Summary: Jesus is the foundation of the Church. A unified church fortifies that foundation. How do we avoid causing division? How do we handle the divisive person? Check out these thoughts from our Family Minister, Scott Jewell.
(This is a sermon by our associate Scott Jewell concluding our sermon series "God's Blueprint For His Church")
Jeff started this series a month ago telling us about an episode of “This Old House”. It was about a young couple who purchased a 1906 church building in San Francisco to convert to a home. When they got inside, it was discovered that the foundation was bad- you may recall that the central beam was resting on a block of wood which was resting on a block of concrete which was resting on a half wall. Turns out that half wall was improperly constructed, especially being in an earthquake zone. They had to rebuild the wall, fortify it with plywood shear walls, then literally bolt the structure to the foundation so it would endure future earthquakes.
Why go back to Jeff’s opening illustration today? That’s what Paul did as he completed his letter to Titus. He had begun by pointing to Jesus as the foundation and now he returns to fortify the teachings of that foundation, promoting unity in the church. (read Titus 3:9)
To fortify the foundation- don’t get caught up in things that cause division. Satan is the Father of Lies and he knows if he can divide God’s people he can keep us off mission. Paul once again addresses false teachings meant to divide the church. He mentions "not so specifically" controversies, genealogies, arguments and quarrels of the law. I say not so specifically because it’s not immediately clear what these things are. From the cultural background, we see two groups trying to infiltrate and divide the church.
1. Jewish believers trying to impose Jewish ways upon Gentile believers. You’ve got to be circumcised, eat kosher, observe specific holy days.
2. Beginnings of Gnosticism are also seen taking root here: adding mythical names to the messianic genealogy- line of super Christians, maybe angels, tying themselves to Jesus.
I don't want to dwell on this aspect too long because, as Paul says, these discussions are unprofitable and useless.
The Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have adopted an excellent slogan that pertains to this: In essentials, unity…in opinion, liberty…in all things, love. So what are the things that are essential to our faith, on which things must we stand? Here are the things that we hold to be true- listed on our website (churchchrist.net)- about us- we believe…
...the Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16),
"a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105)
...forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life are available to those who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior (John 3:16)
...the church is the body of Christ on earth and exists to save the lost and build up the saved. (Ephesians 4:1-16)
...Jesus will return soon to judge the earth & make a new home for those who belong to Him (2 Peter 3:9-13)
And what matters should we consider to be matters of opinion? Short answer- nearly everything else, yet we often let ourselves get caught up majoring in the minors. In our own movement- splits over instruments, missions, musical style, chairs, carpet. I even know of once church that couldn't agree on the color of the roof shingles, so they made one side green and one side red and to my knowledge they still sit on the side where they know their color is over the ceiling, even though they can't see it.
It is the last part of the saying that helps us avoid the unprofitable and useless discussion- in all things love. Iron sharpens iron- it’s good to hash things out from time to time. It’s when we forget to season our conversations with the love of God that we run into problems. We need to remember that we’re on the same side- God’s winning team- as we discuss. Captain America: Civil War- Avengers have a falling out over who controls and holds group accountable. An epic fight takes place between Team Iron Man and Team Captain Rogers at an airport. As the battle rages around them, Hawkeye pins Black Widow to the ground. She asks, “We’re still friends, right?” He answers, “Depends on how hard you hit me.” You see, as Jeff showed us last week, we are all a part of God’s winning team. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll agree on every last point. On same team- how we act as we disagree is just as important as what we disagree about. At the end of the discussion, need to be able to take off the gloves and shake hands as brothers.