2 Thessalonians: 1:1-7a (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 1)

map of greece2 Thess 1:1-4

(2 Thess. 1:1-4 ESV) Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 

The salutation is very similar to 1 Thess, and so I’ll avoid repeating materials already covered.

Paul begins with a word of praise, thanking God that the church is growing in faith and in love for each other. Paul says not a word about inviting friends and neighbors to church or doing community service projects — not that he wouldn’t encourage these things. Rather, a close reading shows that Paul is, first and foremost, concerned that the church act like the church among and toward each other. It’s not until we have a loving, faith-filled congregation that the world will find us attractive. They’ll happily accept our well digging and house-painting and enjoy our Easter and Christmas programs, but they won’t put on Jesus until they see us living the love and faith of Jesus toward one another. If we would just do that — by becoming a united, holy community — both congregationally and as the church-universal — the evangelism and social service will go much better.

It’s a little unexpected that, in v. 4, Paul celebrates their “faith” because of the persecutions and afflictions they are suffering. Paul makes “faith” parallel with “steadfastness,” which are two very different concepts. I think the problem is in the translation.

Our tendency is to reduce “faith” to “Jesus is Messiah and Lord” and to ignore the rest of the meaning of “faith.” And so, even though “faith” is a correct translation, it puts the emphasis in the wrong place. I would translate “faith” here as “faithfulness” — which focuses on the part of faith that has to do with being obedient. Maybe something like “faith/trust/faithfulness” would make the point better.

I don’t think Paul’s point is that the church continued to believe that Jesus is Lord and Messiah despite persecution. They did, of course, but that’s not really Paul’s point. Rather, in parallel with “steadfastness” Paul’s point is that the church continued to do what churches are supposed to do — love each other in growing faith/trust/faithfulness (v.3). Hence, “faithfulness” nicely parallels “steadfastness,” as Paul’s point is that they continued to follow Jesus despite the persecution.

2 Thess 1:5-8

On the suffering of Christians

(2 Thess. 1:5-8 ESV)  5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,  7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels  8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 

V. 5 is one those passages that never quite makes it into Sunday school and sermon theology — although Paul and Peter and Jesus all say this over and over. We just don’t like hearing it.

Paul says that persecution and afflictions comes so that we “may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God.” That sounds like Christians should expect suffering. Compare —

(Rom. 5:1 ESV)  2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Paul plainly says that our sufferings ultimately produce hope, which seems backwards. I mean, most of us would think of persecutions as challenging and threatening our hope. Paul says persecution creates hope!

(2 Cor. 4:16-18 ESV)  16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

This is, of course, a difficult topic that has produced countless books to help Christians cope with the sufferings of believers. Suffice to say for now that Paul sees suffering as a pathway toward greater faith and hope. He never pretends that the suffering isn’t real and, at times, truly awful. He never says that “God has a plan.” He never rationalizes the suffering; rather, he embraces it for the sake of Jesus — just as Jesus embraced his sufferings for our sake.

God doesn’t promise to take away pain and suffering for his children. Quite the opposite —

(Matt. 5:10-12 ESV)  10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

— Jesus assumes that this will be the natural order of things: “when others revile you and persecute you” not if.

In fact, 2 Thess 1:6 offers more comfort than many of the parallel teachings in the NT: “since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” That is, rest assured that you will be avenged by God. He will bring wrath and destruction on those who persecute you — and so when you are being persecuted, remember that the persecutors are sealing their own doom! God will repay!!

 

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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36 Responses to 2 Thessalonians: 1:1-7a (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 1)

  1. John says:

    For a number of years now I have observed how many Christians define persecution. Too often they brand being confronted and embarrassed by their own judgmental words in their lack of mercy and compassion as being persecuted by evil. When in reality, they were never purposely attacked by anyone; no one laid a physical, mental or emotional finger on them. What they often call persecution is someone asking, “What did you say???!!!”

  2. JohnF says:

    All to often we, rather than allowing justice in God’s time, feel as though vengeance is not His, but ours to “afflict.” Likely God takes punitive justice out of our hands because, “We would enjoy it too much!” Also the Spiritual gentleness of Gal. 6 is all too rare.

  3. Price Futrell says:

    How worthy must one be to be accepted into the Kingdom ?

  4. Alabama John says:

    When you are helplessly being persecuted enough, hoping it will get better is all you have.
    In bad persecution, those that bring hope are sure listened to and believed even if the lesson is not right on target according to tradition and as we see scriptures exactly in our freedom.
    The problem with our churches today is we are not persecuted enough to make us appreciate NOT being persecuted.
    Most, all but a few do not know what persecution is today.

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    Paul wrote, “(2 Thess. 1:5 ESV) 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.”

    The translators disagree as to whether this should be “made worthy” (NET, NRSV) or “considered worthy” (ESV, KJV, NASB). BDAG says “to consider someone worthy to receive some privilege, benefit, or recognition, consider worthy.” Louw-Nida and Friberg are the same. VGNT explicitly rejects the “make worthy” translation. Hence, I go with the ESV translation.

    Thus, Paul is not saying anything about our worthiness to be saved or to remain saved. Rather, he sees Christian suffering to be a mark of worthiness — that God would not allow you to suffer if he didn’t think it would demonstrate to the world that you are worthy of this calling.

    According to Phil. 1:28 the fact that the Philippians were not intimidated by those who opposed them was a sign (ἔνδειγμα) of destruction to their opponents but for them it was a sign of their salvation from God. Thus for the Thessalonians the evidence of the righteous judgment of God consisted in their endurance of oppression. Their perseverance would not have been possible without God’s help.

    Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1990), 220–221.

    I’m not sure that Wanamker is right to say that their enduring the persecution is the mark of their worthiness. I think Greek says that the fact you are persecuted shows you to be among the redeemed. This is what Jesus plainly says in the SOTM —

    (Matt. 5:10-12 ESV) 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    I think Best gets closer to my own reading —

    If God judges righteously then those who have suffered in persecution will be thought worthy (καταξιωθῆναι; the verb might mean ‘made worthy’ but at Lk. 20:35; Acts 5:41; 4 Macc. 18:3 it has the meaning we have given it; the passive form implies that it is God who thinks them worthy) of the kingdom of God (the eschatological community of the redeemed at the parousia; see on 1 Th. 2:12) and will in fact become members of it (cf. the Rabbinic phrase, ‘Be worthy of the coming age’; see Billerbeck, II, pp. 254f).

    This clause (introduced by εἰς τό, see on 1 Th. 2:16) may give either the content of God’s judgement, its result, or its purpose; it is difficult to distinguish clearly between these and all three may in fact be involved: God judges righteously with the intention that those who have suffered while righteous may be received into his kingdom, this is the actual result of his judgement, and it is stated in his decree of judgement. All this is to be expected for they suffer (present tense; cf. v. 4, are bearing) for (not ‘in order to obtain’, cf. Phil. 1:29) the kingdom. also (καί) implies some kind of contrast or similarity: either the contrast between their present suffering and their future glory (in the sense ‘even now’) or the similarity between what is happening to them and what is happening to others, i.e. they are not the only ones to suffer (Paul has suffered, is probably still suffering and certainly will suffer); this similarity comes out again in with us (v. 7) and for this reason is the preferable interpretation.

    In any case the contrast between present suffering and future glory appears here with the reference to the kingdom of God and in v. 7 to peace; it is found regularly in the N.T. (Lk. 6:20–6; Mt. 5:10–12; Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:11f; 1 Pet. 1:6; 3:14; 4:13f; Jas. 1:2, 12) and seems to have its origin for Christians in Jesus’ teaching, though of course it goes back far behind him into Judaism and the O.T. It is allied in thought to the lex talionis (Lev. 24:19f) and this comes out clearly in the two-fold expansion of vv. 6, 7.

    Yet it is not set out here in terms of reward as if Paul were encouraging his readers to endure so that they should enter the kingdom; it is instead an assurance that if they remain firm in persecution God will accept them. The persecuted will have peace, and the persecutors will be punished—because God is righteous.

    Ernest Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, Black’s New Testament Commentary, (London: Continuum, 1986), 255–256.

    I would prefer to say “it is instead an assurance that, since they are being persecuted, God has accepted them.” This fits the SOTM and the notion that the world doesn’t persecute a church that’s just like the world. Persecution demonstrates that the church is truly being the church she was called to be — and hence should give confidence that God will punish the persecutors and reward those who suffer for his name.

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    AJ wrote,

    The problem with our churches today is we are not persecuted enough to make us appreciate NOT being persecuted.

    Totally agree. I would add this thought from Ray Vander Laan. In his video series, he tapes a Christian woman from Sudan giving testimony as to the suffering of Christians in that part of the world. The testimony was taped in an underground church where Chritians had literally carved a church in rock deep underground to escape Roman arrest and torture. Hearing her speak in a church over 1,500 years old built at unspeakable cost of labor and lives was very moving. (I got something in my eye.)

    RVL then made the point that we don’t suffer because we have no heart or sympathy for these Christians. If we really cared about the church-universal, the suffering in Sudan would make us suffer — just as you would suffer if you knew your parent or child was being tortured.

    Our congregational autonomy and our sectarianism, in which the persecuted are considered damned for taking communion too infrequently, allows us to pretend that these aren’t our brothers and sisters in Christ — and so we don’t have to feel their pain. They’re going to hell anyway.

    Thus, we avoid persecution, not by living in the US, but by ignoring the pain of our fellow believers in other countries.

  7. Price Futrell says:

    OK.. I can go along with the concept that being persecuted means that you are not a part of the world who is doing the persecuting.. That would be sort of a litmus test, huh? If you are not being persecuted then perhaps you’re not being very open in your faithfulness even though your mustard seed of faith is able to accept the grace offered. Perhaps it is tied in with James… [Jas 1:2 ESV] 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

  8. Alabama John says:

    Plenty of persecution right here in the USA. Not in the big churches where all is well.
    Go to the worship sessions giving hope to those in shelters and prisons and you’ll see it in spades. Anywhere that folks are not allowed and are afraid of being labeled candyasses.

  9. laymond says:

    A big problem with persecution today is mostly it is inflicted by church members on non-members.
    and that is a big reason the church is not growing. Who wants to join a bunch of grouchy, intolerant people. Or holier than thou elitists . The old grey church, she ain’t what she used to be.

  10. JohnF says:

    Jay: “Our congregational autonomy and our sectarianism, in which the persecuted are considered damned for taking communion too infrequently, allows us to pretend that these aren’t our brothers and sisters in Christ — and so we don’t have to feel their pain. They’re going to hell anyway.”

    I am truly sorry that this has been your experience . . . I feel blessed (after 68 years in the cofC) that it has not been mine, perhaps the difference between the South and the West. I am well aware of the Sommerites and the Wallaces and the Rices, but through study and not direct experience.

