For the past few weeks there as been much in the way of information dealing with ecumenicalism. This is defined as the initiative to assert and preserve unity among diverse religious groups. (ht. to IrishCalvinist.com) I have blogged about it here, IrishCalvinist is currently doing a blog series on ecumenicalism, and our senior Pastor Patrick Abendroth did a sermon a few weeks ago called “Unity That God Forbids“. Today I want to write about the unity God encourages. This is based on a leadership session pastor Pat did a couple of years ago surrounding Philippians 1:27-30. The audio can be heard here: Striving Together For the Gospel. Philippians 1:27-30:
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Why do we strive together? What is the over-arching theme or reason for striving together? It is for the furtherance of the Gospel of Christ. This is the “big picture” as we strive together as believers in Christ.
Do you know the gospel? Is it your passion to know the gospel? This is the top priority for any believer of Jesus Christ. In order to be unified together for the gospel we need to know the gospel. The following are some phrases to keep in mind when thinking about how to approach the gospel with someone else. I think they can be very useful to prompt your mind with what to say when trying to articulate the gospel to someone.
- It’s all God’s choice
- Sin and the fall of man
- Substitutionary atonement
- Sufficiency of Christ
- To the believer (Romans 1:16)
- Repentance and faith (both are granted from God)
In verse 27 Paul tells the Philippians to strive together regardless if he is coming to see them or in his absence. In other words, do it even when no one is watching.
According to Paul, also in verse 27, we should be standing firm in one spirit, and with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. We should be bold and courageous in the faith of the gospel. We will undoubtedly face many opponents of the gospel because in verse 28 we are told not to be frightened in anything from the opponents of the gospel. We should be on the lookout for false teaching, the largest opponent of the gospel. False teaching is deceptive, most often subtle, and will come in many disguises. The biggest defense we have against a false gospel is to know the true gospel. We will know the true gospel by studying the scriptures, in doing so we will in turn recognize a false gospel.
There is a very important part to godly unity from the audio mentioned above and that is the way we as believers strive together. Do we get bogged down in trivial conflicts of personal differences, or tastes? The proverbial “splitting the church over color of carpet” comes to mind. Do we bicker over the style of worship music used in service? Do we run to others and tell of our conflict with another? In other words: Is the biggest hindrance to unity, how we treat one another? No doubt we will encounter conflicts with one another as we strive together for the gospel because we are still flesh and fallen beings. We should always keep in mind the over-arching theme for our striving: The furtherance and progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we keep this in mind all the other stuff will wane as trivial.