[Suggestion: Read the
whole article once before clicking on any links to properly
grasp the powerful concepts being presented]
you could decide what the perfect church would be, what would
it be, especially if you were using biblical standards? Augustine
had this to say, and he was basing this saying on Romans 14:
"Unity in the Essentials, Liberty
in the Non-Essentials". This
is the biblical standard the apostle Paul laid out for the
Roman Church of God, a congregation made up of at least two
divergent groups of worshippers. As a matter of fact, the two groups of worshippers
were about as divergent in non-essential beliefs as one would
ever expect to find. One
group was made up of Gentile Christians, and the other was
made up of Torah-Observant Messianic Jewish believers.
So to carry this thought to its logical
conclusion, let's take a look first at what really makes a
person a Christian (or believer in Yeshua for our Messianic
First, to be a born-again believer from
the Bible's definition, strangely enough, does not
depend on a person understanding all the essentials of biblical Christian doctrine. Often a new believer in Yeshua or Jesus will
merely have called on Jesus or Yeshua to enter his life and
save him, simultaneously asking for forgiveness of his sins. Then God acts, and pours
his Holy Spirit into that person.
So, in the strictest and most biblical definition,
a believer is someone who has called Jesus (Yeshua) into his
life, and then God has caused that person to become indwelt
with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 16).
It makes no difference at all whether that person has
come to understand or been taught right doctrine in the essentials.
This person, oddly enough, may not have a proper understanding
about the Triunity of God, or other essentials and still be
a believer. [As a matter
of fact there are whole Sabbatarian sections of the body of
Christ who do not have a proper understanding of the Triunity
of God, and yet this has not prevented or stopped God from
calling and drawing people to Jesus by means of these groups,
and they are nourished in the other essentials of salvation
right within those denominations!]
Remember, salvation is primarily
an act of God.
Man merely responds to God's calling and drawing (John
6:44, 65). So that is a major biblical criteria of what
makes a believer in Jesus, a born-again believer.
As a believer studies the Word of God,
the proper "essentials" often are highlighted and illuminated
by the indwelling Holy Spirit within that new believer, right
within his or her mind. New believers are often like new-born babies
though, and need to be fed the Word of God from a healthy
spiritual mom. Paul referred to the Church as the mother of
us all, while God the Father is our spiritual Dad, Abba.
But now, if you were looking for the perfect
church according to biblical criteria, you would have to follow
Paul's and St. Augustine's
criteria: "Unity in the Essentials, and Liberty in the Non-Essentials".
So let's do a mental exercise and put together that
perfect biblical church--which is what all Christian churches
should be striving to become.
One: The church as a spiritual mom, should be really good
at preparing spiritual "meals" for her kids, the born-again
believers God has sired through the Holy Spirit.
So, one should look for a church that clearly teaches
the Word of God, and the best method I have yet encountered
is what I term the "connective expository sermon" method,
which teaches verse by verse, chapter by chapter, going from
one end of the Bible to the other.
In two or three years, a believer will have been fed
the entire Word of God in clear, concise teaching, everything
in proper context, no passages taken out of context. [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/pom/philofmin.htm
Second: This church will major in teaching the Essentials
of Christianity, or the essentials of being a Messianic believer
Third: This ideal church will be making a conscious effort
to de-emphasize the non-essentials, giving it's members more
liberty and freedom to chose their beliefs in the non-essentials. Anywhere churches take a rigid, unbending stand on
non-essentials, they're headed for trouble-I'll explain the
reason why more thoroughly later. But Paul in Romans 14 legislated that believers have
freedom of choice in their secondary or non-essential beliefs. That is
basically why the believer has the God-given right to chose
the church that fits his beliefs in the non-essentials, and
that is one reason why there are so many differing denominations
and independent churches. You have a right to chose, just be sure to choose
a church that is majoring in the essentials of salvation.
True Christian or Messianic congregations ought to
be striving to move toward this "ideal" within the major two
sections of the body of Christ they find themselves in (i.e.
Gentile or Jewish branch of the body of Christ).
Naturally, what makes up the major differences in practices
of worship between Gentile and Jewish branches of the body
of Christ are strictly in the area of "non-essential" beliefs,
as Paul brought out in Romans 14, such as days of worship,
dietary restrictions or freedoms, etc.
