What Brings Us Together?
What Brings Us Together?
- In our society there is racism, sexism, abortion, the sexual abuse of children, people taking advantage of the vulnerable, the general “man taking advantage of man” kind of problems.
- We should not be surprised. Paul said, “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse” (Titus 3:13). The Lord’s news report begins in Genesis with lying, deceit and death, jealousy, murder and wickedness. Gen. 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
- But the church at Jerusalem was not like that. It was multi-cultural. There were some who were Hellenistic Jews, that is, Jews who had adopted the Greek language and culture. Then there were the native Hebrews, those that had resisted this acculturation.
- In the benevolent work of the congregation the Hellenistic widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
- The situation had the potential for angry hostility. It was quelled by wisdom and good will. The congregation selected seven men whose names reflect Greek origin. One of whom, Nicolas, is a Gentile convert to Judaism and now Christianity.
- And so “the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
- How could such a divergent group come together in such unity? Priests, proselytes, Hellenists, native Hebrews? Later Samaritans, Ethiopians, and even Gentiles would be brought together.
- There are different groups in the Lord’s church. Whether we think of the church generally as scattered all over the world or whether we think of a particular congregation there are different groups.
A. Some of those identified in Scripture.
1. There are Hellenists and native Hebrews.
2. There are widows and by implication, marrieds.
3. There are Gentiles (Acts 10-11-15).
4. There are young people and older people (1 Tim. 5:1-2; Titus 2:3) and within these
groups sub-groups, men (Titus 2:2, 6) and women (Titus 2:3).
5. There are those who are rich (1 Tim. 6:17) and those who are poor (James 2:2).
6. There are those who eat meat and those who do not (1 Cor. 8; Rom. 14-15).
7. There are those who prefer marriage and those who prefer to be single (1 Cor. 7:1-7).
8. There are those who have been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate,
homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
9. It’s a motley crew!
B. The Lord recognized that it was going to be this way. When He described them in Isa. 11:6ff this is what He said.
“The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand in the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain.”
II. Sin separates.
A. It separates people from God. Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that
it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a
separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so
that He does not hear” (59:1-2).
B. Sin creates separation between people too. You know that from your own experiences.
When you are sinned against you want to hurt or at least withdraw from the one who has
sinned against you. When you sin against another they want to hurt you or at least
withdraw from you.
C. But it goes beyond that. We become suspicious and even expect that people are going
to sin against us. We are distrustful, cautious and expect people to treat us unfairly.
Like Joseph’s brothers who hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms
D. God has prepared a way for trust and peace.
III. Isaiah 11:1-5 describes how it is going to happen.
A. It is going to involve righteous judgment. Judgments are going to be fair. Faithfulness
will prevail (4-5).
1. Ex. 18:13ff describes how Moses was judging the people.
2. When there was a conflict between two they would come to Moses “to inquire of
God.” Disputes were solved on the basis of the statutes of God and His laws.
3. Jethro counseled Moses to set up a court system.
a. Judges would be men who feared God, men of truth, those who hated dishonest
gain. They would be placed as leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties and
b. They would be taught the laws of God and then judge the cases on the basis of
c. If you do this “all these people also will go to their place in peace.”
4. The plan the kingdom of God described in Isaiah 11 is similar.
B. It is going to involve the Spirit of the Lord resting on one stemming from the root of
1. He is going to judge on the basis of what God has revealed in His law.
2. It will be the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of God that He uses.
C. It will result in peace.
1. Isa. 2 describes the kingdom of God.
2. “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to
the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that
we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the
Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render
decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.”
3. The people must submit to God’s law and God’s judgments, and God’s King.
D. The description in Isa. 11:11-13.
IV. Ephesians 2 elaborates on how this works.
A. It defines us as under the influence of the spirit working in the sons of disobedience
(2:1-3). We are dead under this influence.
B. But God acted to bring us under a different influence (2:4-10). The cross of Christ
should bring us to soften our hearts toward one another. Having been forgiven we should willingly forgive.
C. There was enmity but now there is peace (2:11-22).
1. Sin is taken out of the way.
2. We have come under the rulership of Christ.
3. Peace in one body is the result (Isa. 57:19; Eph. 2:17).
4. It is built on what the apostles and prophets revealed, Christ Jesus Himself being the
5. Again, people must submit to God’s law, God’s judgments and God’s King. Without
this there is jealousy, hatred, malice and distrust. Everyone gets what he can take
from another. It is the “survival of the fittest,” “the one with the most money, power
or position.” There is no justice, no fairness, no equity. Just, man taking advantage
V. Unity like this is hard to maintain (Eph. 4:1-6).
A. It requires walking in a manner worthy of our calling. We need to walk in a way
consistent with the value of the Lord’s sacrifice for us.
B. “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in
C. When we take this “My way or the highway” kind of approach this is not something
we learned from Christ.
D. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).
E. But quarrels and conflicts arise. There is fighting and quarreling because we have selfish motives rather than giving ourselves completely to God’s will (James 4:1ff).
VI. The way they worked things in Acts 6 and Acts 15 and 1 Cor. 8 and Rom. 14-15.
A. The native Hebrews refused to exercise power over the Hellenistic Jews.
1. The apostles said select from among you men full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
2. The statement found approval with the whole congregation.
3. Individuals of Hellenistic background were chosen. Evidences humility on part of
B. In Jewish/Gentile relations in Acts 15 some tried to force Gentiles to observe
circumcision and the Law of Moses.
1. The church said, “No, this is not God’s will.”
2. Notice resignation to the law of God, i.e. the Spirit of God (Acts 15:28).
3. No one group was exercising power down on another group. All were treated
equitably and fairly.
4. The Gentiles at Antioch determined to send a contribution to the Jews in Jerusalem
C. Arrogance is diminished, but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1). Do not allow this to become a
stumbling block to your brother. Bear the weakness of those without strength (Rom.
15:1). Not about pleasing self. Accept one another, but not for the purpose of passing
judgment. Do not regard the other with contempt (Rom. 14:1-3).
D. We are all in the same family (Gal. 3:26-29).
- What brings us together? A resignation of our will to the will of God.
- Concern for our brothers and a diminishing of self.
- Humility, gentleness, patience and a showing of tolerance.
- If lions and lambs are to lay down together lions must stop biting and devouring and lambs must learn to trust.