Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fellowship in Christ: A Lost Essential

I recall a dedicated pastor from a strict reform background explaining to me that his denomination had finally got Christian theology right. Perhaps they had, but I was doubtful. Did this mean that Christians for 2000 years, and all other current denominations, had fallen short?

I mentioned that he was dedicated; I had no doubt at all about his passion for the truth. His joy, in having all the thorny issues apparently settled once for all, outweighed any thought that his claim might be tinged with arrogance.

But, during the years I have been involved in Christian ministry, I found he is not alone. Almost every denomination that springs up is dedicated to some truth its protagonists claim has been lost, ignored or denied by others.

The Charismatics long for reticent Evangelicals to share their experience of the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Evangelicals counter that experience is not the arbiter of truth, Scripture is. That type of debate can be repeated myriad times, using other divisive issues.

The truth, if we are prepared to look at this issue dispassionately, is that none of us have got it all together. We all have some tunnel vision created by our pet themes, agendas or hang-ups. It is probably only by a blending of all claims that we might approach somewhere near the truth.

So how can we possibly have fellowship with others in the faith, when we disagree on so much? The answer is really simple: our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). Then what is it that they need to believe about Jesus Christ that we might have fellowship with them?

It is very little: salvation by the grace of God alone, by faith alone in the death of Christ for us. This and supporting beliefs are ser out in the Apostles Creed. A church or individual are part of the Body of Christ where these form the core of their belief—whatever “distinctives” they may add!

Don’t let us lose out by majoring on the minors; that is, those secondary beliefs upon which salvation does not depend. Not only do we fail to benefit from the worldwide, magnificent fellowship that is the Church, we also fail to convince the world the Father loves them as He loves the Son (John 17:23).