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Unity In the Body of Christ

12/29/2012

Author: Ken Silva – Sep 5, 2008
Source: Apprising Ministries

Surveying the rising ecumenical spirit found in much of the American Christian Church and its love affair with man-centered church growth methods, there is much reason for concern that the Protestant reforms of evangelicalism are not so subtly being reversed in order to find stronger fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church. But is this drift away from proper doctrine e.g. sola Scriptura the solution to true Biblical unity or is it rather a very dangerous compromise?

Dead Works

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3-7, NASB)

ABCs of Salvation

Read The Signs Of The Time In Which You Live

Signs of the Times

In this generation all of us who will are truly following the Lord are going to be brought face to face with a couple of very crucial issues. There are vital issues that certainly are of prime importance as we begin to share the true Gospel of Jesus Christ within a society that is literally drowning itself in a sea of relativism and misguided tolerance. Not necessarily in order of importance—the first one being the idea of “unity” in the Body of Christ.

As in: How should we approach people of different faith traditions who would claim Jesus as their “Savior.” And the other issue would be the Roman Catholic Church. So, as you can probably see, these issues are in fact already intertwined. We who would call ourselves Evangelical will need to decide–once and for all–just what the proper stance is concerning the Church of Rome for those of us who are Protestante.

In other words, how should those of us who are Protestants view the Roman Catholic Church? For example, should we simply consider those who would claim to be Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ who are worshipping in another Christian denomination that happens to have some doctrines we just disagree with? Incidentally, this would seem to be the very idea that the vast majority of evangelical writings this writer has perused would be trying to convey.

It can readily be seen that there are segments within the genuine Body of Christ that do have some fairly serious differences with each other and yet fellowship doesn’t completely break down among them. They still join together because they agree on the correct understanding of justification—the doctrine at the very heart of the Gospel of Christ itself. And because these differences involve “non-essential” matters, in the interest of the correct understanding of unity within the universal (Greek—katholikos) Church, they are still willing to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, the key question then becomes: Should this be the case with the Church of Rome? And in this generation we will need to come to an agreement as Protestants in our answer to that question, as the Roman Catholic Church is a fundamental issue for those of us who in the Body of Christ to come to grips with. This is especially true right now as major postevangelical Christian leaders e.g. Emergent Guru Brian McLaren—in fact virtually all in the Emerging Church movement—are expressing an eagerness to put aside all “doctrinal differences” in seeking to make peace with Rome.

Those of us who would call ourselves Protestants must ask ourselves a very tough question: Have we lost confidence in the historic orthodox Christian faith that Luther and the Reformers risked their very lives to recover and defend? The time has clearly arrived to decide whether or not we are going to be obedient to God in representing His true Gospel to this lost world, or for the sake of tolerance will we acquiesce to it. For the Roman Catholic Church undoubtedly is an organization which claims direct and unbroken Apostolic succession from Peter to their current Pope, and it most certainly relates to the mandate that Christ gave to His true Church to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NKJV).

Unity In The Church

The first thing we need to do is to look at the question: What do we mean by “unity” in the Body of Christ. It is imperative today that we define our terms to those we witness to. And we obviously can’t do this if we are not sure what these things mean in the first place. Sadly, this is now the case with the average person today who would see themselves as an evangelical Protestant. In order to discover what is meant by unity in the Church of our Lord, we will first need to find out the kind of unity Jesus was praying for in the Upper Room? For the root of all the confusion over this issue of unity comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about just what the Master meant by unity in His High Priestly prayer in chapter 17 of the Gospel of John.

As we examine this passage of Holy Scripture we will see Jesus praying for all those who would come to know God through the witness of His Apostles who were there in that Upper Room with Him:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20–23)

Here is Christ Jesus praying that all those who would surrender their lives to Him as Lord and Savior would then be one—that they would be united. This brings up another issue that we don’t have space to deal with in depth here. What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus as Lord and Savior? Briefly, it means to totally commit oneself to Him alone. This is what the historic orthodox Christian Church has always meant when we say we believe in Christ.

I draw your attention back to verse 20—the middle of the verse. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. The Greek word here for “believe” is pisteuo. The key to understanding what someone “born again” must do is this word pisteuo, which is most always translated “believe” when it appears in the New Testament.

To the western mind to “believe” means to acknowledge something intellectually. As in “I believe in my heart that such and such is true.” It’s kind of a thought that you feel strongly about. But the word—pisteuo—in the vernacular of its culture actually means to totally trust in—and to “place confidence in” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 511). So you can see that it’s really much more of a commitment than we in the West would normally associate with our believing something.

