Harmony in the Membership

One of Satan’s devices to hinder the cause of Christ is to bring dissension into the church. If he can get believers fighting one another, gossiping about each other, criticizing, suspicious, angry, he squelches the testimony of that local assembly.

In several robust teachings, you can read about a Bible-believing church that had to have a law enforcement officer present at their business meeting to make sure things did not get out of hand. What if some one in that church had tried to witness to that officer? As we know, police are present at sporting events to keep order, but what a tragedy when one is needed at a meeting of those who are called brothers and sisters.

Dissension is nothing new in the church. Two ladies at Philippi have their name recorded in the Bible because they had a disagreement. (Phil 4:2) How many of us would like to have our names in the Bible because we were having a disagreement?

Admittedly, when one stands for the truth of the gospel, for the infallible Word of God, they may have disagreements. As one writer points out: “Some disagreements cannot be avoided and some are necessary in the defense of the faith and the Word. But even here, some may take a right position in such a hard, harsh way that they alienate others.” (Quart p. 17)

Most of us have heard this saying that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And, it is our responsibility to respond in a Christ-like manner regardless of the attitude of the other person. To respond in kind is the way of the world. This is not the way of Christ.

Membership Unity and Health - 10 Points

1. Love (Col 3:12-14, 1 Pet 4:8)

God’s word has much to say about love (I John 4:7-8). When Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, he lists LOVE FIRST. Love is the key ingredient to assure a harmonious Church.  A church that is working together for the Lord.

Notice that Peter tells us: “love shall cover the multitude of sins.” Love enables us to overlook the faults of others. Dr. Gene Getz tells us that "the directive to love others is one of the most repeated exhortations in the whole New Testament. It appears no less than fifty-five times – as a direct command.” He give a few examples, and we will note some:

  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matt 5:44
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:39
  • Love one another. John 13:34
  • Follow the way of love. I Cor 14;1
  • Do everything in love. I Cor 16:14
  • Serve one another in love. Gal 5:13
  • Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph 4:2
  • Speaking the truth in love. Eph. 4:15
  • Having the same love(as Christ). Phil 2:2
  • Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. I John 3;18

(Getz, The measure of a church, pp 24-27; Biblical love is Christlike behavior, p 42)

And, as he points out, it is more than a feeling, and its most basic use in Scripture involves attitudes and actions. If a church is to function in a harmonious relationship, there must be Christian love, the love of God filling each heart. Unselfishness is a basic ingredient of love.

A small boy devined love this way: “When there’s only one piece of pie left, and Mother isn’t hungry.” (Quart, p18)

2. Harmony

We must settle differences according to the Bible (Matt. 18:15-17). One of the hardest things for we human beings to do many times is to do what we should. Note that we are not to let a wrong fester down inside, we are not to let a spirit of bitterness engulf us, but we are to go to the brother about the matter. If he refuses to listen, and to make whatever adjustments are necessary, we are to take one or two others with us. If he is still stubborn, take it to the church, and if he refuses the actions of the church, then we are to consider him as though he were never saved. But, let us remember that in all this, we are to maintain a spirit of meekness and love (Gal 6:1).

3. The Attitude of Humility

(Phil 2:3) There must be a true humility, not a false one.

Wuest’s translation: “Doing nothing impelled by a spirit of factiousness, nothing impelled by empty pride, but in lowliness of mind consider one another as excelling themselves this estimation resting, not upon feelings of sentiment, but upon due consideration of facts.

We are not beat ourselves down and pretend we can do nothing. It means we stop considering ourselves first.

III John 9 states – “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.

Adam comments: “The greatest enemy to fruitful Christian experience is this thing called self. If we would search out the motivating force behind all that we do, we would be amazed at how much our own interests and desires lie back of it. This is one of the characteristics of the flesh, and because it is hidden from the eyes of men, and often from our own, it is perhaps the most difficult of all sins to shake off. Selfishness is sin, and behind all sin is selfishness.” (Courier of God’s Grace, p. 65)

We are to consider others as more important than we are. Pride has no place in God’s work. Solomon tells us that a proud look is one of the seven things that are an abomination to God.

4. Not Easily Offended

This another characteristic needed for harmony for believers (I Cor 13:7, Heb 12:14). We speak of people who have a “short fuse”. Of those who have a “low boiling point”. Other expressions are: “He has a chip on his shoulder”. Or: “She wears her feelings on her sleeve”.

