When Truth And Unity Collide

Suppose you met some people who told you they were believers. They stated they believed in the God of scriptures, believed that Jesus was his Son, that he died for their sins and that he rose from the dead. They believed salvation was by faith and grace, and that loving God and loving people were of supreme import. They were in close community with each other, attended their church weekly, loved their families and friends, served each other in sickness and in health, were openly evangelistic, took care of the widows and orphans, and created a loving environment in which they were able to thrive and affect the community around them. They only had one idiosyncratic belief. They believed that you could only be saved if you followed the OT dietary laws and restrictions. Other than that they were all good.

Could you be in unity with them? Would you let them attend your Church and mix and mingle with you and your friends?  Would you consider them brothers and sisters in Christ and give them an audience as they explained their beliefs? What sort of actions would categorize your love and affection for them? Would you welcome them with open arms? Have ecumenical Church services with them? Would you draw them into your community and give them free reign to integrate themselves into your own service? Would you let them teach you about why they had their unique beliefs about how salvation relates to the dietary laws? Would you let those beliefs get in the way of unity, or would you dismiss that as ultimately a non-issue that you refuse to let divide the two groups?  How united do you believe you could be with them?

Paul certainly answered that question for us. Swap out circumcision for dietary laws and you are essentially painted a picture of the Judaizers. These were men who believed that unless you has your genitals cut as a sign of your obedience to the ancient mosaic laws, you could not be saved. And so far from acquiescing to that particular theological nuance and dismissing it as simply a difference in opinion, a non-issue- something that did not matter in light of their love for each other, Paul warns people about them and ferociously attacks both them and their theological particulars.  He writes in Phillipans 3:2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh” He further goes on to castigate them, declaring that they were not even true Christians, saying  “Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in–who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” Galatians 2:4-5

Paul and his team did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour. Why? So that the truth of the gospel would remain with them. While some people may have suggested that they remain united with these people and that we ought not to let theological differences divide, Paul is quick to dismiss that. He understood that they posed a serious threat to the gospel of grace and the universality of the Christian mission. For this reason his very goal was to divide. He called them evil men who were dogs and unbelievers. He purposefully disrupted and destroyed any hope of unity that people on either side may have desired because he recognized that unity at the expense of truth is no unity at all. It is nothing but shallow and meaningless symbolism which breeds superficiality.And while some people may have argued that this was unfair because the Judaizers were kind to others and were well liked and respected in the community, or that the world might see these divisions and judge the Church for that, Paul didn’t make their benevolence,  kindness or generosity the dividing line of unity and Christian acceptance, but rather made their theology and their proper understanding of soteriology the issue which divided and consequently defined them.

So again I ask, in light of this, how united could you be?

3 thoughts on “When Truth And Unity Collide

  1. 17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [h]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [i]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [j]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

    31 Do we then nullify [w]the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. (Romans 3:31)

    12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting [g]the members of your body to sin as [h]instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as [i]instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
    15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [j]resulting in death, or of obedience [k]resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that [l]though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:12-18)

    The law was never for salvation but was always intended to be instruction on how to live a set apart (holy) life for God. We do not do this because we want to attain salvation like the “Judaizers” did, but because we love God and do not want to be controlled by our sinful desires. Why else did God give the instructions he did in the Old Testament? We hold to the laws that we feel we agree with and then we write-off the ones we don’t like as being legalistic or the way of the Judaizers? You want to talk about an injustice in the Christian faith? Just a few thoughts with regard to your discussion here.

    Thanks for all the interesting words you share here!

  2. Pingback: Resources for Galatians 2:4 - 5

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