Unsettled by the continuing lack of meaningful concern and action over disunity in the body of Christ I have set forward the same arguments you’ve been reading from this site since its inception into proper print format. The House that Stands: Seeking God’s Kingdom and Unity in the Body of Christis now available in print and as an e-book from Amazon.
Christians of all stripes have worked on meaningful solutions to all kinds of problems we have encountered in our time on this earth, but unity with God and with one another is not one of them. We pay tribute to the reality of the global church or even perhaps the church that transcends life and death but cannot grasp that most believers are nothing like us, and yet we are called to be as one with one another and God as God is one with Himself. The House that Stands attempts to guide the reader’s thoughts towards these foundational truths with medium to short chapters probing the depths of unity in the body of Christ as it relates to the Kingdom and House of God.
I’ve grown tired of lip-service calls for unity among the people of God without the hard theological and philosophical work of determining what the underpinnings of that unity are and if we can continue much in the same way and yet somehow do life together or if we need a fresh start. What I’ve written is a start towards those ends; contemplations that will be familiar if we’ve talked recently as they have been my focus for some time now. Some of it will be difficult to understand and other parts perhaps too simplistic, but none of it is meant to be read once and ticked off the list of reading material. These are my ever-present meditations, and I offer them for you to meditate on as well. The chapters are medium to short in length and while deceptively short, they should have you thinking along the lines of how exactly we are supposed to be as one with one another and God as God is one with Himself in our lifetimes.
ARC Guide Level 3 Ideal for those well acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
How the immaterial kingdom which God has established in Christ is tied to the material household He has called us to live in and the necessity that we should not divide the two.
The Divided House
Modern day Christianity is punctuated by church splits. From The Great Schism that split the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054, to the Protestant Reformation in 1517, to the innumerable schisms, divides, and dissolutions that followed thereafter and to this day and highly likely tomorrow as well. The lack of meaningful unity in the body of Christ is the worst kept secret ever. As the children of God, we grow more estranged from one another as time pushes us further on and apart from these events. At times we have even taken up arms against one another such as in The Crusades, The American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I and II, The Troubles in Ireland; we could continue and expand but the evidence is sufficient; we are a house divided, and unless we can unite, we will fall.
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
Mark 3:24-25 English Standard Version
Let me be clear, God is not divided against Himself. His Kingdom remains strong and immovable, but by dividing the house of God we have effectively ensured that the Household of God remains divided contrary to God’s desire that we should be as one with one another and God as God is one with Himself. Increased recognition of the unfailing unity of God’s Kingdom will result in the unity of the Household of God. In the same way, increased division in the body will result in the continued downward spiral of the body and House of God.
Ecumenism is the belief that meaningful unity in the household of God means being under the same umbrella organisation, the same preacher, the same theological statement, the same code of conduct, and the same marketing strategy for the gospel. Yeah, it leaves a bad taste in pretty much everyone’s mouth. Whenever anyone starts talking about unity among the people of God, there is a certain group of believers who let out an audible sanctimonious groan. Unless the kind of unity being written or talked about is the kind where we are one with ourselves in our own respective local churches, we get antsy that what is being preached is ecumenism. To put our minds at ease, material ecumenism is not biblical unity, nor what I am calling for in this examination of the Kingdom and Household of God. Understand however, that this means that if we think Biblical unity looks like pockets of isolated ecumenism in our respective local churches then we are still miles off from what the Bible teaches. If I claim any aspect of the flesh as the unifying factor for unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have put something in God’s place. This includes proximity, mission statement, experience, and any other material thing. In plain words, Biblical unity may not be material ecumenism as we have just detailed, but neither is it the ecumenical-lite that we currently have where, “If you’re under my roof you’ll obey my rules”.