  11. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Just maybe you might have done too good of a job in teaching us the importance of placing Jesus at the every foremost of all our teaching to the lost and the members of the church.. Jesus, then everything follows, you have convinced me. Then I read comments such as.
    “It’s not until we have a loving, faith-filled congregation that the world will find us attractive. They’ll happily accept our well digging and house-painting and enjoy our Easter and Christmas programs, but they won’t put on Jesus until they see us living the love and faith of Jesus toward one another. If we would just do that — by becoming a united, holy community — both congregationally and as the church-universal — the evangelism and social service will go much better.”

    To me, the ugly head of the church which wants to replace Jesus and God as the light and Savior of mankind is being placed into a category of attracting the world to come to Jesus. But not really because then the church is given credit to have the ability to hide Jesus behind the lives the members are living. Well it is for certain that no church should be so bright as to overshadow Jesus, and that is what I am seeing placed between an individual and the Savior.

    What evidence could I relate to that would confirm what I am seeing wrong in these concepts.
    1. It was not the church which attracted the lost to Jesus in the first century.
    2. It was not to the church that The Gospel was first preached.
    3. It was not the church that Christians held fast to while giving their lives as martyrs.
    You even mentioned a truth that, “Paul says not a word about inviting friends and neighbors to church or doing community service projects”. Then you express that, “not that he wouldn’t encourage these things”. But, why should he? That message would be out of synchronization with Jesus being the drawing force for those who accept him and then are added to the Church. I have never read where the messages of Jesus teaches that the church is made up of those (lost souls) who are pleased to associate with his followers until they decide to dedicate their lives to Jesus.
    The only message I have found about unbelievers meeting within the assembly of the church is the instruction below. Notice, were they invited? Were they encouraged to come? Did they see the message from the church with a concept we are being told to present? “Find us attractive”, “see us living the love and faith of Jesus toward one another”.
    1Co 14:23-25 ESV If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (24) But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, (25) the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

    The Church has no instructions to woo the lost into a social community to entice them to then become a follower of Jesus, that would place Jesus like a secondary position to the community (church). Sometimes it is like a prerequisite, come in with us and conform to our style of life and we will introduce you to Jesus who is our Savior. Church first Jesus second.

  12. JohnF says:

    Good points, Larry. We have become the home of the “golden tongued orator / preacher / pastor (but we are too “Biblically astute” to call him [or now her in some of our more “liberated” congregations] that. Perhaps our “mutual edification” brothers had a better insight to some of the problems that have arisen, and yes, “mutual edification” could become “mutual ignorance speaking.” Yet study could cure that potential illness. Too many churches have become little more than a rec house — Religious Entertainment Centers, complete with multimedia presentations and a full staff of hired professionals to make us feel good about our relationship to God.We talk of “connecting to the community” and “transformation into lives of service.” But God forbid we were to speak of sin or doctrine or judgment.

    Sorry, I was about to go on a rant . . . . Would not want to disturb the decorum of this site.

  13. Dwight says:

    The struggle I believe is that although we see one point, the church as the people, it is very easy to move back to the concept of the church as a thing and then move in between those concepts without realizing the distraction of it all. I hear this all the time from the pulpit as the preacher will start out that the church is the people and then move to the church is called on to do these things…etc. No, the people are called on to do these things, no the church, as if the group is going to en mass do something. I have never been to a congregation where our assembly as a single unit went out to talk to another person, as it doesn’t work like that and would seem like a mob.

    In Acts people came to Christ and were added to the church and this was the modus operandi in conversion. People weren’t converted to the church or through the church, but to Christ and through Christ.
    Now while it might be true that we become unbelievable Christians if they see us treat our brother poorly, we are most at risk for not treating those that are watching nicely.
    I Cor.14 places forth an “if” statement, not a “to do” statement. Now the if probably entertains an actual happening, but this isn’t an encouragement for the saints to promote this scenario.
    In fact if you look at the scriptures as a whole, the gathering is seen or talked about very little, I Cor. 11 and 14, and then you have the off mention of people gathering in homes. The impetus of the scriptures is not about the church or the gathering, but about the saint in their work and service and worship in the world, which would then sow the seeds of Godliness. According to Heb.10, we the saints are supposed to assemble to edify each other, not to edify the lost or convert the lost. A lot of time and momentum and focus is lost when we try to divide the assembly time in reaching people that by and large are not there.

  14. JohnF says:

    Larry — Dwight: thanks for your comments

    The very real possibility, if not probability, is that in desiring to become a “seeker friendly” assembly, we become little more than a Religious Entertainment Center, complete with multi media presentations and a highly trained and professional staff that is pleasing to our senses — a “golden tongued” orator, a “worship minister,” gymnasiums, and more. We will speak of being connected to God and community, our lives transformed into “lives of service” (good things), but we will speak little of sin or doctrine or judgment or morality or punishment or hell.

    These things are so foreign to the NT church, that I wonder if Paul would be allowed to speak:
    2 Cor 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible. NASU

  15. Monty says:

    Most people are saved in conjunction with family/friendships. I challenge all to take a hard look at their congregation and say, “OK, who here isn’t related to someone or wasn’t a friend with someone here when they started attending/got converted. In most cases the answer will astonish you. I’m sure there is the odd exception, but I’d venture to say that here in the U.S. it will be at least 90% of all baptized in the CofC (probably also in other churches beside Mormon’s and JW’s)are related to or a friend of some one in the church before baptism and not just a casual acquaintance or a total stranger. Reminds me of lyrics from one of Cat Stevens songs, “if I could meet um I could get um, but as of yet I haven’t met um.”

