Archive for October, 2013

My Father

Posted: October 30, 2013 in 3.4 Unity in the Present Age
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My father is the greatest man I have ever known and will likely ever know. He is not successful, by the world’s or the Church’s measurement. neither is he considered to be abnormally smart nor academic. He is, physically speaking, unimpressive (in the world’s eyes) a man of average height and no athletic ability. He is not a perfect man, fallible as any human born into the flesh of Adam. However in spite of this what makes him great is his faithfulness.

His dedication to his family and the one true God is impressive to say the least. He loves both his family and God with his whole heart. Seeking to love and provide for his household the best way he can with the gifts (ability, circumstance of life, etc) God has given him. He has demonstrated his faithfulness to his family and God through much hardship and suffering, seeking no glory except the glorification of God, in Christ. He is my example of faithfulness (to God), graciously given to me by God.

As members of Christ all are required to be faithful to the union of the spirit of Christ. Gifted according to the grace and sovereignty of God for the good of all.

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Christians and family
As previously discussed the family is the basis (core) of human unity. In the present age Christians are members of earthly families (in Adam’s flesh) and the family of God (in Christ’s spirit). Even though unity in Adam’s flesh is broken Christians are first and foremost responsible for the care of their earthly families. This is a reflection of the restored unity they have with God in Christ. This is why it can be said:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)

In the present age Christians have a greater level of responsibility for members of their own family, especially members of their household (incl. servants, blood and non-blood relatives) than for others. This does not mean Christians are not responsible for other Christians or their unbelieving neighbours. Rather on a daily basis they are most responsible for the welfare and care of their own family/household. By looking after the members of their earthly family/household a Christian will demonstrate their faithfulness to the renewed unity they have with God in Christ. Just as Christ is faithful over God’s house.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house was a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
(Hebrews 3:1-6 ESV)

The family of God
As previously discussed right relating within family (unity) is dictated by a person’s position in the family and who they are relating to. This is true of the family of God.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-3 ESV)

A Christian should never seek status and position in the church if they have not first seen to their own family. Both men and women should look after their own families first and only widows who are old enough and have proven themselves as good mothers should be given responsibility in the family of God.

Young women should be taught to look after their families first. Only once they have proven themselves, discharging their responsiblity to their own households and serving the church in (seemingly) small ways (eg, hospitality and washing feet), should they be enrolled for further service.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

(1 Timothy 5:3-25 ESV)

This command applies to men too, if a man wishes to lead the family of God he must first prove that he is capable of leading his own family (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Young men should be trained to look after their own families and serve the church in small ways first before they are given a position of leadership in the Church. Furthermore it is only the elder that has proven his effectiveness and faithfulness that should be given the added honour of being paid for his work (especially if he is a teacher).

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
(1 Timothy 5:17-23 ESV)

The Bible has a very long-term view of unity, faithfulness, service and the appointment of leaders. This is why Christians need to be committed to family and Church long-term. Therefore to be faithful to God means looking after your family well and seeking to serve the church in some small way. Remembering that all deeds, both good and bad, will be exposed on the last day before the judgement of God.

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.
(1 Timothy 5:24-25 ESV)

Ephesians 4 urges all Christians to conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with their union in Christ, so that they might maintain their union with him. To do this Christians must practice unity amongst themselves. As such they should be eager to bear with one another in love wherever and whenever they are with whatever capabilities they have been given.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

As the head of the body seeks the best for each member and in so doing looks after the whole, so Christ loves all Christians. He has given each member the means by which they might grow and persevere in unity now, his spirit who gifts all for the good of all. Christ has given his Church the gifts of the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip each member for the work of ministry (Christs work) in this world. Building and sustaining unity in Christ.

