Ex. 32:25-29 π Lev. 10:1-2 π Dt. 17:2-5 π Dt. 19:15 π Isa. 1:13 π Mic. 7:6 π Mt. 7:16-20 π Mt. 7:20 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 10:34-37 π Mt. 18:15-17 π Lk. 9:62 π Lk. 12:51 π Jn. 6:60-67 π Jn. 14:17 π Jn. 14:23 π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 16:13 π Jn. 17:20-23 π Acts 5:1-11 π Rom. 8:7-8 π Rom. 15:7; 2nd π 1 Cor. 1:30 π 1 Cor. 2:10-12 π 1 Cor. 2:16 π 1 Cor. 3:11-15 π 1 Cor. 12:27 π 2 Cor. 3:18 π 2 Cor. 5:17 π 2 Cor. 7:1 π Gal. 2:11-13 π Gal. 5:19-23 π Eph. 4:1 π Eph. 4:3; 2nd; 3rd π Eph. 4:16 π Eph. 5:3-7 π Col. 3:5-10 π 1 Tim. 5:20 π 2 Tim. 2:19 π Tit. 2:11-12 π Heb. 9:14 π Heb. 10:29 π Jas. 3:10-12 π Jas. 3:17 π Jas. 4:4 π Jas. 4:6 π 2 Pet. 2:1-2 π 2 Pet. 3:17-18 π 1 Jn. 1:7; 2nd π 1 Jn. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 3:8 π 1 Jn. 3:10
The ruler of displacing Christ works extremely hard to get us to relate to one another by any means other than the Spirit of Christ. This is the source of the denominational “churches.” One group agrees with one teacher or creed but the second group adheres to another teacher or creed - in truth neither group is completely abiding in Christ. Thus now two more divisions of purported followers of Christ are formed and the way of truth is further blasphemed. ( 2 Pet. 2:1-2; top )
Because many people are seeing the evil and the destructiveness of denominationalism (of which most so-called non-denominational “churches” are still denominational in their practices and outlook), there is now a tendency to form what can only be called tolerance clubs. The people there, because they have come out from various “Christian” “churches” or denominations, still cling to certain religious beliefs (leftover religious baggage). But they know that others around them carry conflicting beliefs left over from their religious background. Rather than risk arguing, fighting and forming yet more denominations, these people take a tolerant approach to the differing beliefs of others. Rather than coming together and relying on the Spirit of truth (whose wisdom is first pure then peaceable - Jas. 3:17 ) to lead them into all truth ( Jn. 16:13 ), they sacrifice the sacred, holy assembly and allow their “fellowship” to be a hiding place for all sorts of heresy and error. (also see Isa. 1:13; top ) The result is groups that talk about ?authentic relationships? but which try to build these “relationships” on superficial and deceptive premises using tools like innuendo, religious masks, supposition and false expectations to keep everybody being “nice” to each other. About the only thing the tolerance clubs will not tolerate are those who won’t tolerate the sins and errors of the tolerance club participants!
...have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called... endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ( Eph. 4:1 , 3; top )
Because of the depth of Paul’s thoughts here - and because the demonic will attack us in any possible way to keep us living in anything but the unity of the Spirit - there are few who practice real obedience to this instruction.
Oh, to be sure, the tolerance clubs preach a message of unity. But their underlying definition of this unity is flawed and hazy. Their “unity” is either a “spiritual unity” - that is, “We all possess some spirituality therefore we should practice some form of unity” - or else it is a mere tolerance of one another’s personal (especially theological) preferences and personality quirks and a preservation of one another’s “personal peace” (that is, the personal “right” to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, to live one’s life with minimal personal disruptions from others, especially from the realities of others’ lives and woes - see Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?) This “live and let live” attitude is especially prevalent in self-centered affluent cultures that seek most to preserve only their own comforts.
What is the real unity of the Spirit? Jesus said:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. ( Jn. 14:23; top )
He also said:
I do not pray for these [Twelve and Seventy] 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: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. ( Jn. 17:20-23; top )
This unity with Father, Son and Spirit by the Spirit is the unity by which we have all things of God. In this unity, we have the righteousness of Christ ( 1 Cor. 1:30 ), we have the mind of Christ ( 1 Cor. 2:16 ) and we have the Spirit that searches the deep things of God and makes them known to us. ( 1 Cor. 2:10-12 ) Apart from this unity we have and can do nothing. ( Jn. 15:5; top ) What foolishness it is to look to any other source for our unity with one another. Yet there are those who unwittingly do so.