  16. Gary says:

    Any discussion of persecution of Christians in the present context of American Evangelicals and conservative Christians seems highly ironic. While such Christians are often quick to see the spectre of persecution for what, seriously, would they be persecuted in our society? Certainly not for holy living or worshipping God or showing compassion to “the least of these among us.” There is no evidence of persecution in America today for these activities that are at the core of biblical Christian identity. What usually raises the fear of persecution among conservative American Christians today is push back from our society against their unceasing efforts to control America through the political and legal process. Those efforts have not an iota of support in the New Testament or in the history of early Christianity. At a minimum those who are committed to enforcing their version of a Christian America on the rest of society should drop any notion that they are being persecuted for following Christ. Their persecution exists only in their imaginations. There is an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Conservative white American Christianity seems to have finally gotten its way in choosing who holds the reins of secular power in our nation. Only time will tell what the fruit of Christians embracing secular power will bring us.

  17. Dwight says:

    JohnF, we cut a very narrow swathe when it comes to what we do and most of it comes down to the building. We don’t do things in the building like community outreach, feeding people, etc., because the building is for God’s worship. Obstensibly the building is then a temple. But many would argue that it is not, even though it fulfills all the functions of what temples are, including being dedicated just for worship. If we looked into the NT we would find homes as the primary place of worship and yet homes could function as other things as well, most notably a place to raise a family, have guest over, etc and often underutilized as a place for God to be and a place for learning and service and worship, etc.

    Monty, Basically true and I would gather that in the NT church many people were also saved “in conjunction with family/friendships” as they lived in close structured towns and interacted daily with family and friends. In the beginning Jesus though was rejected by family and friends and yet seemed to do very well with those not related to Him, such is the power of the Holy Spirit.

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JohnF,

    John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine have coined the terms “Tennessee Tradition” and “Texas Tradition” to explain the two kinds of Churches of Christ. The Texas Tradition traces back to Austin McGary and his periodical the Firm Foundation. He worked out of Texas and argued that those baptized for the wrong reason — anything other than remission of sins — are damned unless they are rebaptized. The same attitude spread to other worship and organizational issues. Many churches split over his teaching. Some splits resulted in litigation!

    The Texas Tradition took over the SE US when Foy Wallace, Jr. (from Texas) was made editor of the Gospel Advocate — and found friendly allies among the Sommerites (Sand Creek Address and Declaration) who’d divided over fund raising, located preachers, missionary societies, and instruments (the roots of the anti-institutional movement).

    The Tennessee Tradition traces back to David Lipscomb (editor of the Gospel Advocate), G. C. Brewer, and K. C. Moser, among others, who took a position closer to Campbell — refusing to damn over such disagreements. But the SE US was overwhelmed by the Texas Tradition thanks to Wallace and his ilk. Meanwhile, in the 1960s, Reuel Lemmons took over the editorship of the Firm Foundation and pushed churches west of the Mississippi toward the Tennessee tradition! The geographic footprints of the two traditions nearly flipped due to a couple of editors of the two premier CoC journals.

    I’m learning that the middle ground — Arkansas, Missouri — managed to stay largely Tennessee tradition — and some churches have no history of the Texas Tradition at all. Many churches in those parts take great pride in their tolerance. Harding University avoids taking positions on controversial issues, trying to continue to serve both traditions, whereas FHU remains strongly Texas Tradition.

    Alabama has been Texas Tradition my entire life — so long that no one remembers anything else. The ghostly hand of Foy Wallace still governs in these parts. And it’s not just Alabama. I’ve seen plenty of sectarianism on both sides of the Mississippi. Oklahoma seems to have remained largely Texas Tradition, for whatever reason.

  19. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    What evidence could I relate to that would confirm what I am seeing wrong in these concepts.
    1. It was not the church which attracted the lost to Jesus in the first century.
    2. It was not to the church that The Gospel was first preached.
    3. It was not the church that Christians held fast to while giving their lives as martyrs.

    First, we need to avoid the temptation to create a false dichotomy — it’s either Jesus or the church. No, there are other possibilities. For example, it might be Jesus AND the church. Or even Jesus THROUGH the church. Or Jesus WITH the church. I mean, if you set it up EITHER Jesus OR the church AND THERE ARE NO OTHER POSSIBILITIES, then of course it’s Jesus — but that’s a false assumption.

    Remember, the church is the body of Christ. What does that mean? Well, it means that the church is to Jesus as my body is to me. Well, to some extent, me and my body are indistinguishable. My existence and my body’s existence strongly overlap. We see the church as an appendage of Jesus, but the NT describes the church as his body. It’s where HE is. It’s how he does what he does. Jesus has chosen to be ONE with the church.

    (1 Cor. 12:27 NIV) 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

    Therefore, whatever we, the church, do, it reflects on Jesus. We are a part of his self. We are his body on earth. Randy Harris refers to this as the Second Incarnation. The Son of God was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. He is now incarnate (in a very different way) in the church — his body that walks the earth and continues his ministry to preach the gospel and serve, submit, sacrifice, and suffer for others.

