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It's Time to Mature as Saints

By: Scott Morton

 

As the years have been going by, the Body of Christ has been suffering from problems which it has created for itself. Members of the Body of Christ do not feel the need to have fellowship with each other, even though the Apostle Paul clearly says many things showing that fellowship is needed with each other. In fact, there seems to be happiness or a need to figure out ways to not be with each other and to cut off fellowship with individuals. The Body of Christ is quite content to force itself to keep getting smaller and smaller by creating separate little groups.

 

The reasons which are used to end fellowship do not have any basis in the doctrine for today. Some individuals have divided over disagreements of doctrine in passages outside of Paul's epistles. Does Paul tell us to separate over differences of opinion on things in Israel's program? What is the purpose of doing this if this is not the doctrine of this dispensation? It seems to be a pattern of where everyone has to agree on everything, which is really a cult-like thought process, which many accuse us of having.

 

Others divide over personality conflicts. They don't like how someone treated them (or another person) so they want nothing to do with them. How different this is from the thought process of the Apostle Paul:

 

Galatians 6:1-2

      Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. [2] Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

Doesn't the Apostle Paul say to bear one another's burdens? How can this occur if someone is pushed away the moment they disagree with someone? The Apostle Paul teaches us we need all the members of the Body of Christ.

 

One method of division which has increased in popularity is the choosing up of sides, as if the Body of Christ is a sandlot baseball game. If you are perceived to have fellowship with someone another individual doesn't like (even if this involves no actual fellowship), the feeling is they don't want to be around you. Even though they agree with the other person on 99% of things, including the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the distinctiveness of the ministry of the Apostle Paul, and many other things. There is more tolerance of having fellowship with someone from a denominational church (which they might agree with on less than 50% of things and probably is not teaching the gospel for today), rather than someone who attends a 'grace assembly' where they would agree with just about everything which is being taught.

 

The Apostle Paul speaks about the needs of the Body being together:

 

Ephesians 4:14-17

     That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. [17] This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

 

The Apostle Paul here speaks about the whole body. This means all parts of the Body are necessary, as we will see in another passage. Here the focus is on how each part is responsible and has an effectual working. The word effectual means Producing an effect, or the effect desired or intended; or having adequate power or force to produce the effect. (Definition taken from Webster's 1828 Dictionary.) The working of the Body together is to have a work that produces the intended effect, which is to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9). This work occurs when individuals are taking a stand for the gospel and the Word of God rightly divided. The effectual working ties in with the will of God in 1 Timothy 2:4, where the goal is for individuals to be saved (believe the gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and come unto the knowledge of the truth (understand the doctrine which is laid out in Romans through Philemon, which is for us today).

 

In this passage, the Apostle Paul talks about how the Body is fit together in a certain way and every joint supplies what is needed. The members of the Body of Christ supply what is needed for the Body to function properly. This is why we gather together in local assemblies, so the Body can obtain what is needed. The local assembly functions in this manner through evangelism (sharing the gospel with others so the Body can grow), edification (the maturing of the Body through the increase of doctrine), exhortation (the encouragement which comes from being around the other members of the Body), and eldership (the raising up of other individuals over time to continue the work of the ministry). This will be discussed in more detail below.

 

If the individual local assembly is to function this way, the assemblies should be functioning in this way as well when working with each other. The Apostle Paul wrote one of his epistles to the churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:2). Galatia was a Roman province and was an area through which the Apostle Paul traveled during the early Acts period. This area included many of the cities which were mentioned during these travels. This meant these local assemblies were supposed to be functioning together properly.

 

How different this is for us today. I can think of a city which is less than 100 miles from Buffalo, NY. In this city there are at least three local assemblies which teach the Word of God rightly divided. This should be a great thing, as these three groups should be able to work together in order to get the Word out and do some great things. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These three local assemblies cannot stand each other and have nothing to do with each other. The reasons for this lack of unity tie in with the things which are listed above. This limits the ability to get the Word out to individuals and fosters the thought process of how those who believe in right division are actually a cult. The Apostle Paul would be ashamed of this lack of maturity, as this does nothing to bring honor to God.

