Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 2 - the New Testament

In part 1 of this series on, "unity and the Christian Church" (link), the speaker opened his discourse by reading 1 Cor. 1:10-2:5. Clearly, the unity of Christ's Church is emphasized in this extended passage. Though Paul's epistle was written to the Christian Church at Corinth, the principle of unity applies to the entire Christian Church—to, "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2).

Now, beyond calling, "upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord", Paul stresses other aspects of the unity that is to exist among the members of Christ's Church. First, "that ye all speak the same thing"; second, "that here be no divisions among you"; third, "that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

Some claimed to be "of Paul", some "of Apollos", and some of "Cephas"; to which Paul responded with: "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?"

A bit later, Paul warns his readers that, "your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men". And towards the end of the epistle we read:

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Cor. 12:25)


Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (1 Cor. 13:11)

Certainly, Paul has given us much to ponder in his first epistle to the Corinthians. But there is more from Paul; note the following:

From the 4th chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians we learn that Christians are to endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (4:3); that there is only "one body" (Eph. 4:4); and "one faith" (Eph. 4:5). Paul then writes:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ... (Eph. 4:11-13)

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel... (Phil. 1:27)

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Phil. 2:2)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Rom. 16:17)

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine... (1 Tim. 1:3)

Paul's emphasis on unity was certainly not unique to his writings. Note the following from our Lord's lengthy prayer to the Father before his arrest and crucifixion:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11)

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:20, 21)

Clearly, the unity between the Father and the Son is a perfect one, with no division. And though this unity prayed for has a spiritual sense, one cannot exclude a visible sense which will give cause even to "the world [that] may believe that thou hast sent me."

Shall end here for now. Hope to have part 3 up in a couple days, the Lord willing.

Grace and peace,



Dennis said...

Hi David,

Following on from my comments in part 1, I wonder if the problem of disunity in the early church stemmed from a neglect of the Ephesians 4:11-13 passage. To follow in Apostolic lineage would also mean to apply the gifting system mentioned in this verse, which tends to unity. If these get out of balance, disunity would be the result. Romans 12:3, encourages humility in exercising gifts.

So if A pastor begins to exercise a prophetic role (eg Arius in trying to rectify an error he thought he perceived), he may actually be stepping out of his gifting. Part of the prophetic is to look back & call the church to what has been handed down. This is the same for the Apostolic. The Apostles worked in conjunction with each other. They all had the "keys of the kingdom". They all had the same experience of Jesus. This means the church should be councilliar in checking with other Heads to confirm its teaching when there is a challenge.

In the early church this was further complicated by political ambitions and language problems. Romans 12:3 got "blown out of the water", and there didn't seem to be much feedback from the other gifted positions mentioned in Ephesians 4. It gets hard to see where the Holy Spirit is leading after the 3rd & 4th Ecumenical Council, AFAIK. Were all those Councils about Christ's will really necessary ? Or does the 7th Council have the same weight as the first couple ?

The more that disunity gets a hold the more muddy the waters become. Does everything in the end have the same weight in "salvation" or is there non-negotiables and things that are unclear? I would take the Old Testament vs the New Testament as the example here. The OT was the shadow, the NT is fairly clear. The Church already has enough clarity at its inception to offer the path of salvation. Even though its doctrines develop over time, to assist in attaining salvation, there is enough at the beginning to warrant eternal life.

I think a lot Churches outside the Apostolic lineage fit into this category.


David Waltz said...

Hello again Dennis,

Thanks much for you thought provoking post—a lot to ponder and reflect on. Hope that others will take the time to weigh in, and share their own thoughts. You wrote:

== It gets hard to see where the Holy Spirit is leading after the 3rd & 4th Ecumenical Council, AFAIK. Were all those Councils about Christ's will really necessary ? Or does the 7th Council have the same weight as the first couple ?==

Are you postulating some form of apostasy? If so, what option/s of ecclesiastical affiliation—that had God's approval and authority—were available to true followers of Christ after the 4th century? Further, and perhaps more important, what about today?

Grace and peace,


Dennis said...

Hi David,

I think the inspired notion of resolution through Councils was correct but due to the other errors of, not considering other giftings, loss of humility, trying to exrecise authority in gifts out of scope and maybe reading back into the NT. Some platonic ideas (note "some"), caused too much speculation over the God/Man divide in Christ. We know the Fathers read back into the OT thriugh the lense of Christ. They probably used this method unwittingly reading back intothe NT ontological notions that became too finely focussed in the later Councils & didnt take deification into account when describing Christ's internals. Im not sure if this would make the "actors" apostate. Did the very early Church get into such fine detail in delivering the faith ?

Im just trying to establish that, yes there is. Apostolic lineage, yes its a good place to be but it is only one of the "checks & balances" & by itself doesnt guarantee salvation.

I agree in what you said previously that God didnt desert a corrupt Israel, but He judged them a lot. Did God desert Israel when the priesthood & law didnt function, such as in the time of the Judges or Nehemiah ? Did. Jesus reject the woman from Samaria ?

As for today, I believe the Church is in a similar period to the Judges. There is still no formal agreement between Churches of the Apostolic lineage, over the Eucharist or over what is mandatory & what isnt...



