this partition of baptism we break the Christian unity and separate the body of Christ; for this partition is not set up by us, but by the great head of the church; and for us to break it down would be to shew less regard to his authority, than complaisance to the ignorance and prejudices of men. The absurdity and impiety of such complaisance will appear the more striking if we extend it to other things; for by the same rule we ought to give up with every article of visible unity that any professor of the faith has not light to comply with. The Christian visible church unity is broken not by those who stand to the rule, but by those who depart from it, or come not up to it. We are grieved that the children of God should be divided about this ordinance wherein they ought to be one—we exhibit unto them the primitive institution both in our doctrine and practice; we earnestly invite them to visible unity and fellowship with us therein; and we pray to their Lord and ours, that he would dispel the mist of ignorance and prejudice from their hearts in this respect. But we dare not meet them any nearer, or step over the boundaries which Christ hath prescribed, in order to give them the right-hand of fellowship.

3. A third thing which belongs to the visible unity of the disciples, is their separation from the world in their religious fellowship. When God chose Israel of old for his peculiar people, he separated them from all the nations of the earth, and prohibited them under the severest penalties to have any intercommunity of worship with the Heathens; so that it was said of them, “the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations,” Num. 23:9. When the Lord delivered them out of the Babylonish captivity he called them again to this separation, Isa. 52:11. But this was only a type, or figure, of the New Testament separation. God doth not now separate any particular nation of the world from the rest as he did the nation of Israel; nor does he take all the nations of the world for his people; in which case there could be no visible separation, nor any peculiar people. But when he broke down the middle wall of partition betwixt Jews and Gentiles, and visited the nations to take out of them a people for his name, then he established another visible distinction betwixt the true Israel and the world; and so he calls the disciples to separate both from the Jewish church and heathenism, 2 Cor. 6:14–18. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temples of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Agreeable to this call, we find the Apostles separating the disciples, Acts, 19:9. and exhorting them to go forth to Jesus without the camp, bearing his reproach, Heb. 13:13. The laws and ordinances which Christ hath enjoined his disciples suppose this separation, and are calculated to preserve it. Nor are they called to separate merely from professed Jews and Heathens, but also from the corrupt professors of Christianity. So we find the Lord calling his people to separate from the false church that bears the Christian name, even as he formerly called Israel out of heathen Babylon, Rev. 18:4. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” It may be asked, Have not the Protestant nations obeyed this call in separating from the communion of the Romish church? I answer, No. That separation is not the visible separation of Christ’s people from the world pointed out in the New Testament, and exemplified in the days of the Apostles. Protestant nations are as really the world as Popish nations are, though their professed creed may in some particulars be more scriptural, and their political principles more tolerant. Any nation of this world professing to be the spouse, or church, of Christ, must be antichristian; because her establishment and form as a church must be derived from the civil power, in direct opposition to Christ’s kingdom which is not of this world. Because the greater part of such a church must appear visible infidels, which Christ hath expressly excluded from his church.—And because the very constitution of such a church visibly joins the children of God with the world in their religious fellowship, in direct opposition to Christ’s call to them to come out from among them and be separate.—Lastly, Because the peculiar love which Christ hath enjoined his disciples to one another, the mutual offices of this love, together with the order, laws, and ordinances which he hath instituted for them as his visible body, cannot be exercised or observed in such an unscriptural connection, which is formed in direct contradiction to every law of his kingdom. Though, therefore, the people of God should make a scriptural confession of the one faith—though they should be baptized according to our Lord’s institution; yet while they continue joined with the world in their religious fellowship, they can have no visible church unity with the body of Christ.