There are people who place great emphasis on “building relationships” with one another, thinking that they must build a bridge between themselves that will sufficiently support whatever loads (discipleship, instructions, corrections, reproofs, rebukes, etc.) that need sent across this bridge. The picture this presents is ludicrous. In the foreground stands this massive structure of a well-designed, well-built, fully-operational bridge (the Holy Spirit) that will support a weight comparable to the heaviest of tanks, armored warfare machines and the heaviest and largest of construction equipment and that can, has and always will withstand all the bombardments of the enemy! This bridge spans all the way across a vast and deep chasm. Yet, in the very shadow of this bridge, men are trying to throw ropes and long boards across this deep chasm which, even when they manage to reach the other side (another believer in Christ) with these things, they will never support the heavy and deep things of God that must go across in order for there to be a real and deep (offensively truthful and painfully self-sacrificing) relationship of love between genuine brothers in Christ. And the massive bridge that will easily sustain such loads remains unused and untouched!
What this also accomplishes is to put these people who attempt to manufacture their own bridges under the power of the ruler of displacing Christ - that Satanic spirit that tricks us into putting anyone or any thing in any rightful place of Christ or His Spirit. In this case, people feel required to “make friends” by putting up with (tolerating) all manner of sin and wickedness so that they might maintain this thing called “relationship” on the off chance that, at some point in the future (maybe even years down the road), some expression of truth might be expressed between them. The fallacy of this - that man-made bridges could ever support the things of God - ought to be evident to all. But the spirit of antichrist, taking advantage of centuries of religious foolishness, is quite able to deceive many.
Any unity that is not based upon the Person of Christ and union with Him by His Spirit is a false unity. What are some of the characteristics by which we may know what kind of unity we are participating in? That is, are we truly practicing the unity of the Spirit as referred to by Paul or are we involved in a false unity based on flawed ideas of men? In the broadest of terms we can judge the genuineness of our unity by comparing it with the characteristics of the Spirit of God.
The first clue is that He is the Holy Spirit. Our unity with one another, if it is truly based in Him, will be characterized and will promote true holiness - that is, our being totally and completely set apart for the purposes of God - and not just adhering to someone’s legalistic standards of religious behaviors. Compromise with worldliness and sin will be as foreign to us as it was to Christ. Any unity that tolerates worldliness, lawlessness (personal preferences and agendas) or sin is not the unity of the Spirit of holiness.
Closely related to holiness is truth - and this is another name of the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth. ( Jn. 14:17 ) Our unity with one another will not be characterized by tolerance of falsehoods - neither in the way we deal with one another nor in the wearing of masks by which we might deceive one another nor especially in the teachings (doctrines) by which we instruct one another. No lie is of the truth ( 1 Jn. 2:21; top ) and any unity built on any kind of lie is not the unity of the Spirit of truth.
The Holy Spirit is also called the eternal Spirit. ( Heb. 9:14; top ) The unity that is truly of the Spirit of God will tend to focus on the things that will have eternal value. The unity that relies on the common interests of the people involved (i.e., sports, hobbies, political interests, common theology and doctrines, etc.) is merely a work of the flesh. No carnal unity will ever produce a mature body of Christ and any unity that relies on intellectual agreement to similarly held opinions is not the unity of the Spirit of eternity.
The Spirit of God is also referred to as the Spirit of grace ( Heb. 10:29 ) The grace of God is the power of God that brings salvation and that teaches us to live self-controlled, righteous, godly lives. (see Tit. 2:11-12 ) This power (grace) is available only to the humble and not to the proud. ( Jas. 4:6; top ) Any unity that does not promote and produce lives that are truly changed into the likeness of Christ’s character is not the unity of the Spirit of grace.
Paul wrote that the body of Christ is
...joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, [which] causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. ( Eph. 4:16; top )
Every member of the body of Christ receives something from the Head Christ Jesus. In the human body, the medium by which information is transmitted from the head to the various body parts is the nervous system. The nervous system has its stem in the head, in the central part of the brain - the chief organ of the head - and it has tendrils that reach through every organ of the body and all the way to every skin cell on the surface of the body. Thus it connects the head to every part of the body and interconnects every part of the body to all the other parts.
This usage of the term body for the people of Christ is not a mere illustration or metaphor. Paul says that the ekklesia, Christ’s called-out people, is His body. ( 1 Cor. 12:27; top ) The role of the Holy Spirit as that which connects us to Christ and to one another is not some nice, practically irrelevant, esoteric, theoretical theological point to ponder. It is the only way in which the things of God become reality in our corporate lives.
