Unity, Part IV

This is my final post on this topic … for now.  I wanted to say a few things about what the early church actually looked like.  Was it a picture of unity?  NO.  Why not?  Because people were involved.  So, WHY would the Restoration Movement seek to “restore the early church”?  Or perhaps the question is, WHAT about the first century church did it seek to restore?  Loren’s sermon on Oct. 1 mentioned that the Restoration Movement, at least in the Church of Christ (CoC) apparently has tried to restore some kind of pattern for being a church.  That is, “rules of conduct” have been formed that set up the externals of how to be a Christian in a CoC (or, as some say “The Church”).  Loren’s sermon detailing the unity movement within the disparate branches of the larger Restoration Movement conveyed a proposal that, what we should really be after is: HOW did the early church FUNCTION; i.e., what did it DO?  Why argue over whether to support orphanges from church funds?  Why not just take care of orphans (as James 1:27 says) in whatever way is desired (funding from church, each individual, a group of individuals, etc.) and simply practice “pure religion that is faultless”?

So, was the early church unified?  Again, as today this is an emphatic NO!!  Therefore, I guess we may have succeeded in “restoring the New Testament church” — especially in the CoC!  But, was this supposed to be the case?  NO!  Paul was constantly appealing to unity; e.g., he wanted the Corinthians to refrain from being ‘of Paul’, or ‘of Apollos’, or ‘of Cephas’ (1 Cor 1:10-17).  They were ONE body.  Surely each church in each city in the New Testament Roman world would be almost unrecognizable to us; i.e., they probably differed significantly in HOW they “worked out their salvation, with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

In spite of all the disunity and infighting among various sects and between church members, there was at least one thing that the church was unified on, and that was that Jesus was killed, buried, and raised from the dead, and, that this sacrifice provided a doorway to the Father for anyone who accepted it.  A few examples from the sermons and teaching in the book of Acts demonstrates this.  In Acts 1:1-3, Luke starts off with elements of this core teaching; perhaps he is setting the tone of the book from the start.  There is Peter’s famous sermon in Acts 2:14-41, of which most diehard CoC people only seem to know verse 38.  Take Acts 3:11-26, after the beggar was healed through Peter, he spoke to the crowd, telling them of Jesus and their need for repentance.  Or, jump down to Acts 13:13-52, where Paul preaches in Pisidian Antioch; this is a powerful recap of Israel’s history down to Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Jump down further to Paul’s testimony before Herod Agrippa in Acts 26.  Could it be ANY clearer what OUR core beliefs are to be???!?

If we really want unity as Jesus did (John 17), then we should all be praying for it.  Of course, that is a fundamental assumption, right?  That we really WANT unity.  What we seem to demonstrate through beliefs, words, and actions is that we really don’t.  May the Lord help us all to strive to be unified in his kingdom while we are in this dark world. 

Published in: on October 8, 2006 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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