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HOW CAN EVANGELICALS WORK TOGETHER ?
may wonder what we consider on fellowship.
In this, as in all, we seek to follow his word.
We seek it greatly, where according to his word, it may be found and encourage its enlargement for christ's sake,
not on the one side, in infidelity to his word,
nor on the other, in cleavages it does not require.
Our background as noted is Presbyterian. However this is not a shibboleth or clan call.
We value and appreciate the 5 points of Calvinism because, properly understood and divested of extreme interpretations, really additions and assumptions, they are Biblical. (Cf. The Biblical Workman Ch.8, pp. 131ff..)
LOVE AND SOVEREIGNTY, NEITHER SUBDUED
We none the less stress the love of God because, as the constitution of the PC Australia rightly says of its background, this needs to be interpreted with due relationship to the fact that God is not willing that any should perish (or as I Timothy 2 puts it, would have all men come to repentance and knowledge of the truth). In this way, to take one illustration only, we seek to bring in the towering desire of John Wesley to do justice to the love of God, not crimping or cramping it out of precise and profound relation to the Biblical statements, as well as to the system of Calvin, in its basic 5 point thrust, not reducing the sovereignty of God, or crimping or cramping that also, out of the equally deep relationship to the Biblical revelation.
We worship neither! are
In fact there is a complementarity in the system of the one, and the thrust of the other, as has often been shown on this site (e.g. P&F). It is time for an irenic realisation that their contributions ARE of GREAT value, though these human beings are not infallible! We cannot follow THEM, but should prize the biblical contributions of both, and proceed to continue in the unsearchable riches of Christ, not dazzled on the one hand, not intrusive on the other. ALL of us must ALWAYS be subject in doctrine ONLY to the Bible, always as the Westminster Confession justly and Biblically points out, comparing scripture with scripture, and receiving nothing but what the word states or necessarily implies (Proverbs 30:6). It is there that philosophy intrudes its head, and it is there that it must vigorously be pushed out again! When it comes in, it causes dissension, because it tilts at anything from nowhere, and being unfounded, founders (cf. SMR Ch.3).
Similarly, we CANNOT FORBID to speak in tongues, though none of ourselves do this, or desire it, desiring rather love and understanding as Biblically commended by Paul when dwelling on these things in I Corinthians 12-14; but we deplore the normal and almost uninterrupted seeming excesses of talking in many cases without interpreter in tongues, or more than two or three in a service, and in glamorising or exalting what Paul in I Corinthians debases, saying he would rather speak 5 words with his mind than 10,000 with tongues. Personal usage is an entirely different thing, for this is not subject to the congregational stipulation: ALL THINGS TO EDIFICATION ( I Corinthians ), lest there be but a vague sound (I Cor. 14:8). TIME must be redeemed when the people of God meet with REVERENCE (Psalm 89:7 cf. A Question of Gifts) as prescribed.
DELIVER US FROM THE SECTS - OLD AND NEW
All the sects are as wrong as they ever were, though some try, like Mormons or Seventh Day Adventist, by judicious adjustment to alter the case in peripherals, or in uncertain emphases, as if the word of God were not clear (Proverbs 8:8-9, I Cor. 1:31). We have not fellowship with them.
Either the bodily resurrection of this same Jesus (as in I Cor. 15, Acts 1, 2:31), or His deity, or His blood atonement, or the sufficiency of this to preserve the believer for ever (Romans 5:1-11, Ephesians 1:11), or His personal presence as the same Lord who was crucified and raised, or the mandate to add NOTHING to the word of God as given (Proverbs 30:6) or an assumption that God forgot to KEEP His word (Psalm 111:7-8, Matthew 16:18 - not of course a matter of petros, but petra, the ONLY rock whom God recognises as in Psalm 62), or some other Gospel NOT what Paul demonstrably preached and HAD preached (as in Galatians 1:6-9), or some filthy dreams of men turning into God or God starting as non-God, in some system made by someone who is undeclared, or some other thing contrary to sound doctrine is to be found in them. Unwise are those who enter those unhallowed halls.
Many mainline churches have followed the way of the sects, inventing and evacuating from the rock. (The Missouri Synod Lutheran had the radical liberals, or Bible assaulting parties LEAVE, which is unusual. Those of this persuasion normally get the property when there is division). SOME division there MUST BE and HAS BEEN in this century in MANY such large churches - since Christ statedly came to cause division even in a household (Matthew -36), and division there is and must be
1) about Himself
2) about His word, which being His, is in the end, essentially parallel in its impact and place.
Since THIS is the last times (cf. SMR Ch.8), therefore this is to be expected, and indeed is specifically predicted (II Peter 2:1, II Timothy 3). Hence this is merely a confirmation, and should cause no blench or concern, but only a resolution to MAINTAIN THE UNITY where it is to be found.
