[forthright] Your Preacher/Biblical Unity for Dummies (3): Mystical Unity Imposed by Grace or Tools of Maintenance Required?

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 15:15:00 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Your Preacher by Stan Mitchell
Biblical Unity for Dummies (3): Mystical Unity Imposed by Grace or Tools 
of Maintenance Required? by Barry Newton

COLUMN: Reality Check

Your Preacher
by Stan Mitchell

One of the best books on preaching is "Your
Preacher" by Charles Hodge. Hodge preached for the
church in Denton, Texas, for a quarter of a
century. He is funny, blunt, and wise.

"The primary work of a preacher is preaching! God
had only one son, and he was a preacher. The
church minimizes the pulpit -- how tragic! Never
underestimate the power of preaching. There is no
church problem the pulpit cannot handle. The
pulpit is God's answer to all needs" (page 27).

"A preacher works for Christ not the congregation;
he preaches to, not for men ... he comforts the
afflicted and afflicts the comfortable" (page 28).

"A preacher is a minister of the word. Members do
preachers a great injustice. They tell young
preachers they do not need to attend college, buy
and read great books, spend hours in preparation.
A minister is 'made or broke' in the Study! Too
many preachers are drawing empty buckets from
empty wells. A good preacher should spend $200-300
yearly on books" (page 30. He wrote this in 1975).

"One young preacher said to an old one: 'I bet
that sermon took twenty hours.' The old man
replied, 'Twenty years!' It takes twenty years to
produce a concert pianist, yet we try to produce a
preacher overnight!" (page 31).

Why should congregations know this about their
preacher? Because congregational expectations for
a preacher are unrealistically high ... and
deplorably low! We expect things of them
(perfection, great public relations skills) the
Lord never asked for, then ask too little of them
in the area where it really counts; speaking for

Another great preacher put it this way: "Preach
the word: be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great
patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy

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COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

Biblical Unity for Dummies (3): Mystical Unity Imposed by Grace or Tools 
of Maintenance Required?
by Barry Newton

Will the one body of Christ be always mystically
united despite apparent division on earth or are
God's people responsible for employing tools to
maintain the body's unity? This question brings to
the forefront our understanding of the nature of
Christian unity.

On the one hand, to have witnessed acrimonious
attitudes can create a desire to breathe the fresh
air of acceptance and freedom, such as provided by
viewing Christ's people as possessing an
incarnational unity given by grace whereby
believers are understood to be united regardless
of various forms of seeming division. But if unity
is a divine gift which can exist devoid of
physical manifestation, then would it not be
nothing more than a spiritualized concept?

On the other hand, for Christian unity to provide
testimony to the world and any seeming degree of
functionality, by necessity unity would at least
be partly dependent upon conforming to a
prescribed human response to Christ in living out
faith. But might not this view cause a person to
limit his or her understanding of unity to the
horizon of one's own experiences?

These two views are provided to illustrate that
while many arm-chair understandings can be
formulated and even provide counter-points, a
biblical understanding is needed to provide the
perspective which matters, namely God's. As
previously acknowledged within this series, God
creates the unity of Christ's one body by placing
within Christ those who are being saved by grace.
Since Christian unity is a product of God's grace,
the nature of unity depends upon how God has
described it, despite whatever strong feelings or
views we might have.

The New Testament reveals that although God is the
source for the one church, continued unity is at
least partly dependent upon how individual
congregations and members live out their faith./1
Both doctrine and its accompanying behavioral and
faith manifestations are shown to be capable of
creating division as well as even necessitating
amputation from grace. Thus Paul's instruction for
Christians to maintain the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace acknowledges the responsibility
Christians bear./2

The foregoing observations lead to several
thoughts. Since disunity and even falling from
grace is possible, the starting point for
recognizing the unity God has created starts not
with what may exist and what people may be
claiming about themselves, but with scripture.
Second, while unity is dependent upon conforming
to the call of Christ, unity's boundaries and
contours are determined by scripture and not our
short or long lists of preferences.

Our experiences, cultural beliefs, and a host of
other factors can create powerful desires within
us to perceive Christian unity as we think it
ought to be. Unity, however, is not a human
construct we can command and organize at will but
the work of God by grace. Our function is to
acknowledge and maintain that unity which God has
created in Christ. This will require faithfully
responding to the message.

1/ Romans 16:17,18; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 11:18,19;
15:2; Titus 3:10,11; Galatians 5:4; Revelation 2:5
2/ Ephesians 4:3

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