To follow up on a point from last week’s lesson regarding baptism and church membership. We were discussing why don’t we baptize into Christ, why do we require people to make all these changes in their lives before they are baptized, rather than bringing them, in baptism to Christ, for the power to overcome in their relationship with Him
We speculated it may be to “protect” the church from those deemed to be to unsavory, not yet orthodox enough.
After class, James Erlich mentioned to me that we could solve the problem by baptizing immediately when people are convicted and want to give their lives to Christ, like they did in Bible times, but membership in the church is something achieved by the vote of the church. Thus, not hold the vote for membership until whatever standards, the various church’s determine are necessary to constitute spiritual maturity enough to be a member of the church, which would entail voting, ability to hold office etc.
I thought this was “brilliant” why don’t we do it this way?
Is it because we recognize on some level that when someone is baptized into Christ they enter the mystical body of Christ and become part of the church invisible, and we want to believe that our denominational church is the repository of all such members?
Could it be our denominationalism has been misunderstood? Could it be that denominations are manifestations of fracturing amongst the body of Christ, as confusion creeps in, and that what should motivate one to join a denomination, is not necessarily the same thing that motivates one to give their heart to Christ? Specifically, can one join a denomination because they identify with the mission of that organization and want to use the gifts Christ has given them to further that mission? So could there be two people, both who have given their lives to Christ and are renewed in heart, but have fields of service, led by the Holy Spirit, in two different denominations?
Should we lead people to Christ and let the Holy Spirit determine which field of labor that person is best suited to pursue, including which denomination?
Would our arguments today over denomination be similar to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians?
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 1Cor 1:11-13
Are we today doing this? Are we baptized into Luther, Calvin, Knox, White, or are we baptized into Christ?
Which brings us to the Introduction to our lesson, Christ’s example of making disciples, of the Great Commission, the process whereby we become followers of Jesus.
What is our mission to the world? How would you state our mission? What is the Great Commission?
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” MT 28:19,20
What does this mean? What are we to do? Make followers of all the peoples of the world, “baptizing” meaning what? Simply dunking or sprinkling with water, depending on denomination? Or when Jesus said baptizing He meant something more?
Immersing their minds, hearts, characters, into the character of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – which is what? It is immersing people into the truth of God’s character and methods of love, teaching them how God’s kingdom of love operates, a surrender of self, dying to selfishness, and living to love, which is then symbolized by the act of water baptism.
Thus one of the founders of our church wrote:
“It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy and truth…The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is the revelation of His character of love.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p.415
This is what Christ dealt with 2000 years ago, Isaiah prophesied that darkness covers the people gross darkness the people. John, in John 1, stated that Jesus was the light to lighten all men, but even though the light was shining into the darkness the darkness did not understand it.
What about today? Is there still darkness in the world, in the church, about God’s character and methods of love?
Do we promote the kingdom of love by denominationalism, by harping on doctrinal differences, by running down other organizations, by bragging up our own?
Should we be promoting our denomination, or our Savior Jesus Christ?
And then, we can show how our organization is working to further the mission of Christ, the revealing of God’s true character and methods to prepare the world for His return, and invite people to join the mission?
One of the devil’s tricks is to get groups pitted against each other and arguing over various doctrinal points, all while ignoring the truth about God’s character, methods and principles.
Thus 2000 years ago the Sadducees and Pharisees argued constantly over the state of the dead and resurrection, but what understanding of God did they hold? Even if one group was right regarding resurrection did it do them any good? No, they still rejected and crucified Jesus.
This is like many Christians today, so concerned with right doctrine, which day is the Sabbath, what is about the state of the dead, what foods are right to eat, what is right to wear, who is the beast of revelation, what is the mark of the beast, what is the right ending for this prophecy or that prophecy – but what does it matter if they don’t know the truth about God and His kingdom of love? Don’t take it from me, take it from Paul:
I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt — but if I have no love, this does me no good. 4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. 8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. 9 For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; 10 but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear. 11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I have grown up, I have no more use for childish ways. 12What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. 13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1Cor 13)
Thoughts? What is he saying? That without an experience of God’s love, of partaking of the kingdom of love, without being immersed (baptized) into the character of God, God’s love, then all right doctrine, prophecy, languages and works are worthless, for we remain outside God’s design for life and in a terminal condition But someone, who has been renewed in love, may not understand some point of doctrine correctly, but they are healed in the inner man and have entered eternal life. This is what really matters, bringing people back to God’s true character and methods of love!
We have so focused on right doctrine we have lost site of righteousness – of actually being right with God. Worse, we have supplanted true righteousness, being renewed in heart to love like God loves, with a false righteousness of legal declaration, without actual transformation.
Am I saying doctrine doesn’t matter, or it doesn’t matter what we believe if we have love? Of course not! Doctrine does matter in its right place, and what is the right place for right doctrine? Always connected to the truth about God.
If we separate doctrine from God’s character and stand them up like toy soldiers, with their proof texts and present them as stand alone ideas, we have created a distorted reality in which the doctrines work to obstruct the greater reality of God’s kingdom.
Every doctrine, rightly understood, is valuable in that it leads us to a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of God’s kingdom and character of love. This is why we value and share the Fundamental Focus pamphlet, because it demonstrates that every doctrine does indeed reveal the truth of God’s character of love.
So, what does it mean to make disciples of all nations? To bring all people back to love for God, His methods, principles and love for each other, so that we actually live in harmony with His methods, with Him and each other.
The introduction also asks what method Jesus used to draw people to Him. Thoughts?
- Miracles were done as an outworking of love to those whose hearts were open to receive truth and love from God
- But miracles were NOT done as a proof or evidence to win converts or followers or to pass some test of orthodoxy
- “Some Pharisees came to Jesus and started to argue with him. They wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him. But Jesus gave a deep groan and said, “Why do the people of this day ask for a miracle? No, I tell you! No such proof will be given to these people!” (MK 8:11,12)
Compassion and love
Teaching truths in ways people could understand
Reasonable and practical truths
Revealing God to be a God of love
Disabusing people of contradictory teachings and hypocritical practices
Overthrowing the idea that one should follow church leaders blindly, but teaching people to think for themselves
Breaking social convention, talking to women, touching lepers, socializing with tax collectors, talking with prostitutes, seeking to heal rather than seeking to condemn
His attitude was NOT one of finding faults in order to condemn, but like a physician He loved people and any fault He saw He sought to heal. His frustration grew, just like a physician, when He saw defects He could heal, but people hardened their hearts and wouldn’t allow Him to heal.