“At the end of our day in Philadelphia the parable of the two churches could not have been clearer: When leaders fearfully accommodate the culture- no life. When elders preach God’s Word and guard the sheep with love and truth- life. Faith-filled, God-fearing, Bible-loving, sin-hating, sinner-loving, cultural drift–resisting leaders were the key” (Elders in the Life of the Church, 84-85).
We place much emphasis on unity in the organized church today. Many call for unity among denominations and across religious barriers. Many compromise doctrine and right practice for the sake of unity. Even though it is those churches who compromise or accommodate for the culture who typically experience division, these things are usually done in order to reach people or create some superficial unity. Since God’s people are instructed to be unified, I want to briefly explore biblical unity and the need, in a sinful world, for godly, plural eldership.
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
There are only a couple basic observations that I want to make here.
- Unity in the church means standing firmly together in one spirit and striving together for the faith of the Gospel.
- Unity in the church means that God’s church will have opponents who are not standing in the Gospel.
- The unity we experience as the body of Christ in the Gospel of Christ and the opposition we face are both from God.
- When we stand together in the faith of the Gospel, we will suffer for Christ’s sake and experience the same conflict that was seen and heard to be in Paul.
According to Scripture, universal or unlimited unity is a pipe-dream on this earth. We will either be in conflict with the world or with God. The challenge of unity for the church is that we are unified in Christ and all together striving for the faith of the Gospel. There is no profitable unity for the church if this unity is not grounded on the true and real Gospel. The Bible does not call us to something that will never be accomplished on this earth because it is impossible. When we stand with Christ, we stand in opposition to the ways of the world. Even though it is not our goal, we will experience conflict because the world hates Christ and the things of Christ.
This is why we need biblical elders. Those churches that seem to flourish regarding the things of God are the ones not concerned with being contemporary or modern or relevant but, instead, with loving and honoring God. Contemporary stuff is not inherently evil and we don’t have to reject it. Our goal is not to accommodate culture. It is to love God. The elders of the local church have the responsibility to guard the flock of God.