We know the importance of unity in the Body of Christ after all Christ prayed that we would be one just like He was one with the Father. That is a high standard! It raises the question of who we should be at one with. The answer for this question is clear, but it may surprise all of us. It is both much broader than we think and at the same time much narrower.
The Boundary:Who is Jesus?
The first and primary hurdle is Mathew 16:15-17. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is Peters declaration in answer to Jesus’ question “Who do you think I am?”
1 John 2:22-23 says that we must know that Jesus is the Christ who came from the Father. It also affirms that if we do not know this about Jesus then we do not know the Father.
1 John 4:2-3 says we must also know that Jesus came ‘in the flesh’. If we think He was just a spirit, then we are against Christ.
Paul adds in 1 Corinthian 15:13 that the resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our hope.
This is the firm boundary of the circle:
Jesus is the Jewish messiah
who came from the Father in Heaven
, he has come in the flesh
and rose from the dead.
If one does not know this to be true then you are not a Christian. You may have a philosophy that is loosely based on Jesus’ teaching but there are things you cannot do that a Christian can do. John goes further and declares you instead represent the anti-Christ., the spirit in the world that opposes Christ and His work.
Are you inside the boundary?
This is the boundary, but how do we know that we are inside that boundary? Romans 10:9-10
because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead
, you will be saved
If this is your belief and your personal declaration you have decisively crossed the boundary.
But a word of caution. It is significant that Romans says we believe with our ‘hearth’ It is knowing the resurrection beyond intellectual convincing that gives the power to be saved. What the intellect gives, it can take away. A knowing beyond logic lasts.
Also, the Greek word for Lord is Kurios, used both for Yaweh and as the master of a servant. Confessing means we sign a contract with God giving Jesus full authority to do with us what He, Jesus, wants. This means we become a bond-servant. We enter into Galations 2:20
“I have been crucified with Jesus and I no longer live but Christ lives in me, So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me‘
It is vital that we have a revelation of Jesus’ divinity like Peter did, a knowing that He came in the flesh like John did and He rose from the dead like Paul did. Unless we know these things in our heart because we received them from God not by intellectual argument, we will not have the power to resist when the test comes. Unless we have made a conscious voluntary decision to make Jesus our master as Paul stated in Galatians 2:20 then we will run when the test comes which requires that we give up things that seem to be our very being.
Are you headed toward the circle?
There is a lot of talk in the world about unity across religions based on the belief that we all worship the same God. This is the fuzzy outer area outside the boundary. In that area we need to know if someone is truly worshiping the same Father. It is easy to get lost and compromised if we don’t know the scriptures.
Fortunately, Jesus repeatedly tackled this issue and, unlike some Christian leaders today, He did not mince words. Talking to the Jewish leaders and those most determined to follow the God of Moses He said flatly. If you know the Father then you will accept Me. If you don’t accept me, then you are mistaken. You are following your father the devil. John 8:42-44
It is certainly appropriate for Christians to live in civil peace with people of all kinds and it is vitally important to recognize and affirm the search for Righteousness; after all, Paul calls the law the schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. But
unless we want to call Jesus a liar,
we cannot tell them they are headed in the right direction
until the light dawns and they recognize Jesus as Lord.
If they actively deny Jesus as Lord, then they are headed away from that circle. The Sadducees and Pharisees may have been hypocrites, but that was not what condemned them. They rejected Jesus.
Are we properly representing Jesus to those outside the circle?
This is an important question and is key to Christian outreach to the world.
Many quote 1Jn 4:7-8
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. (8) The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.
Or John 13:35
By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love toward one another.
In isolation, both these are verses quoted by those wanting to make love the primary target and then to substitute human love for God’s love. So they reach out with humanitarian aide even while they refuse to disturb those they are helping by acknowledging the One who sent us, the Lord Jesus.
However, in this interpretation, they are ignoring the fact that both scripture passages are talking about love within the body not outside.
The complete thought of love outside, as well as inside, is in given in 1John 4:
1Jn 4:9-10 In this the love of God was revealed in us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation concerning our sins.
This love outside without sharing the gospel of Jesus on the cross as our propitiation from sin and entering the kingdom is far, far worse than we think. Jesus spoke to the cities where He himself had reached outside with love through the miracles He had done in them, recorded in Matthew 11:20-24:
Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works were done, because they did not repent. (21) Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes! (22) But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven, shall be brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (24) But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.
When we reach outside without explicitly calling people to the One who sent us,
we put them in the cross-hairs of this pronouncement by Jesus.
As for us personally, we step into the position of Ezekiel; those outside still get the judgment but their blood is on our hands.
Where do we go?
So we know the boundary and we know when we ourselves have crossed inside and when people are headed in the right direction. In the world today, this is the shock that makes things tougher than many think. It is not enough to do good and be nice to others. It is not enough to build unity with the world even when that unity is around things Jesus taught not even love.
All of that is to convince people that Jesus is God.