    Rather like the Trinity, the Jesus/church unity does not make Jesus = the church. They are not the same. But neither are they entirely separate. When we are baptized, we put on Christ. We are baptized “into Christ” — not just into salvation but into his person to become a part of him. Therefore, we are all part of a Jewish carpenter, a descendant of David, and heir to the throne of Israel and inheritors of God’s promises to the Jews. (Gal 2-3)

    (Gal. 2:20 NET) 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

    Read that passage literally. Don’t interpret it into Western abstractions as you go. Rather, imagine your baptism as co-crucifixion with Jesus — you are mystically carried back in time to the cross and die with him as part of him. It’s not just your sins on the cross — it’s also you. And when Jesus was resurrected, it was not just him, but he brought you out of death to life with him — as part of his mystical, spiritual body. So now Christ lives in you (surely via the Spirit). Therefore, just as my children’s behavior reflects on me whether they want it to or not, because we share common lineage, our unity with Jesus (which is much more profound) means what we do reflects on Jesus as we cannot be other than a part of Jesus.

    Second point. Read carefully —

    (Rom. 10:13-15 NET) 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.”

    Paul plainly says that salvation is only by faith in Jesus, which is only by hearing the gospel, which is only by some person preaching the gospel, which is only by someone sending missionaries and teachers to proclaim the good news. He’s not denying that someone might pick up a Gideon Bible and come to saving faith with no teacher other than the Spirit — but in his day, the only New Testament books were possessed by churches. They weren’t available in stores!

    Now, if the teacher doesn’t live as Jesus lived, he won’t be very good at his job. Paul repeatedly makes the point that he lives the way he lives so that his own life won’t interfere with his mission. And he taught Timothy to do the same.

    (Phil. 3:17 NET) 17 Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.

    (2 Thess. 3:7-9 NET) 7 For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate.

    (1 Tim. 4:12 NET) 12 Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.

    (Tit. 2:6-8 NET) 6 Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, 7 showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.

    There are plenty of other “body of Christ” passages we could consider, but this should make the point.

    Third, just talk to a non-Christian about why he or she is not a believer. Many will point out that the people who claim to follow Jesus are hypocrites and don’t live what they preach. The lives lived by Christians have a huge impact on evangelistic effectiveness because we either confirm or deny the claims we make about following Jesus.

    Fourth, Jesus himself said,

    (Jn. 17:18-21 NET) 18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. 19 And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. 20 “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, 21 that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me

    The world will only believe in Jesus if the church is united.

    Finally, there’s —

    (Jn. 13:34-35 NET) 34 “I give you a new commandment– to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples– if you have love for one another.”

    Jesus’ disciples are to be marked as such by their love for each other. If we don’t love each other, we won’t be recognized as disciples of Jesus — and so our testimony and our preaching will not be effective. It’s our love that validates our claim to follow Jesus and to know the path to eternal salvation. No love means ineffective evangelism. We might persuade a very few of the rightness of our rules inferred from the silences, but far more people will be drawn toward Jesus if we actually live what we preach.

  20. JohnF says:

    Jay, I read the work on Tennessee and Texas traditions, also much of Daniel Sommer. Too many vitriolic personalities to suit my taste. Also, I ‘ve been working through Carl Ketcherside’s materials, seeing some strange conflicts as well — shown in some of the debates as well. Carl K. attributes J.C. Bunn (life long best friend to my Grandfather) as telling Carl he was to bring his first lesson in “two weeks.” It is interesting how many lives intersect over the years. There have been gentle spirits upholding truth as they understood it without resorting to condemnation, caviling, and catcalling. Fortunately, I suppose I have had more influence on my life from those spiritual men than some who comment here. The gentleness of a Hugo McCord was experienced by many, and while defending the doctrine as he understood it in many writings (I do not endorse all or perhaps even many 0f them), I cannot recall the sharp, bitter spirit you relate, and that I have seen expressed in many of the early debates (Like you, I love to read a good debate and have collected many). May the spirit of shalom rule in our hearts.

  21. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    This is the thought that I contest, “The world will only believe in Jesus if the church is united”. The early believers in Jesus did not follow Jesus because of the church. It was Jesus that they believed in and those believers became the church. In fact, there was no visibility of church to guide them to Jesus. The church was made up of them after they committed to Jesus. To say otherwise would be like putting the cart in front of the horse. Jesus is the King, the church is just his followers. In a earthly kingdom men may want to become a member of a kingdom because of the benefits of the kingdom but never become a follower of the King. For the church (assembly) to be the drawing force of The Kingdom of Christ would actually place Christ in the shadows. Many would never make a connection with the King. They would be comfortable in the physical benefits. A body of humans can be united and never be a followers of the King.

    This last portion of your post is exactly what I am attempting to illustrate. Most of the churches that I have known (of all brands) do not portray a very good image of Christ or The Good News to the lost world. They are much more proud of their heritage as an organization than their relationship with The Savior.
    Many of those who I communicate with who used to go to a church readily confirm their disdain for the image which they saw being presented. In other words most organized churches have driven more believers away from churches than now attend them. We have discussed many of the downfalls of those organizations here on the blog. I will agree that Christians are admonished to portray Christ living in their lives to the world. It would very impressive to the world if any, even a local assembly of Christians could learn to be as visible for Christ as a marching military unit. But, for the most part of the Christian world the world sees us as the misfit band that is as disorganized as possible. They do not see the dedication that we are to display of our devotion to Christ even when they observe our assemblies. They see a ritual which we perform believing that it is what is saving us. How many times have we heard individuals who had attended church many years ago or those who had never attended a church give us an example of their concept that if they were to enter the building the roof would fall in. They cannot be reached by the church, it must be through caring individuals who are delivering the Gospel or Good News into their environment. They will have to be nurtured and cultivated by individuals outside of an assembly carefully prior to exposure to the fullness of an assembly. Most of them would accept a relationship with Jesus after they were informed how much he loves them much quicker than with an assembly. Assemblies intimidate those outside of Christ. In fact many times a large church where we have never been before intimidates some of us Christians until we become friends with someone who attends there. Therefore, my concept is that the church (assembly) was never given to be the light to those lost. Just think of some of the individuals that you have known who are outside of church or Christ, how many do you imagine just wake up some Sunday morning and decide to go visit a church? Just jump in there and see what is going on even if they have had some knowledge of a few members there?

