“For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 (NKJV)
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV)
Over the past several years, I have been privy to, and a part of, multiple conversations on doctrine and denominations. Some were intriguing, but many became downright contentious. The end result boiled down to the belief that doctrinal purity was not only attainable, but absolutely necessary.
Now, to set the record straight, I believe that our daily Christian walk should be one of constant spiritual growth. There are many to whom God has given understanding into His Word–they are worth reading and studying. The entire body of knowledge which has been written in books though, is far more than anyone can ever possibly hope to read, study, and digest in a given lifetime, with more being written every day: some great, some good, and some not worth the bother.
I am going to state unequivocably that NO ONE ever figures this all out: not the Calvinists, the Catholics, the Charismatics, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, the Reconstructionists, the Episcopalians, or the Reformed–insert your favorite denomination here. For each, some doctrine has been rightly discerned from Scripture and some has likely not. We see “through a glass darkly” this side of heaven. And while God has been absolutely clear throughout Scripture on certain issues, on some He has not been as clear. He has left these areas to be discerned through the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we work out our faith daily in the process of sanctification. If we are serious about our Christian walk, we must be constantly course-correcting as God reveals to us, through His Word and His Spirit, that which we need to know in order to accurately represent Him in love.
There will be no denominations in heaven. God never intended that the “piece of pie” we are given should represent the whole pie. We are to come together, bringing what we have been given. We are to be “iron sharpens iron” to each other in the body of Christ. It doesn’t matter whether we are apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, or pecan pie–pick your favorite flavor. We are all still “pie.” The flavor (denomination) not so important as the fact we are seeking to walk accurately with Him and what He has revealed to us in His Word. Sometimes we will get it right, and sometimes we won’t. The study of doctrine is not a chess game where we “win” with “check mate.” To think that we can ever “arrive” at the end game of doctrinal purity is pure foolishness, not to mention pride and arrogance.
We are to be like a team of horses pulling the same wagon–all working in tandem, heading in the same direction. This isn’t to be about which horse leads the team, and most certainly isn’t about us. It is about the fact that we make it to the “finish line” having done what Jesus Christ has commanded–make disciples of all nations.
In years past, my husband was chairman of the Missions Committee of the church we used to attend. Every year, they have a Missions Conference featuring the various mission’s work they support as a congregation. At one of these conferences, Mission India (a work we are very involved in supporting), gave a presentation on what God is doing to turn this nation which has been in incredible spiritual darkness. The impact Mission India is having in the lives of individuals, families, and villages through their Literacy Programs, Children’s Bible Clubs, and Church Planters, is phenomenal. God is doing an amazing work bringing in a harvest of souls for His Kingdom. After this presentation by the president of Mission India, there was a time for questions. One of our pastors asked the following question about Mission India’s church planters (sorry, this is not an exact quote, but the “gist” is correct): “How do we know that the church planters are theologically pure (wanting to know if they were ‘Reformed’ in their doctrine)?”
The President of Mission India graciously answered that, for a nation so bound in spiritual darkness, doctrinal purity is not so important as the fact that the Gospel is being presented and lives are being radically changed. Miracles happen daily as the power of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit manifest in people’s lives. They need the life-changing Gospel first, before doctrine can even be addressed. This is the God-given task of Mission India–to get the Gospel out.
At the risk of being too blunt here, we need to get over ourselves. While we bicker and sleep in our comfortable denominational and theological pews, the enemy, via the ever-greedy State, gobbles up our freedoms and dictates more and more of our everyday lives. No one person or denomination has this all figured out, that’s why we are supposed to work together for the common goal of winning this world for Christ. God made each of us with different strengths and weaknesses. Just as in a marriage, where husband and wife complement each other’s strengths, becoming stronger together than they ever were apart, the body of Christ, as His Church, is supposed to be the same.
Jesus Christ is returning for a “bride without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27).
As far as I can tell, we still need a good wash and iron.
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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