Generic Christianity


        10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?   
1 Corinthians 1:10-13

    3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.                      
  1 Corinthians 3:3-11

    From these passages of Paul to the Corinthian believers, we see a problem of divisions amongst Christians. To start with, we need to ask ourselves, “What was Paul after?” We can say unity, but what kind? That concept is misunderstood amongst most Christians today. The modern concept of Christian unity could well be called, “Generic Christianity”.
    I want to take a look at what this misperception is and what the Bible calls for.

    The prevailing idea of Christians being able to work together seems to be on the basis of holding to certain common beliefs. These seem to be: belief in the same God, salvation the same way and calling certain excesses of our time sin, such as homosexuality and abortion. There might be a few other items in the list.
    Now the consideration that’s vital is, “Is this biblical?” Is this the basis of Christian unity Paul was calling for? If not, can loose associations for special purposes be substituted?
    If you read these passages closely, you’ll notice that divisions were to be abhorred. An association is similar to putting pieces of different elements together, such as in a checker board, and glue them within some kind of outer frame. All the different pieces remain separate unto themselves but give the appearance of being a single unit. That’s essentially what you have in an association of different sectarian Christian groups. This still carries the basic flaw of division. The biblical pattern is like sugar and water mixing together. They meld together and you have the division diffused as they become a new element in themselves. This is the kind of union that isn’t an offense to Paul or Christ.
    To get an association to work, sacrifices must be made. It calls for abdicating certain responsibilities the scriptures demand of us. Basically it can only be done by disobedience to God. These are strong statements and much must be understood to begin to understand why I make such severe statements. The starting point must be a working definition of what the church is?

The Church
    The Church is most simply, those who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. This comprises all the believers over the world, and back through time. That's the Church universal. Since we cannot all be together simultaneously, we gather on the basis of locality. The only grounds for division is to be physical limitation. We don't all gather together from all over the world in one place because that would be physically impossible. We can easily understand this, and this is what the Bible shows. For brevity, let it suffice it to say the New Testament shows that every town had one church. Even Jerusalem, of considerable size, was one church. In Acts we see 3,000 added to it in one day (Acts 2:41-47), yet we see it called the church in Jerusalem in Acts 11:22, not the churches in Jerusalem.
    Moving on, the church has more detailed description of what it actually is, described in the following passages:

    19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.                    
Ephesians 2:19-22

    12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.   
1 Corinthians 12:12-27

    The church is a union of believers in which Christ dwells in us. We are not talking simply about a social club! We are talking about a living organism, as the passage in Corinthians shows. We are part of His body, and He is the head. He hasn’t deputed that responsibility to anyone else!
    In the simplest terms, the local church is the gathering of believers on the grounds of being part of that body. If you are one of His, you are part of His body. If you gather with other Christians who live in your locality, you are then gathering on the only grounds the Bible shows for a church to exist! Does this then mean that Christians who gather on the grounds of some creed or tradition, such as the Baptists with their believer’s water immersion or Lutherans, aren’t Christians? No. There are believers who gather in these groups because they’re ignorant of the biblical basis for assembly. They may be saved believers, but their grounds for assembly are wrong. They follow the course of those Paul was bemoaning in the first passages we looked at. Though they’re saved however, we must be obedient to the biblical foundation we’re called to:

    20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.   
Acts 26:20

    This defense of Paul before King Agrippa declared the basis of Christian union. The three key elements for fellowship being:

    1. Saved the same way - “that they should repent”.
    2. Worship the same God - “turn to God,”.
    3. Bring forth fruits of repentance - “do works meet for repentance”.

    These are detailed repeatedly throughout the New Testament, but in this passage we find all of them in a simple nutshell.

The Church In Operation
    Now we have a church. What do we do with it? What is its function? Does the Bible make any obligations or outlines of duties He calls for of His members?
    As the scriptural comparison of the church is to a body, we can gain a biblical perspective by viewing it in this way. The opposite of a true functioning body, with a true flow of life, would be the man-made form such as that found in civic clubs. These are groups of people gathering for a common charitable purpose with certain social niceties added. I thought a side by side comparison might aid in gaining a better perspective.

    Christ as head, meaning the group of men maintain such a mutual interaction that no single man or small group of men take action without a spiritual consensus and harmony.
    Man centered head such as some particular kind of leader or president.

    An immune system to protect the body demands openness and response to mutual open interaction. Closed door policy to hide from the rest of the body isn't natural.
    Head uses bylaws to uphold standards and purpose. Much less cross accountability and mutual interaction demanding obedience to bylaws. Less to hold consistent carry through of office requirements. Can more easily pick and choose what laws will be followed.

    Diligent care for one another, looking continuously to see fellow members are appropriately cared for. Health of whole body. TRUE interest in each other that tops self-interest.
    Pleasure socializing, but mutual responsibility and care rarely go beyond dealing with extreme catastrophes members may face. Even at that, sometimes care is only in word. REAL care and pain for other ultimately missing.

    Care of the body is a #1 priority. Other things weighed in balance to seeing Christ's body built and prayed for. Strive for this goal.
    Busy people schedule for some obligations but not #1 priority. Responsibility can become nuisances.

    Profitless activity evaluated and corrected. Examine for fruit and life. Avoids doing things for appearances sake. Seeks mind of Christ.
    Activity for time consumption and for pleasure. Soothes conscience with superficial busy work. Follows regulations that have been commonly accepted as right or worthwhile.