  22. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Most of these identity issues are caused by the church presenting itself as a entity belonging to the Lord which is perfect, you know going to heaven because she is soo good. That is not untrue but the image being presented to the world is not humbleness and brokenness but saved by the Savior by being forgiven in spite of the short comings, but we are now saints God’s children, good people. In other words the churches are not convincing the lost that they can receive the same forgiveness from sins.
    Think about it very strongly, why do we find so many Christians who fight yes I said fight against admitting that they were sinners prior to believing and accepting Christ. The message they want presented is just believe and have faith in Jesus and you will be saved. The problem, they either were not convinced they were sinners or now that they have been forgiven do not want to be reminded of what they were. Good humans now believing and having faith in God we are justified. Baptism tells without a doubt that there was a sinful man who was born again, raised from the dead.

  23. JohnF says:

    Jay: “Third, just talk to a non-Christian about why he or she is not a believer. Many will point out that the people who claim to follow Jesus are hypocrites and don’t live what they preach. The lives lived by Christians have a huge impact on evangelistic effectiveness because we either confirm or deny the claims we make about following Jesus.”

    Three points in response:
    1) Why would someone (anyone) allow the deficiencies of another control their own spiritual life? This lesson I learned through “tough stuff” in the church, an among its so called “elders.” And yet, I refuse to take and hold offense (not easy) or allow them control over my spiritual relationship with God through Christ. “There are so many hypocrites in the world, some are bound to find their way into the church.”
    2). If God can use me with my shortcomings / sinfulness / weaknesses, he can / may / will use others with the same shortfalls as myself. I should have the grace and mercy within me to see and to allow that.
    3). Would you rather live among those who struggle as you do, and together try to find a way through life’s difficulties, or look toward an “impossible dream” of perfection? Look at the “one another” passages.

  24. Dwight says:

    I to have an issue with “The world will only believe in Jesus if the church is united.”
    I John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
    Our fellowship in Christ places us in fellowship with others who are in Christ.
    Now when those who were baptized in Acts 2 they weren’t baptized into ta church or even with the realization there was one or that the people were united in that sense. But after they became a saint they were added by Christ and they unified in Christ, which simply meant that they joined with others who were in Christ. Yes, they were the church, but I doubt any of them looked around at each other and said, “Hmmm we are a church” any more that when they went home they said, “Hmmm we are not a church”, because we are not in the same place Despite where they were they were still unified in Christ, because they were bound to Christ.
    Sadly all it took to disunify them was their own selfishness and self-seeking, thus denying Christ unity.
    But while we often teach people to come to church to come to Christ, we are actually teaching a false statement. People should come to Christ and be the church and then they can and should assemble. We need to teach that people are part of Christ and Christ church way before they become part of any local assembly. This in itself would break down many barriers and sectarianism.

    Now I will say that if people see us fighting amongst ourselves, then we are not going to be a people that people will want to join with, but then again if so then there are bigger problems than membership involved. And in one way I would argue that if we are fighting amongst ourselves it is best that people go elsewhere and not become embroiled.
    Last thought; Corinth had some multiple unity issues, that is the people in the town, and yet the church in the town appeared to grow. This is probably because people understood they joined with Christ and others in Christ and not some tightly bound organization that represented Jesus.

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    We are talking about two different things. When I speak of the “church” I mean “church” as used in the Bible. I’m not talking about the church growth movement or whether someone should “join” the church.

    Nor have I argued that people should join the church to find Jesus — an absurdity when we speak of “church” in biblical terms.

    I have argued that the Bible teaches that our conduct impacts how people see and understand Jesus. This is profoundly biblical and common sense.

    You suggest that if “we” are fighting amongst ourselves, maybe “it is best that people go elsewhere.” But there is no elsewhere. The biblical sense of “church” is all the saved. “Elsewhere” is to be among the damned. There is but one church.

    One great failing of 20th Century Church of Christ theology is to treat each denomination as a distinct “church” and then insist that we must pick the right “church.” That is not biblical at all, as the Bible recognizes but one church — with boundaries that are based on faith in Jesus (properly defined) and not based on how often you take communion, denominational titles, whose periodicals you subscribe to, or which lectureships you attend. If we let the Bible set the boundaries of “church,” a lot of our thinking goes out the window.

    Therefore, there is no “elsewhere,” and when we in the Churches of Christ act like jackasses, we not only damage the denomination, we damage the church-universal. After all, those outside the church don’t much think in denominational terms. They just see “Christians” acting like jackasses and proving that they are right to call us hypocrites.

    We cannot limit the damage we do to just our congregation or our denomination. It hurts Jesus — doing damage to his reputation. It hurts the world — by making Christianity seem unattractive, producing a bunch of jackasses and hypocrites.

    But if we love each other and are united, then the same holds true. We not only make our congregation look good, our good behavior will change the rest of the church that has any contact with us. Our good example spreads like yeast in dough. We make all the church look better by showing that it can be done. Not all Christians are hypocrites. And we finally make a lie out of the ancient joke: “I’m a great admirer of followers of Jesus, and would be one if only I could only find one.”

