The Scattered but United Church

 

Tongues of Fire

Biblical unity is not organizational unity, but a spiritual  one. Jesus did not intend the church to be centralized under Peter. Paul doesn't mention Peter as the one who sent and commissioned him. In fact he writes,

"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called [me] through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those [who were] apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus." (Gal.1:15-17)

And again, "But from those who seemed to be something -- whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man -- for those who seemed [to be something] added nothing to me." (Gal.2:6)

The church was meant to be scattered and not just confined to Jerusalem. That is the vision of Acts 1:8 that when the Holy Spirit had come, they would receive power and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. That is the beauty of Pentecost that transcends the linguistic barriers of disunity through the Holy Spirit and puts an end to the Babel confusion that resulted from anti-biblical unity. My professor of Acts, Dr. Daryl Merrill Sr. would often say, "Acts 1:8 was fulfilled in Acts 8:1". The disciples were confined to Jerusalem until persecution arose and drove them farther off.

The greatest bane to the Christian phenomenon is trying to centralize the church and all ministries. Nothing is more antichristian than trying to hijack the church phenomenon and consider only oneself or one's own group as the only genuine, legitimate, and authoritative seat of the Holy Spirit. This is idolatry. The Catholic Church and, later, many different forms of denominational churches and groupings, in time past, have committed the sin of trying to discredit someone who wasn't like them or "under them" or "one of them" as being heretical or strange or illegitimate. But, Jesus told His disciples to not stop someone who wasn't with them but was still casting demons in Jesus' name; for, He said, he that is not against us is with us (Lk.9:50). Did Jesus personally commission this guy like He commissioned the Twelve? Did Peter or the Twelve appoint Paul? Certainly not. But, this is the essence of understanding Christ as the Lord even of the OT saints and those who haven't been evangelized yet. Those who are not against Him are with Him.

Dr. Matthew K. Thomas, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church at Itarsi and Chairman of Fellowship Churches of India, once said, "My ambition is not to build a denomination, but to lift the Lord Jesus Christ." 

While there is temptation for groups to want to identify with names and big names, one must not forget that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and not subject to any organization or name or movement. It is pharisaic to try to discredit others on the basis of human laws and traditions. While one does need to organize--local churches and ministries of the apostles were organized-- it is anti-Spirit to tribalize and communalize the church and Christian ministry. This applies also to denominational and theological accreditation groups.

The beauty of the church is that she is diverse and yet one, not in the sense of members looking similar to each other, but all joined to the one Head, Christ. And, the church is meant to go out into all the world and spread over and replenish the earth.

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