4. Another thing necessary to the visible union of the disciples, is, their being formed into visible church order. As scattered individuals among the nations, their unity cannot appear, nor can they in that situation represent the one body of Christ. Indeed their unity is never brought to a proper test till they are visibly joined together, as members one of another, having the same love, being of one accord, and of one mind, Phil. 1:27. and 2:2. In this view the union of a company of disciples who come together into one place to observe Christ’s institutions and the purposes of public worship, is compared to that union which subsists between the different members of the human body; which, though many in number, and variously disposed, constitute one whole man.—“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we being many, are one body, and every one members one of another,” Rom. 12:4, 5. The same subject is beautifully illustrated by this apostle, 1 Cor. 12 and the inference which he deduces from it is, “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another; and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” This visible union constitutes them “the body of Christ,” and each of them members in particular, ver. 27. The union of believers in a church state is but little accounted of by many in the present day, and the reciprocal duties and privileges connected with it, perhaps still less so. Yet the Psalmist, anticipating it by the Spirit of prophecy, could exclaim, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore,” Psalm, 133. A great part of the apostolic precepts are founded upon this state of union, and plainly imply it: nor can any proper view of their meaning be taken abstractedly from it. Such as the following: “Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” 1 Cor. 1:10. “Be perfect, (or perfectly joined together) be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you,” 2 Cor. 13:11. See also Phil. 1:27–30. and 2:15, 16.—Col. 3:12–14.—1 Thess. 5:11–15.—Heb. 3:12–14. and 10:23–25–1 Pet. 5:5. It is with a particular view to this state of things that Christ bestows gifts upon men for the work of the ministry, the perfecting (or bringing into joint) the saints, and edifying his body,” Eph. 4:11, 12. And when these gifts are exercised agreeably to his will, by “speaking the truth in love, they grow up into Christ, their head, in all things,” and thus, “the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love,” ver. 15, 16. Peculiar consolations are promised to disciples, thus walking together in love.—“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him,” John, 14:21. “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,” 2 Cor. 6:17, 18.

Having thus shewn wherein all Christ’s disciples are one, and what is necessary to their visible unity, viz. The confession of the one faith—their partaking of the one baptism—their separation from the world in religious fellowship—their joining together as a visible body in church order—their joint observance of the ordinances and laws of Christ as a body their walking together in love among themselves, and standing fast in one spirit with one mind, jointly striving for the faith of the gospel—I come now to conclude the whole by a few observations and practical uses. And I remark, that when we compare the true invisible unity of Christ’s body with its visible appearance in this world, we shall find the former far excelling the latter. For,

Visible unity is founded in the agreement of our sentiments about the rule of God’s word, and our outward conformity to that rule as we understand it. But real invisible unity is founded on our connection with Christ, and our conformity to him in the hidden man of the heart, whose praise is not of men, but of God. Hence it follows, on account of our inability to discover the real state of men,

That we must, according to the rule of God’s word, join in visible unity with some who are not really united to Christ. Many are now united with the churches of the saints, and have a very fair appearance, who are not members of Christ’s true body, animated by his Spirit, or possessed of the faith, love, and hope of the gospel, and whom Christ will disown in that day when he makes up his jewels, and severs the goats from the sheep, and that notwithstanding all their knowledge, and gifts, and zeal about the externals of religion. Such may get access into visible churches, notwithstanding all their vigilance and care either in admission or discipline to prevent or rectify it. But they shall not enter within the gates of the Now Jerusalem; for no unclean thing can have access there, or elude the scrutiny of omniscience. The use we ought to make of this consideration, is to examine ourselves with respect to these things wherein the reality of our connection with Christ consists. Hence it also follows, on the other hand,

