Together for the Gospel

Posted: June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

What is it that brings true and lasting unity to a group of sinners and how do we as a church maintain it? Because there is now doubting the fact that genuine unity is very precious, but here’s the thing, it is never meant to be pursued at the expense of truth. For example, when Jesus prayed for unity, He did so after asking His Father that we, His children, would be sanctified, or set apart, by the truth (John 17:17-21).

The church then is meant to be a picture of this… of a group of people who by grace and in truth have been set apart in a diverse unity.  It is to be a place where we come together for the gospel. As Mark Dever has said, “When the Gospel enables us to live in love, even though we may have nothing else in common save Christ, it is a testimony to its power to transform a group of sinful, self-centered people into a loving community united by a common relationship with Jesus Christ.”

This is why I personally appreciate the work and efforts of such cross denominational organizations as The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. Because they seek to pursue this unity in and through the gospel. Because that is what it is ultimately based on. Unity is based on and rooted in the truth of the gospel. These two things go hand in hand… it is not one at the expense of the other. Rather it is unity created and maintained by the truth. Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, a Council member with The Gospel Coalition, explains:

Unity is precious in proportion to the truth on which it’s based.  Truth is precious even where there is no unity.  Even when truth divides it remains precious. We habitually forget what divine favors flow from locking arms in the truth. [Here are] a few things that spring from theological unity in the truth:

Happiness.  Theological unity leads to happiness.  Think about it.  The persons we’re most likely to rejoice with are the persons who love and understand God the way we do.  Our joy is increased by our common embrace of the truth about God.  The more important the truth, the more important the unity, and the more glorious the happiness of our fellowship.

Trust.  Where theological unity exists, trust reigns.  We rest in the confidence that–whatever the circumstance–the brother or sister next to me thinks about and serves God the way we do.  Their thoughts are molded by the same God-honoring verities revealed in holy Scripture.  Conversely, mendacity destroys trust.

Disagreement.  Here’s a hidden benefit.  When a group rejoices in the same theological truths–especially on the main matters–it enables them to retain trust and love for one another while they disagree on other matters.  Groups bound together by sound theology find themselves able to go to “war” with each other over a host of secondary matters and still leave the table knowing they’d rather be in the foxhole with the very men they just “battled” with.  When truth is held by all, disagreement almost never threatens unity but strengthens it.  It’s counter-intuitive, but disagreement where men and women hold the same view of God actually leads to greater love for one another.

Focus.  You don’t know how precious focus is until you’re pulled away into theological controversy.  The controversy can clarify our focus on the theological issues at hand.  But we also feel the controversy distracting us from more glorious pursuits.  We feel the brakes applied in our souls, the wheel turned to the left or right, and the destination disappearing in the rear view mirror.  But let a group commit itself to the same truths about and from God and you’ll see a group possessed by uncommon focus and godly ambition.  That’s one of the gifts of theological unity.

Now, sometimes we must work hard for theological unity.  We battle a number of misconceptions, from “theology doesn’t matter” to “theology always divides.”  The group that downplays the importance of the truth about God and opts for unity based on something else (usually appeals to love) will for a while experience a unity of sorts.  Things can be really good.  But here’s what they lose: marrow in their spiritual bones, ballast in their wind-tossed boats, the north star for wandering nights, the God who calls us to know Him and enjoy Him.

“God gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” –  Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)

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