Who is my Brother?
(2 Tim 3:16 KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction
in righteousness: (2 Tim 3:17 KJV) That the man of God may be perfect,
thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Christian Unity versus Christian Legalism
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all need to be aware that unity in Jesus
Godís purpose for the universe, and we all must participate in it to be
accordance with Godís will.
Eph.1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to
his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together
in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on
earth; even in him:
No Christians really dispute this fact. But there is little agreement among
us as to
what form unity in Jesus should take, especially regarding the possibility
uniting with Christians outside of our own denomination or other Christian
group. Not only have we failed to agree on the goal of unity beyond the
denominational or group level, it is a sad fact that some of the most unloving
attacks against such broad-based Christian unity come from our own brothers
Several of our Christian brethren who oppose unity, have strongly held
about many portions of the Bible, and they make the narrow-minded assumption
that we who support Christian unity do not have strong beliefs. But they
wrong. We also have many strongly held Biblical beliefs, and some day we
with Godís help to approach a common understanding with all our brothers
every detail. But in the mean time we refuse to use the present lack of
unity in all
words of the Bible as a lame excuse to avoid seeking some common Biblical
ground in which to begin to stand together as one in the word. And we refuse
abuse the word of God to promote only our own Christian group while trying
denigrate other members of the body of Christ.
We choose rather to obey Jesusí new commandment to love one another, and
show the world that we are indeed the disciples of the Son of the one true
And in Jesus, we see members of Christian groups beyond our own
denomination or group, as our brothers. We believe that the song of Christian
unity must rise above the din of disagreements in doctrinal detail. We
may just be that the world needs to hear from us Christians a unified chorus
the basic principle which is the gospel: namely, the "good news" to the
dying world that there is a way out of sin. The way is Jesus.
But many Christians steadfastly maintain their opposition to unity beyond
own group or denomination. Uniting in the idea that Jesus is the way out
is not enough for them. Their concept of unity is only that everyone must
hold exactly the same beliefs as they do, in every detail. They will allow
to unite with them in every interpretation of scripture they make. Like
preparing a brief, they seek in the words of the Bible to find some legalistic
interpretation, which proves their case right, and all other forms of Christianity
Some actually seem to revel in strife and dissension. One well-known television
Christian preacher was actually heard to say words to this effect, "Grab
doctrine, and join the fray!" Although such people will happily argue their
they can tolerate no real give-and-take discussion with Christians outside
To admit any possibility that they donít already have the full understanding
every part of the Bible might allow some other self-professed Christian
gain a slight competitive advantage in doctrine. And that, in turn, might
members away from the whole truth which, as they see it, is fully known
them. To prevent any such loss of either membership or intellectual property
claims, or even loss of face to themselves, they are sometimes willing
any Christian idea that might be perceived as "not-invented-here". And
worse, they often take the all too easy out of rejecting other Christians,
not Christian at all and therefor unworthy of brotherly love or consideration
the first place.
They are certain that when Jesus returns, he will justify them; that Jesus
return and tell the world, and tell all those other "so-called" Christian
that they and only they, were correct. That Jesus will return to tell everyone
their group managed to become the only true Christians, or at least the
Christians, because they found the details that God wanted. And they believe
that all of the details they found are just as important as any other fundamental
Christian principle, such as the seemingly simplistic notion of turning
sin to serve Jesus. Not enough detail there, to their way of thinking,
to set them
apart from the rest so that God will give them special notice above all
But the truth is, when Jesus returns he will justify himself, not us; he
will prove to
the world his own righteousness, not ours. Heíll prove that the only
righteousness we can claim is in Him. And before heís through, every knee
bow and every tongue will confess. It isnít about us, itís about Him and
in Him. And when we hold ourselves up as best, weíre not holding Him up,
where the world can see Him. When we insist that everyone follow every
as we interpret scripture, weíre telling our Christian brethren that we,
individuals or as a group, are the older brother. But Jesus says that in
kingdom, the one who exalts himself will be abased.
While we debate the fine points, the world looks in from the outside and
The theological differences that seem so important to us, are barely
understandable to the world outside. What a goofy bunch we appear to be.
How can any Christian precept be taken as true, when there is no internal
agreement in what is even important, let alone true? Why join any one group
Christians when it appears we canít begin to join with each other? Thatís
we seek for Christian unity now, just a beginning.
The following four things are suggested here, for all Christians to consider,
starting point to begin to work for unity with brothers in Christ:
1. THE WORD: the Bible is the only authority for the word of God.
2. THE NAME: Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one described in the Bible,
is the Son of God.
3. THE BLOOD: only by Godís mercy in the sacrificial death of Jesus do
we have salvation from our sins, of which we do repent and leave behind.
