The Indispensable Need For Unity: Part 1

00000141I’ll never forget the time I bumped into a pastor at the store one day.  We served together for some time in ministry and enjoyed a good friendship and working relationship.  I asked, “How have you been?”  He proceeded to tell me about the church he was serving at and how one of the members had leveled some horrible accusations against him; accusations that were not true in any way, shape, or form.  These accusations began to swell and before long the pastor was driven out and the church eventually disintegrated.

There is an indispensable need for unity in the church of Jesus Christ.  God places a premium on unity.  The one God who has revealed himself in three persons has from all eternity been united; in perfect fellowship.  And the Trinity will be unified unto all eternity.  Indeed, this is his call to the church.  King David unfolds the blessings of unity in Psalm 133:1-3.  He begins, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”  In verses 2 and 3, compares unity to the precious oil that ran on the head of Aaron which ran onto his beard and down the collar of his robes.  He compares unity to the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.

The Definition of Unity

Unity points to the community.  It suggests the state of being one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The essence of unity is harmony.   This is the call of the church – to be unified.  Yet a quick survey of local churches reveals a disturbing trend.  Many of these churches may appear to be unified externally but are on the verge of collapse on the inside.  Notice three New Testament examples of this call to unity.

Ephesians 4:1-3

“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.”

Paul uses a Greek word here, translated as “unity” which is a “oneness.”  It is important to see that unity is tied to humility, gentleness, patience, and longsuffering.  We can safely say that to the degree that these qualities are absent in the church – to that degree disunity will prevail.

Ephesians 4:13

“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 fullness of Christ …”

God places a premium on unity; so much so that it stands at the heart of God’s purposes for the church.  And note its aim, namely, mature manhood, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  In order to be unified in the way that God intends, we must be growing deeply in the soil of God’s grace.  So churches that marginalize theological pursuit are in danger of disobeying this important component of church life.  Churches that get caught up in pragmatic approaches to ministry miss out on the blessing that unity brings!

1 Peter 3:8

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Peter uses a different Greek word here.  It is a word that means, “the state of being united; a thing forming a complex whole; like-minded.”  I serve at a church where the men gather on a regular basis to weigh-in on important decisions and shepherd the flock of God.  From time to time, we have strong opinions on a given issue, yet something incredible always happens.  We always leave the meeting united.  My prayer is that the same spirit would permeate the local church.  Sometimes we agree to disagree.  This is part of life.  But when a decision is made, we must make a conscious decision to be unified.  May unity mark churches that embrace the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we stand united around the purposes of our Savior for the glory of God!

KNOW THE HERETICS – Justin Holcomb (2014)

Heretics have been around for a long time and have plagued the church for as long as 0310515076_bwe can remember.  Justin Holcomb provides a valuable service for the church in his excellent book, Know the Heretics.  The intent of the book is to provide a readable summary of the major heresies that have sprung up in church history.

Such a book is unable to deal with every heresy.  However, the author certainly does expose the major heresies which are described below:

  • Judaizers
  • Gnostics
  • Marcion
  • Docetists
  • Mani
  • Sabellius
  • Arius
  • Appollinarius
  • Pelagius
  • Eutyches
  • Nestorius
  • Socinus

A brief historical background is presented for each heretic which is followed by the specific heretical teaching, the orthodox response, and the contemporary relevance. Know the Heretics strikes the right balance.  The author provides enough data to inform readers but does not overwhelm them with the details.  The tone is gracious but does not mince words.  The church will only be strengthened and edified by this fine work as she commits herself to the timeless truths of Scripture.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

 

The Indispensable Need For Unity: Part 1

00000141I’ll never forget the time I bumped into a pastor at the store one day.  We served together for some time in ministry and enjoyed a good friendship and working relationship.  I asked, “How have you been?”  He proceeded to tell me about the church he was serving at and how one of the members had leveled some horrible accusations against him; accusations that were not true in any way, shape, or form.  These accusations began to swell and before long the pastor was driven out and the church eventually disintegrated.

