Friday, March 7, 2014

United With Whom? With Everybody?

Jesus Christ calls his body to be united. This is undeniably clear based on text after text in the New Testament. John chapter 17 is probably the prime example, but there are many others. In light of this, with whom exactly are we to be united? Is it only with Christians in our local church family? Is it with all believers in a denomination? Is it Christians we get together with to care for the poor and/or reach the lost? Is it all believers? Is it simply everybody?

In I Peter 3:8, Peter writes, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." Peter is writing to persecuted Christians over a fairly wide area. He instructs them to have "unity of mind." The apostle puts no restrictions on this; he's writing to Christians everywhere. This indicates that all the Christians who receive this letter are to be united.

But how do we know people are truly Christians? We know that some who say very positive things about Jesus are not, in fact, part of his body. Mormons are a prime example of this. Frankly, so are some people who sit in pews on Sunday mornings. What do we do about this?

In Matthew 10:16 we read, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." The context of that verse is persecution. However, a principle we can pull from it is that we are to be wise in our dealings with others.

Another helpful passage is I John 4:1-3. John writes, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already." We are to test the spirits. Anyone who denies core doctrines of the faith is not a believer. For example, if someone denies that Jesus Christ is the son of God, then he doesn't truly know him.

To balance the above verses we must also remember Matthew 7:1 which tells us, "Judge not, that you be not judged." We must avoid a tendency to be too judgmental when dealing with others. Just because someone does not fit our exact definition of what a Christian should be, should do, and should look like does not mean that person is not a follower of Jesus.

Where does this take us? I believe a wise principle is to give others the benefit of the doubt when it comes to knowing Jesus. If someone says he loves the Lord then we must take this at face value. Only after that individual gives reason to disbelieve him should we call his salvation into question. Let's be gracious in this. It's not our job to be the salvation police.

With whom, then, are we to be united? This is a bit of a trick question. It is actually Jesus Christ himself who has united his body. We are, therefore, in fact united. It is our duty to simply live out this wonderful truth. This encompasses anyone and everyone who loves Jesus Christ.


Steve Scott said...

Eric, I would submit to you that Matt 7:1 has a different meaning. It's not about being "too" judgmental. It's about being consistent with judgment. If you take the context through verse 5 I think you might see that it is about not holding double standards in judging others, and not about judging in the first place.

John 7:24 says, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." In this verse we are COMMANDED to judge. So, if our judgment is righteous, then it is never "too" judgmental.

And this leads me to my agreement with you that we shouldn't be the salvation police. Christians can sin, and sin horribly, and we can judge their sin as the horrible sin that it is, and yet they can still be saved and be true Christians.

Eric said...


Well said. We must avoid the salvation police, but especially avoid becoming the salvation police ourselves. Often times we meet the enemy and he is us.