The ministry of Christ and his people in this world is a ministry of unity, it is the job of all Christians to build this union to which they have been called. The apostles are the foundation of the church because they were witnesses to Christ on earth, passing on all they saw and heard. Then the prophets, the most faithful in the household of God. They declare the truth of God especially when, calling all to repent living a life of extreme faithfulness and throwing their lives away for the sake of Christ and his church (not mere teachers!!). The evangelist seeks to guide unbelievers into unity with Christ. The shepherd leads, protects and fights for those who have been put under his care. Lastly the teacher explains the revealed things of God, teaching each member to love him and one another.

The ultimate goal (the end game) of these gifts is to build up the church until the time when all are born into the complete and perfect union with Christ. So that being mature in Christ (like Christ and strong in faith), knowing and attesting to what is true (there is one God who is all in all), you will no longer be fooled by the deceitful doctrine of the world. Instead you build and practice unity in Christ by:
• Loving one-another, (unity would not be unity without love) without love unity is dead.
• Speaking the truth to one another in love (There can be no place for lies and deceit in unity)
• When you speak be encouraging, seeking to build up one another into Christ.
• Occupy yourself with honest work, instead of the self-seeking manner of your former lives. This will allow you to be generous with what God has you (Being united to Christ shows us how silly the concept of personal ownership is when we know that we belong to one another).
• Be patient with one another, ready to forgive.

As members of Christ Christians are also members of one another and should treat each other as such. Does one member of the body deceive another? How would a body perform the most basic of tasks if it rebels against itself? As it says:

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.
(Matthew 12:25 ESV)

Therefore only speak truth (the truth of God, who is truth himself) with fellow Christians as is appropriate for the position that God has given you and in each situation you find yourself. In this way all should strive to ensure that every word they speak proceeds from love in unity intended to encourage and build up their fellow members (and therefore the whole union) of Christ.

Before you were united to Christ you occupied yourself with worthless pursuits seeking your own benefit at the cost of others. Now that you are part of Christ you must pursue honest work pleasing to God seeking to be generous with what the Lord gives us. Seeking the benefit of other at a cost to yourself.

If you who are united to Christ and go on sinning, conducting yourself as if you were never united to him you grieve the Holy Spirit because he is the spirit of unity. It is by your actions you can proclaim the goodness of unity in Christ or condemn it and yourself before God. Therefore in unity you must be patient showing kindness to one another acknowledging weakness and forgiving the sins of one another as Christ forgave you.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV)

Remember the fact that you need to be reminded of this means that you are not naturally capable of doing this while you are still in Adam’s flesh.

1 Corinthians is an extremely important book for understanding how Christians are to live out their union in Christ in th present age. Its purpose is to instruct Christians in the way of unity.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

There is no division in Christ, only Christ. Christ is head over the union to which all Christians are members and as such they are servants of Christ and one another.

Little children love oneanother
In Philippians 2:1-11 Paul compels the Philippians to make his joy complete by being united, having one mind and the same love.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:1-11)

Paul does not advocate a forced unity, rather he prefaces his desire for unity by only wanting unity amongst those who are already in Christ. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”(vs1). In short those who are in Christ must practice the unity of Christ.

What does it mean to have one mind and the same love? It does not mean that all are to all think exactly the same things all the time or be part of a shared mind where individuality is non-existent. It means thinking and loving self-sacrificially, using Christ as the ultimate example. Christians must strive to:
• do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit
• be humble counting others more significant than yourself
• not look only to their own interests but also to the interests of others

Because it literally can’t be forgiven
The only way anyone is forgiven is by being united to Christ in spirit. Sharing in the Holy Spirit is what makes a person Christian. Without membership in this new human union it is impossible to share in the renewed unity with God in Christ. Therefore without the Holy Spirit there is no forgiveness for any sin. Therefore Each member must take care to acknowledge the supremely important place the Holy Spirit plays in the union of Christ.

Issues concerning the Holy Spirit cut to the heart of unity and the character of God. This is why the bible makes it very clear that speaking against the Holy Spirit is terrible. It is not the words that give power to the sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit. Rather the condition of a person’s heart and reality of their relationship with God is revealed through their words (1 Samuel 16:7 & Luke 6:45). Where speaking against the Holy Spirit and declaring him to be evil reveals that a person stands apart from Christ and therefore God.

