(Continued from page 254)
Perhaps you can also seek answers to these questions:
Should Paul have told the Corinthian church to re-instate the man who had taken his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5-6) without demanding discipline and repentance for the 'mistake' he made?
Do you think your advice to Paul would be to 'Wake up and make peace with these people'?
Which people? Those he named because of their 'mistakes'?! We made the errors of such thinking clear in these sections, including these words on this page:
'Paul's approach to discernment and correction was faultless. Peter and Barnabas weren't the only ones he admonished. To them we can add Hymenaeus, Philetus, Demas, Phygellus, Homogenes and Alexander (cf. 1 and 2 Timothy). The beloved John makes the readers of his third Epistle aware of the problems caused by Diotrephes. This follows the pattern of the Old Testament where we should note that all of the prophets, from Moses and Joshua onwards, were addressing error and named those who were erring - whether it was personal sin, such as David with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), or Micaiah prophesying defeat for wicked king Ahab (1 Kings 22) - or a letter from Elijah the prophet to wicked king Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21) in which God judged him:'
There is even a false teaching in the contemporary church that claims Christians don't have to confess sins because 1 John 1:9 ("if we confess our sins") was not written to Christians but to the unsaved. This has caused immense damage to the church because the epistle is not a declaration of the gospel to the lost, but exhortation (including the need to confess sin) and assurance to those who know Christ. Of course, through the Cross, God has already forgiven Christians their past, present and future sins. The eternal consequences are removed, but sin has practical consequences in this life - not just the losses through lack of sanctification and powerful witness to our Saviour. It dishonours God, is unbecoming of His children, breaks fellowship with Him (1 John 1:6), and should be confessed for joy to be restored, which 1 John 1:5-10 clearly teaches. What grounds are there for believing that these verses are not written to Christians? Is it possible that the entire epistle is written to Christians (as it clearly is) except for these few verses? Clearly not, for John addresses his fellow "brethren" (i.e., Christians - 2:7; 3:13) and never addresses anyone else. The pronoun "we" is used consistently throughout the epistle, thus including himself among those to whom he writes and thereby identifying them as Christians.
Christian 'giants' of the past regularly emphasised the need for sanctification and holiness - why doesn't the contemporary church heed these warnings?:
A doctrine which is needful to salvation can never be too sharply developed, or brought too fully into light....He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn...[and] is dishonouring our blessed Lord and making Him only half a Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people's souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit...to sanctify them.... The notion of purgatory after death, which shall turn sinners into saints, is a lying invention of man, and is nowhere taught in the Bible. We must be saints before we die, if we are to be saints afterwards in glory....We need the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the work of Christ; we need renewal of the heart as well as the atoning blood; we need to be sanctified as well as to be justified....When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in the water, when an owl is happy in the blaze of noonday sun, when a fish is happy on the dry land--then, and not till then, will I admit that the unsanctified man could be happy in heaven.
J. C. Ryle, 1817-1900
You write: 'Read Corinthians in relation to Unity in His Church.'
We are fully cognizant with the strong emphasis in the New Testament on the unity of the church. But perhaps you can explain to 'these people' who threw members of 'The Christian Expositor' out of their churches how the unity you believe in is supposed to work? We have already dealt with the subject of unity here - and other places (see search engine). Perhaps you didn't read this either? Jesus' goal is that "there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16), and he prays for all future believers "that they may all be one" (John 17:21). This unity will be a witness to unbelievers, for Jesus prays "that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23). Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are "called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). Then Paul writes to Corinth, "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. v. 13). He encourages the Philippians, "complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil. 2:2). He tells the Ephesians that Christians are to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3), and that the Lord gives gifts to the church "for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13). How do you propose that 'these people' fulfil these obligations to the Word of God - which is the only source that the Spirit will use to bring about such unity?
Paul can command the church to live in unity because there already is an actual spiritual unity in Christ which exists among genuine believers. He says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:4-6). And though the body of Christ consists of many members, those members are all "one body" (1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12-26).
