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United

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69. Partake - The Christian Disciple and Unity

Paul writing in Ephesians 2v19-21: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

As the church, we are to be one and unified through and in Jesus Christ! The universal Church is one around Jesus Christ, but churches on a local level frequently engage in acts of disunity rather than unity. Churches and Church denominations fight over minor details. So how can we as Christian Disciples show unity, to a world that sees the Church fragmented. Paul when writing to the Ephesians challenged the two groups of believers, Jews and Gentiles, to be unified in order for the church to grow and Jesus Christ to be glorified.

1. Alienation – Jews and Gentiles

There was alienation, evident in the church. Most of the converts in the church of Ephesus were Gentiles. For centuries Jews (the “circumcision”) looked down upon the Gentiles (the “uncircumcision”) as an inferior people. Israel (the Jews) were to be the light of God to the whole world. However, the physical mark of being a Jew was no proof of a man was a man of faith (Romans 2v25-29; Galatians 5v6, 6v15)

The best word to describe the Gentiles is without

  • a Without Christ
  • b Without citizenship
  • c Without covenants
  • d Without hope
  • e Without God

2. Reconciliation – One Jesus Christ

“But now…” (Ephesians 2v13) is linked with “But God…” (Ephesians 2v4). This is God’s grace and reconciliation. Enmity is a feeling of war and hostility. Reconciliation means to make peace between enemies and to bring together again. Sin is the separator – Adam & Eve; Cain & Abel; the Flood; Tower of Babel; leading to Abraham & Israel (Genesis 12)

a. Enmity between Jew and Gentile

Jews were different from Gentiles in religion, dress, diet and laws. Until Peter was sent to the Gentiles (Acts 10), the church had no problems. But placing the salvation of the Gentiles on the same level as the Jews caused problems.

Acts 11 – Peter was told off for going to the Gentiles and eating with them.

Acts 15 – Apostles meeting – both Jews and Gentiles are saved in the same way.

The barrier or wall between Jew and Gentile was the Law (Leviticus 11v44-47; Ezekiel 44v23).

Jesus breaks the barrier in His death (Galatians 3v10-13). Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10v12-13)

The Lord Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2v14) and made our peace with God (Ephesians 2v15)

The Gentiles

Old position

New position

“Christ-less”

In Christ (Ephesians 2v13)

“aliens”

A holy nation (1 Peter 2v9)

“strangers”

“no more strangers” (Ephesians 2v19)

“hope-less”

“called in one hope” (Ephesians 4v4)

“”God-less

The God and Father of out Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1v3)

b. Enmity between God and man

God had put a difference between Jew and Gentiles, so that His purpose would be done. These differences were erased through the reconciliation of Jesus’ work.

Acts 15 – All people both Jew and Gentile need Jesus’ reconciliation.

3. Jesus’ Living Work

1. Jesus work has made

i both Jew and Gentile one (Ephesians 2v.14)

¨ “one new man” (Ephesians 2v.15)

¨ “one body” (Ephesians 2v.16)

¨ “one Spirit” (Ephesians 2v.18)

2. Jesus has made

i one nation (Ephesians 2v.19a)

ii one family (Ephesians 2v.19b)

iii one temple (Ephesians 2v20-22)

¨ God lived with His people (Exodus 25v8)

¨ God lived in His tabernacle (Exodus 25v8)

¨ God lived in His temple (1 Kings 8v1-11)

¨ God lived in Jesus (John 1v14)

¨ God lives in His people through the Holy Spirit that indwells us. (1 Corinthians 6v19-20)

¨ God lives in the church, His body (Ephesians 2v20-22)

3. Jesus is the chief cornerstone (Psalm118v22; Isaiah 8v14; Ephesians 2v21, 4v16)

A Cornerstone is the main part of a building and it holds the whole structure together. Jesus said in Matthew 16v18 “I will build my church”. Jesus Christ has united the Jews and Gentiles. Just as even though the universal church has many different denominations, Jesus Christ holds them together in unity. But how can we as Christian Disciples show unity when we have so many diverse parts to the church? Where does the source of authority for our unity lie?

Authority

By authority, I do not mean authoritarian, but rather total obedience to a power or force. However, the world today baulks at both. People constantly rebel against the authority of the Police and Government. Today, particularly in the Western world, the only authority a lot of people accept particularly in regards to morality and how to live is their own self-deducted authority.

As Christian Disciples, our supreme authority is to be God Himself. We are of course free to disobey His authority, but in doing so, ignore His better wisdom. When this occurs our conscience testifies that God’s authority regarding His wisdom and we repent of our disobedience.

Source of authority

So if God is to be our authority, where can this authority be found?

Historically, the church has had several sources of authority. There are the historical creeds and confessions such as the Apostles Creed and the Westminster Confession. Creeds are valuable in order to gain insight on Christian doctrine, but there are two main problems concerning ultimate authority. Firstly they are too general and in no way be used to fully explain Church doctrines and beliefs. Secondly, the creeds and confessions are under authority themselves as they are based on the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.

