The first principle of reconciliation is that "God was
reconciling the world to himself in Christ" (2Co 5:19). Therefore reconciliation
begins with God. Yet it isn't only that God was "in Christ", but also that
Christ is "in us". If so, then the process that began with God in Christ, is
continued with Christ in us, giving us the same "hope of glory". If we are also
"in Christ", then God's reconciliation is continued in us. Reconciliation is
manifested in oneness with Him and with each other.
Yet somehow, in spite of the prayer of Jesus that we "be one",
dispute, discord and divorce still produce differences in brethren that are
rationalized as being irreconcilable. The flesh still capitalizes on "doubtful
disputations" and indulges in "stupid controversies". Where differences are
reconciled, the Light shines. Grudges evaporate. False accusations are displaced
by forgiveness. Disputes about "greatness" are set aside for service. Marriages
regain their warmth. Ecclesias survive their dilemmas. Positions defer to
Scripture. And wasteful divisions, "which neither our fathers nor we were able
to bear" (Act 15:10), are ended for good.
The following principles have been compiled to show specific
aspects of reconciliation as God sees it, as Christ practiced it, and as it must
be evinced in us in our "ministry of reconciliation" (2Co 5:18). What follows is
only a selective list of principles on reconciliation. They are those that stood
out to me as being particularly relevant to division between brethren during an
eight-month consideration of reconciliation. By selecting principles that apply
to attitude, I have not meant to imply that reconciliation in the truth is not
dependent upon sameness of mind around doctrine. Faith begins with doctrine.
This series is directed toward conflict that originates from flesh and
functionally separates true brethren.
1. "He punishes the children and their children for the sin
of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Exo 34:7).
Time doesn't change the importance of
It is a disconcerting realization that the sin of discord can
be passed to the fourth generation. Although God is merciful, His punishment of
guilty fathers visits the sin upon their children to the third and the fourth
generation. As children of division, we have the choice to make or break the
cycle. We can offer the necessary sacrifice to save our children from growing up
with the stigma of a community separated from another of "like precious faith,"
or we can perpetuate it. We are compelled to end division for the sake of our
2. "[Caleb] follows me wholeheartedly" (Num 14:24).
Reconciliation requires following God fully.
When God commanded Israel to take the land, the congregation
was in an emotional uproar. There were two spirits. Most people wanted to do the
wrong thing. Driven by fear, they said "we are not able to go." But Caleb had
said, "we are well able to overcome it." Motivated by faith alone, Caleb ignored
human reasoning and focused on the fruit of obedience. The Lord asked of the
fearful, "How long will they despise me, and how long will they not believe in
me?" Of Caleb he said, "He has a different spirit, and has followed me fully."
That spirit was the Spirit of Christ, always deferring against human reasoning
to the will of the Father. Reconciliation commands us to let there be no schism
among brethren. How can we follow God fully? As we consider how to close an
unrighteous schism, perhaps there are two spirits -- that which says "we are not
able," and that which says "we are well able," because it is the Lord's
3. "How long will you waver between two opinions?" (1Ki
Halting between opinions stifles reconciliation.
This is especially noticeable when the opinions are "certainly
should" and "certainly should not". Two opinions, two judgments, two positions
in controversy; or matters too hard -- ambivalence stops us in our tracks. In
the Law, when matters too hard emerged, they were settled by the judgment of the
priests in a place where the Lord chose. We have only one priest, and the place
he has chosen is below the Table, in humility serving one another. Dispute
overrides service; yet the Lord made humility a priority over bread and wine.
When the years of controversy are prolonged, what might have been accomplished
in works is wasted in indecision. Reconciliation isn't accomplished in a halt.
Schisms are ongoing, self-canceling cycles of unproductive consumption.
4. "...Because it was done so quickly" (2Ch 29:36).
When God works reconciliation, it doesn't need a lot of
It didn't matter how long the doors of the temple had been
stuck shut from disuse, and the Passover ignored. When Hezekiah determined to
reconcile Israel, it took only eight days. All those of a "free heart" brought a
sacrifice to the Lord. Their hearts were not bound up with personal
considerations or fettered with fear. When the Passover was finally restored it
didn't take very long. "Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had
brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly." But it only
involved the immediate company of Hezekiah. Israel remained to be convinced. So
a proclamation was made throughout all Israel that they should come and keep the
Passover. When the couriers went out with the message, they were scorned and
mocked. Only a few responded at first, "humbled themselves" and came to
Jerusalem. Others from Judah came when the hand of God gave them "one heart to
do what the king commanded... by the word of the Lord." Afterward "many people
came together... a very great assembly." Likewise, it doesn't matter how long
our communities have been held apart by contention, all those of a "free [or
willing] heart" can be of "one heart" and do what the king commands.
