Summary: A study of pitch, roll, and yaw in the New Testament church.

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Colossians, 1 Corinthians, & Galatians

Theme: Inattention to the different forces acting upon Christianity puts to risk the unity of the saints.




It was reported that the pilot of a NATO F-16 aircraft in Turkey was taking a leak into the fighter-jet equivalent of a urinal when somehow it got tangled with his seatbelt and joystick. The result? The jet slammed into the side of a mountain, and the pilot paid with his life for that moment of piddlebag distraction. It is also fairly easy to make a wreck of Christian unity, if we don't pay attention to how we pilot our lives. I'm told that there are traditionally three ways this happens with a plane. First, you can point the plane's nose up or down by pulling or pushing the yoke; second, you can control the roll of the plane by turning the yoke just as you would a steering wheel; and third, you can steer the plane's path to the right or left by moving the pedals with your feet. Colossians 3:15 says that each of us is a part of Christ's body, and that we were chosen to live together in peace. It is interesting that three of Paul's epistles (Colossians, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians) reflect movements and tensions similar to those in aeronautics.

I. PITCH (rotation on the lateral axis, nose up or nose down)--the "Colossian Force"

[Explanation: Going up and up is not always a happy thing for a plane. The engine could stall, and then the whole plane could slide earthwards in what is known as a tailspin. The result can be disastrous.]

Descriptors: False teaching that we should pursue the "richer/deeper/fuller/victorious" life, a spirituality beyond the fulness of Christ; it is a force originating from within one's self/psyche.

How it was practised:

Going beyond Christ and right living (2:8f.)

Angel worship and angels (2:18)

[Illustration: Untethered from the Scriptures, there's no limit to the heresies one can engage in. Examples include veneration and hyperveneration of deceased personalities; the quest for mystical, New Age-like inner light; ascetic practices to generate a spiritual "high," etc. Moderns, too, need to heed the point that Christ is the all-sufficient end.]

II. ROLL (rotation on the longitudinal axis, wings tipping up or down)--the "Corinthian Force"

Descriptors: Church politics dominate, fracturing the unity of the church body; it is a force originating from within the church.

How it was practised:

Party politics (1:10f.)

Sniping at genuinely God-called leaders (4:9f.; 9:3f.)

Blatantly disobedient members tolerated (5:1f.)

Mutual suing (6:1f.)

Ostentatious display of spiritual gifts (12-14)

[Illustration: Politics is a bad word, more so in church. Preachers insisting on the reliability of the Bible in denominational churches at the height of the modernist/fundamentalist controversy are known to have their salaries cut or thrown out of their congregations. Nor is such competition lacking more recently, when health and wealth televangelists attempt to outdo one another in terms of multimillion-dollar projects attempted.]

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