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THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH

A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory

 

THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH
PART 17
THE SILENT WAR CAUSED BY THE CHURCH
OR
A CHURCH DIVIDING OVER AN IMPORTANT ISSUE
(How can the church resolve an important issue that divides them?)

     What if there is a strong disagreement in the church or in a church over a critical issue and both sides have dug in their heels over it and will not back down?  There are at least four ways this can be resolved: 1) An authority person or persons who is outside the church (such as a denominational leader) can make the decision as to how the issue shall be resolved.  2) An authority person or persons who is part of the church (such as the pastor or a board of elders) can make the decision as to how the issue shall be resolved.  3) A congregational vote can be used to resolve the issue.  4) Another method of resolving the issue is found in Acts 15.
     In Acts 15, an essential and critical issue was resolved without using any of the previous methods that is listed above.  The issue was about whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised before they could be saved.  Paul and Barnabas had been preaching to the Gentiles that they could be saved by simply believing the gospel message—the message that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins.  A group of legalistic members of the church in Jerusalem, though, demanded that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised to be saved.  How was this issue resolved?
     First of all, the apostles and elders discussed the matter to determine what God's will was on the matter.  "The apostles and elders met to consider this question." (Acts 15:6)
     The next step in resolving the issue was much discussion: "after much discussion."  We cannot tell whether the "much discussion" was only among "the apostles and elders" or if the whole church was involved in the discussion as well as the apostles and elders.  It appears that both the leaders and the church were probably involved in the discussion, for Peter stood up to speak to the whole church after the "much discussion."  It appears that they gave the whole group an opportunity to air their concerns.  Then, Peter and James gave their conclusions as to what was God's will on the matter.
     We know that they were seeking God's will on the matter by what they said after the decision had been made.  Peter said that God showed that the Gentiles were saved by "giving the Holy Spirit to them [the Gentiles] just as he did to us."  Here is the account of how the Gentiles believed through the preaching of Peter.  "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God . . . " (Acts 10:44-46)  Here is further evidence that the decision to accept the Gentile uncircumcised Christians as fully Christians was believed to be God's decision.  "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell." (Acts 15:28-29)  The whole church was united on this decision, for the whole church united on what they believed to be God's will. "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers." (Acts 15:22)
     This type of unity can only come when we seek after God's will together and come to agreement on what we believe is God's will.  Otherwise, we can have as many opinions as there are people.  Or, we can have some following Paul and others following Peter.  Also, with the first three methods of resolving issues mentioned above, leaders can make decisions that are contrary to what God would have us choose.  Many decisions by Popes' and church leaders through the centuries have been contrary to God's ways, and have led us away from God and His ways.
     So, to resolve difficult issues in the church, we should not look to men to make the decision, but we, led by trusted leaders, should together seek to find God's leading on these matters.  It is not who makes the decision, but Who makes the decision.  In Acts 15, after the leaders and the church discussed the matter, they together concluded what God's will was on the disputed issue.  Then, the two most prominent leaders sought to persuade the whole church on what they believed was God's will on the matter.
     So, authority figures did not tell the church what they had decided nor was there a congregational vote.  Rather, there was a sincere search made to discover what God's will was on the issue.  This was followed by the recognized leaders' effort to persuade the church that it was God's will that the Gentiles could be saved without being circumcised.  These types of critical issues need to be resolved by the church leaders and the church wholeheartedly seeking after what God wants to take place in His church.
     So, how does this apply to us when we have a critical issue to resolve and both sides are dug in and will not back down?  First of all, the church leadership needs to sincerely and together seek God's will on the matter.  Second, an opportunity should be made for the issue to be discussed fully by the leaders and the church.  Finally, the church leaders need to show their unity as they seek to persuade the church on what they believe, from the Scriptures, is God's will on the matter.  Then, they need to put in writing what has been concluded by the church, as they have sought to be led by the Holy Spirit.

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Part 11
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Part 12
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Part 13
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Part 14
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Part 15
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Part 16
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Part 17
When the Church is Winning - Part 1 Part 18a
When the Church is Winning - Part 2 Part 18a
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War Coming Jan 21
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Coming Jan 28
Conclusion Coming Feb 4
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" Coming Feb 11
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman Coming Feb 18
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Coming Feb 25
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral Coming Mar 4