The Gospel Advocate on Unity of the Spirit

[JFG: I apologize for the length of the article, but it seemed best to present this information in a single setting, as it all ties together so closely. A draft of this article was sent to the authors of the articles mentioned prior to publication with an offer of an opportunity to respond here and a request for correction if I’ve misrepresented their views.]

the-unity-of-the-spiritLike the February issue of Wineskins, the February issue of the Gospel Advocate is dedicated to unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I can think of no better topic. I thought it would be good to review the teachings of the writers of the GA. My own reactions are placed in [brackets].

Essential Ingredients for Maintaining Unity

Tim Lewis, who preaches for a Church of Christ congregation in Oklahoma City, leads off a series of five articles on the magazine’s theme. He takes his lesson from Eph 4:1-3, arguing, “Unity is possible for this generation of believers, but certain indispensable components must be in place if we are going to be one in Christ.”

(Eph. 4:1-3 ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

He then reflects on humility, gentleness, patience, and love. He concludes,

If God’s people do not work harder to join together in unity, the same tragic cry might ring out on the day Christ comes again, “Would to God we had joined hands sooner!”

[Amen.] Continue reading

Unity of Spirit

white-dove-hd-720p-animalStone’s point regarding our need for fire (Spirit) union leads inevitably to —

(Eph. 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Our spiritual disease, which Stone calls book, head, and water union, is amply demonstrated by the fact that, to many among us, this passage is about what it does not say. It says nothing of instrumental music, and so it’s read as a prohibition against instruments. We thereby entirely miss what it does say!

It says that we are to “be filled with the Spirit … .” The references to singing are, grammatically, participles hanging on the verb “be filled.” You can’t get the participles right if you don’t understand the verb they modify. Hence, we should not make the least attempt to apply this passage without first exegeting “be filled with the Spirit” — as this is the central point of the passage — and yet this is the one part of the passage the we refuse to read, teach, preach, or understand! Continue reading

Unity of Fire

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Barton W. Stone

The Restoration Movement, which gave birth to today’s Churches of Christ, was founded by Barton W. Stone and Thomas Campbell. Stone was earlier than Campbell by a few years, and worked in Illinois at a time when Illinois was the American frontier.

Stone had been an ordained Presbyterian minister, but he was excommunicated when he began serving communion to non-Presbyterians. He had preached at the famous Cane Ridge Revival and seen men and women converted by gospel preaching — even though many of the preachers weren’t fellow Presbyterians. Even Methodist and Baptist preachers brought people to Jesus. Indeed, in his autobiography, Stone declared, while near his own death many decades later, that not a single convert from Cane Ridge had strayed from Jesus. Each conversion had been clearly genuine as shown by the fruit of the Spirit borne by each.

His rejection by Presbyterian authorities led him to participate in the dissolution of the Springfield Presbytery, an organization of Presbyterian congregations that decided to be Christians only but not the only Christians. To explain their decision, they wrote the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery — the earliest document of the Restoration Movement.

THE PRESBYTERY OF SPRINGFIELD, sitting at Cane Ridge, in the county of Bourbon. Being, through a gracious providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily; and in perfect soundness and composure of mind; but knowing that it is appointed for all delegated bodies once to die: and considering that the life of every such body is very uncertain, do make, and ordain this our last Will and Testament, in manner and following, viz: Continue reading

Unity of Blood

pope-francis-patriarch-kirill-meetThe schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches is over 1,000 years old. Ecumenical efforts have been attempted over the centuries, all to little avail. But things are changing thanks to — amazingly enough — persecution.

According to Christianity Today, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of the Orthodox churches, met in Cuba’s Havana airport. This is the first such meeting in a thousand years. Their discussion dealt with the persecution of Christians in the Middle East — many of whom are either Catholic or Orthodox. Many are also evangelical or Protestant. We Protestants have had missionaries in the Middle East for centuries.

Moreover, there are Christian churches in the Middle East that date literally to the apostles themselves. Much of Paul’s activity was in Asia Minor: modern-day Turkey. Other apostles worked in modern-day Syria and Iraq. We think of these as Muslim nations, but they were Christian nations centuries before Mohammad.

Pope Frances recently commented, Continue reading