Meaningful Unity & The Mind/Body Problem
When we do not take meaningful steps towards Biblical unity among the people of God, we enshrine meaningful practices which maintain and protect the divided household of God as the ideal in its pragmatism, if woeful in its Biblical authenticity. By contrast, each step we take towards Biblical Unity is away from pet peeves and pet theologies; those grey areas we love to hate that keep us divided as the body of Christ and our own private interpretations. It has been said that, “doctrine divides,” but I tell you that true doctrine is revealed only by the Spirit of God through the Word of God and that Biblical unity is in love, faith and hope in the gospel of Christ. This should not surprise us as the kingdom that Jesus came to establish is not a fleshly kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom; therefore, Biblical unity is a spiritual reality with physical implications.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Jesus to Pilate, John 18:36 English Standard Version
The King of all creation crucified that day said that if the Kingdom of God was of this world, then we would fight to win the Kingdom, and fight to defend it through acts of the flesh. But you may say, there are physical commands for us to do in the scriptures. If the Kingdom of God is not of this world; if it is a spiritual reality, a spiritual union, a spiritual ecumenism, why meet physically at all? Why have physical commands at all? This, my friends, is the misunderstanding of the century. As born and raised materialists who flirt with idealism, we tend to believe that the material gives birth to the immaterial. That the body gives birth to the mind–that acts of the flesh make one spiritual–this is not Biblical thinking. The immaterial always precedes the material in the Word. God speaks and creation comes into being, He calls David a King when he is yet a Shepherd and it comes to pass. On the inverse side of immaterial becoming material, hatred and lust feature as repeated themes in the Word giving examples of the immaterial as a seed bearing the fruit of the material.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
Proverbs 23:7 New King James Version
24 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26 though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
Proverbs 26:24-26 English Standard Version
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
Proverbs 26:24-26 English Standard Version
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[c] of fire.
Matthew 5:21-22 English Standard Version
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:27 English Standard Version
The implications of this are that there is no mind/body problem in the Word of God. We are seen not as two-in-one but as one. We are immortal, immaterial souls with mortal, material bodies for use as interfaces of communication with God and with one another. What we think in our minds becomes our reality, so much so that to entertain thoughts of hatred and lust is seen as the same as planting a seed in the ground with the inevitable outcome of producing after their respective kinds. Hatred is the heirloom seed of murder and lust the heirloom seed of adultery just as surely as sowing the Spirit produces love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness, and gentleness and self-control. Immaterial produces material. The fact that our feeble minds fail to grasp the whole sense of its mechanics doesn’t come into the consideration of whether it is true. God breathed into our nostrils producing a spirit and we became living beings.
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2:7 English Standard Version
As immortal, immaterial, beings we inhabit physical bodies, as previously mentioned, interfaces that support intersoul-communication with God and with one another. However, as I have written inIntersoul, the interface is broken. It is our life’s work to continue Christ’s ministry of reconciliation; to repair the interface and bring everything and everyone under the rule and reign of Jesus. This brings us back to the question at hand. If I am an immortal, immaterial soul, why are there demands on my physical body in the Word? Surely the body is superfluous or purely sinful and, if so, ‘to Hell with it!’ This is what some early thinkers thought and produced Docetism; a heresy that has successfully kept Western Christians afraid of idealism for centuries. (I will address this a little later but a defence against Docetism is outside of our scope). If our bodies are interfaces for intersoul-communication, then when we communicate with others we communicate in the body and we fulfil our purpose. The body is meant to communicate the best news ever to one another. Remember that the interface was not always broken. We, through Adam and Eve walked and talked with God with no secondary interface between us. We were naked before Him and without shame. Only after the fall did secondary interfaces become necessary for communion with Him. The best news today is that we can again appear before God without a secondary interface as God the Son has become our intermediary before God the Father and God the Spirit the interpreter of our innermost hearts. This is us individually. Gathered, we become a megaphone declaring the goodness and mercy we have received from God via the unity of one voice coming from one mind in one Spirit. Where one of us is a defiant candle–a pin prick of light in a world of darkness, collectively we are a city on a hill whose light pollution can be seen by the world for miles around.
