Unity of Faith

We should aim to be loving
and grace-filled to all who claim
Jesus as Lord—in spite of faith
distinctives. We should strive for
unity of the brethren. We do not
embrace tenants of faith not found
in the Bible nor would we fellowship
with faiths that depart from fundamental
Biblical doctrine.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

(Psalm 133:1).

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).

..until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

“ 
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:12-17).

First and foremost, everyone who claims Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior become brothers and sisters in Christ and of Christ (Galatians 3:26). There are no other requirements to be part of the family. Jesus does not say one must be born-again AND do such and such as a condition of adoption into the family of God. Nor does He kick you out of the family! For us to add qualifications for fellowship beyond the basics of Jesus Christ is presumptive and a doctrine of man. Simply put, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He has freed us from the Law and from sin.

Naturally, there are beliefs that demonstrate whether someone truly believes that Jesus is Lord and Savior. This is where we must use spiritual discernment founded upon the Bible. Let us remember that Jesus warns us about judging others. Because we will be judged by the same measure. We often judge others’ weakness with our strengths. Love covers a multitude of sins. It is ok to extend love and grace to a fellow sinner.

Our attitude ought to mirror Romans 15:1-7; “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

There are times when the Bible says we are not to even eat or drink with someone or welcome them into our home. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 and 2 John 1:9 and more.) These admonitions are to be applied to a “so-called brother” who is unrepentantly practicing sin and the false teacher or prophet. In making these distinctions let us first remember we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

In applying these scriptures in our life, let discernment and love rule the day rather than judgment and faction. Let us strive toward biblical unity erring on the side of love rather than exalting our own righteousness. Let us look at the spiritual heart of the person. It is a slippery slope headed towards being a modern day Pharisee if we use an exhaustive list of fellowship qualifiers. We must remember that we are all sinners. We don’t have to look very far to find men in the Bible who sinned yet were loved by God - Abraham, Lot, David, Solomon, Apostle Peter to name but a few.

To speak plainly, we don’t need to refrain from Christian unity simply because someone speaks in tongues or believes they can lose their salvation or believes the only translation is the King James version or allows women to pastor or forbids instruments or uses guitars and drums in the worship services. We don’t need to refrain from associating with churches that believe we should worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. Colossians 2:15-17 “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—”.This is where the sayings “major on the majors, minor on the minors” or “we must agree on the essentials and allow for liberty in the non-essentials” might be appropriately applied.

In the early days of American history before the Constitution was written, the first churches fought against each other over doctrinal issues. (It seems to be going on today as well!) They fought over issues such as baby baptism, government licensing for preaching, separation of church and state, preacher rule vs. congregational rule. These were some of the reasons they left England and Holland and yet, they were fighting over some of the same issues in the new country!

We are first, part of the Christian family of God. Secondly, we are “in the world” but not “of the world”. God has called Christians to be separated from the world. Thirdly, we belong to a church family. We should not elevate the church we belong to over simple faith in Jesus and being a Christ follower. At the same time it is very important for every Christian to belong to a church family.

Fellowship:
1. With God, consisting in the knowledge of his will (Job 22:21; John 17:3); agreement with his designs (Amos 3:2); mutual affection (Rom. 8: 38, 39); enjoyment of his presence (Psalm 4:6); conformity to his image (1 John 2:6; 1:6); and participation of his felicity (1 John 1:3, 4; Eph. 3:14-21).
2. Of saints with one another, in duties (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:1; 1 Thess. 5:17, 18); in ordinances (Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:46); in grace, love, joy, etc. (Mal. 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:4); mutual interest, spiritual and temporal (Rom. 12:4, 13; Heb. 13:16); in sufferings (Rom. 15:1, 2; Gal. 6:1, 2; Rom. 12:15; and in glory (Rev. 7:9).

Associate:
“As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.” (Acts 10:28-29)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:15-17).

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? (1 Corinthians 5:9-12).

Continuing in plain language, we might feel convicted to refrain from Christian unity with those who ordain homosexuals and promote the lifestyle as acceptable in God’s eyes. We certainly refrain from Christian unity with religions who use a book other than the Holy Bible for their tenants of faith and guidance. We refrain from Christian unity with those who claim there is more than one god or more than one way to heaven or that Jesus is merely a prophet or a religion that claims their human leader is their Holy Father and is infallible. We question religions which employ syncretism in their faith such as praying to dead people (specifically forbidden in the Bible) and receiving salvation in anyone other than Jesus (again, clearly stated in the Bible that salvation is found in no one else). Why? These are clearly not Christian tenants of faith. We treat them as unsaved and share the gospel with them.

That being said, we are not mandated to focus on seeking out activities of fellowship with other Christians or churches; especially if we are uncomfortable with some of their distinctive doctrines. It is ok to maintain a focus on one’s covenant family. BUT, let our attitude and conversation about other churches be one of Christian grace and unity. Let us not become judgmental of them. One does not need to fully agree with one another on distinctives as a qualifier of extending Christian love and grace. We are first, Christian brothers and sisters and second, members of our local or denominational church.