Agreeing With One Another – part 17

Leadership requires being in agreement with one another. One of the major reasons missionaries return from the field is that they just cant get along with one another.

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought .

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 1:10)

Some versions of the Bible, in place of “agree” they use: “all of you speak the same thing”, or “agree in what you say” and “moreover having been knit together in the same mind and the same judgment.”  You need to know that there is not a whole lot that we all need to agree upon. Jesus Christ is the son of God the Father Creator of the universe who being perfect died on the cross and shed his blood for our sins and therefore is the salvation of all mankind from their sins. Everything else is dwarfed when compared to this message. You also know that Jesus Christ is the son of God and we are all men. We are not little gods, as some say, who have misinterpreted John 10:34. We are not elevated higher than other men because we are born again and have the Holy Spirit. We are still all on the same level and must be completely humble (Ephesians 4:2). We are all on the same level dwarfed by his immense stature. Once I (a minister of Jesus Christ) begin to elevate myself, I will be in disagreement with the rest of you over the issue that I have elevated myself on. I know something you don’t. I know more than you do and because of it should be followed instead of you. Division is caused. We are in disagreement over something that I know. The fact is that the Father and Jesus Christ and the salvation that is in him, dwarfs all other smaller points, even the points that I think I know. Even the points that divide us.  We need to agree on the basic premise that He is God and that HE is so immense that all other things I think I might know about something are pretty much irrelevant. Even if I did know something, I need to agree with you so that the kingdom is extended and so that I am not getting in Christ’s way by elevating myself.

We must agree for the sake of being in agreement

We must agree with everyone so that we may be perfectly united in mind and thought. Let me give you an example. One brother wants to baptize new converts by immersion and another wants to baptize with only a hand-dipped in water. If you immediately are angered or your blood pressure rises by the previous sentence, you are more concerned with your doctrine than with unity in the body of Christ. You do not understand how high and exalted God and Jesus are and therefore you are more willing to be in disagreement with your brothers in Christ over petty doctrines of men. We must agree even if only for the sake of being in agreement. We must agree on the different ways that baptism can be performed or communion can be taken because division is more detrimental to the body than arguments over baptism rituals. Division is so detrimental to the extension of his kingdom, that we must do the act of being in agreement. It is obvious that you should not agree with sin. But in almost all other cases, leadership requires that we be in agreement with one another. This is humbling, especially when the other person is wrong in your opinion. There are two different concepts about being in agreement. One is that we actually do agree with the ideas of others. The other is that we do the action of being in agreement for the sake of unity so that the kingdom is extended. We must go as far as to actually be saying the same thing and being of the same mind and judgment. This is being in agreement. We do not bring up the issue of baptism or communion. These issues are so low on the priority of getting the message about Jesus saving one from the penalty of their own sins, that they become irrelevant. If that phrase bothers you, you need to get more revelation about how important Jesus’ blood is. We must agree that Jesus is God and he is the messiah. Whenever you are at a point of conflict with a brother or sister, if their doctrine is sound and they are not in sin, just be in agreement. Teaching false doctrine is sin but teaching a different way to baptize is not. False doctrine directly contradicts truth about God’s divinity and salvation by faith and through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Being in agreement is an action and does not necessarily mean that you approve of the issue with the other party. It means that you must lay down your opinion of what you believe in order to be in unity. Unity is more important that what you personally believe. Romans chapter fourteen explains that we must keep our beliefs about non-important issues between ourselves and God (Romans 14:20-22). Read chapter fourteen now. We must not destroy the work of God over petty issues and we must keep what we believe about those things between ourselves and God. This clearly explains that we are to be in agreement and not argue over what we personally believe.

If you are going to serve and be the slave of all, you must consider others better than yourselves and this includes considering their opinions and ways of doing things better than yours. You do not have to do things your way. Just do things their way. Say what other people are saying. There are few instances where it will really matter how you do a thing. You must agree even when you don’t like their opinion or the plan of the other person. You are to take the initiative and humble yourself so that you can all work together. You must make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification (Romans 14:19) You may not actually be internally in agreement with the other person or group. But you are being in agreement outwardly by action, relinquishing your own personal desires and opinions so that things get done and that no division is caused. You are dying to your own way of thinking.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”.

(NIV, Romans 15:5-7)

In 1st Corinthians chapter one, Paul is making an appeal to the brothers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. An appeal is to make a serious or urgent request. Paul is seriously and urgently making a plea or a call for them to be in agreement (Philippians 4:2). Why would he do this? Because there are quarrels among them. Over what?