Unified in Our Hope
It is necessary to understand and to contemplate, (while we make the connection between God’s Immaterial Kingdom and His Material House) why we meet in the physical world and not through some ethereal meditative, “soul casting state,” in which our souls could hypothetically commune with God and with one another, since we are citizens of a spiritual kingdom. Again, we are not preaching Docetism–the body is not inherently sinful–it is broken by us through sin. When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a King His answer is that if He was a King of a physical kingdom then his disciples would have fought to establish and maintain it, but that they didn’t because His Kingdom is a Spiritual Kingdom. So, if God is the King of a Spiritual Kingdom, what are the physical aspects of that Kingdom? If immaterial gives birth to material, then perhaps it is simply our understanding, that as immaterial beings in material bodies and simultaneously citizens of an immaterial kingdom, we accept the rule and reign of God in the immaterial, which gives birth to material fruits (fellowship, unity, love, commitment to one another, fields we did not sow, houses we did not build etc) and that we are then to use this to bless our neighbours. Do we do this as if we were preparing some earthly throne for Him to inhabit one day? No! His throne is in Heaven and will not be on earth until heaven meets earth. So we are, in effect, waiting for that event to take place. It is our hope for that future that keeps us going. This fact is, one of the most difficult to accept about Christianity. There is no world to save—that work was completed by Christ through the cross. There are no noble acts of gallantry to be performed by us in the name of God and Country–we will not outshine the work of Christ. The battle is won–Christ is the victor, and the retreating armies of Hell are fleeing the judgement to come. Will we set mortal flesh free? It will be enslaved again and usually by its own will. Should we save a mortal life and not share with the soul within them the good news of eternal life? Should we stand in the way of someone who has chosen another life and not place the choice of Christ before them? For some, this may seem like a meaningless life. What is life if there is no grand quest to fulfil? And to that I ask, will we fight evil in Eternity? Will we retain our resolve with a non-existent enemy at the gates when we are reposing in the glory of the Son? What is Sabbath living, but life lived as if our hope was manifest before our eyes. Life lived as if we would never hunger or thirst or be in dread again? It is in the quiet, contained life where we live at peace with all people and answer for the hope that we possess, that we acknowledge our confidence in the rule and reign of Christ our King. These may all seem like individual pursuits. But what is a Kingdom of one citizen? All who call on the name of the Lord are citizens of this Kingdom and, I am sorry to say this, but none of us are, ‘in the lord’s army,’ in this case. The war is already over, and the rebuilding has begun. We are the emissaries who go from town to town to spread the good news of Christ’s reign, rebuilding what was damaged in the war and using the vast treasury of our new King to do so. The fighting has ceased; what rebellion remains now, is fighting a lost cause that would see the old feuding kings re-established. We do not all believe that the war is over however, and some, instead of moving from town to town, have set up defences against the bordering towns thinking the enemy should be holed up within them. They use secret passwords and handshakes to show loyalty to a King who requires no such protection from His subjects. If time is the landscape of the Kingdom of God, then the Apostles started at the King and went out from Him to spread the good news of the mercy and love of the cross to all His subjects across time and space. Our distance from the King, then, is not a matter of material distance but immaterial. If it is immaterial, then we are in His courts even now while we expand the message of his rule and reign in our given time and space. The implications of this are incredible. Consider this passage from The Revelation. John writes,
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 7:9-12 English Standard Version
Consider this, that every tribe; tongue and nation will be present on that day. Every single one! This was and will be from the beginning of time until the events of the revelation of Christ at the end. This will include every grouping of people that has been formed or separated; those still to be formed or contemplating to be formed. Every iteration and collection of clicks, whistles and words, every form of government will be standing before the throne of God speaking with one voice the glory and praise of the Son. If you thought I was going down a rabbit trail let me assure you that this is biblical unity. This is identification with the Son. This can never be the result of having been the same in the flesh. Is there any continuity in the flesh that John gives us? Perhaps that we are all perceived as human in all our brokenness and that while we have all received mercy from God, we should be standing in His presence shouting aloud His praises, and not be looking around to see whom we think should not be there. I guarantee that there will be people standing before the throne of God who will be just as surprised to see us as we are to see them. One or both of us may have lost everything in the all-consuming fire of the day of the Lord but we ourselves have been saved. So, what prevents us from shouting His praises together before we get there? What organisational values enshrine our division? What precepts of purpose perpetuate such a travesty against the precepts of God? The immaterial has given birth to material life in Christ and we sit denying it based on our organisation in the flesh. As I have written previously–this is to our shame. We who have been called by the Spirit of God into the Spiritual Kingdom of God which spans time and space are so full of pride that we believe that our iteration of Christianity will be the only one present on that day. I choose to believe the Word when it says,
