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A Proposal for Unity: Conclusion

September 13, 2007

Over the past few weeks I have posted a series of articles proposing an approach for achieving unity among Christians;

Introduction
Part 1: One Body
Part 2: Congregational Relationships
Part 3: The Bible
Part 4: Silence of the Scriptures
Part 5: Authority of the Scriptures
Part 6: Accept One Another
Part 7: Freedom to Grow

Acts 2:38-39 contains a promise of forgiveness upon repentance and baptism. The passage clearly states that the promise applies to “all whom the Lord our God will call.” Gal 3:26-28 confirms that those who respond to this promise become sons of God, and are “one in Christ Jesus.” On that basis, we become part of the body of Christ. Therefore each of us should accept all the other members of the same body.

While we assemble in various separate congregations in different places, Christians should accept one another even across those congregational boundaries. Yet we should respect those congregational boundaries when it comes to matters of judgment and differing convictions on peripheral matters. God places leadership in the local congregation, and God will hold that leadership accountable for that flock. We can encourage one another across those congregational lines, urging one another to live lives worthy of the calling we have received. But we must not draw lines of fellowship excluding people who have been adopted by God according to the scriptures, even if they do some things differently from us, and even if they understand some things differently from us. It is before their Lord that they will stand or fall, and we are not to pass judgment on them (Rom 14:4)

As people move back and forth between congregations, we must accept them on the same basis that God did. If they were adopted as sons of God according to the scriptures, we are to accept them accordingly. Likewise, those entering a new congregation are to respect the leaders God has placed in that congregation, even though they may do some things differently from other congregations.

Matters on which the scriptures are silent must not be permitted to divide Christians. Such topics have been the root of innumerable divisions over the past five hundred years, and that needs to change. We should not insist that silence is prohibitive, nor that it is permissive. Silence by itself is not sufficient grounds for prohibiting a practice, because silence does not tell us anything about God’s will. Silence is silent. Prohibiting a practice requires other sound biblical reasons based on what the scriptures actually say.

The scriptures are the only source of divine instruction available to the church today. It is the duty of each Christian, and each church leader, to seek to understand and to follow the will of God revealed in the scriptures. In doing so, we must recognize our own fallibility as well as that of our fellow Christians. Unless the scriptures explicitly make a certain matter essential to salvation, we must not presume to do that ourselves.

It is not just a good idea for Christians to accept one another. It is the clear command of God. Failure to accept those whom God has accepted is direct disobedience to our Lord’s command. Therefore, no division is permissible which is not explicitly commanded in the scriptures.

The Christian church must be a safe place to learn and to grow. So we must protect those who understand some things differently from us. Everyone must be given time and space so the Lord can work. Remember, the Lord is able to make each of us stand.

My hope is that this series of articles will start a new conversation leading to humility, gentleness, and peace among Christians. Our Lord is still at work in the church. May we have faith in God who will make us all stand united together!

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4 comments

  1. Here is a great article making many of these same points, from an elder in a mainline church of Christ. I love finding others who are saying these things!


  2. Alan, this series was quite an undertaking. I would encourage you to publish it in book form.Why aren’t these principles generally followed? Fear, focus (narrow) and fallacies are the top three inhibitors of faithful dialog and fruitful cooperation. There is a fear we will lose control over our ministries. We are narrowly focused on “our” ministry that we don’t see the need for unity. Finally we don’t really know what is going on in “the other church”, so we believe what we hear; which is generally false. All three of these are symptoms of short sightedness and small faith. I pray and hope that, as a group, Restoration Movement churches can have the scales drop off their eyes and will see the importance of unity. Sincerely, Phil RestorationUnity.com


  3. Hi Phil,I’ve given your suggestion some thought. I think writing a book is out-of-scope for me until I retire from my day job. There just aren’t enough hours in a week to be an elder and write a book, and hold down a full time secular job.


  4. Alan,I have loved your series and pray that it will start a discussion that will be lead by the spirit and open diologe to unity. God bless you brother as I know your heart as well as mine desires such Christian unity. It has been a wonderful series.



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