The Purity and Unity of the Church

Posted: February 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

What makes a church more or less pleasing to God? What kind of churches should we cooperate with or join? Wayne Grudem reminds us that there are “more-pure and less-pure churches” but there are no perfect churches.

The Grudester writes, “The purity of the church is its degree of freedom from wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church.” He then states, “The unity of the church is its degree of freedom from divisions among true Christians.”

This begs the question, “what factors make a church ‘more pure’?

Grudem lists 12 things to look for: (1) Biblical doctrine (Titus 1:9, 11; and Jude 3); (2) Proper use of the sacraments (i.e., baptism and the Lord’s Supper) (1 Cor. 11:17-34); (3) Right use of church discipline (1 Cor. 5:6-7, 12-13); (4) Genuine worship (Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16-17); (5) Effective prayer (John 14:13-14); (6) Effective witness to Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20; John 13:34-35; Acts 2:44-47; 1 John 4:7, etc.);  (7) Effective fellowship (John 13:34-35); (8) Biblical church government (1 Tim. 3:1-13); (9) Spiritual power in ministry (Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 4:20; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; Gal. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:5; James 5:16); (10) Personal holiness of life among members (1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 12:14); (11) Care for the poor (Acts 4:32-35; Rom. 15:26; Gal. 2:10); and (12) Love for Jesus (1 Peter 1:8; Rev. 2:4).  No church will hit all of these perfectly or even well but they should be striving for all and there MAY be times when one must leave a church because one or more of these factors are so distorted that it leaves you with no choice. 

Now, Grudem rightly states that there are not a lot of verses that will support a decision to leave a church although there are a number of passages that commands a church to kick out false teachers (John 10-11) or to boot those who refuse to repent of their sin (1 Cor. 5:11-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Titus 3:10-11).  Now, one may have to leave because of matters of conscience or other practical considerations but one should do so with hesitation. 

Grudem also warns fellow Christians to stop abusing 2 Cor. 6:14 where many believers see Paul’s command to not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” as an excuse for an easy exit.  Grudem writes that the passage “forbids not mere association or even acceptance of help…but rather the giving up of control over one’s activities and the loss of freedom to act in obedience to God.” 

Grudem offers this warning because of the “strong emphasis in the New Testament on the unity of the church.  Jesus’ goal is that ‘there shall be one flock, one shephard’ (John 10:16), and he prays for all future believers ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21).” 

One may think striving for church unity is nothing but foolishness but the church was actually fairly united for nearly 1000 years before the split between the eastern and western church and, unfortunately, splintered into many pieces after the protestant reformation.

Grudem rightly argues that, just as there are levels of purity, there are also degrees of unity; separate organizations are one thing but refusal to cooperate or to fellowship with one another is something else.

Amen, Waynester.

Tomorrow, we cover “The Power of the Church.”

Until then…

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