For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 2:11 English Standard Version
Paul says this considering the Corinthian division thinking themselves to be special, when all that they had received in Christ was given to them. There are vastly more divisions today. Perhaps if we had listened then, it would not be so today and because of our unity we would have presented the world with the truth that the Son was sent from the Father and they would have believed. Some believed anyway because they saw examples of unity in their own context, but these, my siblings, were the exception instead of the rule. Remember, however, that even if we had, we are not preparing an earthly throne for Christ to sit on. He sits on a Spiritual throne in our hearts and the day and time of His return is kept by the Father until the end of days and every generation that He has ordained to exist has existed. There is no quota to meet and fulfil, but only a life lived in service and obedience to our King who dwells in unapproachable light.
Flaming Hoops of Failed Glory
If we read the Bible in the light of God spreading the news of God’s established Spiritual Kingdom through His people, then we no longer read it as if it says, “this is who to exclude,” but read it, as it often explicitly says, “why did you think you were special and exclude them from my Kingdom?” The first step towards organising ourselves in the material according to the Spirit is to re-ground ourselves in the Word of God and take note that we are not special. There were no flaming hoops for us to jump through when we received the gospel that means that we have a corner on the market of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are the people of God, then we have received mercy for our shortcomings in glory and there is nothing of ourselves for us to boast about. Not our education, our pedigree, our governance, our economics–nothing. It is a Spiritual Kingdom with material fruits, and any of those material fruits that come to pass are because of the work done by God and not by us. By recognising that we have received everything we possess in and from Christ we can then identify what we have received in Christ, who He has made us, and the rights we now possess as heirs of God and His Spiritual Kingdom.
I have written about the rights of the people of God inThe Christian’s Bill of Rights and in other posts marked under the same category, but the topic is nowhere near exhausted. Every generation will have to have this conversation with itself. There is no distinction in Christ. The wildest of derivations of our hearts and intents do not preclude us from being included in the Kingdom of God if we call on the name of Jesus to be saved.
To conclude, God’s immaterial Kingdom is made manifest in His material household. Increased belief in Spiritual ecumenism will result in increased physical ecumenism under God. This is not due to the homogenising effect of modern day Judaising, but rather that we all love and obey God, identifying with the Son of God in His death, burial and resurrection and look forward to His coming return. Maranatha.
Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Corinthian Church
ARC Guide Level 1 Ideal for those getting acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
1 Corinthians 3:18-23
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 English Standard Version
The Wise of this World Distinguish Themselves
What craftiness God catches the wise in, what thoughts of self importance, what notions of irreplaceability, distinction and professionalism. The wise of this world promise good things to those who follow their wisdom as if they were there’s to give! They promise access to the universe, 5 keys to success, the life of our dreams, the husband or wife of our dreams and heuristics to make those difficult decisions a breeze. They have received a little bit of knowledge and deign to know everything and to market that knowledge to the world. The wise of this world distinguish themselves as being other.
When the wisdom of the world enters the church it enters by gradations of distinctions of belief as if to say that we are distinct because of our wisdom, “We are distinct because, in our wisdom, we believe the Bible,” when, if we truly believed the Bible, we would know that we are not distinct at all but that all things and all people are made freely available to all people. Communion is not ours to give and take, if we make ourselves distinct we make ourselves distinct unto ourselves and away from God. We would do well to remember that it is not our table we invite people to sit at, but the Lord’s, and at His table sit a great many people we alienate by claiming to be the only ones with valid invitations.
