Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Disunity in the Church - Part Two

Philippians 2:1-2
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
For all the good things the church of Philippi had going for it, you’d think things were looking rosy. But, they did have some serious disunity, which is why Paul had to remind them to be “like minded,” and to be “of one accord.” Therefore, it was a church in danger. Disunity is always a danger to a church.

William Barclay observed: “The one danger that threatens the Philippian church was that of disunity. There is a sense in which that is the danger of every healthy church. It is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, that they are apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide.”

Barclay is right! Quite frankly, nothing gets us so riled up, nothing gets our passions aroused more, than to have someone challenge us over a power or control issue, even over some of the silliest preferences. We can all say, “Been there, done that!” We all can use this admonition to unity.

Now, Paul isn’t asking us to be carbon copies of one another. We aren’t all cut out with the same cookie cutter. This is talking about unity, not uniformity. Uniformity is forced compliance, by rules and regulations, by peer pressure, or even at gunpoint. It comes from the word, uniform, where we dress alike, talk alike, act alike, and think alike. That’s not what Paul is demanding that we be. I don’t even think that’s healthy.

It’s not uniformity we’re looking for, but unity. Unity comes from deep within us. It is our inner desire to live our life in a cooperative manner - to participate on the same team, working toward the same objectives. But we’re not working on my objectives or your objectives, we want to cooperate with Christ. We want to be on His team and accomplish His objectives. That should be our goal.

“Being like minded” means to think the same thing, not about everything, but about Christ, about His truth, and about His will. It is striving together to achieve a common understanding and a genuine agreement. It is working together to find God’s truth, and to find God’s will. And then we all do it together.

God doesn’t have a divided will, does He? So if we can’t agree on a course, one of us, if not both of us, has missed finding God’s will. At least one of us is wrong and pushing the wrong agenda. The answer is to keep looking till we both come to it. Keep praying together until God brings you into sweet unity.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Disunity, the Greatest Hindrance to the Gospel

Philippians 2:1-2
1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
As we start Philippians chapter two, notice that it begins with the word, “therefore.” Whenever you see a “therefore,” you always have to look to see what the “therefore” is there for. “Therefore” always refers back to what was written before; and it means, in light of all we’ve discussed to this point, now “therefore.” So we can’t take this out of the context of chapter one. Indeed, chapter breaks, and not even verse designations were in the original text. It all flowed together as one unified letter. So, just consider this a continuation of the ideas that Paul presented in chapter one.

Then, after the word “therefore,” Paul says, “if.” But this isn’t a conditional “if;” not according to Greek grammar. None of the things Paul lists are conditional, so we need to read this as if it were saying “since:” “Therefore [since] there is any consolation in Christ, [since] any comfort of love, [since] any fellowship of the Spirit, [since] any affection and mercy.”

All of those things are true, aren’t they? Have you ever been consoled by Christ? Have you ever been comforted by love? Have you ever had any fellowship with God through His Spirit or His people? Have you ever experienced affection and mercy? Of course, you have as a believer. And since you have, then what are you supposed to do?

The answer is found in Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul says, “Fulfill my joy,” or as the New American Standard says, “Make my joy complete.” If there is one thing the Philippians could do to make Paul happy, this is it. This one thing could fill up his cup of joy. It’s that the Philippians would have unity. And by extension, as another church reading this letter, that we also would have unity.

Let’s think about this concept for a minute, and let’s think about it in the context of chapter one, since this section started off with, “therefore.” What has Paul’s theme been? Sure, I know, it’s been joy. But specifically, what made Paul joyous?
Look back at Philippians 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

What brought Paul the greatest joy? It was to have the Gospel preached. So, think about it: What things can hinder the preaching of the Gospel? Well, certainly persecution can, we’d think? Paul had been arrested and thrown in prison, right? That ought to bring his preaching to a screeching halt. Oh, but remember, that didn’t stop the Gospel. Philippians 1:12 assured us, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” The persecution didn’t hurt, it helped.

Paul even told us that persecution was a gift from God to us in Philippians 1:29,
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Persecution does not hurt the church, rather it strengthens the church.

So what hurts the church? What is Paul concerned about? What hinders the spread of the gospel? The answer is: disunity, the very opposite of the way Paul begs them to be in Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Of all the things that can destroy the ministry and the outreach of a church, disunity is at the top of the list. And by disunity, we’re not talking about the necessary battles against false doctrine; but we’re talking about the preference differences that people like to make into such a big deal.

Isn’t this typical in churches? What I want is more important than what you want, we think; so I will go to battle against you to get my own way. We will go to the mat, tooth and nail, to see whose will wins. But, that, my friend, is sin. And our battles over personal preferences or personal slights are what often split a church. And it doesn’t take many bad apples to spoil the whole barrel. It just takes a couple of strong willed individuals to go at it toe to toe, and the rest start to take sides.

In Philippi, there were two strong women going at it, and so Paul warns them, in Philippians 4:2-3, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.”

He urges others in the congregation to help them make peace. These women had been a great help to Paul at one time in the ministry of the Gospel, but now they needed help because they couldn’t seem to get along, and it was threatening the church. That kind of bickering threatens any church. And this is exactly what Paul is addressing here. This is exactly why we must continually strive to be “like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Quoting John MacArthur:
“Perhaps the greatest danger facing the church is an attack on its source of authority, namely, the Word of God. . . . Equally to be feared is whatever attacks the unity of the church. All of these can disrupt, weaken and destroy a church by causing discord, disharmony, conflict, and division. . . . A divided, fractious, and bickering church . . offers little threat to the devil’s work and has little power for advancing the gospel of Christ.”

Don’t you be one of those who help to fracture your church. Instead, be a peacemaker.