FOLLOW THE FAITH, THE LORD, THE WORD
You are either going to follow Him as revealed on earth and for earth in His appointed way, or you are not. If not, so be it; the illusion of unity is as needful then as is the union with dish-water when it is sent out from the kitchen.
If I were a captain of industry and my word was sent out with instructions, I would regard it as merely amusing slickness for any sub-captain to maintain that while I myself was to be believed or respected or followed, my words were essentially unclear, unspecific, or unnecessary. It would be a type of impudence which manipulated confusion to use my name while in effect lampooning my ability, and implicitly taking over my power without even acknowledging the coup. When it comes to God Almighty the abilty is somewhat greater... in fact, infinitely so! Hence the folly is infinitely worse, for those who are so fond of the Almighty but not of the words of His revelation (Isaiah 29:13, II Peter 2;1, II Timothy 3, Jude and see SCOOP 43).
Hence we are in fellowship with great or small, provided the word of God rules and is not contradicted, subverted, diverted or treated to obvious contradiction. In this is nothing novel: the Reformation creeds, not all equal in merit, are in general of sound kind, especially the Westminster Confession, and although the concept that NOTHING more should EVER be done because there was a great season of reformation is patently false, and makes merely a shibboleth out of a mercy, there is here a bastion of sound teaching - except where sovereignty is put against love as defined in its Biblical scope, instead, as Spurgeon so rightly said, of both being given full scope. A hideous caricature, to use his term, of the love of God is just as possible as a grave limitation on His absolute sovereignty, both of which items are equally clear in the Bible.
There has always been a group of those who follow WHAT IS WRITTEN, which is sure, despite the fact that standard and devious practice in heresy is often found in those who assert just that, since there is no other ground (unless existential visions) for any sort of authority. Christ did the WORKS, and without Him, nothing!
DO NOT BE NEGLIGENT IN DIVINE THINGS
We do not cease to breathe, however, because criminals breathe air, nor to use surgical instruments because some did not sterilise them properly. The word of God is not to be abandoned in heart, or spirit or detail because so many as Paul expressly states, handle it deceitfully. THEY are to be shown false (Titus 1:9, ), and IT is to be followed. What else! It is not new.
Thus, it is what is done with what is
written, wresting the words and deceitfully or deviously misusing them deviously,
which is the current issue: II Cor. 4:2, II Peter 3. The Westminster Confession
has a kind of classical calm and care, and its substance and thrust are most
helpful; but as it says itself, no council is to be made a criterion of faith.
The PC Australia had it right in this, and in adding the emphasis on the love
of God. It is unfortunate (as shown in The Biblical Workman
Ch.8, pp. 125ff.), that it
has apparently moved to an extreme form of understanding which, for the reasons
given in the cited Chapter 8, violate its own foundations. The concepts
however remain as valid as when written in 1901 at its
ENCOURAGEMENT TO FELLOWSHIP
Hence we seek fellowship with all who follow the word, seek restraint in avoiding both idolatrising confessions and bypassing their major thrust when Biblical, are not interested in innovation but consider development just, that God has not left His church as though on the one hand, the reformation were its doctrinal terminus in Biblical treasures, or on the other, as if none had been wonderfully used in the past; and seek that such development have all the precise care and whole Biblical formulation, comparing scripture with scripture, which is so necessary in interpretation, as distinct from innovation.
We also seek to avoid shibboleths of tradition or sacrament, so that we have fellowship with Baptists who do not fall into sacramentalism, making major issues of minor things (I Corinthians 1:13-17), knowing that "Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel" as Paul says, thus not mistaking symbol for substance any more than in the case of just revulsion from Mass, which does it elsewhere. The Lord's Supper and Baptism (Questions and Answers 2, Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 14, Scoop of the Universe 51) are both just; but neither is to be a major thrust in salvation, though each has grand significance for the eye of faith. We do not have fellowship however where tongues are a sign of conversion, the sacraments are means of salvation (Questions and Answers loc.cit.), or the philosophy of man is made a Biblically forbidden shibboleth (against I Cor. 3 - and see Repent or Perish 1, *1), whether dressed in theological terms or not.
We seek to encourage just and Biblical fellowship in which all who love the Lord and follow the plain teaching of His word can join, expanding usefulness in company.
The particular church in which some of us have fellowship has the following statement, and it seems for pith, a reasonable statement on fellowship:
§ Continuing in fellowship with all by faith
(See Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium 15.)
§ Calling for repentance with faith in Him, God as man, crucified, bodily resurrected and as such to return.
We actively seek broad fellowship in the faith, rising above matters which sometimes take a long time for people to chew, as is the character of meat, but not dispensing for all that, with the actual formulation and determination to follow whatever is written.
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