That many cannot join in visible unity who yet may be really united to Christ. This arises either from their not being able to discern one another, or, if some of them should, from their not being of the same mind in the things which belong to their visible unity. All Christians have the one faith; but all are not alike clear and consistent in the confession of this faith so as to satisfy others. All of them are subject to the authority of Christ; but they do not all alike know their master’s will. All of them have his law of love written in their hearts; but from various causes they may be led to differ about such of his ordinances as depend upon positive institution. Visible unity, however, requires that they should be agreed in all these things wherein they are to walk together as a body, and keep the ordinances of Christ as his apostles delivered them to the churches. A society united together upon the professed principles of forbearing one another in the neglect of what they esteem the plain laws of Christ, is a monstrous absurdity; and is so far from being a visible unity of subjection to Christ, that it is a visible combination against him, or an agreement to dispense with his laws. The children of God may honestly differ in their judgments about some of Christ’s ordinances; but to unite upon the avowed principle of dispensing with them, is inconsistent with subjection to Christ, brotherly love, or the visible unity of saints. But though the children of God, cannot according to the scripture thus join together in visible union, but arc obliged to be separate upon the common principle of subjection to Christ; yet Christ by an invisible bond unites them all in himself. He hath indeed circumscribed the terms of our visible fellowship by the open rule of his word, and we are still farther circumscribed by the imperfection of our own knowledge; nay, we are even obliged by his express authority to cut off some whose spirits may be saved in the day of the Lord. But his omniscience discerns, and his generous heart contains all those for whom he laid down his life, however much they may differ and lose sight of one another in this world. And when he shall at last collect the whole redeemed company into one general assembly, and present them to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; then I make no doubt we shall be agreeably surprised, and happy to find many united to that blessed society with whom we could have no visible fellowship here. This consideration ought to make us beware of judging anything before the time, until the Lord come; “who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God,” 1 Cor. 4:5. This is, indeed, the time to judge of the objects of our visible fellowship, or those that are within, 1 Cor. 5:12. for a great part of our obedience to Christ depends on this judgment. But it is before the time to judge those that are without, or to determine their final state by present appearances. Their judgment belongs only to God who shall judge us all, and the time of this judgment is when the Lord comes. We cannot indeed help having a good or bad opinion of men according as they appear to us to approach to, or recede from, the rule of the scripture in their principles and practice, whether they are connected with us or not. This is a necessary consequence of our love to the truth itself. But we are not called to form any determinate judgment respecting such, as our visible union is not concerned in it. How unbecoming is it then to unchristianize all who are not connected with us in visible unity! and how much more so to have the strongest opposition to those who make the nearest approaches to the rule, unless they see with us in everything! We are ready to excuse ourselves here by alleging that such are the more inconsistent and inexcusable, and that they must be willfully resisting the light. Their inconsistency is allowed; but that they are resisting the light as it shines in their own minds, is what only God and their own consciences can certainly determine. Such a conduct as this arises from a party spirit; and we may know this spirit by the following marks—It leads us to think more of that particular wherein we differ from all other professors than we do of all the other things wherein Christ’s people are one.—It makes us run everything into this one, and to make it the sole test of visible Christianity, and so judge of men accordingly.—It makes us to see with pain, or disposes us to disparage every other part of Christianity as it appears in those who agree not in this; and on the other hand, it makes us put up with a very superficial form of Christianity in such as agree with us upon our favorite point. But what is worst of all—It tends to deceive us with respect to our own state, by leading us to plume ourselves upon what distinguishes us from others, and to be less attentive to real communion with, and conformity to Christ wherein others may far outstrip us.

Visible unity may fluctuate and decrease, but invisible unity is still advancing, and will continue its progress till all the saints are gathered in and perfected. The antichristian apostacy has proved fatal to the visible union of Christ’s people in the world, by drawing a corrupted form of Christianity over whole nations, and connecting it with the political constitutions of the various kingdoms and states which were subject to the man of sin. And even since they have begun to cast off the yoke imposed on them by that monstrous power, they are still partially suffering from its baneful influence. But we are not left destitute of hope, that even in this world, a period will arrive, when the sanctuary shall be cleansed, and the watchmen of Zion see eye to eye—then will the worship, order, and discipline be restored to their primitive purity, and reduced to the standard of the New Testament, in a much greater degree than at present, though it does not appear that there will be any perfect state of the church on earth, Matt. 13:24–39. and 25:32. But I conclude with one observation more; which is this;

Visible union will come to an end in this world; but invisible unity will continue for ever. The true church’s union with Christ is indissoluble. She shall at last be presented unto him as a bride adorned for her husband. Having loved her and given himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her, he will then present it to himself a glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; and then shall the marriage be solemnized in endless felicity, when she shall be brought into the palace of the king, to behold his glory and to be for ever with him. Then, too, shall the children cf God be one among themselves. Now they see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now they know only in part; but then shall they know, even as also they are known. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” Rev. 3:12, 13.[1]