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JohnF,

    Ask what questions you will, but the text says that they’ll know we’re Christians by our love for each other. It’s just true. Arguing that it shouldn’t be true and people really should behave differently is beside the point. Even if it shouldn’t be true, it is true that our behavior will greatly impact the effectiveness of Jesus through his followers, the church.

    There are shortcomings and there are other kinds of shortcomings. Grace is for the penitent and humble. When we are impenitent and proud, grace has its limits.

    People will be drawn toward sinners who are authentic, who confess their sins, truly wish to change, and are among a people that helps them change. They will not be drawn to the proud.

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I think we largely agree if not entirely. Years ago, I suggested to a Bible class that we are sinners, just like that other church down the road. The class took great offense to an obvious truth. But they had been taught that we are to consider ourselves as earning our way in when it comes to matters of doctrine. No error allowed, and so we must not commit error.

    And, as you say, we often forget that “repent” in the Five Steps is not a one-time thing. We don’t get to stop repenting after we’ve been baptized, no more than we get to stop believing.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    Therefore, my concept is that the church (assembly) was never given to be the light to those lost.

    I agree with much that you say, but have to note my disagreement here, because of —

    (Matt. 5:14-16 ESV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

    (Phil. 2:14-15 ESV) 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

    (Eph. 5:7-16 ESV) 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

    (2 Cor. 4:6 ESV) 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    My view is that Israel was called to be a light to the nations/world (Isa 42:6). Jesus, while on earth, took on that role for Israel (John 9:5). His disciples now take on that role as his body (Matt 5:14-16). In the NHNE, God will take on that role, as he will dwell among his people.

    That is, whoever represents God to the world is light to the world.

    Representing God to the world is a priestly duty. Therefore, we might expect to find verses about priesthood that parallel the “light” passages.

    Mankind was originally called to be priests of God in his cosmic temple, the Creation. The language where God assigned to Adam the duty to keep and work the land uses words also used for a priest’s service in a temple. There are many more parallels that we’ve covered based on John Walton’s work.

    God later assigned that priesthood to Israel.

    (Exod. 19:5-6 ESV) 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

    Hebrews declares that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:20)

    (Ps. 110:4 ESV) 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

    and now the church serves as priests before God —

    (1 Pet. 2:4-6 ESV) 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

    And when we are in the NHNE, we will serve as priests before God —

    (Rev. 7:13-17 ESV) 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    (Rev. 22:3 NET) And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him,

    (The word translated “worship” here and “serve” in many other translations is a word used in the LXX of priestly service in the temple — which is a form of worship.

  29. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JohnF,

    Thanks for the note. I actually can’t stomach reading the old debates. I find most appalling. I read them to know what I’m up against — to better understand where our vitriol comes from. Some debates clearly followed an ethic of whatever it takes to win is justified. The years when debates drove us are, to me, very sad and troubling times. And they shape many of our preachers even today. Many attended preacher schools where the debates were studied as examples of how to conduct oneself in the pulpit. And this leads to a spirit of discord and win at any cost that is far from right.

    But as you point out, there have always been good men who refused to participate, even as they were being shouted down. Over time, their point of view came to be the majority view. (There are fewer progressive congregations than conservative, but I think more progressive members, as the progressive churches tend to be much larger. And many who attend conservative churches hold progressive views.) K. C. Moser and G. C. Brewer, for example, are finally receiving the honor they are due.

  30. Dwight says:

    Jay, my argument for “You suggest that if “we” are fighting amongst ourselves, maybe “it is best that people go elsewhere.” was that if they went to another congregation they would still be in the church. I mean going to another congregation would not place them out of the church, even though going elsewhere.
    If I stopped going to the coC I go to and then go to a no-name church, I would be elsewhere and yet still be in the church. Our problem is thinking that going somewhere different than where we are going, locally or denominational-wise, creates a separation from the church. You and I go to different congregations, to me you are elsewhere geographically, and yet I assume we are still in the same church.
    We in the coC are very local-centric and don’t think Kingdom wise. I remember having a talk with the elders at another congregation I attended and I suggested to them that while we might convert a person it might be a good idea if they went to a congregation closer to them, to which they were shocked. It is like we have some proprietary hold on them and don’t trust other congregations even amongst our own coC. All we see is us and not us and if not us, then they are not in the church as there is but one church. Well we don’t get to decide who is in or who is out and we can’t see the boundaries of it, only God can. In some ways we are all local to this earth.

    You see I believe the Kingdom and the church have no geographical boundaries and that location doesn’t change our connection to the church as long as we are connected to Christ. I John 1:7
    I do not believe the seven churches of Asia were in a separate church despite not all being in the same locations.
    Therefore if we act like “jackasses” those that leave can go to another congregation and still be in the church and once we stop they can come back or not, just like if they got a job somewhere else or they wanted to take their children to be with more children. Unity doesn’t mean we have to be in the same place at the same time and if so, then we are all in trouble, because then we have to figure out where the “one true church” base is.

    You see this is what confuses me in your statement:
    “One great failing of 20th Century Church of Christ theology is to treat each denomination as a distinct “church” and then insist that we must pick the right “church. That is not biblical at all, as the Bible recognizes but one church — with boundaries that are based on faith in Jesus ”
    and I believe you are correct.
    But this also means that going “elsewhere” or being “elsewhere” for any reason that doesn’t break us from Christ doesn’t break this bond of being in the church.

