Although our text today once again refers to Salvation, I again want to drop a more serious thought into our minds about the concept of unity.
3) Unity in understanding the Salvation Door.
Ac 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections.
Remember they only had the Old Testament in written form and this was held in synagogues. So when an apostle spoke it was understood to be the Word of God from God to the people of God. So once Peter had explained what happened at Cornelius’ house, the believers in Jerusalem understood this was from God and accepted it. Together with Peter, his six colleagues and the Jerusalem believers, it was clearly understood that the Gospel is open and available to
Rev 5:9 with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
The Early Church now understood that all people, whether Jew or Gentile may be saved. When the Curtain in the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom, it did not just mean that Jews may now enter God’s presence directly without a priest … it included Gentiles. Having this understanding was monumental.
As said before, this was God’s plan and promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12. How wonderful it would be that through just hearing what the Bible has to say about All Nations and to the End of the Earth, be understood by the whole Visible Church of the Lord Jesus in our day!
Then there are Churches agreeing with All Nations and to the End of the Earth but practice segregation within their Church. They only permit people of their colour, culture, language and ethnic grouping. How un-Biblical and anti-Gospel this is! One needs to understand that not all people in every Church are part of the Invisible Church of Jesus which is the Eternal Kingdom of God. This is why all people believing they are Born Again need to be united in their grasp of the Salvation Door as to who may enter and who not. Then together we will also declare that we have “no further objections” to people different to us coming into God’s Church. Thinking about the early Church’s acceptance that the Gospel Door is open to all, this does not mean there would be no further problems regarding the Gentiles.
A serious problem arose in the shape of circumcision. What I hinted to in my opening sentence about unity spreads further than “who may be saved”. Yes, unity in what one believes regarding salvation is vital and key, but unity does not end there. It continues in unity in the complete Body of Christian Doctrine. To agree with the Apostles, Nicene or Athanasian Creeds does not necessary mean unity in the complete Body of Christian Doctrine.
Allow me to use an illustration … a very dear brother has been in discussion with people who run a ministry in a suburb not too far away from where he lives. They have no money and need financing. Their statement of faith says they believe all the basic evangelical doctrines. In other words they say all the right things … but they have a female pastor, a prophet and an apostle. They say they went to a Bible College I have never heard of. So here’s the point, they say all the right things but they don’t explain their un-Biblical belief in female pastors.
1Ti 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife.
Further, the office of both prophet and apostle has ceased. The office of prophet was appointed by God, to hear from God and speak God’s Word to the people of God, especially in the Old Testament. The last official prophet was Malachi. The office of apostle was one who had been with Jesus from the time of John the Baptist’s baptism to Jesus Ascension to Heaven. Their ministry was accompanied by signs, wonders and miracles. The purpose of this was to authenticate the message they brought from God. By the time the New Testament was completed before the end of the First Century, this office ceased as did the spectacular gifts. So unity means far more than the basics of Evangelicalism. It needs to include the whole Body of Christian Doctrine. This would mean that unity might need to stop when people add to Scripture. If only God’s Church would believe what the Bible teaches without cutting out what they don’t like or adding in what they want. To say the Bible is inerrant, inspired and authoritative is incomplete without accepting that is it all sufficient. Consider:
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The word “thoroughly” means completely. The Bible is sufficient to completely equip every believer for every good work. This is what Theologians refer to as the Sufficiency of Scripture. This is the point … unless there is unity in the Sufficiency of Scripture, there is a problem with the understanding of “unity”. We have heard so often that doctrine divides. That is true. It does divide Truth from error. This is why all our doctrines need to be arising from the Bible, without twisting the text or passage to say what we want it to say. As soon as we do this we superimpose our desired beliefs onto to the Bible and change its meaning. How can there be unity there? And how can there be unity in compromise?
This is only one Illustration where unity becomes difficult. There are many other such as an Evangelical compromising his or her belief about the Lord’s Table and sitting in fellowship and “unity” with a Roman Catholic around the Table. You participate in remembrance of what Jesus did, the other one participates in a sacrifice … as the bread and wine supposedly become the actual Blood and Body of Jesus Christ through a priest’s ‘magical’ abilities. Friend, you cannot be united in error. You have to be united in Truth!
O Lord our God, You have given us Your Word, fully inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient. Help us to use Your Word, studying it, knowing it so that we become completely equipped for every good work, being united in Truth for the Glory of Jesus. Amen.