Because they are jealous to protect this unity of the church, the New Testament writers give strong warnings against those who cause divisions:
I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. (Rom. 16:17-18)
Note - it is those who are 'in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught' who are 'to be avoided! We have clearly and comprehensively detailed the doctrinal errors we stood against in our web-pages and if you can show us where TCE have been in opposition to doctrine from the Word of God we will correct those errors. We do not claim to be faultless but strive continuously to follow the Word as closely as possible.
Paul opposed Peter to his face because he separated from Gentile Christians and began eating only with Jewish Christians (Gal. 2:11-14). Those who promote "strife ... dissension, party spirit ... shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:20-21). And Jude warns that those who "set up divisions" are "worldly people, devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 19). These divisions are caused by opposition to 'sound doctrine' (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1).
The New Testament emphasises the unity of believers and commands us to separate from unbelievers. Paul's inspired words: "Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them" (2 Cor. 6:17) are in support of his opening command of that section, "Do not be mismated (yoked) with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). Paul also tells Timothy that he is to "avoid such people" (2 Tim. 3:5), referring to unbelievers who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it" (2 Tim. 3:4-5). He says that these people are "men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith" (2 Tim. 3:8). There is also church discipline that requires separation from an individual who is causing trouble within the church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:11-13), and there are also the reasons Paul gives for Christians separating into 'factions' over doctrinal differences involving serious heresy, as we discussed in detail on this page and also:
'...we are called by Scripture to ensure that factions exist (1 Corinthians 11:19) to prove who is right! In the contemporary church there are few factions because the unity of ecumenism has done its work. Though differences are irreconcilable, and wrong belief condemns its adherents to an eternity separated from God, the modern church will sing 'halleluiahs' while brother's burn.'
These passages on church unity tell us that, in addition to working for the purity of the visible church, we are also to work for the unity of the visible church. Yet such unity does not require one worldwide church government over all Christians. In fact, the unity of believers is often demonstrated quite effectively through voluntary co-operation and affiliation among Christian groups. Moreover, different types of ministries and different emphases in ministry may result in different organizations, all under the universal headship of Christ as Lord of the church. Therefore the existence of different denominations, mission boards, Christian educational institutions, college ministries, etc., is not necessarily a mark of disunity of the church (though in some cases it may be), for there may be a great deal of co-operation and frequent demonstrations of unity among such diverse bodies as these. There should not be a worldwide government of the church, because the New Testament pattern of church government never shows elders having authority over any more than their own local congregations. In fact, even in the New Testament the apostles agreed that Paul should emphasize missionary work to the Gentiles while Peter would emphasize missionary work to the Jews (Gal. 2:7), and Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways for a time because of a disagreement over whether they should take Mark with them (Acts 15:39-40), though certainly they had unity in every other way.
However, there is a so-called unity today that is positively destructive to the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The early church had something that many churches today have lost: Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11). We have something in churches today that comes from the secular world and the false religious systems - what some have called a 'guru̓ mentality. Whatever the Brahman priest, the guru, the Pope, the rabbi, the imam, or the pastor says becomes like the Word of God to the adherent! A mind-set has developed among Christians whereby anyone who appears to be gifted of God now has their word treated as if it were the Word of God, without any sense of a need to check it out. If the 'guru' said it, they believe it!
What example did Paul set? Paul was used by God to perform miracles, signs and wonders; he saw healings and tremendous conversions. Whole churches were planted. He wrote half of the New Testament. He was a rabbi of the rabbis, a pharisee from the school of Hillel. He was a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel. But Paul never claimed to be a 'guru' type leader and warned: But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8). Paul always realized that the real authority came from Jesus and God's word. He was a good steward of the authority vested in him. There are people today whom God has called and blessed with gifts as in Paul's day so that many people are saved, but a mentality has come into the church whereby whatever that person says becomes the truth. Thus Christians are accepting these 'gurus' and the trend is spreading from hyper-charismatic/Word-Faith circles into Restorationist groups and house churches, then on into the remnants of main-stream Christianity. Which will bring the most casualties - the 'gurus,' or the lukewarm followers who drift along until they die off and another chapel closes?