Two Main Causes of Division:

* Quarrels over knowledge (doctrine, beliefs, tradition, the practice of rituals, how to govern the Church, or someone knows something that the other doesn’t).

* Quarrels between men, or quarrels over men (pride, power, prestige, position or who has more worldly authority, or someone knows more than the other does).

The two are related. Division comes when two people begin to quarrel over knowledge. One person claims to know something the other doesn’t. Or one claims to know more than the other and then pride, power prestige, position, and supposed authority come into the play. When I am trying to help someone understand this, I read the first six chapters of 1 Corinthians with them in one sitting. I point out all the places that pride, boasting, quarreling, disputes, men’s human wisdom, worldliness, and immaturity are mentioned. Then I go back to the beginning where Paul is urgently appealing to them to simply agree with one another. They need to agree about the fact that the messiah is in charge and he knows more than all of us put together. There should be no quarreling, and no disagreement over men or doctrine because men should not be elevating themselves higher than other men. Men should realize their lowly humble position as unworthy servants that were condemned to hell before Christ saved their sinful souls. Look at these verses carefully. Paul is a man who knows about disagreement (Acts 15:36-41).

The knowledge one has will only divide him against the others, if, he cannot get into agreement. You must get into agreement. You first must get into agreement to be in agreement. You must force yourself to agree if necessary. Sometimes it comes by force. You force your carnal sinful nature by the power of the Holy Spirit to get inline. You force yourself by faith to get the spirit of unity from the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:5). You die to your own desire to know more or to have more authority than others. Even in the most mature Christian congregations, there are people that sharply disagree. This must not be allowed or we will be part of a congregation that is pretending to be in unity. You must die to yourself and to your ideas about your doctrine. You must take the initiative to be in agreement. In the end, the extension of God’s basic message about salvation to those who do not have it is far more important than our theology. Mutual agreement takes work by both parties. You will have to submit what you think you know to Christ and agree to get along.

It is ironic that many are not going to agree with what I am writing. Why? Because, in the end, their opinion about what they know is more important than the extension of the kingdom of God. You might think that baptism is important, but it is not important enough to be divided over. It is imperative that we are not divided so that more and more people are being reached with salvation of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:14-16). Everything written in this book should be seen through the concept that Jesus had two things to accomplish on the earth. One was to become mankind’s salvation and sanctification, and the second was to teach his disciples to extend the message that he is mankind’s salvation and sanctification. If we are not in agreement over men or doctrine, we will not get message out there. We will be too busy arguing and being distracted by all the problems caused by division.

I’ve been a missionary living in a foreign country for many years. I will never forget something I learned while taking four men to visit a remote unreached people group far into the mountains. One of the men was a missionary candidate with Bible translation training. The other three men were his leaders, one of which was the pastor of his church. They were good brothers wanting to place their missionary on the field as a Bible translator. I spent several days with them visiting various people groups where missionaries were needed. In one particular people group, we met up with a friend of mine who was doing mission work there. He had contacts in that area, so we took the new Bible translator and his leaders to see if doors would open up. On the way into the people group my friend (the field missionary) asked the four men how they performed the Lord’s supper (took communion). The pastor spoke up and for several minutes explained in detail with great enthusiasm how they performed the Lord’s supper. He explained how they used a certain kind of bread, how they all drank from one cup, that it was not real wine, etc. The next day, my friend was talking to me alone and told me that these brothers would never turn the mission work over to the local people once discipleship was going. I didn’t understand what he was telling me at the time. About a month later I was talking with him again and asked what he meant. He said that those missionaries would never turn the work over to the locals because the locals would never do all their doctrine correctly.

Paul states that carnal men hold on to their doctrines to the point that they divide, and therefore we must agree with one another to the point that we are perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 6:1-11). How important is your doctrine to you? How important is your theology? How important is it to you to be a part of the “right” denomination. You may have a P.H.D. in theology and be completely divided from your Christian brothers and sisters. There are only two levels of authority when it comes to issues of doctrine: Christ’s teachings and the Apostle’s teachings. Church doctrines and the traditions of men have been taught as a level of authority, but I do not see this to be true in the New Testament. They have no authority. All of the apostle’s teaching are only to be accepted as authority when filtered through Christ’s teaching.

“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.