Now let’s look at verse 20 one more time for a different focus. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message.” The footnote in the famous Geneva Bible used by the Pilgrims who played a part in the founding of this nation is helpful at this point:

Secondly, [Jesus] offers to God the Father all of his, that is, all those who will believe in him by the doctrine of the apostles: That as he cleaves unto the Father, receiving from him all fulness [sic], so they being joined with him may receive life from him,… (emphasis added).

What applies here in relation to our discussion of unity in the Body of Christ is the phrase – “all those who will believe in him by the doctrine of the apostles.” This would be someone who believes in Christ according to what His Apostles taught. And this “doctrine of the apostles” is what we Protestants now refer to as Biblical doctrine. Someone who believes in Jesus Christ according to what Holy Scripture teaches is the one brought into that unity the Master is talking about in John 17:23. “I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me.” So we can see here that someone who holds firmly to the dogmas and sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church has excluded themselves.

When you read this passage of Holy Scripture carefully it becomes obvious that this prayer was completely fulfilled in Acts chapter 2 as God the Holy Spirit came upon the believers on that Day of Pentecost when the Church officially began. Here in John 17:20-23 Jesus is talking about what the Holy Spirit would do inside genuine believers, but Who was yet to come at this point. Our Lord is praying for the Holy Spirit to come and indwell all people who will pisteuo. And we must keep in mind here again that this would be all those people who will place their complete “confidence in” and “totally trust in” Christ alone as their Savior. This is why the doctrine of justification is without a doubt a most central issue to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why the Reformation happened in the first place.

If you look at John 17:23 carefully you will see that first Jesus says — “I in them and You [Father] in Me.” And then He says — “May they be brought to complete unity.” One would have to be in Christ as the Father was in Christ to ever even have this kind of “unity.” If one does not pisteuo in Jesus—that is to “believe” by fully trusting by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ alone—then he has not been born again. And, if he is not born again, then God the Holy Spirit does not indwell him. As such then, he cannot possibly have this “unity” with God that the Master is praying for here.

Dr. Herbert Lockyer’s insightful comment from his book All About The Holy Spirit brings out a critical point here:

Regeneration brings the Holy Spirit into the believing sinner. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9, KJV). “None of His.” How emphatic! Such a serious statement demands attention. Where the vital bond does not exist between the soul and Christ, the divine Spirit is not to be found. Whatever virtues a person may possess or whatever attractions and qualities may adorn his character, if unsaved, he is destitute of the Spirit… The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, making us “accepted in the beloved.” We are joined unto the Lord by one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). (137, emphasis mine)

The Return To Purity In Christ’s Church Is Imperative

Indeed it is a bit involved to understand but this is the issue that was at the very heart of the Reformation itself. But somehow this seems to have been forgotten by so much of the lukewarm evangelical community as well as in the American Christian Church at large. I think it’s very important for you to understand a couple of things here. 1) We are living in a world filled with every kind of blatant sin imaginable because there is no fear of God in our immoral culture; and 2) the unbelieving world also sees a Christian Church in this country which has lost our own fear of our Lord’s awesome presence.

And unfortunately, in addition the Church has apparently even lost our fear of disappointing our Master. It has become obvious to those with eyes to see that too many in the seeker sensitive Church Growth Movement are striving to live in peace with the world, when we should instead be the salt and light within it. As Christians we are to be the fragrance of the knowledge of [God] (see—2 Corinthians 2:14) as we stand with Jesus against this world system just as He once did. As Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989) used to say: The Christian faith was nurtured on the controversy it produced, and Jesus of Nazareth was the most controversial figure who ever lived.

Tragically Satan has been able to deeply imbed a twisted lie concerning tolerance into the very soul of our society. Of course we should be tolerant of other cultures and religious views here in pluralistic America. However, the feigned tolerance of this society is in actuality quite aggressively hostile to the historic orthodox Christian faith. And the time has now arrived where we must confront false doctrine within our Lord’s Church, and return her to purity. And at the same time His Church also needs to stop being wishy-washy and to make a firm commitment to start exposing the veritable cornucopia of false religious systems that are all around us. This also means that we are going to have to prepare ourselves intellectually to be able to confront their erroneous teachings, such as those of apostate Roman Catholicism.

Yes, we must face a hard reality here. It is true that many people in today’s seeker sensitive Purpose Driven churches aren’t going to like it. They will cry that we are “intolerant,” and they will call us “narrow-minded.” But this type of self-centered people said the same kinds of things about Jesus of Nazareth, so we are in the best company. For this is what He said — “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own(John 14:18-19). You may draw strength from this: If someone who claims to know Christ “hates” you, then according to what our Lord and Master Himself just said, who do they actually belong to?

