Archive for the ‘3.4 Unity in the Present Age’ Category

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:1-17 ESV)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-18 ESV)

Joy is one of those things that everyone seems to know about, but can never give a clear definition of. This has meant that joy has been widely misunderstood, especially in light of verses like:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4 ESV)

How are you supposed to have joy in God at all times? Are we meant to be happy all the time? The Bible states that Christians are to expected to suffer with Christ (Romans 8:17 ESV). Therefore it can’t be a matter of being happy all the time. More than this the Bible clearly states that Christians should rejoice in suffering, because the end result of suffering is steadfastness and maturity in Christ (which will have its full effect on the last day).

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(James 1:2-4 ESV)

The Bible clearly states that suffering and discipline are the mark of a true child of God.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birth right for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.(Hebrews 12:1-17 ESV)

Also experience tells us that there are those who suffer from depression and are physically unable to experience happiness for long periods of time.

JOY
You have heard it said that JOY is an acronym standing for Jesus, Other, Yourself. While this has some merit in helping to understand priorities, it is largely unhelpful and confusing for understanding what joy in unity actually is. This acronym does not intuitively provide an explanation of joy it merely gives a list of priorities and is an over simplification of the Bible’s view of joy While priorities are good in light of unity this acronym is dangerous, pitting them against one another as if they were competing priorities. As already discussed, loving your family is fully in line with unity in Christ. Also in unity actions (love in unity) to benefit part ultimately serve to benefit the whole (Christ). This means that Christ can be glorified by loving others. Meaning that loving God with your whole heart and mind and loving your neighbour as yourself are a single command. Therefore as unity grows all members benefit. Also the work of Christ that all are involved in (building and sustaining unity) the present age is indeed Christ’s work.

In defining joy there are a few things that need to be understood. Firstly, joy is not an exclusively Christian concept and as such it should be defined with broader contexts in mind. Secondly, joy is not exclusively an emotion otherwise it would be perfectly interchangeable with happiness. Thirdly, joy is more about the object of desire and affection (good things) rather than the emotion or concept.

Therefore joy can then be defined as; a person’s attitude and reaction to good things.

Good and Evil
In the present age a “good” is understood as something that you can purchase. What most people don’t understand is that the term “good” (in this context) is a specific term used in economics. It describes anything that is intended to satisfy some want or need of a consumer. Things people want or need are things people desire to have, therefore goods are desirable.

As previously discussed, Genesis 1 reveals the living God through the story of creation. In creation the unity of God is clearly seen. At the end of each day God judged each part of creation to be “good” and ultimately judges the entire order of creation as “very good”. This judgement is a statement of approval, unity and harmony between the one true God and his creation. “Good” in this context is something that is associated with God, defined by God and is desirable to God.

Attitude and Reaction
Therefore it becomes clear that a person’s attitude toward those things that they determine to be good should be one of desire when they are withheld and happiness/satisfaction when they are obtained.

When the Bible says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” emphasis should not be on the joy but on what the object of desire is, Christ. What the Bible is commanding all Christians to do is to align their desires/wants and needs with Christ. That is to say all Christians should ever want or need is Christ and what he wants (unity). Therefore the Bibles view of what is good and what is most valuable for the Christian is Christ and unity in him. Seeking what most highly valued and seen as the greatest good will in turn produce a positive reaction (happiness/satisfaction) to obtaining it. The more closely aligned the desires of the Christian are with Christ the stronger the desire and reaction, even though they may not be able to “feel” it.

Reactions to good things not only encompasses an emotional reaction but rational decision-making also. When Christ and what he wants is the sole object of a Christians desire their reaction to him will be one of elation, happiness, etc. while the way it is expressed will be in a manner that is appropriate to one who is united to Christ. When a Christian experiences any good thing their appropriate response is to praise the God who has given all good things (in Christ). This means that the emotion is not necessary for joy.

Therefore idolatry can understood as; replacing Christ and unity in him as the object of desire and affection with something else. For example, When a person desires the feeling of happiness they seek out anything that can make them happy.