Then there is the “mind of the church”. This dictates that God’s mind & will can be discovered through opinion and consultation. This is of course, partly true. However, it is not our ultimate authority due to individual belief concerning such things as the sacraments, Spirit baptism and other doctrines. If there isn’t unity of mind on these things, then how can the church progress past the impasse?

Then of course there is experience in the life of the Christian Disciple. Whilst experiencing God is vital, how can we know our experiences are truly under His authority and not just our old sinful nature raising its head? Again it is not the ultimate authority, because many great Christian truths fall outside of personal experience.

Whilst the creeds, confessions and “church mind” are indicative of the historical Church, they are not of themselves to be our ultimate authority. God as Father, Son and Spirit are to be the ultimate authority for the Christian Disciple. This triune God is known through the Bible, and the Bible is our authority. It is God-breathed and is to be revered and obeyed. By submitting to the authority of Scripture, we bow the knee to the God who is alive in us through the indwelling Spirit. In doing so, we give authority to Jesus Christ, who has the “supremacy over all things” (Colossians 1v18). Before His ascension, He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28v18). As His Christian Disciples, Jesus Christ is to be our ultimate authority and the Bible reveals Him supremely to us.

For more to think about please do read John 17v6-25. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How can I exhibit unity with those I disagree with regarding points of bible teaching?

Q2. Are there those in my local church with whom I need to reconcile with?

Q3. What and who is the source of my authority as a Christian Disciple?

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Serving

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My apologies, but I mistakenly deleted the previous version of this Podcast...

66. Partake - The Christian Disciple and Serving (Re Record – dodgy voice)

Paul writing in Romans 12v4-5: Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”

As Christian Disciples, we are called to a life of serving God and other people. We are not alone, but part of a larger body where each member is called to perform a serving function. By serving others as Christian Disciples, it shows unity and solidarity to those outside of the church who frequently accuse the church of infighting and “devouring one another”. 

 

Serving

 

The Christian life is not to be static or inactive.  The Christian life is to be dynamic and active.  The word servant is key in Scripture.  It is used at least 500 times in its various derivations. When a Christian Disciple serves, God’s honour is released.    This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching.  That is to be our motive for service.  Serving is never to be about what the Christian Disciple can get out of it.  When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is the goal of a Christian Disciple’s life.  Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served.  This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more.  Jesus speaking in Matthew 25v15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless.  Serving others is a sign that the Christian Disciple is trusting God and having faith in God.  Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually mature Christian Disciple and through service, we reflect the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ, who came to serve and give his very life for others (Mark 10v45).  As Christian Disciples we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8v28; Philippians 2v5) and to serve.  Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3).  An excellent example to follow is that of Stephen in the Book of Acts. 

 

In serving others, we fulfil the command that Jesus gave to love God and love others.  Showing love and serving each other through our Spiritual Gifts and our giving achieves this aim of obedience to Jesus.

 

Spiritual Gifts

 

The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christian Disciples is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4v12), for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12v7, 14v12) and “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4v12).  These three reasons signify that God wants Christian Disciples to be active in service and not still like stagnant water.  That is why we have been given gifts and if these gifts are not used for God’s purposes, then they are utterly useless and meaningless. 

 

As Christian Disciples, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part.  That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God.  As all Christian Disciples have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4v14)!  God has called Christian Disciples and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected! 

 

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christian Disciples neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gift into flame (2 Timothy1v6).  Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire!  To do this Christian Disciples are to employ the gift faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and for the opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14v1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

 

Giving

 

Every person has in differing quantities time, possessions and money.  These things in and of themselves are not evil.  The whole Christian community is one that is to reflect the Holy Trinity.  The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members.  This applies not only to the local church, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well.  Too often as Christian Disciples we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence.  Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our world and local communities. 

 

Perhaps the greatest indicator of spiritual grown in the Christian Disciple concerns their financial giving. Paul writing to the Corinthians commands that giving be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9v7).  For the Christian Disciple, its not so much how much is given, but how much is left after giving.  God looks beyond the amount that is given to the motive behind the giving.  All our money and possessions belong to God anyway, so giving is to be in response to this.  Giving is to be done out of love for God.   Paul offers in 1 Corinthians 16v2 a three-point system for giving: regularly, methodically and proportionately. 

 

Failure to give back to God’s work what He has given the Christian Disciple in the first place, robs God (Malachi 3v8).  The reason it robs is because the giving cannot be used to support those who are working for God.  As a result of giving, the Christian Disciple will be blessed (Malachi 3v10) and have their needs satisfied (Philippians 4v19).

 

For more to think about please do read 2 Corinthians 9v6-8. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. Do I need to change my motivation for serving in any key area of my Christian Discipleship?

Q2. How can I serve others more?

Q3. When was the last time I reappraised my giving of money, possessions and time?

 

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk.  Thank you.

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