Rory said...

Hi Dave and Dennis.

There is agreement among the communities of the non-apostolic lineage about the Eucharist. It is definitely only symbolic.

The East might stumble over the Aristotelian language which led the Roman Catholics to speak of transubstantiation. But the churches of the apostolic lineage agree with Roman Catholicism that we eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

St. John Chrysostom, acclaimed by both East and West affirms that in the Holy Eucharist, "we fix our teeth in His flesh." No Orthodox Christian would deny this, and if he could accept that we agree with their saintly bishop of Constantinople, it matters little that we have problems understanding each other in philosophical formulae.

Both Orthodox and Catholic agree with St. Chrysostom that after we have received Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, that while angels gaze in wonder, we happy creatures, should arise from that heavenly banquet "as lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil." So long as there is a single Mass, the devil quakes, and the kingdom of God advances. This is why Satan attacks the Mass, and the apostolic teaching which affirms the literal understanding of John 6.

The devil wants us to wonder if we can be adopted or born again without partaking of the Flesh and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can wonder. Assuredly, an almighty and merciful God is not bound to the Sacraments. But our enemy, the destroyer of souls, knows that ordinarily, unless we eat His Flesh and drink the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no life in us. (Jn. 6:54, 55)

---to be continued

Rory said...

Satan fears and hates the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist and I know why. The following is from a devotional book which explains what happens when we receive Holy Communion. The book is written in such a way that there is a dialogue between the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the disciple of His Heart. Dave, I think you will love this because the theology of the Eucharist so clearly mirrors the theology of the monarchy of the Father. At least I think so. As the Father gives the Divine life to the Son, so the Son does to us:

"Yea, as the living Father has sent me, and I live through the Father: so he that eats My Flesh, the same shall in like manner live through me.

Attend My Child, and understand all the sublimity of this. As I receive of the Father, and unceasingly have in the Father, divine being, life, and perfection: so he that is right disposed, receives of Me, through holy Communion, and possesses uninterruptedly in Me a holy being, a holy life, a holy perfection.

I am holy, because my Father is holy:, and he that is here incorporated with me, partakes of My sanctity."

--The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Book 4, Ch. 22, pp. 666 and 667. by Fr. Peter J. Arnoudt, S.J., TAN Books and Publishers, 1974

The priesthood was essential to Christ in His very day...A thousand years after Samson and the Judges, his herald and cousin, St. John the Baptist was born to a a priest of the tribe of Levi, a righteous man, who performed his priestly duties properly. When Our Lord Jesus Christ was taken to the Temple by Mary and Joseph to fulfill the obligations of sacrifice for the firstborn as given through Moses, it was to St. Simeon, a priest of the tribe of Levi, and he had been promised by God that he would see his salvation, and he did.

If under the old law of types and shadows the priesthood was necessary, how much more under the New Law, when the type which was symbolized by the Paschal Lamb has become a reality on our very altars, to be received so that we may be divinized, and made in to the sons and daughters of God, not by nature, but by adoption. The devil does not fear Protestantism, or any kind of Christianity that has no faith in what truly happens on the altars of the Apostolic churches. He fears Him who multiplies His life and communicates His own Divine Being, to those who were ordinary sinners, God be praised. Through the holy Eucharist, the Son of God transforms sinners, and leads them from virtue to virtue, until they have become like lions breathing fire, set free to obey God at any cost. That they are set free, that they are necessarily meek and humble of heart, being of themselves sinners, but of Jesus Christ truly divine, owing all of their freedom and liberty to God? That is what is terrible to the devil.


David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

A very informative post. The following you wrote has given me much to reflect on:

==The devil does not fear Protestantism, or any kind of Christianity that has no faith in what truly happens on the altars of the Apostolic churches. ==

I was able to find a PDF copy of the book you quoted from, and plan to start reading it this afternoon. Link to book below:

Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Take care and God bless,


Ken Temple said...

It seems to me that the passage of I Corinthians 1:10 to 2:5 continues on to chapter 4

1 Corinthians 4:6

"do not go beyond what is written" is there in the context of the same issues around Paul and Apollos and the different factions in the church in Corinth.

Paul certainly does not appeal to any kind of bishop of Rome or bishop over all other bishops or higher authority than the Scriptures, as taught by the apostles, even as the preaching is going on and the Scriptures are still being written.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

So good to see you again at AF. Would like to add a few more verses for you (and others) to reflect on:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thess. 2:15)

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2)

BTW, did you get a chance to look at THIS THREAD ON AUGUSTINE that I recommended to you a few weeks back?

Grace and peace,


Ken Temple said...

But you jumped out of the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4 - Paul is still talking about the issue of "I am of Paul", "I am of Apollos" stuff, - he is still talking about that issue in chapter 3 and 4. So you cannot just jump of the context with on 1:10-2:5, without first continuing the argumentation that the apostle is making all the way up at least until 4:6 - he is talking about pride and arrogance and the solution to the problem of pride and arrogance that leads people to form factions.

3 For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

I Corinthians 3:3-7

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on [c]passing judgment before [d]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

I Corinthians 4:1-7

so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written,
so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

Thanks for reminding me about the Augustine thread. I need to read that.