...if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another... ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top )
How do we have unity and fellowship with one another? By keeping our relationship with the Head Christ Jesus pure. But if we walk in darkness (practice deception, sin, selfishness, etc.) we will not have the Spirit of unity operating as the dominant feature of our lives and we will not practice the selflessness and giving, serving attitudes of Christ that make up the real bond of peace. The “believer” who does not desire truth, righteousness, holiness, eternity - in a word, God’s will for every believer - above his own personal desires is not walking in the unity of the Spirit but is instead walking according to his own flesh in mere carnal darkness.
We must recognize that
...preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace... ( Eph. 4:3; top )
is a two-way street. As the world says it, “It takes two to tango.” Whereas in the average non-spiritual human relationship it really only takes aggressiveness on one side to start a war, to maintain peaceful relations (a dance more intricate than the tango!) requires full cooperation from both sides of a conflict or even of an unstrained relationship.
This two-way street of interacting with people claiming to be brothers in Christ is made even more complex than normal human relations because it is directly controlled by a vertical element. If our relationship to Christ is skewed, so too will our relationship with our brothers be skewed. If we refuse to walk in all the characteristics of Christ by His Spirit - holiness, truth, righteousness, eternity, grace, to name but a few - then we have no hope of preserving the unity of the Spirit. And even if we do all these things by His Spirit but our brother can’t or won’t, we are simply unable to be fully at peace with him because his relationship with Christ, the Prince of peace, is skewed. We simply cannot preserve the unity of the Spirit (of holiness, truth, etc.) because our brother has already broken that unity until he repents and is restored to his full unity with Christ in God.
Those who place greater emphasis on the value of their relationships with others than they do the truth and righteousness of Christ have failed to rightly read the Scriptures. Jesus said:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” [ Dt. 19:15 ] And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the ekklesia. But if he refuse even to hear the ekklesia, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. ( Mt. 18:15-17; top )
In the process of confronting sin in a brother, what is the thing of highest value? Some say it is the brother and they miss the point that, in the end, an unrepentant brother is ostracized as a heathen and a tax collector because he refuses to walk in the light and truth. If the sinning brother fails to return to the way of truth and righteousness in Christ, he ceases to be a brother and he is an outcast! The brother, the person, the individual has no value or place within the body of Christ outside or apart from his place as an obedient son in Christ. In most instances, he may be restored to his place in Christ, but his simple existence as a human being (this inalienable value is never stripped from him!) and his baseless claim to be a believer does not guarantee any place or any rights within the family of Christ and God.
When Jesus started speaking truths that were hard to receive and many of His disciples abandoned Him, He did not water down the truth so as to keep His closest men. Instead, He asked them if they wanted to leave too! ( Jn. 6:60-67; top ) Jesus was not confused as to which - the men who followed Him or the truth He was - was of highest value.
No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. ( Lk. 9:62; top )
Remember Lot’s wife! Looking back, whether to things or people, diverts us from the things of Christ and makes us unfit for His kingdom.
Jesus also said:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” And “a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” [ Mic. 7:6 ] He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. ( Mt. 10:34-37; top )
The closest of human relations must take second place to the Person and things of Christ in our life. Anything else is deception and/or idolatry.
Paul, the man who gave us the instruction to endeavor
...to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace... ( Eph. 4:3; top )
is also the same man who publicly confronted Peter, that pillar of the Jerusalem ekklesia, for his hypocrisy in front of the Judaisers. ( Gal. 2:11-13; top ) What relationship was Paul trying to preserve? One based in truth, sincerity and genuine obedience to Christ - anything else was not as valuable.
Paul also gave Timothy clear instructions about elders who fail to maintain their high standards of Christlikeness.
Those [elders] who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. ( 1 Tim. 5:20; top )
What relationship was Timothy supposed to preserve? Again, one based in truth, sincerity and genuine obedience to Christ. Any other kind of relationship was to be sacrificed to attempt to gain the pure one.
When we look to church history, we find numerous people who, like Martin Luther (admittedly an imperfect example because of the incomplete nature of his works) withstood the entrenched hierarchy and led many to a deeper walk with Christ than what was previously available. Those who see his work as merely “dividing the church” (aside from betraying their own misconceptions about the institutional “church” being a valid expression of the body of Christ) have failed to see the divisive nature of genuine purification. Jesus said:
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. ( Lk. 12:51; top )
Too many people fail to pay any attention to these words of Christ.
When Moses returned from meeting with God on the mountain, we find this account:
Now when Moses [returned from receiving the Law on the mountain of the
LORDand] saw that the people were unrestrained [in their worship of the golden calf] (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side, let him come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORDGod of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”
So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the
LORD, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.” ( Ex. 32:25-29; top )
Whatever else we might conclude from this account, we must at least acknowledge that God blessed the Levites for this action, thus showing that He valued spiritual purity over the temporal lives of the Levites’ sons, brothers, companions and neighbors. Nadab and Abihu ( Lev. 10:1-2 ), Ananias and Sapphira ( Acts 5:1-11 ) and God’s law regarding those who worshiped and served other gods ( Dt. 17:2-5; top ) provide similar insights.
