Why Agreement is So Important! Thoughts on Unity and Function of the Church

   

The other day I was reflecting on some of the posts that I have written, and the heart behind it all. I began to realize that to an outsider looking in, who does not know my heart, it may appear that I am a Church basher. As I re-read, I found myself saying that, “we do this wrong…” quite often. I’m not going to “take it back” because I am writing what I believe God is putting on my heart. However, I understand it can be depressing. That is why it is so important to me that each person would really understand how God wants to use us as part of His reconciliation process in bringing the Body closer to Him.

Consequently, I felt it was important to reflect on how important spiritual agreement is in the Church.

From the beginning of time God has always been in agreement with Himself. I know, it is a weird statement. However, it is true. Can you imagine if Jesus said to His Father, “Dad, I think it would be better that on the second day, instead of speaking you should sneeze to make the space between the waters.” And then God said, “No.” It is complicated for me to even think about; in the Trinity there is absolutely no conflict whatsoever. It simply does not exist. I can’t seem to mentally compute that.

If I were to look at every single one of my friends on Facebook, I could probably think of a time when we disagreed, or argued, or offended each other. It seems to be a natural part of our relationships. What makes that idea even more profound to me is that most of my friends are fellow followers-of-Christ. These are the people who I trust and ask to pray with me. These are the people who I ask to pray for me. Yet, do we have agreement? Are we on the same page?

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses multiple people, in one church or ekklesia. “In classical Greek, the term [Paul used] was used almost exclusively for political gatherings. In particular, in Athens the word signified the assembling of the citizens for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the polis. Moreover, ekklesia [ejkklhsiva] referred only to the actual meeting, not to the citizens themselves. When the people were not assembled, they were not considered to be the ekklesia [ejkklhsiva].” (BibleStudyTools) So the person that could read Greek would understand that they were being called out of something, into something, which would not exist if it was not formed. (Unlike today when we say we are still part of the Church, but we prefer to worship by ourselves). The Corinthians were being taught that they were only the Church, as long as they were formed together.

Then, as we consider some of the early principals taught by both Jesus and the disciples, we can begin to see how fellowship intertwined into this whole concept of ekklesia. As Mike Breen says, paraphrased, “If you take the mountains and the meals out of the Bible, you can’t see very much of the ministry of Jesus.” Jesus was all about fellowshipping with His Father, and fellowshipping with the people. Even in Acts, we can see where the early Church (as we describe it), was described by the author, (probably Luke), as “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) Church to them was continuous fellowship which the author expressed using the word “Koinonia,” which also held the meanings: community, association, joint participation and intercourse. Now, we can put our minds into the gutter for a minute, or we can use the word “intercourse” to understand that just like Trinity fellowships, the individual goes away and the parts do not predominate, rather the whole is what exists.

In the larger collective sense, Paul also talks to this same church and says we are one collective body (1 Cor 12:12). So there is even a more general reference to us to be in agreement as a whole. God is using Paul to explain to the Corinthian church, what fellowship is supposed to look like both as their personal Body, and the collective Body as a whole; and God chooses to start by dealing with the divisions in the Church by saying, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”(Acts 1:10-12)

I kept on asking myself, “why is there such an emphasis on togetherness?” “Why does God want the body to be so united?” Paul answers that with a question: “Is Christ divided?” I am still in the process of understanding how deep God’s answer is to those questions. However I can’t ignore one promise that He gives us to encourage us, and one example of what happens when we are ekklesia and koinonia.

This is the Promise and Encouragement I can’t get out of my head:
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. ‘For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.’ (Matt. 18:19-20)’”

Here is what happens when we are Ekklesia and Koinonia:
Pentecost. With “one mind” (Acts 1:14), “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The end result was the Holy Spirit took approximately 120 believers, and in one day, added approximately 3,000 baptized believers. Then as we learned earlier, they continued this fellowshipping, and agreement (Acts 2:42-47)

What would happen if we united, agreed, asked God to transform our communities and cities?

Do you think unity is possible?

What do you think is holding us back from unity and are there any communities that we should not unite with?

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  • Mmargarit

    “What would happen if we united, agreed, asked God to transform our communities and cities?”
    Because the Gospel is not for communities or cities. It is solely for individuals, that He has called and chosen. It is not universal.