 

 

[1] M’Lean, A. (1823). On the Unity of Christ’s Disciples. In The Works of Mr. Archibald M’Lean (Vol. VI, pp. 84–110). London: William Jones. (Public Domain)

I Have a Dream

I Have A Dream

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Weakness of Violence

The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate....
Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Excellence in All Things

Excellence in All Things

While our adversary prowls around … seeking someone to devour (1Pe 5:8), we resist him, strengthened in The Lord by praying for each other, supporting each other as the Proverbs 11:14 multitude of counselors, living the seven “reproducibles”. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and Scripture Memory were outlined last month. Here we’ll consider Excellence, Growing Together, and Pray-and-Plan.

Excellence in all things. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) Part of an integrated life, this is an attitude to be lived, modeled, encouraged. Military duties, marital and family relations, social life, recreation…everything reflects who we are and how God is working in us, so everything deserves to be excellent, high-quality, … an act of worship (cf Col 3:17,23). In addition to making “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Pr 16:7 NKJV), such worship reveals God’s transforming, empowering Life in us!

Finding an “excellent” solution involves understanding the problem and balancing solution approaches and quality with expectations and such realities as resources and time available…a second opinion often helps me recognize traps like perfectionism (late at best, maybe impossible) or laziness (“just get something out the door”). Whether that opinion comes from my wife, friends/co-workers, or the guys I pray with, it’s an example of encouraging one another unto love and good works (Heb 10:24)

Pray and Plan, below, is an excellent way to find our way to excellence individually, as families, as groups/teams, etc.

Grow together. We “Run Together” because we value and need each other. Interacting, learning from, and strengthening each other we move beyond anonymity and isolation, beyond dependence to empowerment, to finding the way forward through prayer and Bible study together, guided by the Holy Spirit. Often this means regularly getting together face-to-face, but we can maintain the connections by a handshake as we cross paths at shift-change, etc, or from a distance by messaging app’s, cell-phone, etc. Far beyond “another meeting to go to,” this can lead to the Jesus-centered lifestyle, unity, and joy of Acts 2:42-47, to favor with all the people, to The Lord adding to those who are being saved!

We’re in this together! We benefit from whatever leadership experience or Biblical background anyone brings to the group, while respecting the IBS guideline that “All who want to may participate; No one dominates.” This lets us all explore together with “awe-inspired fear and trembling” how to “bring (our salvation) to full effect” (Phil 2: 12, Amplified). Check out the Australian MCF’s “Small Group Code of Conduct” at the link below.

In between meetings there’s a low-tech approach to growing together: “journal” by screenshots inside a smartphone Bible app or DTO study form and “text” it to your buddy (see the briefing at the link). There are printable cards at the link to use with your pocket Bible in a no-electronics environment; pray for a buddy on the same outpost or “inside the same fence”.

The key is staying centered on learning and living the Word, connected with each other to grow together, to recognize and resist the enemy’s lies and distractions together, to build up one another. Use simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities...SIMPLE ENOUGH THAT THEY GET USED!

Pray and Plan. “Running Together” implies that we’re going in the same direction toward shared goals. Pray and Plan (P&P) engages us together in developing direction and goals as we prayerfully let our insights complement and complete each other, working together in Jesus’ presence to let Him align our wills with His (Mt 18:20), to understand His direction.

Whether it’s a small group deciding what to study next, or a group of leaders planning a large-scale event like a conference, the distinguishing aspect of P&P is how the meeting is conducted. The AMCF Reference Manual (access via the link below) describes the process:

The Process. The essential start point for a Pray and Plan is prayer and praise … to “take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor.10:5) … mention the subjects for which prayer is needed…explain a bit of background where necessary…prayer for each subject mentioned.

Discerning The Plan. …The discussion should not be dominated by any one member … a group of sharing and expectant Christians who are sensitive to the Lord's leading. When there is no agreement on an issue the group should turn to specific prayer and then try again to discern by discussion what the Lord is saying. The characteristic of Pray and Plan should be consensus, but sometimes when seeking to undertake a new initiative a group will have to meet three or four times before the Lord will reveal the fundamental issue, such as the essential aim of the undertaking from which all else depends. The Lord can as easily reveal detail to a Pray and Plan team as He can reveal principles.