    This is undoubtedly a short list, but it addresses leading points to help evaluate what kind of church life we have. If we sense we match the Civic Order more closely than the Body, but have mild concern, this should move us to truly repent and seek God to restore us to life! Only the spark of life, that body life, can bring about the right heart and right pursuit!
    A living body follows the order of the Head. It has various systems that work for its profit and preservation. It has an immune system that watches for possible infections and defends the body. It processes warning signals of pain to correct these danger signals. It processes food for strength and upbuilding. It rests when needed and it fights when needed.
    A civic order finds leaders who can strive for certain degrees of conformity to the bylaws, but when self-will is sufficiently at interest, the “pick and choose” problem rises to the surface. They will do it the way they want, and the individuals who raise objections find no recourse. The Body provides recourse for concerns. It provides a body of elders who share ultimate accountability, who truly have the concern of pleasing the head. They make themselves available to hear concerns and challenges. They gather to hear so the aspect of open accountability and responsibility must be faced. Nothing can be lightly ignored without having to face the light of defending scripturally their reasons for their choice of action.
    If you're wondering if your church is a civic order or a body, ask yourself, “Is there a forum for concerns to be openly addressed and satisfactorily considered?”

    Biblically there's a cancer that endangers the body. This is sectarianism. It's a growth that seeks only to build itself and not the health of the body. In our society, it’s commonly accepted that the way we choose the church we attend is on the basis of how much we like their style of worship, or how many teachings we agree with. Kind of like shopping for clothes. They’re not all bad, but they're not all to our taste. This speaks of the civic order model. By-laws and systems to make it flow somehow. Seeing how God is merciful to His erring children, there’s also the sense of God's touch here and there. Like the Corinthians who all spake in tongues at once. A spiritual gift used contrary to God's will. We perceive the spiritual touch and rely upon it to justify all we do.
    Let it be clearly understood that I'm not saying they’re not Christians in these different sects. What I am saying is they're not gathering on biblical grounds. When we throw these biblical grounds away, we do so to our own peril and to the Kingdom of God's loss.
    We look around at the many assemblies of Christians who gather on grounds other than of the body. By breaking off from this foundation, they cut themselves off from body functions. They set up their own “order” and seek occasional association for special occasions. When such union is sought however, it’s understood that body life can’t operate, only civic order of a pre-understood set of by-laws. This isn't life, it's death! It's disobedience to the Head's orders for grounds of our assembling.
    For example: Let's say the one sect holds to women preachers. The local body has an immune response to “not suffer” such, as the scriptures call for (1 Corinthians 14:34,35; 1 Timothy 2:11). When such an association is formed, it’s understood that this sin, the one sect is practicing, isn’t to be addressed, as a living immune system in a body would do. The Head is no longer obeyed, and the sin is tolerated.
    Back to the local assembly, a sister decides she isn’t “liberated” enough, so seeks power. She pushes her way up until this rebellion is noted. The body deals with her, but hushes mentioning the same sin in these other brethren, because they’ve agreed to operate under a different set of standards than God’s Word demanded. Alert! Alert! To tolerate sin in a “Generic” setting is the same as tolerating it in the local assembly. You fellowship and keep silent about the sin, excusing such silence under the “noble sounding” position of the “Generic” Christianity. The Bible never allows for this in ANY fashion!

I of Christ
    What has that formerly called “local” church shown itself to be. Look back at Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 1:12. Here we must gain understanding of those three little words, “I of Christ”. If you read the whole passage, you may wonder what was wrong with this group. After all, isn’t Christ to be what we are of and for?
    Their sin was that of “civic order”. They claimed to be functioning on the grounds of being Christians, but the reality was that they had simply set up their own “man energized” club. In an association, this demonstrates itself by that total setting aside of the Head’s orders for a new “compromise” ground. A living body truly founded on the functioning grounds of following the Head, CAN'T do that. The head has spoken and the body simply obeys. The hands move and the feet walk, under the Head’s orders. This is body life. To set up new by-laws is then “civic order” or tokenly saying, “I of Christ”, but no living reality. A “civic order”, with most of the right rules, is still a corporation of man, not the living body of Christ!
    To set up our own generic Christianity in any “civic order” is to remove Christ as Head and decide our own way, thus making ourselves the heads (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23,24).

    30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.   
Matthew 12:30

    From this verse, we must take the warning it carries. If we’re not working FOR the body, we’re working AGAINST the body! We’re operating on a new-styled sectarian ground, and we’re promoting sectarian “I of Christ” grounds.

The Question of Toleration
    In such a message, the issue of toleration must be considered. The grounds of the body isn’t a stand of intolerance. It’s the body working together as Ephesians calls for:

    1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
    11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.   
Ephesians 4:1-6;11-16

    In the first six verses we see our common grounds of standing and unity in that body. In verses 11-16, we find the work of toleration and growth toward the harmonious whole. In the body, we should have the toleration of love but that toleration must stop at certain levels. At certain levels, it’s no longer love and endangers the whole. Whatever seeks to overthrow the rule of God’s Kingdom, must be overthrown itself.
    Example: A person who trusts his infant baptism as sufficient is wrong, but isn’t seeking to overthrow the Kingdom’s rule.
    A woman, or man for that matter, who promotes woman leadership over men is seeking to overthrow the Kingdom’s rule, for the whole authority structure is twisted (as 1 Corinthians 11:3 shows). Though they may be sincere, they’re crossing lines that such as Paul clearly said, “I suffer not”.

The Call of Body Life!
    This call of standing firmly on Body grounds, despite personal appearances or desires, should be our heart’s burning passion.
    If it’s important to God, it should be important to us! If we treat it nonchalantly, as being too picky, I declare, we have left our first love! Pleasing the heart of God should burn within us, which would demand it be important to us!
    Can a response of, “Oh, I just don't see it that way”,  with a shrug of dismissal, be sufficient grounds for ignoring? If we respond this way to any issue, we’re not being honest. We need to have all our responses soundly based on God’s Word. For those who honestly question such a stand, examine God’s Word on accountability to each other and body responsibility. Let His Word search your hearts.

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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