Paul’s final note is an interesting one that seems to echo Jesus’ promise in John 14 before he goes to the cross
12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask mee anything in my name, I will do it.
All things belong to everyone because everyone belongs to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Therefore all things are from God and whatever we ask in His name, He provides for us. For those paying attention, it is mind-bendingly unsustainable by the world’s systems and so we must become foolish by the world’s standards that we may become wise.
Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Corinthian Church
ARC Guide Level 1 Ideal for those getting acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
1 Corinthians 3:10-17
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:10-17 English Standard Version
Wicker Dwellings and Roman Villas
Paul builds out the construction metaphor and says that if another builder comes on site, assumingly Peter or Apollos or any other mature believer, that they must build on top of the foundation that is Christ and will be either rewarded or suffer great loss based on the work they have done when it is tested by fire (likely persecution). He says that the proverbial work being done is the building of the temple of God which is done to specification (by the Spirit) and that anyone who thinks they can build using the materials they are used to building with like wood, hay and stubble; the usual iron age building materials for a double walled, wicker dwelling stuffed with straw for insulation and topped with a stubble roof, will find that these are unfit materials for the house of God and will burn up in the day of testing. These materials are used symbolically for the wisdom of the world, while the adornments of gold, silver and precious stones are symbolic of the wisdom from the Spirit. One type of dwelling comes from a deep, generational custom, especially among the farming community of building the same dwelling, the same way every ten to fifteen years and moving with the land when it goes fallow. The builder of the wicker dwelling builds only for themselves for the next 10-15 years. The builder of a Roman Villa, by contrast, does so not only for their own sake but for the sake of generations who would come after them. In this way, Paul sees his work and the work of Peter, Apollos and the other mature believers as progressive to the point of testing. If what is built on top of the foundation is made of wood hay and stubble, it will need to be rebuilt every ten to fifteen years and moved to where the soil seems more fertile as the common human wisdom says. However, if what is built is made with permanent things and adorned with gold, silver and precious stones like the temple of Solomon then the world will come to us to marvel at the beauty of the temple which we have built to God. The twist is that we collectively; the whole people of God who have received mercy are the temple of God built either with wood hay and stubble or adorned with silver, gold, and precious stones and headed for the day of testing. Will we burn up and move to more fertile ground to build another straw hut, or will we build the house of God on the foundation that is Christ and adorn it with silver, gold and precious stones?
Plural Not Singular
This is not a new passage to most of us. We have heard this passage preached again and again and again as a personal call to holiness, but it is in fact a continuation of Paul’s analogy of the one who plants and the one who waters, only this analogy focuses on the one who lays the foundation and the one who builds on it. It is Paul’s version of, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. When Paul says, “do you (plural) not know that you (plural) are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells within you (plural),” this is another corralling statement by Paul to say that the Spirit of God is in all of us that we have all been given a portion of the Spirit of God and so when we dwell in unity we adorn ourselves as the temple of God with silver and gold and precious stones, and that the world sees us and marvels at the beauty of the temple and proclaims that Jesus was sent from the Father. However, when we live in our little enclaves we build ugly little huts of human wisdom for ourselves until the next wave of popular Christianity moves through and the fallow land around us causes us to burn our old models and move on to the next big thing; a slightly bigger wicker hut.
ARC Guide Level 2 Ideal for those acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
Examining the Claim that Unity Sacrifices Truth
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:6-8 English Standard Version
Unity Sacrifices Truth?