The Pray and Plan team should close each meeting with a time of praise and thanksgiving that the Lord has given the team His wisdom and discernment.

A small group is likely to P&P about what to study next; how to bring a new member up to speed on E&RT basics; how to serve “where we are” (the needs, how to reach out effectively )’; “have we grown to the point where we should become 2 groups (‘divide to multiply’)?”

Pray and Plan works for individuals praying alone, for families, for teams, ….
Conclusion. See http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm  for the previous E&RT articles, a briefing, resources & links.

Think of the E&RT “reproducibles” as aspects of a single, integrated, Christ-focused life. As they come to characterize our daily lives we’ll realize we’re already leading by example … the topic for next time.

Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the essentials as we Engage & Run TOGETHER!

Following Christ in a demanding environment calls for simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and scripture memorization, the three individual / small group “Reproducibles”, help us continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

The Holy Spirit is our primary counselor as we study and pray. He also uses a group as part of Proverbs 11:14’s “multitude of counselors”, confirming or overriding human insights which may come up, directly or by bringing up the appropriate Scripture for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness….(2 Tim 3:16)

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is the study of a limited portion of Scripture by a small group in an informal, discovery style. It emphasizes hearing from God, devotion, and obedience (“what do I do with this”) in context of all of Scripture, while not trying to force acceptance of controversial doctrines or denominational distinctives. The basic guidelines are: Stick to the passage; All who want to may participate; No one dominates; Answer 3 questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? The traditional who/what/where/when/why/how questions can be useful for understanding what it means; the CMF DTOs offer Bible study tips and a study form to provide additional structure. The DTOs and verse cards at the link below are a good place to start.

The leader’s role is primarily administrative, rather than “teaching”, involving start/stop times and helping the group follow the guidelines. It’s normally best to stay in the agreed passage so that those with less experience aren’t intimidated; at times it will be important to refer to complementary or balancing scriptures for “the rest of the story.”

A group as small as two (The Holy Spirit plus one) can engage in Inductive Bible Study!

Conversational Prayer (CP) is clearly not the only way to pray. It is presented here because many national Military Christian Fellowships have found that it produces an increased consciousness of God's presence, resulting in greater group vitality and unity. CP follows the normal rules of polite conversation … only one speaks/prays at a time … 2-3 sentences or a short paragraph as the others pray along silently. Someone else prays next. At least one person follows up the current topic before a new topic is started, perhaps praying about other details or from a different perspective. Who is the next to pray? Anyone else! Silence in between is fine; it leaves time to hear God speak. Include adoration & praise to God, confession & petition for ourselves, intercession for others. Leave “who’s next” to the Holy Spirit rather than “going around the room.”

And consider conversational prayer as a group of two…God plus one!

Scripture Memory and Meditation help us live Joshua 1:8’s “… you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” (NKJV) Learn the passage (with its “address” before and after), and understand the context. Hide/treasure it in your heart that you may not sin against Him (Ps 119:11). Meditate on it as you review, prayerfully asking “what does it say/mean/mean to me”, sing it, chant it, pray it … let the Word transform / renew your mind, your reactions & relationships. Some printable verse cards are available at the link, along with a template for making your own.

Conclusion: IBS, CP, & Scripture memory/meditation are practical forms of individual and small-group worship reproducible in even the harshest, most primitive environments. They’re simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities.
This is the second article in the “Engage & Run Together (E&RT)” series. Article #3 will address “Excellence in all Things”, “Grow Together”, and “Pray and Plan”. For the overview article, briefing, & further resources see
http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

Let’s invite others to join us in living this self-reproducing integrated life of faith!

Christian Unity

This writer is often asked “Why are there so many church divisions and denominations?”  there is no easy answer to this honest question.

