Unity in the Body of Christ

by Mike Ratliff

9 And so, r from the day we heard, s we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that t you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all u spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as v to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, w fully pleasing to him, x bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9,10 ESV)

In my last post The Temple of the Living God, we looked at the high standard of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord by being separate from the world and those of the world that are mere pretenders as Christian leaders. We tied this to the recent news that John Piper had invited Rick Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God Conference in October. I have been in discussion all day today with friends and fellow laborers in this ministry about this. There is a lot of emotion. There is much sadness and disappointment out there about this, but mostly there is a great deal of anger being expressed. Some of the major questions we are dealing with, of course, is how far do we go in preserving unity in the Body of Christ? What is the criterion or standard that we use to not have fellowship with one while overlooking differences in another? 

I watched the video of John Piper explaining his thought processes in deciding to invite Warren to speak. One thing bothered me throughout. He said many times as he spoke of Warren’s theological stances on things important to us, that he was basing his understanding of Warren’s theology on answers given to Piper’s questions. In other words, he believed him when he said he believed this, but not that. In this post by Ken Silva, the evidence is very clear that this man is willing to make compromise after compromise in order to be accepted by whomever he is attempting to “win over.” In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul warns the Corinthian Christians about being unequally yoked with those he calls απιστοις. This word describes those not worthy of confidence, untrustworthy, and unbelievers. In the New Testament, this word is used to describe those who disbelieve the Gospel of Christ, an unbeliever or an infidel (1 Cor. 6:6; 7:12-15; 2 Cor. 6:15). What makes a person “not worthy of confidence?” If a person is like a Chameleon in their theology being whatever it takes to be pleasing to one group and something totally different for the next group, then how can that person be trustworthy? Paul makes it clear in that passage that this is a mark of an unbeliever.

I pray that you did follow that link to Ken Silva’s post. At the bottom of that post is another link to an article by Michael Horton about Rick Warren. I pray that you go there and read it as well. In it Horton, speaking of Rick Warren, says, “I believe that his message distorts the gospel and that he is contributing to the human-centered pragmatism that is eroding the proper ministry and mission of the church.”

Unity in the Body of Christ built around compromise at all costs is not true unity. The unity we are called to pursue in the Body of Christ is given to us in Ephesians 4. In the 1560 Geneva Bible, the introduction to Ephesians 4 reads, “He exhorteth them unto meekness, log suffering, unto love and peace. Everie one to serve and edifie another with the gift that God hathe given him. To beware of strange doctrine. To lay aside the old conversation of griedie lustes, and to walke in a newe life.” While the 16th Century English takes a bit of concentration to interpret at times, this is a good summary of how we are to walk in this life as Children of God in a world hostile to Him and all who belong to Him. I find that those who decry what we do here and in the watchman on the wall ministries as a whole, are very quick to point out the meekness and long suffering unto love and peace part of this, but they overlook that part about being wary of “strange doctrine.” This in no way tells us, nor does Ephesians 4, nor does any other part of God’s Word tell us to automatically accept a person as a brother or sister in Christ just because they profess to be one. It is one thing to say all the right things, but it means nothing if it is not backed up in how one lives and ministers.

1 I therefore, m a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to n walk in a manner worthy of o the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all p humility and q gentleness, with r patience, s bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in t the bond of peace. 4 There is u one body and v one Spirit—just as you were called to the one w hope that belongs to your call— x one Lord, y one faith, z one baptism, a one God and Father of all, b who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV)

1παρακαλω ουν υμας εγω ο δεσμιος εν κυριω αξιως περιπατησαι της κλησεως ης εκληθητε  2μετα πασης ταπεινοφροσυνης και πραυτητος μετα μακροθυμιας ανεχομενοι αλληλων εν αγαπη  3σπουδαζοντες τηρειν την ενοτητα του πνευματος εν τω συνδεσμω της ειρηνης  4εν σωμα και εν πνευμα καθως [και] εκληθητε εν μια ελπιδι της κλησεως υμων  5εις κυριος μια πιστις εν βαπτισμα  6εις θεος και πατηρ παντων ο επι παντων και δια παντων και εν πασιν (Ephesians 4:1-6 WHNU)