 

The Apostle Paul is clear about the need of the members of the Body of Christ to function together. He writes to the believers at Corinth about this issue as well:

 

1 Corinthians 12:14-26

     For the body is not one member, but many. [15] If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [16] And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [17] If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? [18] But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. [19] And if they were all one member, where were the body? [20] But now are they many members, yet but one body. [21] And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. [22] Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: [23] And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. [24] For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: [25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. [26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

 

This passage starts with the thought process of how each member of the Body of Christ has a particular role. Not everybody in the Body of Christ has the same skills, meaning the role they have reflects these skills. All of the individuals are necessary in order for the Body to function properly, as all of these things are needed for the proper functioning. This is true inside the local assembly, as well as when the assemblies are working together to accomplish what we are supposed to do.

 

He then gets into a discussion about the issue of cutting off members of the Body. He uses the illustration of the physical body to show how all are necessary and that different parts of the body cannot get rid of parts they do not think are needed. Using this illustration, the head (the top part of the body) cannot say to the feet (the lowest part of the body) that there is no need.

 

When we talk about the Body of Christ, the head is the Lord Jesus Christ. He cannot say to the lowest part of the Body 'I have no need of you' and cut the person off. If He cannot do this, what makes us think we can? Are we somehow superior to the Lord Jesus Christ where we can do something He cannot? Thinking this way could only lead to confusion and the thought processes which are completely against what the Word of God tells us.

 

The assembling together of the members of the Body of Christ in a local assembly is necessary. Functioning together, the local assembly is responsible for:

 

Ÿ  Evangelism- getting the gospel out to individuals so they can have the salvation which is being offered to all mankind

Ÿ  Edification- building up of the members of the Body of Christ in the doctrine, so they come unto the knowledge of the truth

Ÿ  Exhortation- encouraging, giving strength,

Ÿ  Eldership- preparing the next generation so they are able to run the local assembly effectively

 

How can the local assembly accomplish these things if they are getting rid of individuals who can help in any of these areas? Since these are the responsibilities we have, all members of the Body of Christ should be working together to accomplish this. Separating ourselves from other individuals directs impacts the issues of edification and exhortation, as this is no longer able to happen directly with these individuals. The issue of eldership is affected because the individuals who might have been the future leaders of the local assembly are discouraged by what has happened or are the ones that have been separated out.

 

This directly affects the issue of evangelism as well. It is easier to get the Word out with more people who are reaching out to individuals. If your local assembly gets a reputation of kicking people out or not wanting anything to do with certain individuals, lost people will not want to be associated with that. They will think we are a cult (which sometimes is thought as well when individuals try to edify someone by providing 20 years of teaching they have had to a person in a half hour).

 

Now there are some things which can lead to separation. One of these is listed below:

 

Titus 3:8-11

      This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. [9] But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. [10] A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; [11] Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

 

Here the Apostle Paul states the individual who is a heretic needs to be rejected. Individuals do this on an immediate basis, which is not what is said. The starting point is to understand the definition of this word, which is: A person under any religion, but particularly the Christian, who holds and teaches opinions repugnant to the established faith, or that which is made the standard of orthodoxy. In strictness, among Christians, a person who holds and avows religious opinions contrary to the doctrines of Scripture, the only rule of faith and practice. (Taken from Webster's 1828 Dictionary). The individual who is the heretic is going against the things which are in the Word of God rightly divided, which is the source of faith for a believer today.

 

The information which would be valid to have the separation occur would be the things which would have the impact on the foundation we have. There are things which we would have the liberty to disagree on.

 

In order to truly separate from the individual there needs to be admonitions made to them. A true admonition comes after a period of discussing the material. It should not come immediately after hearing something presented, as the issue should always be studied out to see if the viewpoint lines up with what is laid out in the Bible. If things were just immediately rejected, everyone would still be practicing water baptism and would have labeled those who were teaching against it a heretic.

 

This process also needs to be done by each individual. There should never be a rejection of someone because another person had the conversation and went through this process. This is lazy on the part of the believer, as they are no longer functioning as a workman in an attempt to study on their own. This shows the �group think� mentality which is associated with denominations or cults. We pride ourselves on thinking and studying for ourselves, but is this truly demonstrated when these things occur.

 

The rejection process also needs to be done in a manner where there can be a restoration of fellowship as well. There could be a point in time where either side changes their mind after continuing to study it out. If there have been insults that have been done in the process it will make it much harder for individuals to want to fellowship together, even if they now believe the same thing.

 

I know for many people reading this it is difficult, as this has been something they have been doing. If this is the case, it is time to stop and start functioning the way the Word of God intends for us to.

 

I also know that this will not be a very popular article, as it is directly calling out individuals for things they are doing. It is necessary for this to have been done, as these behaviors need to stop in order for the Body of Christ to function.



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