These Things Lead to Peace

There is a difference between a God-ordained, separation among believers for the purpose of following our individual conscience before God and a division birthed out of anger and pride.

In the Old Testament, God raised up a holy people through which to bring forth the righteous Branch of David; in the New Testament, He has promised to raise up a bride without spot or blemish, a holy people perfectly unified and conformed to one another by the love of Jesus. 

Notice, it is His faith and love that perfects–His heavenly wisdom and pattern that prevails–and the work of His Holy Spirit that authors and finishes our faith. 

Everything is of, by, and through Him. 

Yet, consider the challenges that believers face in living in unity with one another today:  the body of Christ is divided; and believers around the globe are in various stages of agreement with one another concerning how God has called us to practice our faith. 

As God builds His church, we must acknowledge that these divisions are not principally disagreements, but rather, differences in discernment.  

Moreover, we know that God is faithful: 

  • When He is ready, He will remove every foul thing from among us.

  • We will be perfectly unified as one body in doctrine and practice.

  • Then, that which is perfect will come. 

To expect any less than this is not our reasonable and expected level of faith–for we are called to believe that He is able to succor and unify His people. 

Yet, a practical dilemma remains: 

  • How can we mediate our differences in doctrine and practice in a way that best exemplifies that we are one body in Christ [and members of one another]? 

  • How can we mediate these differences without violating our conscience in the private and corporate practice of our faith? 

These things shall guides us, as they lead to peace:    

  1. Each man is accountable before God for his own conscience and manner of life:  therefore, regarding the private practice of our faith, we are not to judge one another in disputable things [areas in which God allows us to exercise personal discretion].

  2. We should never ask or expect another believer to act corporately in a way that contravenes their faith:  for we are called to follow Christ, not man. 

The fact that God has made room for our differences does not suggest that there is such a thing as a private interpretation of scripture–for Jesus showed us how to walk perfectly in this world and His apostles established consistent customs in every assembly–but rather, that He permits us to follow our individual conscience. 

Pray, meditate, and act, as God leads:  this is the way of a conscience conformed to Christ. 

16 thoughts on “These Things Lead to Peace

  1. “As God builds His Church (Ekklesia), we must acknowledge that these divisions are not principally disagreements, but rather, differences in discernment.”

    Although I absolutely agree that this is true among the remaining individuals within the hangout as it relates to this issue, I find this questionable over the entire body of believers. Far too often professing believers have little to no real discernment, but that rarely if ever prevents them from speaking their mind. Discernment stems from each believers attempt to rightly divide scriptural truth and the proper practice of that truth in their lives. All those remaining in the hangout desire to seek God’s mind as we study the scriptures.

    1 & 2 above will lead to peace among us, but I don’t see how this settles the issue at hand. We certainly must allow others to grow at God’s pace for them, allowing them to form their own convictions over time. None of us should ever attempt to coerce another individual into a position that violates their conscious. For example, I would have no problem with individuals taking the time to come to terms with whether to wear head coverings or even the practice of one’s spiritual gifts to excess among the brethren. We all learn as we abide with Christ and one another and eventually discover the proper practice of scriptural truth.

    This said, the practice of having to ex-communicate a brother from a given assembly necessitates either:

    1. All local members being in agreement (either willingly or through passivity)
    2. The elders among any given assembly making the decision on behalf of that assembly (after the issue was adequately discussed among all the local members)

    Ultimately, when a specific decision must be made within a given assembly, the elders are to make that decision regardless of whether a practical unity has been obtained or not and the other members are not to question, slander or in any manner obstruct that decision. The members are not forced to agree (they can retain their clear conscious before God) but they must not thwart the decision of the elders who are called to speak and act on behalf of God in such a situation. Needless to say, these elders are and remain accountable to the whole assembly for their decision- they have no right to act alone or without the prior counsel and/or wisdom of the other saints.

    This situation has been adequately addressed among the hangout (ekklesia) participants and the time has come for a specific decision to be made. No one here likely desires to be called an elder or in any manner tower over the other participants. This said, when a brother or sister sins they must repent, that is not an option on the road to heaven.