The Greek word rendered in v1 as “worthy” is αξιως, which speaks of the quality of something being “becoming, after a godly sort.” In other words, Paul is exhorting Christians to live their lives in a godly manner that is appropriate “of the calling to which you have been called.” This is the phrase της κλησεως ης εκληθητε, which literally says, “of the call of which you were called.” The word κλησεως, “an invitation” is rendered by the ESV as “calling,” which is very appropriate. The words ης εκληθητε, “of which you were called,” speaks of a divine invitation to participate in the blessings of redemption. In other words, Christians are called. Paul is exhorting all of them to walk in a manner that is appropriate to that calling. This appropriate walk will be patterned a certain way. What is that? We are commanded to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is a description of Christ’s own character. Our daily walks should be patterned after His primary example. In vv4-6 we see that true Christianity is not something that is open to everyone’s interpretation. There is one body and one Spirit. There is one hope that belongs to what? It belongs to our call. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. These are essentials. Any gospel that negates or attempts to change any of that is bogus.

7 But c grace was given d to each one of us e according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, f “When he ascended on high g he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (h In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into i the lower regions, the earth? [1] 10 He who descended is the one who also j ascended k far above all the heavens, that he might l fill all things.) 11 And m he gave the n apostles, the prophets, the o evangelists, the p shepherds [2] and teachers, [3] 12 q to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for r building up s the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to t the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, u to mature manhood, [4] to the measure of the stature of v the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, w tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in x deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, y speaking the truth in love, we are to z grow up in every way into him who is a the head, into Christ, 16 b from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, c when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16 ESV)

What is God’s plan for the Church that is on the Earth in this time between our Lord’s Ascension and His return? He gave spiritual gifts. Some are gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Their purpose is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. This will continue until we all attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Why is this important? It is so we will no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. There you have it. The reason the Church in our time has little to no discernment is that it is full of either unregenerate church members or immature believers. They are man-focused rather than God-focused. Their leaders are NOT discipling them according to these standards. Those in the Seeker-Sensitive paradigm have a pragmatic focus, which is not biblical. They are totally man-focused while proclaiming the opposite. They are not focused on the Body of Christ becoming mature in Christ looking forward to their reuniting with Him, but instead, they are focused on redeeming the earth and correcting social injustices, et cetera. Jesus did none of that and neither should we change our focus away from serving Him to be well pleasing to men. We should make disciples as commanded and that means we are not after numbers, but seek to preach the gospel and take those who believe and teach them to walk the way we do. That is it.

Phil Johnson posted an article by C.H. Spurgeon the other day. It is titled, “Shall We Fraternize With Those Who Bury the Gospel Under Wagon Loads of Trash?” I highly recommend you read it. Rick Warren and all those who emulate him and work with him and are associated with him are guilty of violating what we are commanded to do as both Christians and Christian leaders. They have done much damage to the Gospel and have created havoc in the Church in our time. Therefore, I think it is a mistake for anyone like John Piper to even consider including Rick Warren in his conference. Warren has proven that he is not trustworthy. He says whatever he thinks people want to hear in order to tickle their ears. I call John Piper to consider these things prayerfully and then obey what God’s Word tells us to do when it comes to partnering with those who butcher the Gospel. I think a debate would be fine, but to include the man in a Christian conference meant to feed and equip pastors does not come from godly wisdom.

Soli Deo Gloria!

24 thoughts on “Unity in the Body of Christ

  1. Agreed, Mike.

    For some time I’ve remained fairly silent concerning Piper, waiting to weigh all things wisely, to see if perhaps some course Piper is plotting in all this makes land for edification of the Body in fashion not easily intuited by those young in the faith such as myself.

    Owing to the purpose (no pun intended) of the conference and its audience, it is beyond sensibility to invite RW as a speaker. The Church does not need to be equipped with ‘what makes Rick tick.’ It needs to learn, know, remember, and cherish Christ, and Him crucified. We’re to be built up in Christ, not purpose driven dogma. Piper should know this. He should also repent of it.

    I refrain from the charge of heretic concerning John Piper. However, I do charge foolish and destructive choices and associations which undermine the integrity of sound Biblical doctrine by giving a solid platform of condonement to those whose words, deeds, or behaviors bespeak otherwise, intended or not, by one in a postion of responsibility under Christ that should not only be above such reproach, but also actively guarding against such.

    I pray God strengthen you, Silva, and all other faithful watchmen on the wall to be free of the blood of all men.

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  2. If we want to avoid strange doctrine, then it is essential that we know the scriptures. But even knowing the scriptures is not enough if we are not also listening to the Holy Spirit, for it is He who gives understanding.

    One of the problems I see today is that there are many seeking unity but are not discerning the body.