But within these
two major groups the ideal church will be nurturing its members, discipling them so that they grow
spiritually healthy via effective teaching from the Word of
God [best method being teaching from the whole Word of God,
and not getting stuck in any one part of it, over another],
majoring in the essentials of salvation, and downplaying the
non-essentials. The result of effective nurturing and discipling will
be seen in an ever growing number of believers from this church
displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23;
1 Corinthians 13:1-8), and resulting in them doing the good
works Jesus said that they would be doing as a way of life
(Matthew 25:31-40; James 2:14-20). Mature Christians or believers in Yeshua are
living a life of doing "good works" for others, as described
in Matthew 25:31-40. This
maturity comes from being properly nurtured in the Word of
God. It also involves
the believer maintaining a healthy prayer/Bible study life. Even babes learn how to feed themselves as
they grow, and so must the believer.
A healthy church
teaches believers how to spiritually feed themselves in the
Word. [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/ephesians/putonarmour.htm.] Now lets
make two lists, one of the "essentials of salvation" and the
other, of the "non-essentials of salvation".
other major area a really good spiritual mom will be nurturing
her "kids" is in the area of prayer. God said of
the temple, which would equate to our churches, "My house
shall be called a house of prayer." To see how one church
very successfully made their congregation a "House of
Prayer", which every church ought to be to qualify in
this "perfect church" status, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/congregation.htm."
Prayer and Bible study go hand in hand, as one is God talking
to you, and the other is you talking to God."
ESSENTIALS OF SALVATION:
of God's Word, the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) [since
God is infallible, his Word must be too, right?].
birth of Yeshua or Jesus, and that he is the promised Messiah,
both God (Yahweh) and man,
this same Jesus, Yeshua led a sinless life, died to pay for
the sins of mankind, was resurrected, and ascended to glory,
this same Jesus, Yeshua will return visibly to earth (i.e.
his 2nd coming).
you call upon Jesus to save you and enter your life, he will
do so, covering and atoning for your sins, past, present and
future by his atoning blood and sacrifice;
and the Father will then enter into you by placing within
you the Holy Spirit, who will guide and teach you all things
(in conjunction with prayer and Bible study, of course).
church steps away from those essentials, and starts majoring
in any one of the non-essentials of belief, that is where
we encounter and set up unnecessary church/denominational
barriers that divide the body of Christ. And in doing so, a church or denomination is
helping Satan to divide the body unnecessarily, which is his
evil intent and one of his major weapons against the church.
Don't forget, in the most essential criteria, Satan
can never divide the body of Christ, those who are indwelt
by the Holy Spirit, because it is that same Holy Spirit who
makes all believers one, regardless of which church or denomination
they belong to, Sabbatarian, Gentile Christian, Messianic
Jewish. Also remember
that the two major branches of the body of Christ, Jewish
and Gentile will be emphasizing the particular "days of worship"
and customs that are distinct to the group they belong to.
You can also include within the Jewish side of the
body of Christ the Sabbatarians as a subgroup, and they should
never be looked down upon for emphasizing as their distinctives
the Jewish "days of worship" or other dietary customs particular
to the Old Testament law.
For it is God who has made a distinction here by supernaturally
and miraculously restoring the Jewish branch of the body of
Christ, by the direct calling of the Holy Spirit.[see http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/twobranches.htm.] So this one apparently "non-essential" distinctive
is really a God-allowed distinctive that makes the Jewish
and Gentile branches of the body of Christ unique and special.
And there is good reason to believe, based on very
scant but still existing historic evidence, that the various
Sabbatarian revivals leading back to Asia Minor and Rome of
the 300's AD had their origin in the Messianic Jewish congregations
in existence during the early 300's AD. So the Sabbatarians can be considered as a long
lost cousin to the Messianic Jewish branch of the body of
Christ. So "days of worship" and dietary customs from
the Old Testament are merely a proper biblical dividing line
between the Jewish and Gentile side of the body of Christ,
as allowed for by Paul in Romans 14.
And don't forget, at the time Paul was writing, the
number of Messianic congregations throughout Asia Minor and
the Mediterranean may have
equaled in number the Gentile congregations in existence.
First, realize, this list is endless, so I will merely
give the major non-essentials that come to mind.
And remember, belief one way or the other in these
non-essentials in no way prohibits salvation or disqualifies
a believer from salvation.
Way too many doctrinal mountains have been built from
these doctrinal mole-hills. And some of these mole-hill beliefs held through
improper biblical understanding and research have actually
hindered whole groups of people from being effectively evangelized
to. Some churches and denominations need to seriously
back away from pounding the pulpit on these non-essentials.
vs. Old-Earth Creationism
# 2 and 3, as previously explained, are major "non-essentials"
allowed by Paul in Romans 14, and make up the major dividing
line between the Messianic Jewish and the Gentile Christian
side of the body of Christ (Sabbatarians being included in
the Messianic branch). It is 100 percent all right for these two points
to be considered major non-essentials by those within these
two divisions of the body of Christ, with all the resultant
emphasis that's placed on them.