    For those who hesitate to act severely or label naming a fellowship sin, you are not obligated to do so. You are however obligated to go forward as any group of older brothers come to a likeminded decision after the counsel and wisdom of all. This is how decisions are made within an ekklesia, when the younger are unsure or fully uneducated, they trust the elders to decide what is best for all.
    Decide for yourself what your conscious permits or condemns, then let the older men decide.

    These things lead to peace.

    • Concerning my comment that differences are not disagreements, but differences in discernment:

      People argue and fight because they are not walking in the light. While they may be disagreeable in the flesh, we war not against flesh and blood; and the issue is that they are NOT WALKING IN THE LIGHT. That’s all I am saying.

      The exception to my comment would be a believer involved in willful rebellion against God: however, even there, the problem is that he is not walking in the light.

      My point is that we don’t need to deal with these issues at the level of the flesh, but only determine to follow God in the Spirit. We are not responsible for our brethren’s choices, as long as we contend for the faith with them.

      If God builds His church, we have to leave it’s perfection to Him.

      All we can do is practice what is right with those who are similarly minded.

      Peace,

      Mark

  2. One last thing, although my next post will address this more:
    For the sake of all, I suggest the “elders” in this case are any willing to reject our sinning brother from the hangout. The word elder does not need to be used, nor do any of us need to consider ourselves elders among us. We do need to state who is making this decision for Ian’s sake and for all.

    • So who are the elders of the google hangout fellowship? I wasn’t aware that this has been established. But you seem to be saying that the elders should be those who agree with your decision. Then as you said, everyone should agree with your decision (or the agreeing elders decision) and submit to that. Am I understanding you correctly?

      I do agree that believers in a fellowship in matters like this should ultimately submit to the elders decision on a matter, but I wasn’t aware that elders had ever been officially recognized and promoted as such on the hangout.

      ——————————————–

      This also brings up another topic, maybe for discussion at another time. But this issue of elders having authority that can override the body is clearly an example of authority in the body of Christ that some would object too (I don’t). Paul, though a brother, had authority from The Lord and was able to exercise it, though not overloading it. There is authority in the body of Christ and this in a way elevates some over others in certain regards, though all are stil brothers. To deny that fact is to deny what authority is, and authority is ordained of God.

      • Sean, you can be walking in the light and right in doctrine, practice, and discernment in a given issue, and God’s authority still does not work in the way that you mention here in your last paragraph.

        It can’t; it is a practical impossibility.

        Why? People follow for one of two reasons: they are either soulishly bound to you in the flesh; or, they are following your example in the Lord Jesus by the Spirit.

        The former, you don’t want; the latter, is not to your credit.

        It is all a work of the Spirit, and brothers and sisters who submit to godly counsel, do so by the Spirit’s leading. It is the Spirit they are responding to–not man.

        This is why Paul could say, “Follow after me.” He didn’t mean ‘follow my personality,’ but rather, ‘follow after my EXAMPLE IN THE FAITH.’

        He could say this because he was FOLLOWING JESUS.

        [Sorry for the ALL CAPS, no italics function here.]

        As Jesus taught us: “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. BUT YE SHALL NOT BE SO: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve,” (Luke 22:25-26).

    • Hi Michael,

      You said:

      “One last thing, although my next post will address this more:
      For the sake of all, I suggest the “elders” in this case are any willing to reject our sinning brother from the hangout.”

      But Mark gave me a link to one of his post;

      https://markfinger.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/gods-authority-in-his-people/

      In which you said:

      “I heartily agree that one’s active service among the saints is the primary factor of qualification to be an elder.”

      Michael, please don’t take my bluntness as anything more than just trying to ask how this statement fits with your current fellowship situation and what you said above about you and others being elders.

      In the quote above you said that “one’s active service among the saints is the primary factor of qualification to be an elder”. Is this the current situation in your life? I’m just curious because I didn’t think you had any local fellowship where you reside. Are you considering the hangout and your blog your active service among the saints? Because in what you wrote in the above comments you are basically saying that you should be an elder because you are willing to take a stand against Ian, and that those who agree with you on that issue should also be elders and everyone else should follow their decision. Yet your own words above state that you believe a primary factor for being an elder is ones “active service among the saints”. I’m assuming one in which one’s manner of life is visible to the other saints (something which one is able to do in a “local” fellowship).

