When I put feet to my faith and decided to take my faith seriously by stepping outside my Baptist cocoon, I found Anglicans, Brethrens, Catholics, Charismatics, Lutherans, Mennonites, Messianics, Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, and Reformists who love God and call upon Jesus as Lord and Saviour. At first it really messed me up. It tore down my theological and doctrinal walls and laid my self-righteous assurance in ruins. In time, God lead me to understand that His Kingdom is not confined to the narrow view so many of us hold of Christiandom. He taught me what it really means to be Christian ... to be a Christ follower and that it is by His sovereign design that His Church ... the "Church Universal" ... the "Body of Christ" ... "the Body of All Believers" is filled with diversity. Diversity that is unified by "THE FAITH GIVEN ONCE FOR ALL" (Jude 1:3)! In the end, I emerged with a stronger faith that is not tossed to and fro in controversy and uncertainties ... "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Eph 4:14b - NKJV).
The problem I had was that I did not truly know what "THE FAITH" truly is. I was caught up in what Paul calls "disputable matters" and could not see beyond my own nose to grasp the fullness of His Kingdom. The loss was entirely mine because God's sovereign Will and His Kingdom is not thwarted in spite of my narrowness of vision. Indeed, His Will, His Kingdom, and His Eternal Design for all creation will not for one moment or one micron be diverted even if all believers were to remain so blinded. For that matter, it would matter not if none believed! In the end, "His Kingdom will come, and His Will will be done" (paraphrase Matthew 6:10).
So why this blog? If indeed, that God's Will, His Kingdom, and His Design will come in spite of our inter-denominational bickering, why bother? To this I have but one answer, obedience. For reasons beyond our understanding, God has chosen to work through us. He has chosen that we be the bearers of the Gospel and that we be the salt and the light. Yes, it is He who will draw men and women to Him and it is He who convicts, but by His sovereign Will, He has chosen us to be His vessels and has given to us His Great Commandment and Commission. These are things that we cannot take lightly.
So what is "The Faith given once for all?" What are the essentials that demand unity? First and foremost, Paul in Ephesians 4 declares:
|1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. -- Eph 4:1-6 (NKJV)|
ONE BODY Regardless of our local church affiliation or denomination, all believers are part of the Body of Christ, the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not matter how we worship or how we govern ourselves, if we have pastors or elders, or priests, if we kneel to pray or if we raise our hands, if we immerse or sprinkle, all who call upon the name of Christ as Lord and Saviour is part of that Body. God is not concerned if we meet in cathedrals, community halls, or in our homes, His Scripture declares that we must not forsake the gathering of believers and in those Scriptures He speaks often of members of His Body working together, respecting differences, building each other up, helping one another. For those who have chosen to abandon the church, where in all of Scripture does God tell us to abandon the church (or temple)? Do not use the excuse that the church has become "institutionalized" because it was God who established the priesthood in the Old and New Testament. From the very beginning, there were Apostles, teachers, elders, and deacons. It was He who chose to establish a hierarchy within the church and by it organization. Do not use the excuse that the church has sinned as your excuse to abandon the church. The nation of Israel has strayed repeatedly, His temple had fallen literally and spiritually over and over again, yet find one instance where God had commanded that His people should abandon His house of worship. Some have abandoned the church because they see a return to the first Century church, the supposed perfect church. These should really pay more attention to Epistles. Every one of the Epistles were written because there were problems and sin in the churches that they were written to. I wrote about this in my blog "The Perfect First Century Church? Enough Already!" I will repeat what I had said then, "Dear brothers and sisters in Christ consider with care, to what ends we rail ... towards repentance and revival ... towards the restoration of the bride? Or towards the forsaking of the gathering of believers?" Abandoning the church destroys unity. Disparaging other churches and denominations destroys unity. Attacking the church is an attack on the Body of Christ and by extension an attack on God. Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we should not call our churches and our leaders to account if they preach falsely, nor am I suggesting that we should not call the church to repentance. Yet, think again, when in all of all Scripture does God ever tell His people to abandon His Tabernacle, His Temple, His Church? We all know what ails the Church ... do something about it! Work towards repentance, work towards restoration, work towards redemption. Call for a return to the Gospel, a return to holiness, a return to our first love, a return to Christ. All these have ever been the call and instruction of Scripture. Work to build unity! The battle is joined and the battle is out there between the Bride of Christ and the world which is ruled by Satan, the prince of this world. Be wise, discern wolves among us but let us not mistake sheep of a different colour for wolves as well.
ONE SPIRIT From the very beginning our Triune God has worked through His Holy Spirit in the lives and hearts of men and women. Other than the fruits of the Spirit which are, the nine fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23, God has chosen to manifest the Holy Spirit differently in different individuals. One should note that Galatians 5:22-23 reads:
|22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. -- KJV|
- Love - Agape: It is an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest and the best for the other, regardless of the other's behaviour or response. It is a self-giving, self sacrificing love that seeks nothing in return. It is a love that does not consider thw worthiness of that which is loved. Agape is a love by choice, it refers to the will rather than the emotion. Agape describes the unconditional love God has for the world.
- Joy - Chara: The Greek word chara is derived from the word charis or grace. What this means is that the joy is produced by the grace of God and has little to do with the condition we call happiness. It flourishes best in the face of trials and tribulation and it stands steadfast in spite of emotions. 1 Thess. 3:6 declares: "And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit" and Nehemiah reminds us "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh 8:10 - NKJV)
- Peace - Eirene: According to Rick Renner, author of Sparkling Gems from the Greek., (Teach All Nations, 2007), "the word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-wracking, traumatic, or upsetting...Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing." In other words, peace is the result of resting in a relationship with God. Peace is a tranquility, a state of rest, that comes from seeking after God. It comes from Christ who is The Prince Of Peace who through His sacrifice brought peace between us who were once God's enemies.