5. "You are right! We must do as you say" (Ezr
It doesn't matter what is required; reconciliation leaves no
option but to do it.
When the priests of Israel realized they had disobeyed God,
sinned and led all Israel astray, it wasn't a question of what should be done,
or how it should it be done. It didn't matter to them that it seemed
impractical, imposing, or even inconceivable. Knowing that the sin was the same
as their fathers, they did what was required to repent. Their repentance
accounted for the fact that Israel's "ekklesial" relationship to God was
dependent on familial repentance. God had commanded them to refrain from
admixture with the surrounding nations. When they realized they had sinned, they
did what the Lord commanded without consideration of an option, or regard for
themselves. It was reconciliation by self-sacrifice and obedience.
6. "And they sent them away with their children" (Ezr
Even if reconciliation requires setting personal feelings
aside, it is still right.
It was almost an incomprehensible act of faith for the priests
of Israel to put their wives and children away in reconciling Israel to God.
They had abandoned the Law. They intermarried with the nations around them.
Jesus echoed this weakness when he said: "No one who has left home or brothers
or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will
fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers,
sisters, mothers, children and fields -- and with them, persecutions) and in the
age to come, eternal life" (Mar 10:29,30). For believers, this principle is
perfectly acceptable on occasions where people are converted to the Truth from
conventional Christianity. Beyond that, the principle becomes unthinkable. Yet
the Lord tells us that there will be times when we will be called upon to
sacrifice a personal relationship, or a rote tradition, in order to follow him.
Thus on several occasions, it appeared to the Pharisees as if Jesus was
violating the law, when in fact he was keeping it.
7. "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are
detestable to him..." (Pro 6:16-19).
Reconciliation is blocked by discord that mutates into
The seventh abomination that God hates is "a man who stirs up
(or sows) dissension among brothers". But what of those who cultivate it? And
how is it that the same God who "loved the world" hates the sower of discord?
Why so strong? The answer may lie in the word "sow." It has been God's intent
from the start to sow the seed of faith, reaping its fruitfulness in the world.
Anything that reverses this process runs against the very purpose of God. In
addition to spreading discord in the field around him, the sower also propagates
it for future generations. The seed of discord then spreads still further in the
"wind of doctrine." The traditions of men are not only contagious; they are
socially genetic. We inherit wrong attitudes as easily as we inherit false
doctrine. Discord mutates into family or church tradition, and tradition can be
taught for doctrine as it was in Israel and has been for two thousand years in
the apostate church. Every Christadelphian recognizes the tendency for schism to
be sown from generation to generation. We know that contentions are passed from
fathers to children. And we know that it is a legacy unforgiven if unrepented
of, when it is between brethren. As God hates the sower, he surely hates the
discord. Reconciliation converts discord to fruit.
8. "Pride only breeds quarrels" (Pro 13:10).
It follows therefore that only by humility comes
Pride is like fault. It only seems to lie in others. Everyone
recognizes that there has been contention among Christadelphians for a hundred
years. Yet mysteriously, the fault can't be isolated. Or it is always somewhere
else. When the finger is pointed, the blame itself is divisive. Yet the pointed
finger is the very thing God says ruins worship. So "let a man examine himself."
Each of us should examine only ourselves to discover how in all this we might be
contributing to contention, by pointing the finger, or by holding to opinion in
the name of doctrine. When we are humble enough to admit our part of the problem
without insisting on isolating the part of others, reconciliation naturally
9. "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more
hope for a fool than for him" (Pro 26:12).
Reconciliation is impossible when a man is right in his own
No man has ever been more right than the Son of God. How
easily he might have suggested crucifying the world, and saving himself. How
persuasively he could have argued his own position. Yet it would have been
impossible for God to reconcile the world unto Himself if Jesus had stood on his
own rightness. Reconciliation was achieved only because Jesus knew that the
Father was more right than himself, so he laid himself upon the cross to declare
God's righteousness, claiming none for himself. In other words, because he was
flesh, even the Son of God was not wise in his own eyes. How much more should
we, in our relative ignorance and weakness, remember to assign rightness to God
alone, never thinking more of ourselves than we ought to think? Reconciliation
is dependent upon humility. Self-rightness nullifies it.
