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Seeking the Family of God

  1. Am I In Christ?
    7 Digging Deeper
  2. What is the Kingdom of God?
    3 Digging Deeper
  3. What is the Church?
    5 Digging Deeper
  4. Why Are There So Many Different Christian Religions?
    6 Digging Deeper
  5. How Can I Know the Will of God?
    4 Digging Deeper
  6. How Do I Pray?
    5 Digging Deeper
  7. What is Worship?
    6 Digging Deeper
  8. What is the Significance of the Lord’s Supper?
    5 Digging Deeper
  9. How Do I Become Like Christ?
    6 Digging Deeper
  10. What if there is no New Testament Church Near Me?
    5 Digging Deeper

The churches of the New Testament were united by their faith in Jesus Christ and their worship and service to him. Christ unites all who follow him. Since God made Jews and Gentiles one in Christ and one spiritual family, he can unite anyone and any groups today who will follow his will (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Unity is possible because Jesus prayed for it, unless he prayed for an impossibility. Unity is possible because it is a command from God, unless God commanded an impossibility. We are to “agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10). We are urged to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). When disagreements arise, as they inevitably will because we are still human, we are to “agree in the Lord” (4:1). We do this by having the mind of Christ who “emptied himself of his divine prerogatives” and became a “servant of all” (2:5-11). We are to live in “humility, gentleness, patience, loving forbearance,” and be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). Jesus commanded us to “love another as he loves us” and to “be at peace with each other” (John 3:34; Mark 9:50). This unity is built on the foundation of “one Spirit, one hope, one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Unity is possible when we follow Jesus Christ. When we do not obey Christ, sin disrupts our fellowship with Christ and our unity with one another. For a while the first church in Acts experienced unity but sin soon came into the church through the greed of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Other problems followed when some Jewish followers of Jesus demanded that Gentile followers of Jesus observe Jewish laws regarding circumcision, the Sabbath and kosher foods (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:4-5, 15-16, 21; Acts 15:1-2). Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and called them “saints of God” but sin was destroying their fellowship. He rebuked sins in the congregation like division, incest, suing each other in the law courts, disharmony and selfishness in their common meals, disputes over spiritual gifts, and denying the resurrection of the body (see 1 Corinthians).

Paul turned over to Satan those who “made shipwreck of the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19-20). He wrote that some will “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (4:1-6). He said that false teachers and leaders would arise who would abandon the sound words of the Lord and teach diverse doctrines. Their teachings promoted “controversy, quarrels, envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions and constant friction” (6:3-5).

Peter cautioned against false teachers

who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.   Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

John spoke of those in the church who turned against Jesus and denied his divine or human nature:

This is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:18-19)

Later in this letter, John explained:

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (4:1-3)

Like us, these first-century followers of Christ were imperfect humans who struggled with sin. They sometimes followed human thinking and desires. They needed further teaching, discipline and correction. Every letter to churches and individuals addresses problems and concerns that needed attention. For example, toward the end of the first century Jesus addressed the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation. Some supported false teachers, lost their love and commitment for the Lord, and lived according to the world (chapters 2-3). Those living in sin and supporting erroneous teachings were told to repent and return to the Lord or face severe discipline. Sometimes only a few in a congregation were faithful to Jesus (3:4). To each church, Jesus said, “to him that overcomes” indicating that acceptance with God is personal and individual. This means that in the final day we will be judged by God “one by one” and not as congregations (Romans 14:10, 12). As individuals personally responsible to God, we can be faithful to God no matter what others do.