The lack of unity is based upon the diversity of mankind and the desire to be independent and in control as Adam and Eve chose.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Gen 3:4-5 NASB)

Additional confusion has developed when Christian leaders fail to look to Jesus Christ, the Head of the church for His will and direction as in Israel and the time of the Judges.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25 NASB)

Christian leaders and their followers tend to be prideful over their unique and “true” interpretation of the Scripture, traditions, lifestyle and goals.  Because of these distinctives they look down on those who do not hold them and separate from associating with them.  They warn their followers not to associate with others who do not hold to the same teaching for fear of losing them.

Attempts for Organizational Unity

Over the years some denominations and church organizations have sought to join together, but were unable to reconcile practices regarding the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and the meaning, time and mode of Baptism.  Differences of church government (Pastor led, elder rule or congregational) at times were also divisive.  Jesus said regarding Biblical salvation:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  (John 14:6 NASB)

Most Christian churches and organizations believe that there is only one way to gain salvation and that is through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  However, even understanding  the biblical nature of salvation divides.  Must a Christian be a member of a certain church to be saved?  Can one loose their salvation and then regain it by repentance?  Or is a Christian’s salvation secure in Christ and cannot be lost?  Jesus prayed:

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  (John 17:22-23 NASB)

Even in the early church there were  divisions regarding leaders.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided?  Paul was not crucified for you, was he?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1Corinthians 1:11-13 NASB)

The Apostle Paul expresses his understanding of Christian unity.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4:1-6 NASB)

Examples of Unity Among Individual Christians

This writer was a missionary to the US military stationed in  the Philippines.  We ministered to men and women from about 50 different church backgrounds plus many who were unchurched or unsaved.  Our focus was upon Jesus Christ, salvation, bible study and the Christian’s daily life in Christ Jesus.

Rarely were the various church differnces brought up or condemned because of our oneness and focus on Christ.

Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  (Rom 14:4 NASB)

Daily Life and Christian Unity

Jesus promised that wherever you go He will always be with you.

For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b NASB)

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.  (John 16:24 NASB)

Since the Lord Jesus Christ dwells within you by His Holy Spirit, it is fitting while talking with other Christians indwelt with Him, to give credit and praise to Jesus for all of the factors of your life and whatever your circumstances may be.

It is always appropriate to pray with other believers.  You may pray for Christ’s provision for whatever their needs may be.  You can praise Him for His grace, provision and protection.  You can thank Him for His love and care.

“Making” a Disciple Takes Time

To make a disciple-making disciple requires that someone pours their life with Jesus into another person, until that person looks only to Jesus.

Modern life in the developed world has changed much from the first century but the principle that Jesus illustrates is still the same.  Those who are called to love and serve God must be disciples by others who have gone before them.  New believers must see what it looks like when someone puts God first.  They must watch others as they strive to put God first in all things.  They must observe what it ooks like when another man lives by and obeys the Holy Scriptures.  And they must be in a relationship of trust such that they can ask honest questions.

My first real encounter with this discipling pattern of Jesus, in an intentional way, came when I was taken under the wing of a wise old pastor who lives thousands of miles away form me.  He suggested we talk each week for an hour by phone.  At first we just got to know one another, and he answered some of my pressing questions.  But as time went on I realized that he and I were in a different relationship than any I had had before.  He wanted me to only seek for Jesus’ affirmation.  He only wanted for me what God wanted for me.

My life in the institutional church had not been like that.  Though many in authority would have said otherwise, the general relationship I had with my ecclesiastical superiors was all about organizational accountability and performance.  ...In my forty-four years of ordained ministry, I was never called to talk for an hour about my life and ministry as a disciple of Jesus.

A disciple-making disciple cares about those he is discipling.  He prays for them, and loves them, and gives himself to them.  All he knows of the Lord he shares with them.  And perhaps the most important thing he gives them is time.

Jon Shuler, NAMS Network, September 27, 2016 (excerpted).

About the Author:

Pastor Bingham is the founder of CupBearers, and was for 17 years a missionary with Cadence International and has been the Pastor of Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church for 32 years.  He also served on the CMF Board of Directors for several years. 

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http://www.ShepherdingGrace.org

 


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