Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

Unity: The Concept (Part 1)

Too often we make assumptions about a concept. We assume our concept is God's concept. The result is that we never examine the concept to see if it is correct. We simply build on our assumption as if it is God's concept. Often we generate unquestionable conclusions in the full conviction that our foundation assumption is NOT an assumption, but rather is God's concept.

Let's try to illustrate what I just said to see the problem as clearly as possible. For a few minutes, consider our concept of unity. Do you know what the concept unity is? Could you define unity? Are you certain your concept of unity is God's concept? Are most of your declarations about what it means to be unified in a congregation or in the religious world based on your definition of unity, therefore based on your concept of unity? Is it your complete conviction that your definition (therefore your concept) of unity is God's definition and concept?

To make your definition and concept specific, think with me congregationally. You are a member of a small congregation. That small congregation has outgrown its physical facilities. It has three choices. First, it can do nothing and begin shrinking (that is what usually happens when a congregation does nothing). Second, it can divide by mutual agreement and become two congregations. However, if it divides (a) some of the work the congregation does will have to cease because there will be no money to do that work, and (b) the new group will have to find or build new facilities. Or, (c) the congregation remains one congregation and builds facilities to meets its needs.

Some members want to do nothing. Some members want to divide. Some members want to remain one congregation, but build new facilities. Question: are they divided? Can the membership have different ideas about what to do and still be one?

  1. Years ago when I was a boy, the scripture some would cite would be 1 Corinthians 1:10.
    "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."
    1. After citing this scripture, the person citing it would say, "There must be complete agreement on everything we decide to do!"
      1. The reasoning would be this: "We are not of the same mind and judgment if there is not complete agreement!"
      2. Really?
        1. If there is not 100% agreement on the size of the new facility, are Christians in violation of the Christian responsibility to be one?
        2. If there is not 100% agreement on the design of the new facility, are Christians in violation of Paul's admonition to be one?
        3. If there is not 100% agreement on the ratio of worship space to education space, are those Christians not one like Jesus and God the Father are one?
        4. If there is a difference of opinion on color schemes, carpet, or other types of flooring, are these Christians in violation of unity injunctions?
    2. If you are tempted to agree that there are some unity violations involved, consider some questions.
      1. Question one: was Paul speaking of decisions such as our building decisions when he wrote this statement?
        1. Was Paul speaking of personal preference matters?
        2. Or, was Paul speaking of considerations involving Christ and baptism matters?
        3. Before you give your answer, read Paul's entire thought from verse 10 to verse 17.
      2. Question two: since the congregation has no buildings and no New Testament writer wrote about buildings, how could Paul be talking about buildings?
        1. The first century church was not defined by "where it met."
        2. The first century church was defined by the people who believed Jesus was the Christ.
          1. Most Jews did not think Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) that God promised.
          2. Many gentiles had significant problems in believing in a resurrection (see Acts 17:32).
          3. Many thought that the teaching about a man who had been executed by Roman authorities and later was resurrected was too ridiculous to believe (see 1 Corinthians 12:22-25).
      3. Question three: are you certain that your definition of unity is God's definition? Are you certain your concept of unity is God's concept?
        1. Have you ever examined your unity definition and concept by the Bible, or did you begin in definition and concept with an assumption?
        2. Have you ever read the Bible to discover God's unity concept and definition to compare it to your definition and concept?