10. "The fire which never says 'Enough' " (Pro 30:16; Jam
In every place where reconciliation has been set aside for a
century, the fire of controversy has never yet said "Enough". Fire spreads. The
tongue is a fire. When contention spreads, "the tongue stains the whole body,"
and so there is a stain on the garment. At what point do we say "Enough" to the
"unrighteous world among our members?" It is time to say "Enough", and end
divisions wherever they are, lest the Lord returns to find us burning the forest
instead of the lamp.
11. "I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and
goats" (Isa 1:11).
God doesn't delight in tradition or ritual. Reconciliation
operates on the heart.
Wouldn't you think that Israel could have realized that there
was more to worship than sticks, stones, animals and fire. Burnt offerings were
a commandment of the Law, and yet the prophet Isaiah still had to remind Israel
that the commandment was only there to teach the lesson of real obedience from
the heart. Samuel clarified the distinction when he asked, "Does the LORD
delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the
LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of
rams" (1Sa 15:22). When we make the ritual the religion, we are in danger of
making a bull or a goat out of the sacrifice of Christ. Surely, in the same
sense, the Lord does not delight in bread and wine, but in One Body, crucified
flesh, and newness of life.
12. "Confessing my sin" (Dan 9:20).
Reconciliation is impossible without the confession of
No one would question the faith and stellar character of
Daniel at the time he received word of God's intent to "make reconciliation for
iniquity". He was "greatly beloved". How is it that he is found in the same
context confessing his own sin in addition to the sin of his people? What was
his own sin? To him the mystery of the Kingdom had been revealed. He was
fearless and faithful in prayer unto death. An "excellent spirit" was in him.
What iniquity did he present in supplication before the Lord that elicited a
personal visit from the angel Gabriel? Was it perhaps that he had grown
accustomed to Israel's separation from God? Was it that his favor and position
in Babylon had made him complacent about the initial conditions in Israel by
which she was brought into captivity? Could it be that he had begun to regard
the word of the Lord as a "burden"? We can't know, but what we do know is that
it was not until he confessed his sins, that the Lord hearkened to his prayer.
On the other hand, accepting a condition of sin obviates its confession and
13. "I hate divorce" (Mal 2:16).
Divorce and discord are the same. God hates them both.
Reconciliation cures them both.
"Irreconcilable differences" is a term of humanism -- a term
of breech -- an accommodation of the flesh. No follower of Christ should ever be
found using the reasoning of the world to justify a sin that degrades the glory
of God as much as disunity among brethren. God's "hatred" of human wickedness is
utter enmity against it. Hatred is the strongest opposition cited by God against
various forms of evil. For God to say that he hates discord and divorce means
that they directly and entirely violate his righteousness. It also means that
for us to disregard his command to reconciliation is an unacceptable level of
indifference to his word. If we love God, we hate the things he hates. If we
love righteousness, we love reconciliation.
14. "Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go
and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Mat
Reconciliation is a priority over the breaking of
The only reason Jesus would command us to reconcile before
offering our gift at the altar is that atonement is meaningless if it is
selfish. For sacrifice to God to be regarded as unselfish, it should be drawn
from personal reconciliation. Were we to accept the covering of our own sin at
the altar without providing for the covering of sin with our brethren, we would
miss the point of the atonement. "Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone
who has not been merciful" (Jam 2:13). This simple idea is at the heart of every
lesson Jesus taught about transgression and forgiveness. "Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us" (Luk 11:4) is another way of
making reconciliation with God dependent on reconciliation with one another. The
one gift we know we can bring to the Lord at the altar of his covenant is the
gift of reconciliation. If it is to be done first, then it is urgent.
15. "Anyone who marries the divorced woman commits
adultery" (Mat 5:32).
What if reconciliation is related to the second coming of
There is an eerie implication in this statement from the
Sermon on the Mount. But it is not realized unless marriage is considered in its
larger context of the second coming of Christ. The Lord will take the role of a
Bridegroom in order to fulfill His father's promise that He would betroth us to
Him forever. The faithful will be the Bride. We can't know what the proportion
of the faithful raised will be to the faithful living at the time of the second
coming of Christ. All we know is that he said it is adultery to marry a divorced
woman. If we are the Bride, or part of the Bride, and we have divorced our
brethren in our heart, will he marry us?
