A Call To Essential Unity
Grace to you, Five Points, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. These past weeks have been filled with difficulty, fear, anger, frustration, yet also hope, faith, and love, as the Lord our God is with us and for us! We have seen you, the church, the body of Christ, minister to and disciple one another through various means and creative ways as in-person gatherings are temporarily suspended. The church was never closed, and it never will be, for the church isn’t a building! It is you, the redeemed of the Lord, Jesus’ Bride, which He ransomed with His very own blood! From heaven Jesus came and sought her. He saved Her to Himself as God transferred His people from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. In doing so, He set us with Christ in the heavenly places and our citizenship is in heaven, it is no longer on earth. And Jesus promised that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I praise God for what He has done in us and through us during these days. While there may be disagreement about the motives that lay behind various strategies our governmental leaders used in facing this virus, and though there are real consequences no matter what paths they chose and will choose in the future, one thing is certain Five Points: Jesus’ Bride will never be closed and she will never be overcome! God is sovereign and all-wise, so we trust in His sovereignty over all things in bringing about His purposes through His providences to accomplish all His good pleasure. One way we are tempted to deal with God’s providences is believing we are wise enough to declare events to either be a blessing or a curse in the moment. We like to label things, because then we have the matter settled in our minds. But we don’t know everything God is doing. We don’t know all the things He has spared us from, all the things He will do in us and through us, for His glory, in light of the past two months. Some things that seem like a blessing, a few days or weeks later, turn out to be not quite the blessing we thought. And other things, which in the moment seem like a curse, turn out to be a way God’s blessing is later revealed to us. So we don’t stoically throw our hands up and believe, ‘Well, it is what it is.’ No, we must put our faith in God. Tim Keller helpfully writes: “God always gives you what you would have asked for if you knew everything that He knows.” We don’t know everything. But our God does! And He is all-loving, all powerful, and all wise, and He’s working everything together for His glory and the good of His people.
Yet while we may not know everything, we do know the things God has revealed to us in His Word. The Church is to keep the main things the main things, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” He goes one to say how Jesus kept on appearing to the church and then to Paul Himself, proving Jesus is alive, risen and reigning over all! So, the gospel is of first importance. That doesn’t mean other things aren’t important, but rather what is essential for the church is the gospel message. The gospel is essential in that it gives us a both new identity and new purpose in life. As Ephesians 2 says: Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Christ died to save a people to Himself in order to build us together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit, and that kills any hostility that normally would arise between people, as Colossians 3 says there is no longer ‘Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.’ That doesn’t mean all differences are abolished, but rather, in how people normally divide themselves politically, economically, or any other way, Christ reconciled His Bride to each other and to God by making peace through the blood of His cross, killing the hostility between us! So now, the local church is an expression in how we live with, think about, talk about, and treat one another of the gospel! How we love one another displays the glory of what is essential: the gospel! And as we walk together through life, as one new people, the Church must both think and live as if we are members of each other as citizens of God’s household. We must think of each other as parts of our very own body: essential to our very existence and very valuable to us because Jesus shed His own blood to ransom each member to Himself! And because Jesus infinitely loves each sheep He sought and saved, we too must love each other and look to the interests of each other as we follow Jesus ourselves. Brothers and sisters, a passionate love for Jesus Christ bears the fruit of passionate love for His Bride, His body, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our love for one another must define us, not our thoughts or conclusions on any current event. That is why division and disunity are talked about is such strong terms in the Bible. And it’s why we are called to self-sacrificial love of each other. Christ died, not only to save us, but to save us by uniting us to Himself and each other! So the world will know us by our love for God and each other. As we continue to move forward as Christ’s body, the dwelling place of God by the Spirit, we must do so displaying the gospel through God-glorifying sacrifice, humility, and patience. There are some who believe we should stay online and resume in-person gatherings in the future, and there are some who think we should never have suspended in the first place, and the rest are somewhere in between. It is Gospel-witnessing sacrifice to bear with each other in ways our cultural does not, nor think necessary! The world around us dismisses those who disagree with them, and eradicates them from their lives. But the church cannot do so with members of their own body! Rather, we should display God’s patience in Christ towards us for those who come to different conclusions on the where, when, how to resume in-person gatherings. The elders especially pray for your patience with us as we prayerfully consider God’s Word and His flock, you the people of Five Points, as we walk together through these days. The elders consider it a great grace that the flock of Christ at Five Points longs to gather together in person to worship our great and loving Father! That is a good desire, and one we all share. We pray we would also show the love, humility, patience, and grace of Jesus toward each other as well.
Finally, towards that end, you will find a link attached below for a survey to help us and the task force continue to plan for the day when we do resume in-person gatherings. The question has never been ‘Are in-person gatherings essential?’, rather the question the elders have continually prayed over is ‘How and when can we gather in-person in a way that fears God, honors the leaders God has sovereignly placed over us, allows us to live at peace with our neighbors as much as we’re able, and protects the vulnerable during this pandemic?’ Your engaging with us in the survey will help us as we finalize plans to resume in-person gatherings in the near future. As we look toward that day, we pray Jesus’ Bride at Five Points would have the grace and power to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and in doing so, our neighbors and the nations would see the gospel proclaimed and God glorified in all we say and do!
Click here for the Five Points' Next Steps survey
Soli Deo Gloria