  2. How does the concept of "unity means full Christian agreement" fit with what Paul did as a matter of practice that he stated in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23?
    1. Paul's evangelistic practice was to begin teaching a person where he or she was.
      1. It was quite a different approach.
        1. He did not teach as did a Jewish Rabbi who presented himself as an authority.
        2. He did not teach as a gentile philosopher who was in search of wisdom, but who also wanted the student to realize how foolish his reasoning was.
        3. He did not seek to "win" by winning a debate.
        4. In no way was he "sold on Paul" and what he knew--advancing Paul was never his consideration.
      2. Thus, Paul adopted the reasoning and approach of the person he taught.
        1. If he taught a Jew, Paul thought and reasoned like a Jew.
        2. If he taught a person devoted to the Law, Paul thought and reasoned like a person devoted to the law.
        3. If he taught a lawless person, Paul thought and reasoned like a lawless person.
        4. If he taught a weak person, Paul thought and reasoned like a weak person.
      3. That tells us a lot about the Christian Paul.
        1. He did not teach to advance Paul.
        2. He knew a lot about Jesus Christ.
        3. He knew a lot about people.
        4. His purpose was the conversion of all kinds of people to Jesus Christ--regardless of what their life and religious background were.
        5. He did not present himself as the authority in spiritual matters that demanded that everyone hear and accept what he said.
        6. He wanted people to have faith in Jesus Christ by understanding, and that meant they began where they were before they believed.
    2. Can you begin to imagine the variety of people he brought to Christ and what a diverse religious background those people had?
      1. Do you realize what little in common all these people had?
      2. The only thing they had in common was the common understanding that Jesus was the Christ and had removed their sins.
      3. Paul brought Jews, people devoted to the law, people without law, and people who were weak to Jesus Christ--and none of them knew how to "do church" (a new concept) or had a common moral code.
      4. These people had a lot to learn.
    3. Now be very honest and definitely specific about your concept of unity, and then apply your definition and concept to this situation.
      1. Would they all know what was involved in acting like a Christian? No!
      2. Would they all have the same moral code? No--the background of some emphasized that getting drunk was moral, or committing fornication was moral, or lying was moral, or stealing was moral (consider Ephesians 4:25-32 as an example).
      3. Would they even know how to treat each other correctly? No!
      4. They all had a lot to learn about being a Christian! That is why we have much of the New Testament! Most of the New Testament is about how Christians live and act like Christians!

  3. Now consider some very important questions.
    1. Could these different people from differing religious and moral backgrounds be one in Christ?
      1. My tendency would be to say no.
      2. However, scripture says, "Yes!" if these people are in Christ.
    2. Is their being one in Jesus Christ dependent on reaching total agreement on everything?
      1. My tendency would be to say they must agree.
      2. However, scripture says these people could disagree if they were in Christ.
    3. Could they do things differently in their love for Christ and still be one in Christ?
      1. My tendency would be to say no.
      2. However, scripture says, "Yes!" if these people are in Christ.
    4. May I anticipate your question: "How can that possibly be and unity exist?"
      1. It can be and is because of what God did in Jesus' death on the cross.
      2. It is not the result of the person's deeds, but the result of what God did in Jesus' death.
      3. Listen carefully to these scriptures.
      4. The first scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 written by Paul to the Corinthian congregation.
        For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

      5. Also consider a statement from Peter made to Christian slaves in 1 Peter 2:21-24.
        For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

    5. We want to be very clear.
      1. We are not talking about the need for obedience.
      2. We are not talking about the need for growth.
      3. We are not talking about the human desire to justify evil.
      4. We are saying God's concept and definition of unity is basically a divine function, not a human achievement.
This is more than a one-sermon consideration. Today's lesson is merely the beginning. As far as I am concerned, the first thing that had to happen is for you to examine honestly your concept of Christian unity. (a) We had to begin with you looking at your definition of unity, your concept of unity. (b) We had to begin with you acknowledging to yourself that this may be a much more complex concept than you have previously considered. (c) We had to begin with you giving yourself permission to examine scripture with an open mind.

If you do not give yourself permission to examine your concept by scripture, you will spend your time listening in a dedication to defending your views rather than hearing scripture and thinking.

The lessons following this will focus on scripture. These lessons will expect you to do two things: (1) listen and (2) think. The objective is not to entice you to agree with me or anything I present. The objective is to challenge you to grow closer to God and His concepts.

May people be moved closer to God by understanding what an incredible thing God did for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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