    “Do you think unity is possible?”

    Yes, it is possible when the Lord returns and separates the wheat from the chaff. 

    “What do you think is holding us back from unity and are there any communities that we should not unite with?”

    The church is not made up of one single entity. It is a mixture of both wheat and chaff. Devisions are caused and will always continue because of pride, which is the enemy’s favorite sin that caused him to fall. Nothing has changed since the garden and business will continue as usual until Christ comes back for His bride, after the separation of the goats and sheep. It was never meant for us to establish utopia here on earth as salvation is not universal and was never meant for everyone, but for a certain few. Salvation is a unique calling of God for individuals and not for communities, countries or denominations. As God is not a respecter of any of those. Peter learns that God is no “respecter of persons,” which means that he doesn’t judge people based on their skin color, wealth, or ethnicity. His children can be found in every nation in every corner of the world. 

    “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34,35

  • http://www.theology21.com jonathan Keck

    I agree that utopia will be established in the end. Nevertheless, should we not hope and pray for unity now and for his kingdom here on earth as Jesus’ prayer indicates—“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Clearly we are called to go out to the ends of the earth and bring redemption everywhere we go. 

    But I have to disagree with you. Jesus died for all that all might be saved. He does not just love some or only want some. He wants everyone. He loves all. Here is a post I wrote on just that topic. http://bit.ly/fLKmpQ

  • http://www.calledtoperu.org Shaun Wissmann

    That is why I love dialogue, because everyone brings something to the table; which is exactly what you have done.  Thanks for that.  I would like to touch on a couple of things you wrote to maybe pull some further thoughts and ideas out from you.  

    Starting with the verse you posted:  “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34,35

    As I read the verse, not only do I see the individual that you spoke of when answering the first question, but I also see the broad.  God paints with many different brushes, and it is no different for those that are to be saved.  The Gospel is for all that would hear and believe.  

    Do you think it is wrong then for someone to want an entire community, state, nation, or country to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, and follow in a life full in Jesus Christ?

    I do like what you say about the wheat and chaff, because it does bring up a valid point.  There are sheep, and there are goats, which the Bible is very clear about.  However, before that time of separation comes, do you believe that we should spend time allowing Christ to use us to reconcile the Body in which He is the Head?  Can that unity not be pursued, and at least partially obtained, while still falling short of utopia (which we are not called to create)?

    Isn’t the whole point of sanctification to conform to His mind, and not our own.  Shouldn’t we as His sons, and His priests, call (or remind) people into a life of sanctification?  I would fear that if all is hopeless as you suggest, then we barely live differently than our neighbor who is not “covered by His blood.”  Which, judging by your comments, you understand is contrary to what Christ calls us to be. 

    Also, I think you and I might have a different perspective of the who exactly the goats and chaff are.  To me, although they are a part of the Body, meaning they “participate,” that does not mean they are IN the Body.  Big difference.  I am not calling us together to meet a need of the goats, I am calling us together to reach out to the sheep, and to those that are yet to come into our flock.

    Like I said, I would love to hear more from you!

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    Very thoughtful essay, Shawn. This is something I’ve thought a lot about myself.

    I believe that there is a tremendous power in agreement that we have only seen glimpses of. I believe that power, when harnessed will change cities, regions and countries for God’s glory. 

    However, I don’t believe agreement and unity are mutually inclusive. I believe that there can be unity without perfect agreement. I wrote a piece awhile back that goes into more detail as to how I see relationships as being paramount to agreement. If you’re interested, you can check it out here:

    http://www.tonyjalicea.com/2011/03/the-doctrine-of-agreement/

    I don’t believe we’ll get closer to agreement until we mature in our relationships. Agreement apart from relationship isn’t powerful. The reason that there is so much power in the agreement of the Godhead is because they are in perfect relationship. There is perfect love between all 3 of them.

    I believe that as we grow in our relationships and grow in love, we will grow in agreement and see transformation. Then we can really see the manifestation of the reality of what Jesus meant when He said to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Evan-Knappenberger/23320189 Evan Knappenberger

    Good thoughts Mr. Wissmann,

    I keep meaning to discuss the things you write about, but as I am the world’s greatest time manager, I just am way too efficient to do so (read that with as much sarcasm as possible and in Latin of course). I love your heart Shaun and I’m so stinkin’ excited everytime I get to hear what He’s perfusing through it.