4. THE FRUIT: it is not required that a Christian accept a hateful or
belligerent attitude from his own Christian brother..
1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love
God whom he hath not seen?
The above four are not intended as any kind of catechism or creed. Any
creed, especially if it has already been identified with a particular denominational
group, will unnecessarily drive away some of the other Christian groups.
Christians want to unite in Jesus, not in any set of words for which some
denominational group can take credit.
Regrettably, even among Christian ecumenists, there can be found several
different inter-denominational groups that have published self-promoting
organizational descriptions, with narrowly focused historical perspectives,
wherein they proclaim their own group to be pre-eminent in seeking unity
other Christian groups. Considering the present lack of real Christian
unity in the
whole body of Christ, such claims amount to little more than self-aggrandizing
hypocrisy, and do not serve the Lord in the purpose of unity. How self-serving
is to claim to call others to unity, while seeking the credit for the unity
all are called!
As a starting point for unity, the specific words used in the above four
not important. They could be replaced with any of several synonyms, or
in several different ways that would result in exactly the same meaning.
donít need to play any more Christian word games, or to use Christian jargon
favored by any one group in order to try to find a place to start uniting.
It is the
meaning of the words that counts. And the meanings here are four simple
If a man will agree with us in the meaning of the above four things, we
fail to call that man our brother in Christ, and we must not take the chance
blaspheme the Holy Spirit in that man. True, we may not get much farther
that. For instance, he may next insist that Jesus is "a" God, and our progress
stop. If he further insists that only his group will get to heaven, then
rejection of all other Christians he has failed to show the fruit of the
we are not required to accept him as brother when he outright rejects us
Or it may be that he mistakenly insists that some man has authority, independent
of the Bible, to speak Godís word on earth. Or that the book of Mormon,
any other book, has some of Godís word in it not from the Bible, either
which means we never, really got past the first point, the word. Or he
to redefine sin to suit himself, trying to make exceptions for some form
obviously immoral, carnal, or worldly lifestyle, meaning we didnít get
third point, the blood. Any attempt to make carnality acceptable will never
place in Christian unity. Jesus paid with his blood to give us a ticket
out of sin,
not a pass to stay in it.
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
A man either agrees with us in the WORD, NAME, BLOOD, and FRUIT, or
he isnít any kind of brother with us, in the person of Christ each of us
here in his own heart. But if a man does agree in these things, at least
begin to move on together in our discussions as brothers. We at least accept
each other as fellow Christians, to start with, united in Jesus.
Even so, as we proceed together in the word of God, we will never knowingly
agree in any error for the sake of some sort of false unity. We will first
to what he believes the Holy Spirit has revealed to him in the Bible. If
we can go
no further together, we intend to do our best to explain the difference
understanding of the scripture which the Holy Spirit gives to us, then
ourselves content to let the Father show us both the truth. We will not
brotherhood with us, or his salvation in Jesus.
On the other hand, if he is wrong in the matter and if we are patient,
he may for
a moment forget some error his church hierarchy has taught him, or he may
aside whatever of manís traditions he takes for Godís. He may instead listen
and discuss what the Bible says. But whatever the result, we cannot begin
conversation by calling him a bastard, which is what happens when a Christian
denies that another Christian is his brother in Christ. The other Christian
more likely to listen to us, if instead of hurling insults, we allow that
discussing the words that have come to us from the one God and Father of
both. We must find a way to accept each other as brothers in Christ, in
begin to seek unity together in Him.
If unity is Godís will, and it surely is, then how can we refuse to try
to find a
starting point with each other? If any person believes that the Bible is
real authority for Godís word on earth, why should any Christian refuse
agree, as a place to begin? And if a personís read far enough in the Bible
that Jesus is the Son of God, why be afraid to agree with him in that fact?
And may God have mercy on the Christian who would deny agreement with the
repentant, in the atoning blood of Jesus. Why would any Christian want
to try to
take the blood away from a Christian who agreed up to this point, in order
make an issue of a lesser doctrine? Is a Christian serving God, or serving
own ego, when he refuses to let a former sinner claim the blood of Jesus
redemption because of some further doctrinal issue he doesnít yet agree
wonder Jesus said,
Mat 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe
me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
How can we so presume to judge another manís servant? Does a man not
know his own heart from the inside, better than some other man knows it
the outside? If he knows Jesus changed his heart and caused him to turn
from sin, then he knows Jesus in his own heart. And if he knows that Jesus
makes His abode in there with him, there in his heart where he keeps the
that he does understand, then what greater theology can dissuade him from
certain knowledge of that most personal relationship with Jesus, Himself?
he claims the blood of Jesus to give him his place in the Lambís Book of
what higher qualification do we assert for our own place, or by what greater
doctrine do we presume to promote ourselves to even more lofty status?
