As was mentioned in the previous article, fellowship within the third ring has the potential to be so intense that unity over worldly issues is attainable at nearly every level. This is the level at which the majority of Christians are able to join forces against ISIS, the ACLU, vigilante atheists and any other worldly persecution that threatens Christ-likeness. This is the level that offers the greatest potential for numeric unity.
But we also established earlier that fellowship at all cost is a proven mistake. Compromise is often the devil's path to further division. So what is the balanced answer? What can be done to promote unity without sacrificing personal convictions?
The reality is this, the majority of Christian people refuse to enter into the center ring. Their refusal to fully obey Christ's commands (John 3:5, Acts 2:38) certainly limits our fellowship with them, but must it end our unity altogether? Can we not at least stand together on issues that only require a ring 3 level of spiritual growth? Bigger question: What can Christ-bought Christians do to reach out of the inner circle and draw others into a more perfect understanding of God's will?
Please notice the following section from my book "Fellowship of the Rings". I think it will provide a refreshing insight into these questions and our pursuit of unity.
"For us to effectively reach out to those who call themselves Christians but have never been born of the water and the Spirit, the first and most important thing we must do is speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Notice there are three parts to this biblical phrase, speak, truth and love. To see this principle played out in a biblical example, please open your Bible to Acts 18.
In order to speak we must meet. In order to meet we must have some level of fellowship.
A disagreement had kept two women from speaking to each other for many years. The health of one began to fail and so her estranged friend reluctantly came for a visit. From the hospital bed the ailing woman looked up sternly at the other. 'Ethel,' said the woman in a frail voice, 'The doctors say I am very ill. If I die I want you to know that you are forgiven.' She paused and then lifted herself on one elbow. 'But if I pull through, everything stays the same!'
In a very sad way, this story illustrates the position of many within the first two rings of fellowship. For years we have refused to talk or have any real level of fellowship with each other. But as the storm clouds of persecution envelop us, we will be forced to the bedside of our estranged friends. We will talk. We will work out our differences. Why wait for a tragedy to bring us together? Let's start talking now!
In Acts 18:24-26, we find a remarkable story of two Christians who reached out to a man who claimed Christianity but had not been born of the water and the Spirit.
Notice the text.
'Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the hints of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.'
When following this biblical example and the command given in Ephesians 4:15, three things must be observed.
1. In order to reach across lines of fellowship and draw Apollos closer to the heart of God, Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos first had to speak to each other. It is worthy to note that even though Aquila and Priscilla were members of the inner circle (Romans 16:3), they still had contact with and even attended religious gatherings of those outside their circle. Their attendance at these religious services brought them into contact with a false teacher. Their contact with that false teacher presented them with an important decision about fellowship.
What should Aquila and Priscilla have done? If they had chosen the approach of many in the modern church, they would have written about him in brotherhood publications and belittled him at the next meeting of the inner circle.
Thankfully, this was not the approach taken by the New Testament church. Read the text again. Not only did this loving Christian couple avoid what is so common in today's church, when they learned of his false teaching, they actually reached in for an even deeper level of fellowship. They 'took him aside' and through personal, one-on-one fellowship over the discussion of being born of water and the Spirit, they drew Apollos deeper into the heart of God.
2. In order to reach across lines of fellowship and draw Apollos closer to the heart of God, Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos spoke the truth. It is important to remember that before meeting these two Christians, Apollos was a man who professed Christianity but had not been born of the water and the Spirit (vs. 25)
Please notice that the targeted subject of their discussion was baptism. For far too long, many in the inner circle have been distracted by pet topics that pale in comparison to the importance of the subject of being born of the water and the Spirit. (Examples: Does the person understand the need to take communion every week? Does he understand all the 'traditionally correct' forms of worship?) All of these areas could have been covered by Aquila and Priscilla, but it is important to note that the first and most important item on their hearts was this man's journey into the next ring.
3. In order to reach across lines of fellowship and draw Apollos closer to the heart of God, Aquila and Priscilla spoke the truth in love. Perhaps the most convicting part of this passage is the phrase, 'they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.'
Notice that they 'took him aside'. There was no arrogance, no up-staging the false teacher. There was no desire to make an example out of him. With a love that no doubt stemmed from memories of their own condition outside the inner circle, this Christ-like couple used courtesy and diplomacy to encourage Apollos along his journey. We too must follow their loving example. Speaking the truth is not enough. It must always be spoken from a heart of love.
Notice also that they took him aside in order to 'explain to him the way of God more accurately.' Every person within the inner circle should be impressed that the Holy Spirit of God used the description 'more accurately'. This phrase implies that part of the message which Apollos was preaching was accurate. In other words, even though this false teacher did not preach water and Spirit baptism, God still validated the part of his message that was correct.
The application for today's church is huge. Just because a person has not yet crossed into the inner circle, it does not mean their entire journey is without value. Just because a person has not yet submitted to water and Spirit baptism, it does not mean that all of their message is false."
As the brutality of Islamic beheadings have now reached the shores of America, the Christian community must wake up! We must rally together. We must find common ground on which to build a Christian fortress. Denying the reality of our differences will only lead to further division. On the other hand, using those differences as a sifting agent to find common ground can build essential Christian alliances!
If you are inside the center ring, reach out! If you are on the outside, come in! Time is short! Be more than just an imitator of Christ, be a blood-bought Christian. Surrender to immersion for the saving of your soul!
John 3:5 (NKJV)
"Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'"
Acts 2:38 (NKJV)
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
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