Monday, July 18, 2016
Two churches. 27 miles apart. One was admired, the other criticized. Both received letters from their mutual headquarters! One was positive, the other negative. Neither were perfect. One did have a better track record than the other. Yet, the Lord loved both. The one admired did not break fellowship with the one that was criticized. The admired one did not think of themselves as superior in spirituality to the one being criticized. True, the one being criticized had a condition which may have caused the members of the one being admired to be uncomfortable and privately be glad they weren’t in that city and part of that assembly, yet fellowship was still intact. No, this was not in 2016 or the story would have been totally different. It was around 60 A.D. The two congregations? The one in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) and the other in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6). The first was weak, the other was dead! Yet, both had weak and strong members. Headquarters did not tell the “few” members of the dead one to leave and establish a congregation like Philadelphia. Headquarters did not compare one to the other nor demand Sardis be like their sister assembly. Neither did Headquarters tell one to not have fellowship with the other until their weakness became strength or the “few” became the majority. Who was “headquarters”? Jesus is the head and he is quartered in heaven (Ephesians 1:20-23).
When Paul wrote to the Ephesian assembly, he stated,
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body ..” (Ephesians 4:1-4).
Jesus had said prior to Paul’s letter,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. . .I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 13:34-35; 17:20-21).
Yet, we see how that love disintegrated in Corinth when it dividing into four different assemblies meeting under one roof (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 11:18-20). Back then it was “of Paul” and “of Apollos” whereas today we have different labels for our divisions and we refuse to meet under one roof.
Has our restoration success resulted only in creating the Corinthian’s divisive error?