One of the reasons we often give for why we are not meaningfully one in the body of Christ is that we think that joining apparently disparate Symbiotic Organisations together would result in the compromise of what each of us believe to be the truth. Somehow it totally escapes all parties involved that that is exactly what happens when believers from out of town join our SOs. They compromise because our theological statement is probably somewhat different than their old fellowship. They will sign our theological statements and go on believing their own private theology while they are among us, which is likely what would happen if we attempted the merger of two SOs, only there would be three levels of theological belief. Each of the bodies from the SOs would believe their old statement of faith while the individual members would hold their own private theologies all while signing the new statement of faith–an amazingly terrible result if we were aiming for unity in love. So what then? Is the claim true? Only if one or more parties holds the whole truth within themselves.
We are only really comfortable with others publicly disagreeing with us if we believe that we are ultimately in the right, and that they will eventually come around to our view. The young disagree with the old because the young are naïve and have life to live before the truth will be revealed to them–in other words, we believe that they will eventually agree with us, and so believe that we are the originators of truth contrary to a Nerahist epistemology. We, generally, have no problem saying that we are one with young believers in our fellowship, even if they vocally disagree with us. I think this may instinctually be because we know that they are still growing, but it may also be because we have stopped growing and think ourselves to be without sin or as having arrived at the fullness of truth (something the Apostle Paul said not even he had done). In the spirit of Hank Hanagraaf, no one is bold or stupid enough to say of an 8 or 9 year old believer that because they don’t fully understand the hyperstatic union of the Godhead that, if they die, they will go to Hell; this is not the gospel of Christ. If this is the case and ongoing relationship is what moves us mutually closer to unity in love with one another and with God, then there is no reason for our current division except to perpetuate that division. However, if we are not the originators of truth and communion with one another in the light drives out wrong belief, then we can expect that we will arrive at unity when the darkness has been driven out of both us and them until there is no, ‘us and them,’ only one body with one Spirit and one mind in Christ.
So, can two symbiotic organisations be joined together to bring about the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 without sacrificing truth? No. Not if we say and act like we are the originators of truth–a problematic conclusion for believers in Jesus. This is why I regularly call for church leaders to declare a year of Jubilee; to dissolve our SOs and allow the natural sifting process of the light of love to refine us in the truth as the scriptures say it will.
Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Church at Corinth
ARC Guide Level 1 Ideal for those getting acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
I don’t write commentary on the scriptures very much, but as I am currently studying through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians I thought I would share what I am learning and the thoughts that are readily coming to my mind as I attempt to do justice to the teachings of the Word.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3 English Standard Version
This letter is attributed to two men but written in the voice of only one of them. These two men are the Apostle Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) and Sosthenes [meaning; “safe in strength” Strong’s G4988]. We are aware of the Apostle Paul, but there is some debate over the identity of the second man. Some scholars believe Sosthenes to be the very same chief of the Synagogue who was beaten by the crowds in Acts 18, some think that he is some other Sosthenes as, apparently, it was a popular name at the time. Who he is in actuality is of little value to us, because, as previously mentioned, Paul’s voice is the dominant of the two in this letter. It can be assumed that certain people within the Church would know who he is and his relevance for being named as the co-author of this letter. They are likely writing from Ephesus around 55AD.
Paul is writing to the entire church in Corinth. The quite modern idea of local churches had a few millennia yet to come about, and the robust message of global church unity in the initial chapters gives us no reason to believe that this was meant to be read by one particular house in Corinth. It is a circulatory letter that would have travelled first in and around Corinth and then outside of the city to a broader audience.
Paul’s greetings are never gratuitous outpourings of word salad. They foreshadow his themes and underlying message in the letter and so they deserve to be paid the utmost attention.
Sanctified in Christ Jesus
Paul calls the Corinthians, “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” meaning that they have been set apart as holy. A theme we will see visited in chapter 6. Those who are set apart are by definition saints and Paul includes them with everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord (to be saved). Paul reminds them of their unity with the whole body as a result of their common God.