16. "That they may be one" (Joh 17:22).
Reconciliation follows regard for this prayer.
When the Lord faced his death, he knew that it meant the final
conclusion to God's reconciliation in him. Once Jesus was obedient unto death,
His father had succeeded in reconciling the world unto himself. The mystery was
not only revealed, it was also accomplished. It was a turning point in God's
very existence, in that when the seed was "planted" (buried) in righteousness,
an immortal son would be "born" (resurrected) to God, and as an effect the world
would be saved. What then was the one thought, the single priority, the most
earnest desire on the Lord's mind as he prepared his disciples for his
obedience? It was that they would "be one", even as he was one with his Father.
It was that they would make a testimony of love and righteousness, by which the
Truth could be proclaimed to a dark world. It was that they had every reason to
continue the reconciliation he demonstrated. It was that reconciliation was in
effect the last will of the Lord before he gave himself for us. It was that
unity was at the heart of the Body of Christ. Can we disregard his prayer and
nullify in ourselves the Glory he shared with his Father?
17. "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world
know that you sent me" (Joh 17:23).
Reconciliation isn't much of an issue where there is no
According to Jesus, our "being one" is important because of
the world's perception. Jesus knew that the ministry he was appointing would be
dependent upon the unity of his followers. Our relationship with each other is
part of our testimony to the world. Jesus specifically states this when he
prayed that we "be one". His reason was "so that the world may believe that you
have sent me" (Joh 17:21). In other words, the importance of unity is that it
affects the perception the world has of Christ by the testimony of our beliefs
and behavior. Furthermore, the implication made by Jesus is that the world may
not know that he is "the son of the Living God" to the extent that there is
schism among us. Having a desire to preach the Truth, we cannot accept the
stigma of division in the background of our testimony.
18. "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"
Sameness of mind isn't an accidental consequence; it is an act
of spiritual will.
In several places the apostles give us a simple command to
those within. "Be of the same mind", "speak the same thing", "agree in the
Lord." This is not the wisdom of the world. The world teaches that affinity is
happenstance -- that agreement is more an influence of chance than deliberation.
Deliberate agreement can seem like mindless capitulation where independent
thinking is viewed as the ultimate self-fulfillment. But for brethren in the
Lord nothing could be further from the truth. Agreement comes first as a result
of having the same faith based upon God's word -- of letting his mind be in us.
Then it comes from a deliberate intent to agree. "Aim for perfection, listen to
my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace" (2Co 13:11). In Rom 12:16, we are
told, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to
associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited" -- that is, avoid
sentiments or opinions about lofty things, and avoid dependence upon
intelligence or intellectual attainments. When the intellect is strong, humility
requires deliberate discipline. Intellectually challenging brethren with debate
is contrary to a spirit of reconciliation. It is at this very point that
knowledge puffs up when, instead, love should be building up.
19. "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos" (1Co 1:12).
Reconciliation is in obvious need where brethren group under
Christadelphians have more exposure to this reproof than they
should, given their knowledge of God's word. I am of Thomas, and I of Andrew,
and I of Williams -- or whoever else. The context is an earnest appeal that "all
of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you." What
exactly do we think he means by this in the context of our identification with
books written by men as if they came from God? Books may be good, but if they
become banners of schism, the identification is wrong. It is a misappropriation
of the intent to edify. Paul implies that if we are divided, we are not in
Christ, since Christ is not divided. He accentuates the exhortation by asking in
whose name we are baptized -- in men, or in Christ. The force of his exhortation
is that reconciliation is dependent on agreement with Christ, and agreement with
Christ is not dependent on the eloquent treatises of men.
20. "I have no need of you" (1Co 12:21).
This thought obviates reconciliation.
To ignore reconciliation is to reject the body of Christ. If
the Lord had been content with his own righteousness, his spiritual caliber, his
distinction from sin, his position with God, or his understanding of the Truth,
he might have said, "I have no need of you" to all the rest of us. But if he
had, we would be yet in our sins. Though he was perfect, he recognized that he
was to be the head of a much larger body -- a body composed of thousands of
interdependent parts, with a variety of purposes, in which "all the body by
joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth
with the increase of God" (Col 2:19). By enabling the flesh of that body to be
covered with the robe of his righteousness, "he did not count their trespasses
against them." Neither should we, lest we be found not needing the Body of
Christ, and by implication, not being a part of it ourselves.