As we have made clear on our web-pages, we cannot follow people who are allowed to act as 'gurus' with the approval of un-Scriptural denominational officials and lukewarm nominal Christians. The Greek word for heresy does not simply mean doctrinal error. The real meaning refers to someone who is hyper-schismatic, someone who forms a faction. The book of Galatians speaks directly to the sin of 'party spirit̓ in which a league is formed which is not of God's Spirit, but which claims to have a corner on truth. Everyone outside the group is a second-class believer, or second-class Christian.
The only real basis of truth is found in the Bible. In the 'best' churches you will obviously find some things which are in error as well as some people in error; and even in 'bad' churches you will find some things done Biblically and some people following the Word - as the seven churches in Revelation show. 'Party spirit', or a tendency to form factions, is a 'deed of the flesh' (Galatians 5:19-21) but, as we have shown, there are two kinds of division and 1 Corinthians 11:19 demonstrates that there have to be factions among Christian fellowships to prove what is true.
Failure to follow this Biblical admonition has resulted in error pouring into the church through such major deceptions as ecumenism which is, of course, a false unity not of God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the 'Spirit of Truth' (John 15:26) and you simply cannot build the unity of the Spirit on error. To unite with churches that teach salvation comes through 'sacraments', instead of by being born again, and that practice transubstantiation and praying to the dead, is clearly un-Biblical and immoral. That is not the unity of the Spirit, for Bible believing Christians cannot unite with the false religious system of this world.
It is clearly wrong for Bible believing Christians and churches to be inordinately divided from each other, but unity of the Spirit is based on a common experience of God's grace and salvation in Jesus, and commitment to the authority of His Word. We have detailed how fellowships have gone against Scriptural truth and chosen to support their 'guru' and put his authority and doctrines above the exhortation of Scripture. But truth becomes a lie when people make the truth of the 'guru' the basis for all other truths. The one biblical basis for all truth is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ died; Christ rose from the dead; Christ is coming again. The cross, the empty tomb, and the Mount of Olives is the basic truth upon which all other truths must be built. All other truths must be centrally predicated on the truth of Jesus.
Even the truth about the Holy Spirit has been distorted into an un-Biblical picture by the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is pictured for us in the Genesis account (Genesis 24) of Abraham sending his servant to get a bride for his son Isaac. Isaac the son corresponds to Jesus; Abraham corresponds to the Father; and the servant is the Holy Spirit. The Father sent his Servant to prepare a bride for His Son, from amongst His own people. The Holy Spirit is always a servant who points people to Jesus.
In many contemporary churches the Holy Spirit is amplified above Jesus as congregations sing choruses of: "Come Holy Spirit" and 'Holy Spirit we worship You.' The Holy Spirit is never prayed to in the Bible. He is only worshipped in the context of the Tri-unity of the godhead, as part of the Trinity, but He is never prayed to directly. And so a truth becomes a lie. Instead of Jesus being the central truth upon which all other truth is based, another truth is put in the place of Jesus and the false teaching results in all kinds of charismatic excesses and un-Biblical doctrine.
The Bible says (Hosea 4:6): "My people perish for a lack of knowledge," and people today are perishing for a lack of knowledge. There is no doubt that a consensus of people who would describe themselves as 'Christian' in today's Britain would parallel those who use the same description in the USA - a nation that is much more familiar with wearing the 'heart on the sleeve'. A considerable number who would claim to be Christian would also deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith and believe that there are 'many paths to heaven.' Figures in the USA would suggest that such 'believers' are in excess of 50% of those claiming to be 'Christian'. Knowing this to be true in so many fellowships, which ones should you fellowship with if they reveal themselves to be supporters of un-Biblical leaders and their doctrines? There obviously comes a time when it is Biblically right to separate yourself from unbelievers and those who support such leaders and doctrines. But first the believer needs to defend the Word of God before these people and make the truth clear to them. If they reject the truth, preferring to accept the lie, and prove themselves incapable of defending their own actions and beliefs, as they did in every case detailed in 'Savage Wolves,' they sometimes do you a favour by throwing you out of their pseudo-cult! Who then, do you suggest, should make 'peace' with who? And on what basis? The Bible is clear that 'peace' cannot be sought or obtained with 'the world' (James 4:4) - and those who wish to run their Christianity by the world's standards are therefore to be avoided!