    Pregunta numero uno. Lots would happen. I think beautiful things happen in this world when Christians fall so in love with their Savior that they literally become his hands and feet (I know a lovely couple doing that in Peru right now…WINK). I think it looks even more compelling and desirable to non-believers when we do this as communities…”by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. But I guess you said the key words there…unite and agree. Quite difficult in any human context. I think (and this is soley an Evan opinion) if we learned to unite and agree on the bigger truths (ie Christ as deity, God is God, we’re not) and love one another despite our theological ponderings, we’d look more like our Savior. Like you said,  I know we don’t agree on some nerdy biblical debates but we love God and eachother…I think Christ rejoices in that more than someone being “right”. Communities within the New Monasticism movement (http://www.newmonasticism.org/index.php) have shown me and Becky glimpses of this, and I know there have been countless similar communities around the world throughout church history. I love a book co-authored by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Jonathan introduced me and Becky, so I got’s to show him love whenever possible) called “Becoming The Answer To Our Prayers”. You can pretty much read it in one sitting, but it’s rich with these kind of questions. So I guess this flows into your second question…I don’t think unity is possible through our efforts. I think it comes when we all see the same destination (Christ) and live our lives striving toward that same end; allowing Him to give us the strength, love, and grace to all arrive there despite ourselves (this is completely stolen from Bonhoeffer). Christ is our unity, and so it’s not only possible, but promised.

    Are there any communities we should not unite with? Yes. Denver Nugget fans (oh snap!). No for real…just Miami Heat fans (OH NO HE DIDN’T!…but yeah for real, God roots against them. He told me). Okay. Uhhh, I dunno. I suppose we can’t expect those who are not following Christ to be linked with us as we are to the Church. However, I still think we should be “united” with them in some sense. I guess it’s easier to understand on a smaller scale. So in my own neighborhood, should I be involved with the Muslims, Jews, homeless guys, Buddhists, suburbanites, soccer moms, hippies, stoners, porn addicts, meth addicts, prostitutes, on and on and on? Yes. I think those folks are easier for the Church to reach out to, as Jesus is pretty clear on this. However, I find the hardest folks for me to love is my own Christian family…especially when I feel they are misrepresenting what I believe to be the truth. On that smaller scale, I know I just get busy with life. I can let my day-to-day become just that. I don’t spend time talking with my Church family save for a few hours on Sunday. That’s not how it’s meant to be. Life together, like you point out (Koinonia) and to be called out (Ekklesia) has to be relational…yeah, somewhat sexual in the intimacy sense, because it brings forth life. Life that we don’t necessarily understand or create on our own, but God blesses and enriches despite our failings. Just like a husband and wife can’t truly create a baby molecularly by their own power, but through their intimacy, they become vessels through which life is birthed. So the more we see eachother, talk to eachother, pray together, eat together, and live the day-to-day together, the more life is birthed into this world…not that we even need to be completely aware of it happening…God does the majority of that. Vessels. I know this opens up another can of worms, but I believe our debates and divisions are gonna seem rather silly when Christ brings His redemption and reconciliation to completion. But regardless, I love to dream of that day and look and work for the glimmers of that promise here and now. I love that we’ll get to jabber into eternity. I love that I just barfed on your comment section. Clean that ish up!

  • Mmargarit

    “The Gospel is for all that would hear and believe.” Shaun, we could debate the subject of predestination, Arminianism, Calvinism, as to man’s free will and God’s choice, for days and weeks to come. My position as a reformer, has always been God’s choice as to who He has predestined from the foundations of the world and whose names He has already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. You are right in the fact that you quoted above, The Gospel is for all that hear His voice, “for the sheep hear His voice and He knows who are His” as the Holy Spirit quickens the chosen by God and then they believe. Nothing to do with the will of sinful, dead in sin, blind man, who can’t never come to God and would have nothing to do with Him in that state. Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    Now when we talk about the death of Jesus Christ then we are talking about an actual purchase. We’re not talking about a potential purchase, we’re not talking about a general sort of act on Jesus’ part that may in the future become a purchase. We are talking about a real purchase. It is the act of Christ dying on the cross that pays the price to God, purchasing the people who will be redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation. The death of Jesus Christ is an act by which He purchases His people. It is not a potential act, it is an actual act. It is not a general act, it is a particular act.