Isa 65:2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people,
which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that
sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
4 Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which
eat swineís flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than
thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
Mat 12:7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and
not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
Weíve tried unity the old way. The early Catholic (meaning universal) Church,
the Protestant Reformation, the earliest Protestant groups and meetings,
early Restoration movement: all were marked by the avowed purpose of unity.
And all ultimately resulted in more divisions, and denominations, and
non-denominations, and yes, even un-denominations: each new group of us
seeking to show God and everybody else that we found the right combination
details in interpreting the scripture which makes us the best, so that
can come together here with us and unite now in what we found.
Letís try it a different way. Letís try it with all lowliness and meekness,
longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the
the Spirit in the bond of peace. Letís start with what little we can agree
on. If we
can start with the word, the name, and the blood of Jesus Christ, bearing
another the fruit of the Spirit, we shall surely get somewhere worth being,
of us. At least we will be able to say that we are unprofitable servants:
done that which was our duty to do, in obedience to the new commandment
Jesus. If we can find a better place to start uniting in the Bible, we
must all have
ears to hear it.
But the greatest impediment to beginning Christian unity, is Christians
to exclude from Christianity all those who donít already agree with them,
every detail, of every legalistic Biblical interpretation they care to
regard for considerations of relative importance of scripture. For them,
all now or nothing ever. They have all these strongly held Biblical beliefs,
they are sure God wants everyone to learn from them, but they will not
themselves in any regard to make themselves heard. They see themselves
the inside with Jesus, looking out at the rest of us. What vanity!
They refuse to consider any possibility of including others there with
them in the
family of God. For them the failure of Christian unity, or at least their
part in it
becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. They think that Christian unity
happen, because theyíve made up their minds that they wonít participate
By their rejection of other Christians, they keep themselves isolated in
a sort of
hypobaric chamber of scriptural interpretation, where they can only re-breathe
the rarified atmosphere of their own Biblical preconceptions. They are
in a self-imposed vacuum of spiritual learning, devoid of the truth that
Spirit has given to others to share with them, given in order that we all
led together as a group into all truth.
1 Cor 12:21 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.
Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but
a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Those of us who do seek unity can only pray that Christians in opposition
have a willing change of heart on this issue, and that Jesus will help
them do it.
But if they persist in rejecting us out of hand as not even being their
Jesus, whereís the love in that? They not only donít love their brother,
that the Holy Spirit is inside of us, working through us. And that type
accusation is the only kind Jesus ever related as blaspheming the Holy
wonít be forgiven in this life, or the next.
Except within the confines of our own particular group or denomination,
that up to now we Christians canít begin to find any agreement, all together
single body made of many members, in any of the words of the Bible. But
we also canít really know whatís in the heart of another Christian, to
he really believes, or if he really loves Jesus. We can judge the apparent
but assuming no apparent continuance in any sin of immorality, and assuming
Christian professes repentance, we canít see inside another personís heart
know whatís there.
And even if we mistakenly think we can know another Christianís heart,
certainly canít prove it, and weíre not qualified to judge it. We canít
Bible to each other, and we canít prove our hearts to each other. We canít
the word in the same way, and we canít see in one anotherís heart. So the
subject of unity ultimately reduces to predictions about how Jesus, the
Judge, who is the Word and who does know and judge hearts, will resolve
The Christian legalists predict that Jesus will only accept, as Christian,
who agree totally with their interpretation of the Bible. But Christians
the beginnings of unity predict that Jesus will accept all hearts who have
repented and converted to Him, having been born again in Jesus in any number
of different denominations and Christian groups. But if these are their
predictions, then as far as judging the Christians who work toward unity,
Bible legalists, Jesus can resolve the issue for us now.
One of these prophecies is false, and one of these groups of prophets is
They are predicting opposite outcomes. They canít both be true. Jesus said
thereís a way to know false prophets. The main thing Jesus said, when he
us what to look for was this:
Mat 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles?
And if we wonder what sort of spirit motivates the ones who seek unity,
legalists, we have only to remember what the apostle wrote,
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
When we deal with Christians who seek unity, we enjoy the fruit of the
which is the fruit they bear to us. When we consider the legalists, we
consider the further words of Jesus:
Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of
knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in
Sisters and brothers in Christ, let us pray together, that when we read
we let the Holy Spirit teach us all things, regarding Christian unity as
to the Christian legalists.
Isa 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and
the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor
among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed,
and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that
reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
see also: About the Christian Unity
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