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  3. Amen, Mike!
    Since the “Purpose Driven” model became popular, there have been reports, even in the secular media, about Christians ordered not to come to their churches by the Pastors, even arrested as trespassers!
    There is no Biblical authority for this behavior, and is a usurpation by those Pastors of an authority not given to them by our Lord.
    Taking the man responsible for this heresy, and showcasing him in a “Christian Conference” is not going to help the Body of Christ.
    Too bad that the conferences are not about the clear commands of Holy Scripture, rather than the machinations of men.

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  4. Kathy,

    Been through hostile church takeovers. The first one, I was clueless. I wasn’t as mature spiritually as I thought I was. I was a Deacon, but a very new one. I should have known something was wrong when after a year of our new pastor coming on board that more than half of our deacon body and their families had left the church very quickly and very quietly. It was bizarre. I found out later that the pastor told them that their concerns were not his problem. If they didn’t like the worship or preaching or whatever then they could leave.

    The second one, I was a Deacon and a Sunday School teacher. This was in 2006. However, In 2004 God took me to spiritual boot camp. That took all of that year and most of 2005 as well. By the end of 2005 I was simply stunned at the lack of spiritual depth in our church. I began to teach deep solid stuff in my class and ignored the drivel I was told to teach from. The Pastor had already started implementing the PDC stuff with only the chairman and one other deacon knowing anything about it. When I was ordered to read Rick Warren’s book the Purpose Driven Church I contacted Ken Silva, whom I had met at the old Slice of Laodicea blog. He helped me by praying for me and counseling me how to respond. When it became obvious that the pastor was going to have his way, my wife and I left and have not been back. The Pastor was preparing to discipline me for not bowing to his “authority.”

    Sigh… In any case, my wife and I have been unaffiliated with any church since then. We attend a good church not far from us, but we are not members. We travel quite a bit so it is tough.

    In any case, this freedom has helped me a great deal in not having any traditional baggage in the way when God has me exposit scripture and teach.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. Hi Mike,
    Not knowing really who John Piper is, nor having read any of his books and having only listened to two of his sermons, I have nothing to offer except this observation from one who is young in the faith. I watched the video of him explaining the reasons for inviting RW to speak at his conference. Toward the end he mentioned “hanging out with Rick Warren” and if he does this does that mean one can’t eat with him or talk with him anymore. But inviting him to speak is not simply “hanging out” with him as the words casually imply. Inviting him to speak at his conference is promoting him. That is what people will think, regardless of his reasons. Younger believers, seeing RW validated in this way, might go out and buy his books, start attending his conferences, who knows what else. They may eventually be deceived into believing in RW’s very purposeful life of “Deeds not Creeds.”
    Andrew’s response reminded me of something you once wrote in a reply to me. You said God works through His remnant, He has a remnant. I would not have even known what that meant, if not for Paul Washer saying in a sermon I listened to a year ago that Christians complain there is no unity in the body of Christ and how we must get this unity. He said that true believers are and always have been united and that is the body of Christ…that is the church.
    Have a most blessed Resurrection Sunday! Romans 5:1

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  6. Hi Mike – We too have been through hostile church takeovers. The first was back in 2002. Very spirit-filled church went down the purpose driven path. I spoke out at a “business” meeting regarding the changes (specifically in requirements for deacons) They wanted to allow women and divorced members to be deacons and I used Scripture to explain why that was not the right way to go. I explained that there were plenty of opportunities for these groups of people to serve but that the Bible was clear on the requirements for deacons. We had been heavily involved in the music ministry and shortly after this we were “transitioned” out. We left soon after. The other experience was much more subtle when the teaching just began to lack any substance at all. This was in 2006. It breaks my heart that so many fall for this.

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  7. That is indeed tragic Brian. I was looking back on my on journey as I read your comment. The transitions always eject adherence to Sola Scriptura. It is all about men and what they want. One of the reasons this ministry exists is to minister to those, like you, who have been through it. Also, we warn those about what to look for, et cetera. Yes, it is heartbreaking. Let us pray for God to open their eyes!

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  8. Mike,

    This news saddens me deeply, but really comes as no surprise. I felt discernment was needed with Dr. Piper considering his close allegiance to Mark Driscoll, but nevertheless I didn’t dismiss him completely because I had hoped he was taking a mentoring approach in their relationship (though one has to question the presence of the Holy Spirit within a pastor that enjoys being so crass to the point of vulgarity and his loose handling of scripture for comedic relief, but I digress). Admittedly I have enjoyed listening to some of Dr. Piper’s many sermons, specifically those on Romans, and have grown through his expositional teaching while in the back of my mind there has been an “approach with caution” warning light. I’m hesitant to say this is what I’ve been waiting for, perhaps more so what I was praying against, but this turns the warning into a full-fledged alert.

