Summary: Presented at the Uncompahgre Baptist Association Annual Exec. Board Meeting, in Paonia, CO, Sept. 14, 2002
“And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
The way to begin a sermon on Scriptural unity, I think, is to define the Christian. After all, there is no Scriptural unity in anyone or between any people who are not Christians, so if we are to discuss Scriptural unity, we need to make clear from the outset just what a Scriptural Christian is.
C. H. MacKintosh describes him this way;
“A Christian is one whose sins are forgiven, who possesses eternal life, and knows it; in whom the Holy Ghost dwells; he is accepted in and associated with a risen and glorified Christ; he has broken with the world, is dead to sin and the law, and finds his object and his delight, and his spiritual sustenance, in the Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him, and for whose coming he waits everyday of his life. This...is the New Testament description of a Christian.”
Now if we are to be realistic and not bury our heads in the proverbial sand, we have to acknowledge that there is such thing, however you label him, as what I call the ‘cultural christian’.
A cultural christian is the person who has entered the church for some purely human motive. Seeking fulfillment, meeting an emotional need; I suppose they are many. But the fact is that there has never been true repentance for sin, there has never been a work of regeneration done; yet this person has found the church environment comfortable and has stayed. In some cases, the cultural christian has been around so long and been so successful in looking like a Christian on the outside, that he or she has risen to a place of prominence and leadership in the church; and no one but God knows that person is spiritually dead.
Of course, if we were to follow the admonition of Jesus, we would observe their fruit over time and realize that nothing of an eternal value comes from them.
Now, I am well aware; all too aware, that true Believers often act according to the flesh, and not all the problems in the church are caused by these cultural christians. Otherwise there would be no exhortation in scripture to confess our sins, with the promise that out of God’s faithfulness and according to righteousness, forgiveness would flow out to us from Him.
Nevertheless, people who have deceived themselves into thinking they are Christians because they have made their lives so significantly linked to the church and yet have never known Him, are in our midst, and unfortunately, they often have a very strong influence over the inner workings of a church. Especially if a church has left its moorings and begun to be run as a business instead of a spiritual house.
And that does happen; it is our tendency unless we stay always vigilant, for the sin nature to ease us way from our true course.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;” - Robinson
But the nominal christians are there, and it will be to them, sadly that in the end Christ will say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you”; those whose self-deception is made apparent by their claim to heaven based on works they have done.
This distinction I’ve made is important you see, because the difference between the cultural christian and the Scriptural Christian is life and death. In the same way, there is a sort of cultural unity; the kind of unity men everywhere talk about and generally agree upon, that extends itself even into the church. But it is not the kind of unity the New Testament teaches, and again, the difference is life and death.
Therefore, in truth, the terms ‘cultural christianity’ and ‘cultural unity’ are misnomers. Sort of like saying ‘Grape Nuts’. They’re not really grapes, and not really nuts.
I want to take these two verses today, and break them down and study them phrase by phrase, and ask the Spirit to let us see that the only unity that is scriptural is the kind He creates; and that indeed, true believers are the only ones who can possibly have it, and that is why we are exhorted to diligently preserve it in a bond of peace.