    Now all of that is very, very important because if you ask the average person for whom did Christ die? I think if you asked the average Christian, for whom did Christ die? If you asked most pastors, for whom did Christ die? The answer would be, “For everybody, for everyone.” That’s the typical belief. You hear people say, “Christ died for the whole world,” that means He died for every human being. And He wants you to receive that gift of His death personally on your own behalf. Jesus paid the debt on the cross for everyone’s sins, He paid the debt in full, He loves everyone equally. He wants everyone to be saved. And He waits for the sinner to turn a potential atonement into an actual atonement, or to turn a general atonement into a particular atonement, and the sinner can do that by an act of the sinner’s will. So much of evangelism is driven at the sinner’s will, crafted, manipulated to bring the sinner to a certain place emotionally, psychologically that he will activate his own will and accept what Christ has done and therefore turn a potential and general atonement into an actual and particular atonement.

    Nowhere in my post was I suggesting that we shouldn’t have unity within the body, or pursue the things of Christ. I made the statement as to Salvation being a unique calling of God for individuals. And the reason as to why there’s no unity within the church was because of the schemes of the enemy, pride, differences of denominations… and it will always be that way until the Lord’s return. Salvation and the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross was to the elect, His elect, not communities, states or nations. It was and it will always be personal for an individual. Thinking that we are to bring God’s kingdom here on earth, falls under the “universal salvation for all”, which is the main objective of new age thinking…Emergent Church, with no biblical basis whatsoever.

    “Shouldn’t we as His sons, and His priests, call (or remind) people into a life of sanctification?” I don’t want to make this post into a library, as to the “Work of The Holy Spirit” pertaining to sanctification. But I’ll try to make it short. We as “Sons”, “Priests”… Have no business in calling, reminding people on sanctification. Sanctification is the “work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35) It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from the sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. That is God’s doing, not ours. Regeneration is a momentary act, bringing a person from  spiritual death to life. It is exclusive God’s work. Sanctification is an ongoing process, dependent on God’s continuing action in the believer, and consisting of the believers continuous struggle against sin.

    All is not hopeless as you claim I suggested. On the contrary, it is hope to its fullest, for those who are in Christ Jesus and are called according to His purpose. No contradiction or ambiguity as to who is covered by the blood. The sacrifice that was done by our Lord on Calvary for His elect, should never be cheapened or mis-characterized. And I’m very well aware as to exactly who the goats and sheep are.  You are obsoletely correct. They’re not IN the body, but for sure, part of the body of every single church on earth.  As to why when Jesus return, will divide accordingly, and the goats will enter into damnation and the sheep into His glory. Was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in vain, as He sends the goats to the everlasting fire? Did He die for them also?

  • Mmargarit

    We should pray for unity always. The Lords prayer does not call or indicate for us to establish  His kingdom here on earth as of now. The message of John the Baptist introduces the theme of Jesus’ teaching. Mark and Luke call it the “Kingdom of God” The Kingdom or the reign of God is what the Old Testament prophets awaited. God’s display of His sovereignty in the redemption of His people. John and Jesus proclaimed that the time of awaiting was over and the King Himself had come. With the death and resurrection of Jesus and the spread of the good news to all nations, the Old Testament promises of God have been largely fulfilled for us, although we still await their complete realization when Christ returns in judgement. 

    Nowhere in scripture does it call for ALL to be saved or that salvation is universal. Like I said in the previous post; The death of Jesus Christ is an act by which He purchases His people. It is not a potential act, it is an actual act. It is not a general act, it is a particular act. If God loves ALL, how would you deal with Romans 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” The purpose of God was stated before they were born and therefore was not dependent  on their actions. Election is not based on foreseen actions, deeds or faith. Rather it is based on God’s sovereign predestinating grace.