(1 Corinthians 11:17-19)

When there are differences between us, it shows those who are mature and those who are approved by God. It shows who is quarreling over doctrines and men and who is not. Those who are quarreling are not approved by God and lose their ability to be a part of the extension of the kingdom. They can go through the motions but are disqualified because they are carnal and not spiritual. I have mentioned that we must know Christ’s teaching much more deeply than we know the apostle’s teaching. We must read five times more the Gospel’s than the other New Testament books. When two people interpret the disciple’s teaching differently, they must return to Christ’s teaching to settle all differences and disputes. If you do not follow my church tradition, you have not sinned. The fact that church tradition is not sin if not followed shows that it has no authority. It is a matter of preference, nothing more. We can be different, as long as it does not cause us to be divided. When differences divide us, we lose God’s approval. No issue is ever to be argued, disputed, sharply debated or discussed to the point of dividing the church. We can debate and dispute with those who do not follow Christ or those who are teaching false doctrine (Acts 9:29; Acts 15:1-2; 17:18; 18:28; 23:7-11). The Christian movement is divided over church tradition and men. This division has hindered the extension of the Gospel. We get into trouble when we give church tradition and men authority and teach it as Christian doctrine to be followed. An example would be the belief that you must be baptized in your denomination’s church building in order for your baptism to be valid. This is an example where men have made church tradition law and this is an error. If you do not follow church tradition or doctrines of men, you are not in sin. It is sin to teach church tradition as requirements for salvation, sanctification or qualifications for ministry. The body of Christ is divided mainly over disagreements about Paul’s teaching; not Jesus’s. But the reason is that we read too much of Paul and not enough of Jesus. We are out of balance. It is because we raise Paul’s teaching up to the same level as Christ’s teaching which is also an error. In effect, we are more like Paul than Jesus. Everything we read in the apostle’s letters should be carefully screened through Christ’s teaching. I continue to repeat this because it is so important. We are mainly divided over Paul’s and the other apostle’s letters and not over Jesus’s words. Get into agreement by getting more of Jesus into your life.

Your doctrine is of little importance to Christ

What I am about to tell you will not be easy to accept. Your doctrine is fairly irrelevant. What you think and what you believe about the peripheral doctrines in Christianity are of very little importance to Christ, his Father, and his kingdom. What you believe about your doctrine does not save you, Christ saves you. Belief in Christ saves you. Your Christian doctrine or theology does not save you. The Bible is not a book. The words are living and are actually a person who saves you from your sin (John 1:1). The words you read are from a real person sitting on his throne high above you in heaven. He sits next to God the creator of all things. He is your savior and you are saved and follow him. All other issues are so far down on that list of priorities that they are fairly irrelevant compared to the fact that you are to be in his spiritual body and be extending his kingdom. The reality that Christ saves all persons who come to him, is without a doubt the most important reality in the world. All other truths and issues are far below this one. This reality that Christ is the messiah and saves people from eternal damnation is so important that it must be told to all people everywhere. The fact that this message is so important requires that we agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among us and that we may be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:10). You have imperatives issued to us by Christ in the Gospels that are commands to be followed. We are nothing more than unworthy servants who are commanded what to do and do it and above all carry his message into the world and make disciples of all nations (ethnos). (Luke 17:7-10) This commendation, this commission, this imperative supersedes all others because the eternal destiny of all human souls depends on it. We cannot be divided. It is strictly prohibited to be divided. You were nothing more than a sinner damned to hell but by the pure mercy of God Almighty and his son Jesus Christ you were saved and now have become one who has the obligation of helping others reconcile themselves to God.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

(NIV, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

He does love you and wants to spend eternity with you, but right now there are more important things to accomplish. We are to be conveying the message of reconciliation to those who have not heard it. Once the harvest of all souls among every tongue, tribe clan and nation is complete then we can theologize and philosophize over peripheral doctrines until the end of time. What you think about the Lords supper, or baptism, or church government is irrelevant. It is irrelevant in light of the message that is desperately needed in places where it has not been shared. God cares not one iota about what you think or believe. You had better believe in HIM and HIM ALONE. HE is the only one who can save you and give you purpose here, now that you are saved. He cares not about what we THINK, but he cares about what we DO. Do we forgive? Do we submit? Do we love one another? Do we agree with one another? Do we make disciples among all nations? Do we lay down our opinions so that Christ is exalted and made known? Those are simple, clear commands for all Christians everywhere and are contingent on the Gospel spreading to the regions beyond you (2 Corinthians 10:15-17).