2 Apr 2016

Unity, Diversity & Resurrection Faith: A Brief Post Easter Meditation

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Alexander Campbell, Church, Easter, eschatology, Faith, resurrection, Unity

Let me make a confession, in light of “resurrection Sunday” we just celebrated, to all my friends: I believe the “Seven Ones” that have come down to us from Paul in Ephesians 4:

One Body; One Spirit; One hope; One Lord; One Faith; One baptism; One God and Father of all.

I further believe every line of the Apostles’ Creed – even Alexander Campbell believed the Creed was sufficient ground for unity of the church. We usually begin worship at Palo Verde by reciting the Jesus Creed as a congregation but we have been known to confess the Apostles’ Creed on numerous occasions.

denyingcreedGod’s Family can tolerate diversity … as much diversity as in the New Testament itself between the apostolic Jerusalem church and apostolic Pauline churches in Asia Minor and Greece.

Diversity is not a threat to the “One apostolic faith.” God is One yet Diverse. The Trinity teaches this clearly. Thus I have my convictions and believe there is a “correct” position on things like the Millennium but I refuse to throw someone out because they do not interpret Rev 20 as I do. I think there is something MORE important than the Millennium (by a long way).

I do not care what version of the Bible you use to read and study … any version in any language will be different than what Moses, Matthew and Paul wrote. I will encourage what I believe to be better ones but don’t loose sleep over it.

I do not believe that God cares nearly as much about instrumental music as folks in the Churches of Christ have cared. What are we going to do when we get in the presence of God and the angelic band starts up? Lecture them? No! I think Gabriel might have a contrary opinion 🙂

If Paul and James were willing to sacrifice an animal in order to demonstrate the UNITY of, and PRESERVE the shalom, of the Jewish and Gentile church then I fail to see how he is going to throw anyone out over a piano, cf Acts 21.15-27 (we sure do evade THAT APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE!! Makes me wonder if “approved apostolic example” was ever really a hermeneutical category or was it really “approved what I believe?” Acts 21 takes place AFTER Paul wrote Romans btw. So Acts 21 is Paul’s own apostolic application of what he wrote in Romans 14 and 15. Food for thought).

There are some things that are just simply not worth fighting about especially since such fighting usually produces much more than rational discussions but heightened emotions and usually a great deal of animosity. Sharing, talking, opening the Bible and studying together – yes! Fighting and dividing? No way!

I have my convictions on the role of women in churches. I believe I can defend them straight out of the Bible. I believe that women, indisputably, are in fact allowed to pray in the assembly, to read Scripture in the assembly, to serve communion, to teach, to be deacons (1 Cor 11.4-5; Rom 16.1-2; etc). But I do not want to split a church over them.

But there are some things worth holding onto precisely because they are part of the Seven Ones or even the Apostles’ Creed. Among these, for me, is the bodily resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and those who are his disciples and that Jesus will in fact bodily return for his family, bring final victory to the kingdom. Paul and Peter certainly thought these were worth saddling up a horse for (cf 1 Cor 15; 2 Tim 2.17-18; 2 Pet 3.1-10).

So I am very very tolerant, as most know, and I love to discuss all those other matters as long as it is done in a Christ honoring way and we can be like Paul, James and Luke who wrote about it and be One.

But I will not budge on the very foundation of Christianity. If Christ was not raised … yes in the flesh (Lk 24.38-39) … then our faith is a complete and utter waste of time. Paul knew this! Lots of people believed in immortality, life after death, paradise, etc in the ancient world. Such notions did not begin with Jesus!!

We do not simply believe in life after death as a Christian. Lots of literal pagans do that! Resurrection is what we believe. Resurrection is not a synonym for “life after death.” What we believe as Christians is 1 Cor 15.1-4 … The Messiah was literally killed (he did not seem to die); The Messiah was literally dead and literally buried in a borrowed tomb; God the Father, thru the power of the Spirit that created the world, raised the literal corpse of the Messiah, in the same body that hung on the Cross. This we hang our hat on. This is not a negotiable point. The coming of Jesus is not a negotiable point.

So I pick my battles and resurrection is one that I will suit up for. In the early church especially at the beginning of the 2nd century AD and thru the 4th there were people who denied all of this. They were called Gnostics. In the great persecutions that took place in Palestine, Gaul, North Africa and even in Rome, those who suffered and died were not, by and large, Gnostics. They were believers in the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah. Justin at the end of his Second Apology to Emperor Antonius Pius (AD 150-55) was the first to point out this stark historical truth … the Gnostics so redefined the Cross, Resurrection, Salvation that they were “neither persecuted nor put to death” by the Romans. They had to write their own books to get this strange new faith but those who read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John not only suffered martyrdom but frequently refused chances to save their lives as a Roman official attempted to give them an out by simply saying allegiance to the Emperor (such as Polycarp).

What one believed about the Cross, Resurrection, Salvation, etc had life and death consequences in the early church. No one embraced resurrection faith glibly … they did it because it was Truth.

God is the same Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. The God of the New Testament, the God of the resurrection is none other than the Creator God of Genesis 1 and the Redeeming God of Exodus 13-15. God did not become a Christian in Matthew 1.

What you believe matters. Sometimes it has the world riding on it … the truth of Resurrection does.  There was plenty of diversity within the unity of the Seven Ones in the New Testament church.

Shalom.

3 Responses to “Unity, Diversity & Resurrection Faith: A Brief Post Easter Meditation”

  1. Andrew Swango Says:

    My favorite part is when you mentioned how unique Resurrection is to pagan religions, which also believe there is an afterlife. When I rejected my belief in an ethereal resurrection, less than 5 years ago, I was blown away by how often the New Testament speaks about the resurrection, and I don’t mean Christ’s glorious resurrection. The Great Resurrection was so often preached! To my surprise, it is one of the central foundations to Christianity–as you well point out. Of all the promises, teachings, examples, etc. in the New Testament, nothing brings out the fruit of joy in me than the Resurrection. I also think that this is an excellent post-Easter meditation. Thanks!

  2. Chuck peche Says:

    Awesome lecture. Christians are not all in one bldg or located in one community. The only thing that will matter I the next century is “Are yu covered by the blood of Jesus Christ” quote not mine

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