Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Christian Apologetics: Creating Stronger Unity in Fellowship

By:  Michael Kaplan, author of "7 Pillars of an Unshakable Christian Faith"

The discipline of Apologetics requires a Christian to dive deeply into the Scripture, searching God’s Word for revealed truth. Every time the Bible is read, a new truth is revealed. Once the truth of Christian doctrine becomes visible, new details begin to emerge on how to apply these truths to one’s life.

Many Christians are surprised to learn the biblical truth regarding fellowship. The surprise doesn’t stem from what the Word of God says it is but, once known, how it’s currently practiced “in the church.” Christian fellowship tends to be casual, and based around events such as a worship service or church dinner. God’s Word reveals a startling truth: it was never meant to be that way.

They were continually devoting themselves
to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

~ Acts 2:42 ~

One would expect to see Christians devoted to teaching and prayer, but devoted to fellowship? This wasn’t an activity to be causally enjoyed for one hour each week; it was a discipline that was passionately pursued and enthusiastically embraced. Per God’s Word, it still is that discipline, even though the diluted brand of Christian faith experienced by most believers doesn’t meet the standard. 

The Bible is very clear on the topic: being devoted to fellowship is commanded due to its critical role in maintaining unity in the Christian faith.

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel
of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain
absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one
spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction
for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

~ Philippians 1:27-28 ~

Paul was telling the church at Philippi that unity in fellowship – one mind, one spirit, standing together – was a sign of Salvation to the Body of Christ. Equally important, it was a sign from God Himself to the opponents of Christianity of their guaranteed destruction. How can that be possible? The Scripture reveals Christ gave believers the answer when He prayed for His faithful elect in the Gospel of John.

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will
believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one,
as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may
be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them,
that they may be one just as We are one:

~ John 17:20-22 ~

Don’t miss the two critical truths revealed in Scripture. First, the relationship Christians have with the Triune God isn’t proximal; there’s no distance, no “God up there.” Those who profess faith in Christ are one in Them, just as Christ was one with God the Father.

Second, the unity of Christian fellowship is such that we are to be one with each other, just as Christ and God the Father are one. Why? So that Christian unity in fellowship would make the world believe that God had sent His only begotten Son.

The biblical truth of God’s Word is clear. The unity of fellowship among believers is:

1.  A commanded discipline to which we are to be devoted;
2.  A sign from God of Salvation for believers;
3.  A sign from God of destruction for opponents;
4.  The same level of unity that Christ has with God the Father.

It’s at this point that Christians look up from their Bibles, take a mental inventory of the fellowship practiced at church, and realize something isn’t right. What Christians grounded in biblical truth discover is what they’re seeing doesn’t match what they’re reading in the Bible. When Scripture – the divinely-inspired, inerrant, infallible, timeless Word of God – is in conflict with the practices of modern Christianity, it’s not the Bible that’s wrong.

How does modern Christianity find its way back to biblical truth and standards? By reading and understanding God’s Word, and redefining false perceptions commonly held by believers. In many gatherings, the pastor will say a prayer before having fellowship with a cup of coffee and a donut. However, the Bible says an aspect of fellowship is being devoted to prayer, to God and for each other.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would
grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might
through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through
faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend
with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height
—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

~ Ephesians 3:14-19 ~

Be honest: when was the last time someone prayed a prayer like this for their Brothers and Sisters in Christ? When Paul prayed for the Body of Christ in Ephesus, he was devoted and intent. A devotion to this level of prayer for each other is what a true reading of Scripture demands. Modern society may make it difficult to attend special church functions, but it can’t inhibit our praise for God, or prayers for each other.

Military veterans that experience combat know their experience creates a sense of unity and loyalty rarely matched by other circumstances. They would sacrifice their lives for each other, but would we do the same for the Body of Christ, in the version of modern Christianity practiced today?

This is My commandment, that you love one another as
I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to
lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My
friends if you do whatever I command you.

~ John 15:12-14 ~

In the light of biblical truth, what can be said for attending a worship service for one hour per week, feeling uncomfortable about being “surrounded by people we don’t know”? Given that mindset, following God’s Word as outlined in John 15:12-14 isn’t likely to happen. While that might seem a tad extreme, following God’s Word and devoting oneself to fellowship will produce less dramatic, albeit equally important, results.

1.  Christ’s love becomes more visible to the world;
2.  Devotion demonstrates a reverence for Christ;
3.  Experience mutual support and encouragement;
4.  Benefit from the prayers of other believers;
5.  Apply the Grace of Salvation in service to others;
6.  The shared experience of Christ in a diverse group;
7.  Building a strong and mature Christian faith.

That list represents only a few of the infinite number of benefits afforded the Body of Christ engaging in faithful service to God. When one understands the depth of the truth in God’s Word, perspectives change. We come to understand that if “church” is a building – offering a variety of programs designed to attract members and build a congregation – Christians are simply consumers in search of the most appealing brand.

We come to understand that if “church” is a business – a marketing and messaging machine designed to increase our equity position in Christian marketshare – Christians are simply competitors in a field with numerous players that must be defeated in order to allow the church to “win.”

We come to understand that if “church” actually means the Body of Christ – our Brothers and Sisters with whom we are stongly united in biblical fellowship – Christians are a community of believers, and members of the same Body of which Christ is the Head. That’s what Scripture, God’s Word, is calling for all Christians to understand. It will be  accomplished when believers become convicted, but before that happens, they need to be convinced. That requires reading and understanding the Bible.

From whom the whole body, joined and knit together
by what every joint supplies, according to the effective
working by which every part does its share, causes
growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

~ Ephesians 4:16 ~

I pray that the Holy Spirit guides you in your studies, and brings you to a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Have a blessed day.

No comments:

Post a Comment