Any relationship in Christ that ignores the superior value of the truth and righteousness of Christ is flawed, corrupted by the deceptive work of the devil. Any brother who refuses to forsake the deception of the demonic and/or corruptions of the flesh or this world makes himself God’s enemy (see Jas. 4:4 ; Rom. 8:7-8 ) and forfeits his rights to be received as a brother in Christ. Anyone who maintains relationships that are built upon or that rely upon lies and deceptions is partnered with the devil and that one’s work, in one way or another, will be destroyed in direct proportion to the extent of the lies. (see 1 Jn. 3:8 ; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; top )
Those who insist upon walking in the light as He is in the light already have instantaneous, unbroken and (apart from sinfulness) virtually indestructible unity with others who are of this same spirit and mind ( 1 Jn. 1:7; top ) - even when an area of previously unrecognized darkness is being exposed and confronted. If we are not willing to bring every aspect of every relationship we have with others into Christ’s light, let us not confuse our sinful relations with one another as being the genuine unity of Christ’s Spirit. And let us not suppose that “religious” relations with one another - whereby we place ourselves or others under the authoritarian regime of men who take on the role (if not the titles) of clergy - might somehow cause us to walk in a greater obedience to Christ than we are willing to practice when we stand alone and only God is watching what we do.
If we do not place the highest value on our unbroken fellowship with Christ, placing a greater emphasis on our relationships with others is not only futile, it is idolatry. And if those who claim to be our brothers do not share this same value for Christ, we have no hope of preserving the unity of the Spirit of God because they have already abandoned Him.
One of the key verses relied upon in these tolerance clubs is Paul’s instruction:
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. ( Rom. 15:7; top )
Christ has received us as we are, they say, and therefore we must not judge or criticize anyone who claims to be our brother in Christ. This misconception unfortunately produces only a haven for self-centered, sinful behaviors (lawlessness - doing what is right in one’s own eyes) - and it is done in Christ’s name! It is true that Christ received us as we were - and then He immediately made us a new creation! (see 2 Cor. 5:17 ) Therefore it is now our responsibility to
...cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. ( 2 Cor. 7:1 - emphasis added; also see Eph. 5:3-7 ; Col. 3:5-10; top )
Not only has Christ received us as we were (in relation to our sinful state), He has received us as we shall be (eternally glorified). As we live our lives here in the interim stage between what we were and what we will be, we will produce fruit which clearly demonstrates for all to see what we really are - children of light or children of the devil. (see 1 Jn. 3:10 ) Our lives either produce the righteous fruits of the Spirit or the sinful works of the flesh - producing both righteousness and sinfulness is a spiritual condition that ought not be and, in truth, cannot long remain. (see Jas. 3:10-12 ; Mt. 7:16-20 ) Bringing forth the fruits of righteousness proves we are appropriately in our place in Christ while performing the works of sinfulness and/or lawlessness may ultimately disqualify us from our inheritance in Christ. (see Gal. 5:19-23; top )
...by their fruits you will know them. ( Mt. 7:20; top - emphasis added)
If the fruit produced by one’s life is only iniquity and/or lawlessness, we will know what that one is. We need not “prophetically look beyond” that one’s sin and lawlessness of today, looking forward to some out-of-nowhere miraculous transformation that will occur when that person is “changed in the sweet by and by.” No, those who are departing from iniquity ( 2 Tim. 2:19 ) by growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ ( 2 Pet. 3:17-18 ) are being transformed (present, ongoing action verbs) into His likeness from glory to glory. ( 2 Cor. 3:18 ) If there are no glimpses of glorification now (previews of coming attractions, as it were), there will be no glorification then. One who is not in the process of being made Christ-like now (no matter how much knowledge of Christ and the Bible he has) will be rejected on the last day for his lawlessness (doing what was right in his own eyes) because he was never known by Christ. ( Mt. 7:23 ) One who was never known by Christ then can hardly be said to have been received in any way by Christ now (compare to Rom. 15:7 ) and he is not to be embraced as if he were a full-fledged brother in Christ.
Let us be neither ignorant nor puffed up, brethren. The spirit of displacing Christ, even when we escape the darkness of denominationalism, has schemes ready to bring us into yet another form of darkness. Those who underestimate the effectiveness of these rulers of darkness will one day regret their ignorance and/or arrogance.
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