21. "So that there should be no division in the body, but
that its parts should have equal concern for each other" (1Co
Discord confuses reconciliation.
In the figure of the one Body, Paul tells us that God has made
greater and lesser parts -- parts with greater and lesser honor. He further says
that God has adjusted the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part.
What does this suggest about the prominent, the dominant, the eloquent, or the
vocal? Where is the honor in the debate? What is the value of complex
disquisitions? Where is the "simplicity that is in Christ" found in the pompous
machinations of intellectual particle physics? Without any uncertainty, Paul
says that "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (v
22). Who are the weaker among our members? Are they the women who keep silent?
Are they the quiet doers of those complex exhortations? Are they the visitors of
the sick? Are they the innocent younger, or the wearied elder? Are they the
washers of feet, or the poor and the maimed? Who are they -- the leaders or the
servants, the scribes or their readers? Was it the meek and lowly who made
division that has torn families in half and separated the beloved of the Lord?
The spirit of reconciliation demands that there be no schism in the body,
because the body should be nourished, not torn apart.
22. "Its parts should have equal concern for each other"
Reconciliation places equal value on both
How can we have the same care one for another, if we don't
associate with one another? Can we all suffer together if we are disjoined? What
kind of body is disjoined? Is the body of Christ disjoined? Is it dystrophic? Is
it atrophic? Can we all rejoice together if we are out of touch with the honor
that would otherwise give us cause to rejoice? If we place value on one part and
none on another, or if we associate with one part and ignore the other, then we
miss the mark of impartial care for one another.
23. "Love is not self-seeking" (1Co 13:5).
Insisting on our own way obstructs reconciliation.
This is very easy to understand, but so very difficult to put
into practice. It is difficult because we are inherently proud. Non-insistent
love cannot come from emotion because it is so unnatural. In fact, emotion
prevents it. Emotional guile manifests itself in intransigence, anger, and
factionalism. It quickly subverts the discipline of deference to brethren. The
flesh asserts itself in relentless contention, arrogant dominance, or hardness
of heart. When we don't insist on our own way, reconciliation is easy.
24. "He has given us a ministry of reconciliation" (2Co
Reconciliation is our primary work in the truth.
The reason reconciliation is a priority is that the
reconciling work of God in Christ can only be continued through the work of his
body. If God's reconciliation "didn't count their sins against them," we are
charged with the same in our "ministry of reconciliation". It is a message of
restoration through forgiveness. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as
though God were making his appeal through us" (2Co 5:20). And what is that
appeal? What is at the root of reconciliation? It is the covering of sin.
Reconciliation only works inasmuch as sin is covered. Where there is discord
there is sin. Although it may have been sin that divided us in the past, it is
only in its covering that we can be reconciled in the present.
25. "Dissensions, factions (party spirit)... works of the
flesh" (Gal 5:19).
Party spirit always argues against reconciliation.
Why is it that there are clearly defined parties, party
platforms, party explanations, and party terms, but no one seems to want to
assume responsibility for "party spirit"? Do you have it? Or is it always in
someone else -- there on the other side of a pointed finger? Or perhaps it is
nowhere, since judgment is required to identify it, and none of us can judge.
But there is an ominous warning attached to this devious work of the flesh. And
the warning is only useful in self-examination. Not only does Paul enumerate the
works of the flesh for us, but he says they are plain. What he means is that
they are publicly manifest, or externally apparent. That means party spirit
shows. The warning is plain enough too: "Those who do such things shall not
inherit the kingdom of God." Party spirit is dangerous disunion. Reconciliation
26. "His purpose was to create in himself one new man out
of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to
God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility" (Eph
Reconciliation breaks down dividing walls and preaches
We were once separated from Christ, being alienated from the
commonwealth of Israel. But now since Christ has broken down the dividing wall
of hostility between Jew and Gentile, making us both one -- making us all one in
Christ -- you would think that we would understand the importance of keeping a
dividing wall of hostility from being set up in yet another way -- between
brethren. When Jesus came and preached peace, he preached it to brethren who
were "far off", so that the whole structure is joined together and grows into a
holy temple in the Lord. The temple of the Lord has no walls of hostility, and
is not built upon division. Reconciliation removes the stones from the walls of
pride that divide brethren.
27. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"
Submission is the means of reconciliation.