    This distinguishing purpose of God in election (v.11) “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” is further confirmed by the words of Mal. 1:2,3, which explain God’s love to Israel as rooted in His free choice of Jacob rather than Esau. “Hated” here cannot be reduced to “love less”, as the context of Mal.1:3,4 makes clear. It must carry the sense of rejection and antipathy. 

  • http://www.calledtoperu.org Shaun Wissmann

    Really wonderful points all around.  I definitely appreciate your perspective!  In all of this, I have not given my perspective, and I won’t.  I do think that irregardless of whether it is through election or not, God can transform cities, and countries.  Even with Joseph, God blessed the household and prison he was in… things weren’t perfect I am sure, but it was blessed.  And furthermore, whether it is for the elect or not, I don’t think it is wrong for a person to desire or want an entire nation to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  The key I think we would both agree on, is are they trying to do the work, or are they willing to let God show them His will?  

    I do want to touch up a couple of things:
    I said, “hopeless as you suggest.”  I was wrong in my delivery.  What I was really trying to point to is the danger of people falling into, “I am saved, I don’t need to reach out, and I don’t need really do anything.”  I apologize, because it really came out in the wrong way.  I was not trying to be accusatory, as it obviously appears.  I hope that clears up my statement.

    “So much of evangelism is driven at the sinner’s will, crafted, manipulated to bring the sinner to a certain place emotionally, psychologically that he will activate his own will and accept what Christ has done and therefore turn a potential and general atonement into an actual and particular atonement.”

    I have seen what you are saying, time and time again.  Manipulation, emotional pushing.  I still think that the Kingdom of God, and Christ can be presented in a way that is emotional (because it is emotional), however it is not at all manipulative.  Something I have recently noticed, as I have looked into the evangelism of Christ and the Apostles, is that when Christ and His disciples went out, the preached about the Kingdom of God, and Jesus.  I think until we pursue an understanding of the Kingdom and Christ, evangelism can easily come out of our flesh.  It is all about Christ doing the work through you and me.

    “Thinking that we are to bring God’s kingdom here on earth, falls under the “universal salvation for all”, which is the main objective of new age thinking…Emergent Church, with no biblical basis whatsoever.”

    I guess some people may think that they bring heaven to earth.  I don’t.  I just pray for God to do it; for His will to be done.  However, the easy temptation for people is when they see heaven come to earth, their thinking can quickly become, “I did that.”  The biblical basis for heaven coming to earth is in the Lord’s prayer.  As far as the universal salvation point: I do not believe everyone will be saved.  There is a hell, and people and satan and fallen angels will go there.    We are to pray for it, and if it is His will, it will be done.  I do not however understand how God’s kingdom coming to earth falls under universal salvation.  Can you explain that a bit more for me please?

    “We as “Sons”, “Priests”… Have no business in calling, reminding people on sanctification.”

    Based off of your response, I think you may have misunderstood me.  We do not do the sanctifying work, as I think you believe I am suggesting.  The Holy Spirit does, as you have pointed out.  However, we can see in the Bible that part of the equipping and training process is reminding or calling the Saints to lived sanctified lives.  He does the work and we are supposed to respond, and teach others what that looks like.

    Since we are on this topic, I would love to hear your thoughts on this: 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6).  

    Do you think that the lost He is referring to is part of the house of Israel (so sheep), or are they actually goats?

    Again, thank you for the dialogue!

  • http://www.calledtoperu.org Shaun Wissmann

    Thanks Knappy.  As always, I love to read what you write as well.  IN Christ alone.

    To think, it has been over six whole years since we have done this face to face almost every night when you weren’t pretending to study, or when I wasn’t dunking on fools loco style.  By the way, I quit on the Nuggets.  I am officially a player follower now.  Melo dashed my hopes and dreams.

  • http://www.calledtoperu.org Shaun Wissmann

    I agree Tony, unity can take place without perfect agreement.  Hence, agree to disagree. Lol. There wasn’t a better phrase for the Church.  

    This is why, like you are also suggesting, relationship is so important in order for us to be unified and together.  If I care about you via relationship and I love you, I will most certainly want the best for you and will take the time to pray for you, serve you, and live life with you.  Thanks for touching on a point, that I didn’t get to!

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