    I would argue that many in the church in Corinth were acting like “jackasses” in that they were separating amongst themselves over many things and yet, and yet, they were still in the church despite being locally together. Those in I Cor.11 were in disunity even while being in the same location partaking of the Lord’s Supper due to selfishness.

    This “jackassery” if you will hurts the church when it turns people from Christ, not when it causes people to go elsewhere. I do not believe that Paul and Barnabas split from Christ or the church even though they had a dispute and split from each other in Acts 15. They went elsewhere and still were in the church.
    I only had a problem with ““The world will only believe in Jesus if the church is united.”, because I think it should be “when the world believes and is united in Christ will the world be united in the church”. The church is the result of being in Jesus, not a precursor to Jesus. If your above statement is true, then the next conversation is on what level or levels is the church to be united other than on the level of being in Christ?

  31. Larry Cheek says:

    Dwight,
    I agree with your post. Sometimes Jay confuses me on this subject. He has been a very powerful supporter of an individuals commitment to Christ creating salvation to that individual, and in some instances even supporting that baptism is not the dividing line between those “in Christ” and those “out of Christ”. I have concluded through much of his communications that I do not have the authority from scripture to condemn those not baptized, but I still must teach the importance that I see attached. Through his teaching and many communications with individuals whom I thought were not Christians because the church that they attended did not teach baptism, I learned that many of these individuals who attended these churches really did believe in baptism and had been baptized. Some prior to attending those churches. Now, for the combining of these thoughts. If Christ had accepted those who were attending these other churches and I would not who is at fault? Would Christ allow me to select which of his family that I would accept without holding me accountable? I believe that he would not be very tolerant of my actions, if I rejected some of those that he had adopted as my brothers . Jay, whether he realizes it or not is placed into the very same situation. Being that there are Christians that are members of The Kingdom scattered among many denominations. Does that make the Kingdom divided, no, Christ is still the King of those individuals as well as the individuals that we associate with. When Paul was in prison was he not part of the Kingdom because he was not able to assemble with the assembly of the Saints?
    While thinking upon these unity thoughts, I decided to do a search to see how often the scriptures used this concept while communicating to the church about its assemblies. The results speak for themselves. I searched (unity) and (united) and these are all there is in ESV NT. Where is the assemblies of the local church addressed separately from the total Kingdom?

    (Eph 4:3 ESV) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    (Eph 4:13 ESV) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

    (1Pe 3:8 ESV) Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
    (Act 18:12 ESV) But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal,

    (Rom 6:5 ESV) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

    (1Co 1:10 ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

    (Heb 4:2 ESV) For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

  32. Dwight says:

    Larry, It appears from the scriptures you put forth that even though we are unified in Christ, unity is largely based on our attitude, which I find to be true. This gives us come choices:

    A.) unity in Christ (thought) even when not locally gathered (the Christians who scattered in Acts and the apostles who traveled from place to place). This is the Kingdom and church.
    B.) unity in Christ (thought) when locally gathered (those in Acts 2 and maybe I Cor.13 “if”)
    a. Subset- unity in Christ (thought) when gathered in places (like homes and assemblies), but not gathered in the same place- as they are gathered in groups, but in different groups based on location, language/ ethnicity, different thinking (conservative or progressive or liberal), because they see the Kingdom and saints everywhere despite these things. This is also the Kingdom and church.

    C.) disunity in Christ (thought) when not locally gathered (probably more associated with a non-Christian), but could apply to I Cor.1-3, as they are sectarian in thinking.
    D.) disunity in Christ (thought) when locally gathered (I Cor. 11 in regards to Lord’s Supper)
    b.) Subset- disunity in Christ (thought) when gathered in places (like homes and assemblies), but not gathered in the same place- they are gathered in groups, but in different groups based on location, language/ ethnicity, different thinking (conservative or progressive or liberal), because they refuse to consider others as saints who are not within their assembly or church system.

    Your scriptures place forth that we are to be purposely intent on unity in Christ and with others who are in Christ, whether gathered or not, whether in our church system or not, etc. But we must first be united in Christ, which will spiritually unite us in the church, which should spur us to physically unite with others by joining with others, all driven by a self-aware Godly attitude/thinking.
    Did I miss something?

  33. Larry Cheek says:

    Dwight,
    I believe that you are on the right track. The unity which is expressed in NT Is not tied to any assembly of Christians or to a location. The unity is tied to all Christians and that because of a belief and faith in Christ separated or gathered.

  34. Neal says:

    Maybe we need to reset what it means to love one another? My memory tells me if I am of there each time the building is open I may not love the church/ body who attends there. That statement was heard within the last two months actually. My heart and mind tell me otherwise as I study the NT. The comments have been good on this post. Thank you all, there are many of us struggling with these issues.

  35. Neal says:

    Pardon me, when I am “NOT at the building…. Freuding my way into the morning.

  36. Dwight says:

    Heb.10:25 I believe has been misapplied. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good work, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
    Assembling doesn’t necessarily mean “the assembly” and if so, then many would argue that it must be the right assembly…coC of course.
    The admonition was for people to do what was being done in Acts 2 gathering with other saints.
    Forsaken means to turn away from, not to just miss the assembly or not gather at a certain time.
    We are supposed to gather with other saints when we have the opportunity….for a reason..to stir up love and good works and exhorting one another. While Bible study is good and singing is good, we often miss the one-on-one association and building up we are supposed to do.

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