There is an indispensable need for unity in the church of Jesus Christ.  God places a premium on unity.  The one God who has revealed himself in three persons has from all eternity been united; in perfect fellowship.  And the Trinity will be unified unto all eternity.  Indeed, this is his call to the church.  King David unfolds the blessings of unity in Psalm 133:1-3.  He begins, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”  In verses 2 and 3, compares unity to the precious oil that ran on the head of Aaron which ran onto his beard and down the collar of his robes.  He compares unity to the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.

The Definition of Unity

Unity points to the community.  It suggests the state of being one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The essence of unity is harmony.   This is the call of the church – to be unified.  Yet a quick survey of local churches reveals a disturbing trend.  Many of these churches may appear to be unified externally but are on the verge of collapse on the inside.  Notice three New Testament examples of this call to unity.

Ephesians 4:1-3

“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.”

Paul uses a Greek word here, translated as “unity” which is a “oneness.”  It is important to see that unity is tied to humility, gentleness, patience, and longsuffering.  We can safely say that to the degree that these qualities are absent in the church – to that degree disunity will prevail.

Ephesians 4:13

“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 fullness of Christ …”

God places a premium on unity; so much so that it stands at the heart of God’s purposes for the church.  And note its aim, namely, mature manhood, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  In order to be unified in the way that God intends, we must be growing deeply in the soil of God’s grace.  So churches that marginalize theological pursuit are in danger of disobeying this important component of church life.  Churches that get caught up in pragmatic approaches to ministry miss out on the blessing that unity brings!

1 Peter 3:8

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Peter uses a different Greek word here.  It is a word that means, “the state of being united; a thing forming a complex whole; like-minded.”  I serve at a church where the men gather on a regular basis to weigh-in on important decisions and shepherd the flock of God.  From time to time, we have strong opinions on a given issue, yet something incredible always happens.  We always leave the meeting united.  My prayer is that the same spirit would permeate the local church.  Sometimes we agree to disagree.  This is part of life.  But when a decision is made, we must make a conscious decision to be unified.  May unity mark churches that embrace the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we stand united around the purposes of our Savior for the glory of God!

HERESY: A History of Defending the Truth – Alistair McGrath (2009)

Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, by Alister McGrath is a detailed overview of the progression of heresy in the church.  Part one defines heresy and provides a helpful summary of the origins of the idea of heresy.  “The essential feature of heresy is that it is not unbelief (rejection of the core beliefs of a worldview such as Christianity) in the strict sense of the term, but a form of that faith that is held ultimately to be subversive or destructive, and thus indirectly leads to such unbelief.”

Part two examines the roots of heresy.  McGrath provides a fascinating historical survey of the development of heresy and its early development in church history.

Part three summarizes the classical heresies of Christianity including Ebionitism, Docetism, Valentinism, Arianism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.  McGrath does an especially noteworthy job on his treatment of the arch-heretic, Pelagius.  However, I would commend R.C. Sproul’s, Willing to Believe to any readers interested in a deeper look at the Pelagian heresy.

McGrath rightly points out the pervasiveness of Pelagianism “on Western culture, even if its name means little to most.  It articulates one of the most natural of human thoughts – that we are capable of taking control of ourselves and transforming ourselves into what we would have ourselves be.”  Indeed, the tentacles of Pelagianism are not only choking the world, this diabolical worldview has found entry into the American church.

Finally, part four focuses on the impact of heresy.  The author urges the reader to recognize that “the pursuit of orthodoxy is essentially the quest for Christian authenticity” and to recognize the tendency that heresies have in “repeating themselves.”

McGrath’s book is a noteworthy summary of the history of heresy.  However, if one is a newcomer to this subject, I recommend starting with John Hannah’s, Our Legacy: A History of Christian Doctrine.  Additionally, Harold O.J. Brown’s work, Heresies will provide readers with a detailed look at the heresies that have consistently plagued the church.  Each work is a clear reminder of the danger of heretical ideas creeping into the fabric of the church.

3.5 stars