The Body Of Christ Does What Jesus Did

Widely respected Bible scholar Dr. John MacArthur pastors a church of some 12,000 members in Southern California, all the while having nothing to do with the compromises of PDL or the Emergent Church—one of its seeker sensitive Church Growth counterparts. Grace Community Church is made up of more than 50 percent former Roman Catholics who have come to know Christ under his ministry. So Dr. MacArthur knows from first-hand experience what he is talking about when he says:

it’s so important to know this. In a time like this of tolerance…false teaching will always cry – “intolerance.” It’ll always say — “you’re being divisive; you’re being unloving; you’re being ungracious” — because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. And it cries against any intolerance; it cries against any examination; any scrutiny, “just let us embrace each other; let’s love each other; let’s put all that behind us.”

False doctrine cries the loudest about unity. [So] listen carefully when you hear the cry for unity; because it may be the cover of false doctrine encroaching. And if ever we should follow 1st Thessalonians 5 and examine everything carefully (v.21) — it’s when somebody is crying ‘unity, love, and acceptance’”(Online source).

In his book What If America Was A Christian Nation Again? the late Christian statesman Dr. D. James Kennedy, who was a friend of Apprising Ministries, brings up an indispensable reality for the Church of our Lord in this timid and tepid generation we are currently living in when he says:

Jesus confronted sinners and we are to do it as well. But the day is coming when we might suffer persecution for doing so. For far too long Christians have been afraid to state their faith for fear of offending somebody. It’s time for Christians to get out of the bleachers and on to the playing field and get involved or laws may be passed with consequences that will roost right in our homes and families.

The seeds of what Dr. Kennedy is talking about have already been planted within the Christian Church here in America. Sadly many evangelical leaders, misled by men like Rick Warren and his erroneous semi-pelagian Purpose Driven religion and Rob Bell with his Jesus the social reformer, have been already taken in by this horribly mistaken delusion that love doesn’t confront wrong. And this is an especially false idea when it comes to wrong views about God Himself. In fact in the Gospels we see Jesus of Nazareth confront false beliefs and man-centered religious leaders on a regular basis. Our Lord even made them so angry that they had Him nailed to a cross and then left Him to die! The absolute truth is—and Christ Jesus told us that He is Truth—the truth is, that while the Master was never offensive in how He confronted evil—the incontrovertible fact still remains—that our Lord offended many by what He taught, and by what He claimed.

Are You In The Body Of Christ?

There’s an interesting riddle about making decisions in life that goes like this. There were five frogs sitting on a log; and, suddenly four of them decided to jump off. So how many frogs are left on that log? The answer is all five. That’s because making a decision to do something is simply not the same as really doing it. For one to actually accomplish something an effort is needed, and it also requires a commitment. And so it is with the true Christian; making a decision to follow Christ is not the same as actually following him. As for those who are caught up in the self-absorbed seeker sensitive spirituality of the Ecumenical Church of Deceit, as a true minister of God’s Word, I must tell you the truth. Please understand that mentally acknowledging Jesus as your consumer friendly “Savior” simply is not the same as really trusting Him alone as your Lord, and being born again into the true historic orthodox holy and catholic (means “universal”) Christian Church.

The sad and pitiful fact is, there are so many of those today who consider themselves Christians because they attend the Mass, keep the sacraments, do nice things for the poor, or once walked down an aisle, said a little prayer and they think — “I’m in, so now I can just do whatever I want to.” You know—the old “once saved; always saved.” However, those who would have this eternally fatal view need to consider the following from Jesus of Nazareth lest they be deceived:

The [person] who received the seed — [of the message of salvation] — that fell on the rocky places is the man who hears the Word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word — [or he learns that he must obey Christ] — he quickly falls away. (Matthew 13:20-21)

It’s imperative as the darkness grows during this apostasy for us to realize that it is one thing for someone to claim to be a Christian. It is, however, quite another thing to have the life to back it up. For truthfully Holy Scripture clearly reveals that a claim in itself really means nothing. The Apostle James asks us:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead… Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do (James 2:14,17,18).

No, this isn’t a popular message, but it is God’s truth for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit says. This fact remains; according to the Bible, and despite what we are so often told by these false prophets of the inward-turned emerging church movement and their sinner sensitive counterparts in the purpose driven church growth movement, the person who continues on in willful sin and prolonged self-ishness while professing to be a believer in Jesus Christ is demonstrating before the world that he never became a true Christian. Hence he was never even saved in the first place, and with them the true Christian has no unity.

And if you haven’t seen your own life change since you made your “decision” to follow Jesus, then it is you who have every reason to question whether you simply made a decision, or whether you have actually made the commitment to truly trust in Christ alone as your Lord and Savior. For it is written:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know…that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV)

If you truly are in Christ…then…you will know what I have just told you in the Spirit is the truth…

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