    I suspect however that this relationship is deeper than a conference invite because as we know the iceberg tip is all that can be seen, the depth of which likely extends into Driscoll’s Acts 29 Ministry and Warren’s various ecumenical groups/agendas each of which spread like a spider’s web among the evangelical who’s who. When Piper aligned with Driscoll, he brought a certain level of validity or endorsement to Driscoll’s ministry wherein many fringe reformers were willing to overlook language and behaviors as being merely “rough around the edges” like a John Calvin or Martin Luther. The problem is they weren’t offensive for the sake of attention or relevance, it was for the sake of the Gospel, of which they were prepared to die. The addition of Warren to Piper’s circle of reformed influence is especially disconcerting because the common theological ground on which he stood with Driscoll bears no merit with his relationship to Warren, despite Piper’s efforts to defend his selection. What it does however, is add validity to a ministry that continually seeks to evolve to the current trends in the religious marketplace, in this case Calvinism or perhaps more accurately “New Calvinism.”

    If I may, a quote from Dr. John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel:

    “In the first quarter of 2009, Time magazine ran a cover story titled “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” Number three on their list was “The New Calvinism.” All of this, obviously is strong motivation for evangelical and post-modern pragmatists to jump on the Calvinist bandwagon. (Why wouldn’t those who think of religion as a product to be marketed-as well as those addicted to popularity-want to get into the fastest growing demographic?) Prepare yourself for a wave of erstwhile Emergents and evangelical pragmatists to run to the crowd and declare themselves the true representatives of neo-Calvinism. They will bring every pragmatic tool in their arsenal and will exert all their energies toward making “the New Calvinism” seem even more stylish-until the glow fades and something else becomes stylish, and they will run after that. The sober, biblically minded remnant in their [reformed] midst need to remain on guard.”

    Sadly John Piper’s latest alliance has ushered in that which Dr. MacArthur warns about, because now Warren can put his marketing skills to work within Calvinistic circles. As a result, there needs to be either concern about the discernment of Dr. Piper or concern over his willingness to overlook obvious issues within the ministries of fellow pastors, neither of which is especially flattering for a man like him. The question is will those of the “sober, biblically minded remnant” be courageous and bold enough, as you have been, to take a stand when even those most prominent among them seem to be faltering? On a side note, it’s interesting how this announcement seems to coincide with John Piper’s planned 8-month leave of absence, curious if the timing is related or merely coincidental.

    I will continue to pray for JP.

    Thanks for taking a stand Mike and God bless your ministry.

    John

    I Peter 4:17

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  9. Amen. Mike, you are good at putting into words and scripture references the revulsion that welled up in me as I watched John Piper defend Rick Warren in that video. It shocked me to hear him speak as though there was no clear way to determine who we should and should not associate with. How about we start with consulting scripture!!!! I’ve never written a single book, but I know that much. I thought I was listening to a liberal.

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  10. I too have seen John Piper go down the deep end away from the Truth. I had to leave a Church that did not like me speaking up against Mark Driscoll for his language and crude behavior. They also did not like me going after John Piper for defending and supporting Mark Driscoll. As for the Purpose Driven stuff, I was caught up in that when I lived in Bend Oregon. The Baptist Church & the Christian College I was attending there was fascinated with the PDC & PDL. After I moved away I thankfully was shown from the Lord that Warren was leading people towards apostasy.

    Anyway, I think Piper would be wise to get away from Driscoll & Warren (Sproul and Mohler would be wise to do the same) and remember the words of the Holy Spirit written down by John in his second letter.

    2 John 6-11

    6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

    7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

    8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

    9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.

    10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;

    11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

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  11. A good friend of mine said that all of this should show us to just keep our eyes on Jesus and His Word and not look at man because man is so able to go off the path no matter who they are.

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  12. I have commented on other BLOGS about this…..so I will do so here as well….”WHY the need to defend him if he is above reproach”?????
    This baffles me.

    What do you do when you lose a pastor (death) and the new one, whom you have always trusted, starts to change things. Not little things, HUGE things. To the point of “emergent-cy”!!
    I was told that it was known that I didn’t agree with what was going on, and I was welcome to stay, but not to talk about things. If I couldn’t do that, I must leave.

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