The church has clearly lost the spirit of the Bereans and now accepts what the 'gurus' say simply because they seem to be right - at least some of the time. Scripture warns us:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).
Passion for unity, at the expense of doctrine, means that many churches and their denominations welcome into their 'unity', without question, Roman Catholics, Quakers, and many other groups that show a vestige of 'Christianity'. Through 'Promise Keepers' the Mormon cult is now being accepted. We have heard the cry from Cardiff pulpits that the people of the city will know we have 'unity' by the love we show to one another - while the leaders meet with Roman Catholics. Is it 'love' to allow such as Roman Catholics to go to a lost eternity because they accepted 'another gospel' (Galatians 1:6-9) through another Christ (2 Corinthians 11:4) that the Bible does not teach? With a commitment not to violate the theologies of members and to 'no evangelism' as an unwritten promise, groups such as Promise Keepers follow the lead of many of our churches and embrace an ecumenism not experienced since the Reformation. Furthermore, Rome admits in its ecumenical dialogues that the road to Christian unity is the road back to Rome while harbouring the Vatican's age old political ambitions! For this reason Rome will never deal with evangelical theologians or leaders who have been born again and left the Roman Catholic Church, because they know the errors of Rome and recognise it as the enemy of Christ. Those who enter into ecumenical unity with Rome, men like those of the Baptist Union, mislead the Church into a unity that also joins liberal Protestantism in cultivating unity with religions that worship false gods. In Europe and America this trend is also becoming increasingly political in scope and will ultimately become a prelude to the rise of Babylon predicted in the Book of Revelation.
It is no surprise to us to receive a missive making no bigger protest than 'Oh dear!' Historical Christianity used to be led by men who called for repentance in 'sackcloth and ashes' - as even the pagans of Nineveh did in Jonah's day (cf. 2 Sam 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; Joel 1:8; Jonah 3:5-8; Job 42:6; Dan 9:3), and as Jesus warned the unbelievers in His day (Matthew 11:21). If you were writing to tell us to 'Wake up' because 'the hour is close' we could say 'Amen.' But, as it is, we merely close with the words of an old saint who genuinely recognised 'the signs of the times':
"I believe in saints. I've met the comics; I've met the promoters; I've met the founder who puts his name on the front of the building so people will know he founded it. I've met converted cowboys not too well converted. I have met all kinds of weird Christians throughout the United States and Canada, but my heart is looking for saints. I want to meet the people who are like the Lord Jesus Christ....Actually, what we want and ought to have is the beauty of the Lord our God in human breasts. A winsome, magnetic saint is worth 500 promoters and gadgeteers and religious engineers."
Religion has become jolly good fun right here in this present world, and what's the hurry about heaven anyway? Christianity, contrary to what some had thought, is another higher form of entertainment. Christ has done all the suffering. He has shed all the tears and carried all the crosses; we have but to enjoy the benefits of His heartbreak in the form of religious pleasures modeled after the world but carried on in the name of Jesus. History reveals that times of suffering for the Church have...always sobered God's people and encouraged them to look for and yearn after the return of their Lord. Our present preoccupation with this world may be a warning of bitter days to come. God will wean us from the earth some way - the easy way if possible, the hard way if necessary. It is up to us.
A.W. Tozer, The Best of A.W. Tozer, p. 57
Sincerely in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour
(Continued on page 256)