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
(Matthew 12:31-32 ESV)

Therefore anyone who rejects the Holy Spirit rejects their union with Christ, proving that they are not a member of new humanity at all. So be careful to acknowledge that the same Spirit works in Christians, ensuring that we don’t denounce him as evil but rather rejoicing as members of one another.

Life in Christ
As already discussed, when Adam sinned he destroyed the relationship/unity mankind had with God. By rebelling against God mankind was cut off from love and life. In Christ all who share in his spirit have become members of a new human union under God. Therefore each member lives and loves because they are united to Christ.

Christ is the head of this new humanity, just as each new human is born from the flesh of Adam each member of this new human union is born from the spirit of Christ. He is the source of all. Which means growth and good works only come as a result of being united to Christ. Each member must (as Christ’s image bearers) seek to live out their union with him (and one another) as he instructed and demonstrated (in love). humanity is nothing and can do no good apart from Christ.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
(John 15:1-6 ESV)

It is right for those who are united in Christ to relate to him with obedience, as he acted toward God while he was in the flesh of Adam. Each member must practice obedience in unity. Their joy will be complete through mutual love in unity as they direct all their desires and affections toward Christ by obeying his will. Therefore the actions of the true Christianwill show what is already true, they are in Christ.

God is and will always be the ultimate authority over determining who is united to Christ and will be saved from his justice on the last day. While Jesus is the head of this new human union God will always be greater.

Love in Unity.
This is the nature of unity, love in unity. All who are in Christ must possess and practice the love that Christ demonstrated to all. This did not originate from himself, rather he learned it from his Father (God the Father). To teach anything other than what was given to him would constitute a rebellion and disunity with his Father. Therefore through the obedience of Christ all are united in God, who reigns supreme.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
(John 15:7-8 ESV)

Knowing all this Christ gives a single command: “…love one another as I have loved you” (vs12). Jesus is commanding unity in himself.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

If you are his you will love as he loves, making him all and in all. It is only those who are united in Christ that share the benefits of his love in unity.

The purpose of every Christian
Unity is the purpose of every Christian, saved to live in unity with Christ and God. In life and in death every member exists to build and maintain the union of the spirit of Christ.

Philippians 1 makes it clear that, for the Christian, it is always preferable to die rather than live any longer in the present age. In death each Christian is raised to life and perfect unity in Christ, face to face. However the only reason why Christians remain is for the sake of their union in Christ. Therefore whether you live or die it is all for and in unity with Christ, this is how Christians should understand their existence.

The desire I have is for you!

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again
.
(Philippians 1:18-26)

It is not enough for Christians to have no fear of death, rather because of the work of Christ in restoring unity (in God) death should now be the default preferred option. Death has so lost its power that Christians should long for death (1 Corinthians 15:50-56), for in death we are reborn into life and perfect unity. It is a logical conclusion of unity in Christ through his spirit. However it is not the only conclusion we should draw from unity in Christ.

While death is preferred for the individual Christian it is not what is best for the entire union of Christ (if you are still alive). Just as Christians have been given all things by God through Christ, God has given each person to one another for the good of the entire union. This is also true of their death.

As previously discussed God has determined how long each person will live and the time and place of their death, so that it too may be used for the good of all (Isaiah 41:4). So while it should be the preference for each Christian to die, it is in submission to Christ (for the good of all) that we do not destroy the life that God has given us. While this is not unforgivable (if you are in fact in Christ) it is an expression of disunity with Christ (not living in light of God’s headship), it is the same as murder of another.

While the sufferings of the present age may feel too much to bear these are not the motivation for the desire to die. Paul longs for death because he longs to be with Christ in person, in perfect union. Therefore it is from the desire for unity that the Christian should long to die and from the same desire for unity comes the desire to live, upholding God as head of all with authority over all life and death. Therefore this truth forms the basis for the discussion of Christians should act in the present age.