Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Division that Unites!

Jewish & Muslim Boys Coexisting
Because God made us in his image and likeness we long for unity. Intense, unbroken unity is the ambience of heaven.

The world seeks unity by removing differences, be de-emphasizing doctrine and truth, and by overlooking moral transgression. We call this religious pluralism. The "Just Coexist" bumper sticker sums it up.

God is also interested in unity. In fact heaven is a place of infinite and permanent unity. It is the dwelling place of God who is so united that Three become One. However, God always divides before he unifies.

Jesus divided Israel. The Jewish people were divided down the middle in their response to him. Because the religious authorities got the upper hand, they crucified him.

In the same way Paul warned us  that, before it unifies,  the gospel always divides those who hear it. In other words, the gospel must divide before it can produce the sweet unity that fragrances heaven. Here is Paul's experience.


For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).  People reacted to Paul's message one of two ways. It either smelled like a rotting corpse or the most fragrant of flowers. There was no middle ground. 

In the same way, the gospel divides families. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth," warned Jesus. "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me(Matthew 10:34–37). 

The gospel divides churches. The gospel divided the Jewish Synagogues in both Paul's and Jesus' day. When Paul proclaimed the resurrection to the Jewish Sanhedrin a riot broke out.

The unity that the gospel brings is the sweetest unity that one can experience. However, it will only be this way to the degree that we first let it do its dividing work.  No one divides over the message that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. The division occurs over the Bad News––the humbling truths that wound our pride––the reality of eternal conscious torment for those who do not believe, the horrors of God's wrath, the exclusivity of Christ, the sinfulness of man, the impossibility of earning God's favor, the penal substitutionary atonement, etc. 

There is a tragedy in the church. We divide, but it is over everything but these ragged gospel contours. We divide over the timing of baptism, the form of church government, eschatology, etc. This should break our hearts. It breaks Gods. It testifies. We don't get the gospel! 

Why does this matter? First, don't be naive. Expect division. Be willing to put up with it. It is a necessary precedent to the sweet unity shared by those mutually humbled by the gospel.

Second, communicate the gospel that divides. Expect it to divide. Delight in the divisions, for without them there is no true unity. Our church preaches the full-orbed gospel regularly. It has two affects. First, it drives away the religious. They get angry and leave. Second, it draws those in whom the Holy Spirit is genuinely working. They come and rejoice, and the unity we share together the gospel only amplifies. As a people, Grace Christian Fellowship, is truly blessed.

This is what we mean by the division that divides. It divides flesh from Spirit. It divides faith from unbelief. It separates the proud from the humble. It separates the church from the world. But for the spiritual, who let the gospel mold, shape, and humble them, there is a glorious and delicious unity, the unity enjoyed by the angels and saints in heaven.

This unity is a downpayment on the World to Come!


No comments:

Post a Comment