It may not be readily apparent how dependent reconciliation is
upon submission. Submission runs against the human grain. But it was the
submission of Jesus, even to the cross that enabled the world to be reconciled
to God. Without his submission, we would be yet in our sins and without hope.
Submission is the means by which reconciliation can be achieved. It is an
extraordinarily simple idea, and an extremely difficult thing to concede.
Everything in us defies authority, and especially as it might be embodied in
another human being, or worse, a consensus. But if ever there was an opportunity
to take a stand against submission it was when the world brought the son of God
to trial in a Roman court. Yet, he was as submissive as a lamb brought to the
slaughter. Opening not his mouth, he proved that the way of reconciliation is
through submission. Ultimately, it relinquishes all control to God, to whom it
really belongs. The passage also says, "Submit to one another." This has been
used to argue that submission is dependent on mutual observance. That is, the
flesh says, if you aren't submissive, then I don't have to be. But the Lord
still kneels below us at his own table, saying "I am among you as one who
serves." This is the way of reconciliation.
28. "In humility consider others better than yourselves"
Reconciliation works when we treat our brethren as if they are
This statement immediately follows one of Paul's most earnest
appeals. He says, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any
tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded,
having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (vv 1,2). "In humility,"
he continues, "consider others better than yourselves." What claim can be made
of esteem at the table of the Lord if we meet on the other side of a shameful
schism? What is the same love, if it isn't the love shown us in humility by the
Son of God, who, though he was the King, esteemed ignorant, selfish, disputing
disciples as being better? What others are there to esteem, if they are not
those brethren we might not naturally esteem in the spirit of Christ?
Reconciliation follows esteem.
29. "An unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels
about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions" (1Ti
Reconciliation calls for a certain treatment of overstressed
controversy and dispute.
We know that Paul argued daily in the synagogue. He was forced
to debate with heretics. So it is in the understanding of the need to contend
(that is to struggle, not strive) for the Faith that he pleads with brethren not
to debate one another. He commands brethren to suppress intellectual contention,
because in the extreme it incites heresy. He says, in effect, that when strife
manifests itself in debates about trifles or quarreling about words, that this
does not agree with the sound words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching
which accords with godliness. He says further that such behavior even defrauds
"the truth", though it may pretend to defend it. If "party spirit" is a work of
the flesh, then, like the wrath of man, it cannot work the righteousness of God.
When to contend and when to "do... service" is dependent upon whether they are
"brethren... faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit". We are commanded
to avoid controversy with brethren, and to "teach and exhort" one another to
service. According to Paul, to teach otherwise is proud and ignorant (v 4) It
defies the spirit of reconciliation.
30. "Love the brotherhood" (1Pe 2:17).
If we love the brotherhood, we will reconcile for the sake of
It is so simple. Love the brotherhood. What is love of the
brotherhood, but love of the one Body? The brotherhood is the whole body of
Christ. We don't know it on any other basis than its composition from faith.
There is only One Faith. That Faith is the assurance of the Kingdom, and the
conviction that God's own Son is the living savior of this world. Those who
believe in the gospel, its promises, its diligent seeking, its accountability,
and its reward, are brethren. They compose the brotherhood. All are beloved of
the Lord. They love his word. They believe the Truth. Love the brethren who love
the Truth. Love the brotherhood in reconciliation.
31. "And the Bride has made herself ready" (Rev
No man knows the day nor the hour. Nor does the Bride. We
don't even know the specific conditions that will initiate the final departure
from heaven, the blast of the trumpets, the expanse of light, the feet on the
mountain. All we know is that they will precede the marriage of the Lamb to His
Bride. That great union of Heaven and earth will herald the entrance of Christ
into a world damaged by disunity in nations, disunity in families, and general
disunity with God. But in all the disparate admixture of weak and strong
influences, there will be one Body of people who had the might of faith to go
the other way -- to build up instead of break down. They were those who had
heard the impassioned appeal of the Lord to be one, and made it their gift at
the altar. They were those who never let the flesh separate them from their
service and their love of one another. They were the faithful. They were the
Bride who, clothed in fine linen, found a way to make righteousness out of
relationships. How was it that the Bride had made herself ready? What did she
do? Did she fulfill the prayer of the Lord to be one, reconciling herself in
unity, perfecting her beauty in purity of faith and in one spirit? Was it the
deliberate creation of "one spirit" that made her ready for marriage?