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The Jerusalem Council

(Acts 15:1,2,6-15,19,20,28)

Lesson 11 -- second quarter 2001
May 13, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications

Does God recognize the binding and loosing of the church?

This question obviously addresses the authority of the church to make rules pertaining to its members. One factor that makes this issue so perilous and controversial is people legislating requirements which God didn't "bother" putting in the Bible. Did God keep silence on a particular issue because He doesn't care what we do in that regard, or because He gave us principles to apply in its case? Generally speaking, I think the answer to that question is the second option: God has given us principles to apply.

I do not believe that God recognizes the church's binding and loosing when it violates His expressed will. I believe His expressed will includes the life principles He has established. For example, I believe that God does not endorse a congregation's decision to approve same-gender marriages. That is a violation of His expressed will. On the other hand, I believe that God does approve of a church's decision to ban tobacco farming on the principle that we ought not participate in that which brings harm to His temple, our bodies.

But what if my congregation decides to tackle the issue of the Internet? Well, praise the Lord! I think Internet use needs guidelines and even restrictions. However, other folks believe that it needs banning, and others, that it needs no further oversight than the Spirit of God in the heart of the individual believer. So prior to the group establishing an Internet policy, I think each person needs to determine which elements of his position are Biblical and discard all others. Each person also needs to search the Scriptures to determine if his position is missing other elements. Then we're ready for the next question....

What is required to overcome disagreements?

Divisions, disagreements and contentions rack the church in our day. That this is so surprises few and discourages many. Unfortunately, many harp about them while participating in them, but few work to overcome them. Perhaps if more knew what it takes to overcome disagreements, more would work at such a project. So let's consider just several of the requirements.

A common goal and purpose. Before we can overcome our disagreements, each of us needs to have that as one of our goals. Aiming to win an argument (pardon me; a "discussion"!) has little resemblance to striving to overcome a disagreement. We must also purpose to find out what God has to say about the matter. Our own opinions and convictions should not be set aside just because we want agreement; however, they should give way to God and His Word.

A commitment to truth and unity. We need both of these factors to maintain our balance. Some folks cling to truth (or at least their version of it) so tenaciously that they can achieve unity with few others. Others value unity so highly they willingly sacrifice truth on the altar to oneness. So when differing parties get together to honestly seek agreement, they must all come with a commitment to both truth and unity. And their commitment to these must exceed their commitment to their own way. That can be very difficult indeed!

An open and humble mind. It seems we expect others to be open to additional truth, but we feel we are too right to benefit from that type of openness. Though we should be firmly convinced of what we believe, we need to maintain a certain openness to the possibility we might be in error. This kind of openness has nothing to do with flimsiness of conviction and much to do with humility of mind.

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