Summary: A look at what makes a church healthy and unified.
The Church - Unity
October 18, 2015
For the past 5 weeks we’ve been looking at the church and what it means to be a unified church. It’s very easy for a church to become distracted with what is not essential. I know you’re getting sick of this quote, but I have found it to be so true about all of life ~
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
That’s a great reminder for us. What are the essentials in life? It’s true at home, at work, in school, at church. What are the essentials? What is our common ground? You know how easy it is to lose focus, get a group of people together and before you know it the focus of the conversation dramatically shifts.
At times the early church was stuck in disputing the nonessentials. Paul addressed this in Romans 14-15. Last week we began to look at the source of the problem. People were disagreeing on foods that could be eaten and on what were the right days to worship. Paul gives us the problem in 2 verses. Romans 14:2 and 5 tell us ~ 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.
So, this was the issue. It’s about dietary restrictions and the observance of certain days or festivals.
So, here is the issue. One group had a weaker faith, the other a stronger faith. Paul was telling them both, neither of them are wrong, but they are still arguing within the church over who is right.
It’s easy for this to occur, because when we voice our opinions, we like to think we are right, otherwise, I would think most of us would keep our mouths closed!
Paul’s goal was to help the church learn how to live out the gospel when they had different opinions. Paul tells us in verse 3 ~
3 Let not the one who eats DESPISE the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains PASS JUDGMENT on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. – Romans 14:3
The two sins issues are despising and judging one another. Both are rooted in pride and self righteousness. The stronger one can be tempted to despise or look down on the weaker one. He can view the weaker brother as morally inferior, uninformed, and stuck in old ways. He can be viewed with contempt and disdain instead of with patience and compassion.
While the weaker one begins to pass judgement on the stronger one. So, the talking behind the scenes begins as they judge and quarrel with the stronger faith.
Notice those last words of verse 3. God has welcomed both! They are now brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if they have different opinions — and remember opinions are simply self based thoughts by those who think they are wise.
This all leads us to last week, and I know this is a major review, but it is so important wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
We often believe our preferences and convictions are absolutes. Yet, they are not! We need to realize that. It’s vital wherever we are, whatever we do. Whether at home, in school, at work, in church . . . wherever. Understanding the difference in all 3 is crucial to how we view and treat others.
Again, last week I spoke about the difference between
Absolutes define the essence of the Christian life. You must believe these in order to be a Christian. We call them ABSOLUTE TRUTH. It is absolute that you must proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God, the Messiah. You must believe He died for our sins, so we could be forgiven, and He rose from the dead. Those are absolutes. There really is no room for a discussion on this.
Then we have convictions.
Convictions are strongly held scriptural beliefs. A conviction is a firm or fixed belief. Examples of convictions would be the belief that people should join a church to become members, that people should be baptize after they believe in Jesus. These may be convictions, but I’m not going to battle over these.
The last section would be PREFERENCES.
Preferences are simply our opinions. These are less-clear. We have lots of preferences. Some would rather be in warm weather, others in cold. Some chocolate, others vanilla. Some prefer a truck, others a car. It’s a matter of preference. It’s your opinion, based on your likes and wants. That’s it.
Here’s where the problems come in, and this was the problem in the early church.
Too many people take their preferences and treat them like an absolute. This is where legalism, self-righteousness and arrogance come in.