- Patience - makrothumia: Patience, which is also translated as longsuffering" or "endurance," is defined in Strong's by two Greek words, makrothumia and hupomone.
The first, pronounced (mak-roth-oo-mee-ah) comes from makros, "long," and thumos, "temper." The word denotes lenience, forbearance, fortitude, patient endurance, longsuffering. Also included in makrothumia is the ability to endure persecution and ill-treatment. It describes a person who has the power to exercise revenge but instead exercises restraint. (Strong's #3115)
The latter, hupomone, (hoop-om-on-ay) is translated "endurance": Constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, patient endurance. The word combines hupo, "under," and mone, "to remain." It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat. (Strong's #5281)
Hebrews 10:36 says, "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised." (Heb 10:36). Paul in Col 1:9-12 reminds us, "9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light." In Paul's exhortation for unity in Eph 4:2 he stresses, "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love".
- Kindness - Chrestotes: Kindness is not just being nice. Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do.
Strong defines kindness as: Kindness is goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The Holy Spirit removes abrasive qualities from the character of one under His control. (Strong's #5544) In other words, the word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience.
The word kindness comes from the Greek word chrestotes (khray-stot-ace), which meant to show kindness or to be friendly to others and often depicted rulers, governors, or people who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, or gentle. The apostle Paul uses this word to depict God's incomprehensible kindness for people who are unsaved (Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:11).
When the word chrestotes is applied to interpersonal relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly requiring everyone else to adapt to our own needs and desires, when chrestotes is working in a believer, we seek to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around us. (Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner)
Hence, kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without desire for acknowledgement or reward. It implies kindness no matter what. Paul tells us that we should live "by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left...". (2 Cor 6:6-7).
- Goodness - Agathosune: We often use the word "righteousness" without fully understanding what it truly means. In essence, the word agathosune denote the state or quality of being good which includes moral excellence and virtue. It is to be understood in conjunction with kindness and generosity. It is the best part of anything and carries with it an essential character that is in essence - strength. Goodness is Biblical righteousness and is recognized in quality and/or conduct of character.
2 Thess 1:11 declares: "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power." Hence goodness comes from God as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5:9)
- Faithfulness - Pistis: Faithfulness is committing oneself to something or someone, for instance, to one's spouse, to a cause, or to a religion. Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises. It's not always easy to be faithful. Christian faith requires trust in God. "O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth". (Isaiah 25:1) Paul reminds us, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith".(Eph 3:16-17)
We MUST remember that our faith is not our own, it is a gift from God. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews describes it this way: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2)
- Gentleness - Prautes: Prautes, is also translated as meekness. The New Spirit Filled Life Bible defines gentleness as: "a disposition that is even-tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, unpretentious, and that has the passions under control. The word is best translated 'meekness,' not as an indication of weakness, but of power and strength under control. The person who possesses this quality pardons injuries, corrects faults, and rules his own spirit well." That same word is found in Gal 6:1 which states "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." (See also Eph 4:2)
- Self-control - Egkrateia: The Greek word "egkrateia" means having command or "mastery over" (krat- as in "autocrat"), or possession of, "one's own behavior." 2 Peter 1:5-7 declares: "...make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love."
- Kindness - Chrestotes: Kindness is not just being nice. Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do.
These are the fruits of the Spirit and they are the evidence that mark one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, we have confused the gifts of the Spirit with the fruits. Gifts are given by God's good pleasure for the purpose of His Kingdom. They are NOT guaranteed to all believers. Scripture is clear on this, some are given to be teachers, some prophets ...
|11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- 16 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. (Eph 4:11-16 - NKJV)|
|1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. -- 1 Cor 12:1-11|
We have become obsessed with the gifts and I cannot help but wonder if we have not begun to worship the gifts rather than the Giver of the gifts. We make mean spirited and ignorant declarations that some believers and by extension churches and denominations to be powerless because we do not seek evidence in the FRUITS given to ALL but rather the GIFTS give to SOME. In so doing we sow discord and disunity in the Body of Christ. We cite Scripture taken out of context saying unequivocally that the Gifts of the Spirit are given to all believers, even to the extent of suggesting that all we have to do is believe and ask ... in essence, demand, that they be given to us. Unknowingly, we have bought into a form of the apostasy of the Gnostics that teaches that our spirituality and path to holiness is based upon some secret formula, ritual, or way of believing and living that we can invoke to "make" God do what we wish. We have made a mockery of the sovereignty of God and some have even taught that we should never pray "if it is Thy will" as if our will would supersede the Will of God. Read once more the words in bold in 1 Cor 12:11 cited above! Remember that it is our Lord who when asked how we should pray, began with "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done."! Do we for one instance think that how we live, what we believe, how holy, how obedient, how righteous we are are would be the criteria by which we can invoke God's dispensation of His power? Is He some automaton, some mindless force, that has no recourse but to act based upon what buttons we push? Where is our fear of the Lord? Should we not live, believe, be obedient striving towards holiness and righteousness be what we should be doing simply because He is? Where is our love? What is it? Why do we persist in cheapening our love for the Lord by expecting rewards? Is our salvation not sufficient? Is grace not enough? Why are we lacking in power? Could it be that it is power that we worship? Could it be the disunity we sow based upon a very flawed understanding of the promise of Scripture?
ONE HOPE to be continued in "Part 2" .