      Also, you are saying that certain individuals should be the elders in this case but that they don’t need to be called elders nor consider themselves as elders among us. However, if someone is an elder, they are what they are. There is nothing wrong with it being recognized and accepted by all, which is what we see in the scriptures.

      And again, regarding this statement:

      “For the sake of all, I suggest the “elders” in this case are any willing to reject our sinning brother from the hangout.”

      This is one of the problems and shows the limits, I believe, of internet fellowship. The qualifications for being an elder does not include simply agreeing on rejecting a brother. The qualifications in scripture (1 Tim 3) are such that they require people to know each others lives on a more intimate level. I’m not sure that all the qualifications can be observed by simply meeting online for chats. Therefore I think this is one area in which the online hangouts fall short in being able to call it a functioning gathering of the ekklesia according to the scriptures with established elders.

      Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me simply asking these things and making observations. I know you are dead set on rejecting Ian, and seem to be set on making yourself and those who agree with your decision elders in this situation..though I can’t see how the elder scenario you are suggesting with the hangout works with what the scriptures teach.

  3. Michael, consider the following:

    And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

    –1 Thessalonians 5:13

    Notice, there is a mutual submission at work here–for the elders are only able to exercise authority as agents of the Holy Spirit called to teach the Lord’s truths–to the extent that the people are willing to esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake.

    Does a husband force his wife to do anything?

    Neither do elders exercise authority in this way either.

    Consider the example of the husband and wife. The husband has authority, which in actuality is a responsibility to be the first example in everything godly. What happens to his authority when his wife submits to his example?

    Is it not true that God blesses her for her submission by granting her grace and every godly petition, including those relating to her husband?

    Who then has the authority: the husband or the wife?

    All authority belongs to God; He has ceded none of it to man.

    However, He has ordained that His authority will flow through us, as we come into agreement with His word and will.

    The principle at work in marriages and assemblies is not simply submission, but rather, mutual submission: we would do well to continue in the Lord’s teachings.

    • Hey Mark,

      I’ll comment tomorrow. There are a whole host of scriptures to deal with regarding this subject. While there is mutual submission and leading by example, there is also God given authority that is exercised in the Church. It is a principle that is seen throughout God’s dealings with men, from the Old Testament through the New Testament. Even Paul speaks of his authority in the Lord, his ability to exercise it in both discipline and for building up. This was not only man recognized authority but authority given by God. This is another one of those issues where when one comes out of the institutional church, because of the abuse of authority, it’s easy to swing over to the other side of the pendulum and declare there is no such thing as authority in the church.

      • Brother …

        God grants every believer authority.

        God grants grace for some to function and exercise authority as elders.

        So, we are in complete agreement, so far.

        Here’s where we differ: in how this authority is expressed.

        Elders have no power granted to them except 1) to come into agreement with what God is doing and 2) persuade others by the power of the Holy Spirit.

        That’s what I am saying, all I am saying, with this caveat: they do NOT possess and exercise authority as worldly men do, which is by coercion or personal charisma.

        The problem, my good friend and brother in the Lord, is that you and I speak past one another … it’s like there is an echo chamber between us that no sound travels through [toothy grin].

        Love your faith, as always.

      • “This is another one of those issues where when one comes out of the institutional church, because of the abuse of authority, it’s easy to swing over to the other side of the pendulum and declare there is no such thing as authority in the church.”

        A great conversation to have sometime is what authority do elders in a local church have. Do they have authority to tell me what color pajama pants I am allowed to wear? Authority to tell me I can’t take a mortgage out to purchase a home?

        I think this topic is an important one.

  4. So, when Paul was writing the Ekklesia in Corinth, not being there himself, was he any less a part of that fellowship?

    Paul had specific words for putting a man out of the fellowship in his first letter to an Ekklesia and then we can read that he has forgiven the man and expected the fellowship to do the same, returning the man to the fellowship.

    Question? Is there any consideration of Paul’s examples in light of your current situation regarding both the degree of Paul’s continued fellowship with the local Ekklesia though being physically absent and the proper handling of an individual that’s in conflict with the beliefs of your cyber fellowship?