God is the greatest good from which all other goods come. Therefore if you share in the spirit of Christ, being united to him, you must align you attitudes so that you seek and desire him alone. Seeking to reflect him in everything you do. Knowing that your union with him will not be fully realised untill you are with him in his spirit.

JOY IN OTHERS
When Paul declares to the church at Philippi that they are his joy this doesn’t conflict with his desire for Christ.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
(Philippians 4:1 ESV)

This is a very important passage because it brings together the concepts of love in unity and reward in heaven. To love one another with the love that Christ demonstrated is what it means to be in union with one another (in Christ) and God.

As previously discussed the purpose of the Christian in any age is maintaining and growing the union of Christ. In the present age this notably includes adding to the union of Christ by evangelising those who are not united to Christ.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them min the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:16-20, ESV)

The requirements placed on Christian relationships (discussed above) only apply to those who are united in Christ by the Holy Spirit. So when it comes to dealing with non-Christians it must come from an understanding that they are not united to Christ and they are not subject to the same order and requirements that Christians are. They are still in Adam who broke unity (relationship) with God. Note: This does not mean that Christians shouldn’t express Christian views on public policy issues, as citizens and members of society.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolaters, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
(1 Corinthians 5:9-13, ESV)

Christians and non-Christians are not the same race (2 Corinthians 6:14). This is because Christians are united in Christ which is a spiritual union, where-as non-Christians are members of the bastardised union of Adam. This does not mean that Christians should look down on or persecute non-Christians because of this distinction. Rather it is because of their union with Christ that all Christians are called to actively take part in finishing Christ’s work on earth (making disciples of all nations). Therefore this union which separates the two groups demands that Christians love non-Christians and call them to be united to Christ.

Even those who are united to Christ will not truly know who all the people of God are until the final judgement. A judgement that will segregate the two races forever. Separating those who are united to God through Christ from those who are not. This is to show that this final judgement and segregation is God’s right alone.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you wave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these dmy brothers,you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46, ESV)

Therefore Christians should love non-Christians by explaining the good news about Christ and the renewed unity that mankind has with God.

What would you do for your brother?

In light of renewed unity with God and oneanother, in Christ, it is the responsibility of each member to know and love oneanother. This will involve giving up your freedom for the their sake and the sake of your union.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, she is known by God.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8 ESV)

True humility is a practical affirmation of the sovereign headship of God and Christ in the life of the Christian on a daily basis, in light of renewed unity in God through Christ.

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. 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 all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(Ephesians 4:1-7)

Humility and the sovereignty of God
As previously discussed the individuality of the Christian (abilities, life span, wealth and success, circumstance of life, etc.) was determined by God under his sovereign headship. These are apportioned to each Christian by the same spirit for the sake of the whole union.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

True humility recognises the gifting of God and acknowledges that all gifts are given by the one spirit for the good of all and does not assume status in the family of God. This is what it means to be in union with God. So when each member seeks to understand and respect the place given to each Christian by God in Christ they will be practically acknowledging the sovereign headship of God and Christ.

True humility does not deny the truth of the gifting of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God. Rather it acknowledges that it is given for the good of the whole union. Therefore denying the gifting of the Holy Spirit in your life and the life of others is a denial of unity with Christ. Also seeking status in the family of God without respect for the good order he has established is a denial of God’s headship and unity in him.

This means that Christians can acknowledge their abilities, wealth, etc. without being arrogant by attributing them all to God and using them for the good of the Christian union (church). God empowers Christians with the freedom to plan and execute the good works that he has prepared for them in light of his sovereign headship (unity in him).

The right acknowledgement of gifting is not just a matter for the individual but for the entire union. It is not a matter of self-estimation in a vacuum. God has given Christians to one another so that they may lovingly encourage and advise one another in the identification of need and the correct manner of service. In this way the whole union is built up in love.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-20)

In having many gifts and a place for each the whole the union of Christ becomes stronger.

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.

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)