Sanctification can often receive the definition of the high state and process of ethereal spirituality that happens to us when we receive the love and mercy of Jesus. Please allow me to bring the word out of the clouds and down to our hands. The potter ‘sanctifies,’ a lump of clay to be a pot and, ‘sanctifies,’ another to be a mug. A wood turner sets apart a particular plank to be turned into a spoke or a plate. A baker divides a lump of dough sanctifying each ball to be formed into loaves. Sanctification simply means that we have been set apart for a purpose. There is nothing special about the lump of clay, the plank of wood, or the ball of dough and everything special about the intention of the one who sets it apart. To be sanctified is to be made useful by the master; not only to have been definitively set apart to be made useful but ultimately to be used by God for the purpose God has set us apart to fulfil.
While sanctification can rightly be defined as a linear process which we undergo in life it should also be well remembered that the God who is working it out in us exists outside of time and space, and so, we have simultaneously been set apart, started and are the finished useful work of Christ from the moment of our salvation. A ‘new,’ believer is as much a finished work as the believer who has been saved for 40 years and both have the unmitigated responsibility of repairing the interface with one another, which includes tearing down the secondary interfaces that are our notions of progression being anything to do with us, and, therefore, anything we ourselves can boast in. Paul will address this in the coming chapters.
Unity in the Body of Christ as Innate Sameness, Wholeness & Purity
ARC GUIDE LEVEL 3 Ideal for those well acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
Let’s revisit unity in the body of Christ. Unity is often presented in conversation as ‘sameness,’ within the body of Christ, and as a result we ask the questions like, “What are we supposed to be the same in”. This is not an overly terrible question, but it isn’t terribly helpful either as, when we answer with anything other than love, we get some pretty awful permutations of the body saying that we all have to believe one doctrine over another or have this hope over that one. So let’s leave the sameness track of the conversation of unity for a moment and examine the more wholistic concept of unity as wholeness, purity and innate sameness.
The Entirety of Wholeness
Let us assume that we have an apple. There are several questions we can ask about the apple. Is it a whole apple, is it purely apple and is it the same apple? When considering unity we usually only ask one of these questions, but all three of them and probably more are relevant in answering the question of the apple’s oneness.
The Whole Apple
Asking the first question, “is the apple whole,” is a very restrictive question. This may seem obvious but if parts of the apple are divided, missing or intentionally excluded then we do not have one whole apple. The apple is not one with itself.
The Same Apple
Asking if something is the same, is not like asking if it is whole. Let’s assume we have two halves of an apple, they are each one half of an apple and are therefore the same having the similar characteristics but neither are one whole apple. Also we could not say of a whole apple that it is entirely the same as anything other than itself. Even another whole apple would mean that we have two whole yet distinct apples; they are not one with one another.
The Pure Apple
This is again, not the same as asking if it is purely apple as in the event that a chunk is missing and has been replaced with some other piece of of fruit that has been cut to fit the space. The apple’s purity is intrinsically tied to its wholeness
The Whole, Same, Pure Body of Christ
If all of this holds true then the Word ought to support such a definition of unity in the body of Christ; and in fact, it does.
The Whole Body
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:21-26 English Standard Version
The body then is not one unless all of the parts are present and, in Paul’s estimation, equally valued.
The Pure Body
1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearsa we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 English Standard Version
The impure body is not a unified body. If the world had never seen an apple then they wouldn’t recognise nor probably taste another example of an apple if it was presented to them to eat. Our unity then is secondarily in hope in that we ensure that we are individually and collectively pure children of God with not a hint of the world in us as we look forward to the most pure one’s coming.
The Same Body
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 English Standard Version
As we can see from our example and Paul’s, we do not have a “similar,” spirit but the very same Holy Spirit of God who lives in us, among a list of other same things and we are therefore not a grouping of similar bodies but a singular body with the same elements. We are the very same people of God who have received mercy.
Further Study Needed
More study is needed to present this concept of unity to you. 1 Corinthians continues to be a loudhailer of unity in the body of Christ that I should be surprised more haven’t picked up on, except that we have poisoned its message with other concepts of ‘acceptable,’ divisions. More will follow accordingly.