Christian unity through humility

by Mike Ratliff

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:12-17 NASB)

The number one accusation thrown at those who take up the armor of God and use it in the battle as they are called to do, is that they are full of pride. Those who use this fiery dart are equating certainty with pride. Extra Biblical revelation should never be used in the battle by God’s warriors. Instead, the source of truth that is used is the sword of the Spirit itself, the Word of God. Experience is extra-Biblical. Man’s teachings, if contrary to the Word of God, are extra-Biblical. One’s own private interpretation of Scripture and/or experience is extra-Biblical. Feelings are extra-Biblical.

These battles may appear to cause disunity in the Body, but unity that is held together through compromise is false. Christians should never seek to be yoked up with those who hold doctrine or beliefs that are contrary to the truth from God’s Word or are based solely on extra Biblical sources. Unity in the Body of Christ is commanded in God’s Word, but that unity is not based in compromise, but love and humility within those who are obedient to God’s truth.

1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond- servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NASB)

The Greek word Paul used here for “encouragement” is παρακλησις or “paraklesis.” This word means, “imploration, hortation, solace, comfort, consolation, exhortation, or intreaty.” It comes from the Greek word that means “to come alongside and help.” It is used by our Lord to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His sheep. What Paul is saying in the phrase, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ,” is that if it is true that our Lord does counsel, exhort, and encourage us then “complete [his] joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Paul is saying that believers must cultivate the mind of Christ and the product of that will be to minister to one another the way He ministers to them. Paul tells them that his joy will be complete if he finds that they are doing this. Paul’s joy was tied to concern for the unity of believers. This unity is not one of compromise with heresies or disobedient brethren. It is one that is cultivated in common obedience to God’s appointed leaders who keeps watch over their souls.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17 NASB)

Those who are unified this way are bonded together because everyone operates together as each other’s servants. Selfish ambition and conceit are attitudes that are used by our enemy in the form of temptations in order that he may sow discord in the Body. As long as we see everyone else in the Body of Christ as as better than us then we have the right mindset. Not only is this concern an attitude, but it is action in us looking after the interests of others. We minister to each other as family.

Unity in the Body of Christ is commanded in the Word of God. We must seek it in all humility and service to one another. However, this is not a command to be unified with those who hold false doctrines and heresies or are under the teaching of heretics and false teachers. We must not be unified with wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must not base our own theology on extra-Biblical sources, no matter how much we respect the one who is leading us into their teachings. In fact, we must seek to correct those who are in these errors, gently yet firmly always with the intent of restoration as they repent.

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self- control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also. (2 Timothy 3:1-9 NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

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