    Another question? Are we in fellowship with Paul today through letters written 2000 years ago?
    ************************************************
    Note:
    These questions and comments are for each of your consideration and not meant to be any part of me re-interjecting myself into the issue you cyber fellowship which I have not and am not currently a part of. Thus accept them or ignore them.

    Once the group comes to agreement and put this issue behind them, then perhaps I and several other saints can come together with you. Till then, I and the rest would only add to the problem and not resolve it. I continue to pray for the Lord’s will to be done, and have laid the matter at His feet, with regards to my involvement. The scriptures that come to mind is found here: http://biblehub.com/esv/romans/14.htm

  5. Corrections:

    These questions and comments are for each of your consideration and not meant to be any part of me re-interjecting myself into the issue being dealt with by your cyber fellowship which I have not and am not currently a part of. Thus accept them or ignore them.

    The scriptures that come to mind are found here:

  6. Now I’ve really done it!

    Forgive me guys for being the author of confusion here (by bringing up the subject of elders) as most of the comments concerning what I said are, well, not what I said. Here’s some clarification:

    1. Presently, there are no “appointed” elders within the hangout as we all know, nor is their any intention of appointing elders among us as far as I know.
    2. I used the word elder in this sense: some of us feel unsure or hesitant about what to do while others are confident in going forward- the latter are convinced about the proper action to take. Those who are convinced act “as elders” in dealing with this issue.
    3. I agree with Mark about mutual submission, although not to the extent that he does. A wife does submit to her husband as he loves and guides her, yes, but at times the husband must make decisions regardless of whether she agrees or not. His being the head of the household (the primary instrument in bringing forth God’s authority therein) she is called to recognize this and submit to his decision making. As I mentioned earlier, this is not forced without her consideration but in light of their fellowship one to another.
    4. No where did I say everyone had to agree with my decision in this matter.
    5. I stand by the statement, “I heartily agree that one’s active service among the saints is the primary factor of qualification to be an elder” This is in no way meant to dismiss the other obvious qualifications listed through scripture.
    6. NO, I am not, and was not saying I am or should be an elder. Frankly, how would that change anything about who I am or how I choose to serve others? I only used the word elder in the hope of expediting a solution to this situation- which has backfired.

    Sean: I never mind the questions or you making observations. This is part of us all being willing to be subject one to another (accountable for our words and actions). I am not an exception to this, nor would I want to be. God won’t use an individual in any significant manner who isn’t willing to answer for their life and actions. Thank you for your concerns.

    Finally brethren, their probably isn’t an issue more controversial among the saints than this issue on authority. More problems have been created and more ignored as a result of misunderstanding in one sense or another this issue. All the traditions of men stem from man centered authority- so does every “ministry” ever created by man. More problems persist because of a failure of the saints to recognize proper authority among men (yes I said that), the authority of Jesus periodically exercised by man on behalf of God through spiritual gift and in specific situations. No, Jesus authority is not tied to spiritual titles and religious positions, (this is a reference to the Gentiles in scripture) though it does exist through men as a result of the spiritual condition of a saint and their particular gift and/or function.

    We struggle with this issue (names etc) among us only due to our personal hesitancy or our unwillingness to trust the judgments of those who disagree with us. It is not a coincidence that after much rambling about this discussion among us that God led another brother to confirm the severity of this issue from the outside (outside of this group). I personally had the confidence to speak even more severely to Ian than before, pronouncing a judgment upon him for his continual and purposeful dissention among the saints. I only refrained from doing so due to Mickey’s admonition that I remain patient for another season. I am heeding that counsel for the time being.

    I love you brothers, regardless of what you allow or oppose. There’s a reason why God gifts others to do what you won’t or can’t do.

  7. Michael, thanks for the clarifications … they make sense to me.

    Re: your comments on point #3 [“… but at times the husband must make decisions regardless of whether she agrees or not”]. Yes, I agree with you. I try to never do things this way, but sometimes … and the reason I have [on particular (rare?) occasions] acted in this manner is because my principal responsibility is TO GOD … and if I OBEY GOD, everything else will work out for the best, anyway.

    For example, I cannot neglect my own responsibilities to God simply to satisfy my wife.

    Fortunately, my wife is graceful with me!

    Peace,

    Mark

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