Some churches have this phrase in their covenant: “slow to take offense”. The passage in I Cor 13:17 says that love “beareth all things”.

The Amplified version reads: “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything (without weakening).

Commenting on “Beareth all things”, Dr. Hodge writes: “This may either mean, bears in silence all annoyances and troubles, or covers up all things, in the sense of concealing or excusing the faults of others, instead of gladly disclosing them.” ( I Cor. p. 271)

5. Take Unfair Treatment

(I Cor 6:7) Today we hear much about “our rights”. Remember Abraham, when Lot took the best prasture? Abraham, the older man, permitted his nephew to choose first. But, now that we know the other side of the story, which man would you rather be?

It is quite evident, that Jesus did not get his rights here on earth. Ironside tells of a meeting where one man jumped to his feet and with clenched fists said he would have his rights.

An old Scottish brother said: “But you did not mean that; did you? Your rights? If he had your rights, you would be in hell; wouldn’t you? And you are forgetting – aren’t you – that Jesus did not come to get His rights. He came to get His wrongs, and He got them." With tears, the man admitted he was wrong, and the problem was settles in a few minutes. Have we every done like Abraham in a situation where there was tension?

6. Return Good for Evil

(Rom 12:19-21) A natural, human instinct is to get even when we are wronged. This is contrary to God’s way. Our scripture text gives God’s way. Let God take care of the injustices, and treat the wrong-doer with love and kindness. Lashing back does no good.

Ray Stedman writes that as a boy in Montana he would watch the cows in the corral. All would be peaceful, then one cow would kick another. The other cow would kick back. The first kicked harder, but misses the second one and kicked the third. Of course, the third cow kicked back. Soon the whole corral of cows was kicking and mooing, mad as could be. Stedman comments: “This happens in congregations too.” (Romans, vol. II, p 115)

The more we consider the Christian life, the more we come to see that in our own strength, and power we could never live as we should. We must have God’s grace.

7. Face Facts Honestly

(Acts 6:1-3) The Teacher’s Quarterly says that this is possibly the most difficult of all the principles of today’s lesson. We can be nobly objective and honest until we ourselves, or a relative or a close friend are part of the situation. Even if we acknowledge the facts, we see them in a sympathetic light. We feel there are extenuating circumstances.

These early Christians had a problem. They faced its reality and solved it. We are reminded of the contention that came up between Paul and Barnabas about John Mark. Was Paul too severe with this young man who had failed to continue with them on one of their missionary journey? Was Barnabas too lenient because Mark was his nephew? We do not know, of course, but we need God’s grace in order that we might be strictly honest when problems arise.

Problems don’t just go away by ignoring them.

8. Consider The Other Persons Conscience

(I Cor 8:12-13) In this chapter, Paul is taking up a problem about meat that had been offered to idols. After the religious ceremony, the meat was placed on sale in the local meat markets. Some believers were very scrupulous in this matter and would not buy it. They felt it was unfit for a believer to eat. Some of the believers had no problem with this. To them an idol was nothing. But,those who did not buy the meat were spiritually upset and confused. They might tend to have hard feelings toward those who were eating the meat.

Paul gives a simple solution. The one who is strong is to refrain from buying the meat offered to idols. The strong were to consider the conscience of the weaker brother. The spiritual state of another believer is more important than insisting on something that is not important. To insist on something, when it offends another Christian is a sin against Christ. (v 12) In matters such as this, each believer must decide as led by the Holy Spirit.

9. Pray For One Another

(Rom 15:30, Acts 12:5, Phil 1:9, Col 4:12, II Thes 1:11, Heb. 13:18) This is a vital necessity. Let us never forget the power of prayer. The Bible abounds with God’s wonderful promises concerning the prayers of His children. God does answer prayer. He moves to meet the needs of His children. Let us seek to be faithful in prayer for one another.

10. Follow The Example of Christ

(Phil 2:5-8) When all is said and done, here is the real test. We can argue about what we should do;we may feel that we are not expected to become a mat for people to trample upon; but, what did Jesus do.

He emptied Himself; He humbled Himself. He was willing to kneel down and to wash the disciple’s feet. One has written: “They key here is an attitude; recognizing we are not here to be served but to serve one another.” (Teach Quart.)

How did Christ act when He faced His persecutors (I Pet 2:21-23)? Let’s get down where we live. How do we act if someone ignores us? If someone speaks to use in a harsh manner? Or, if someone else is chosen instead of us? We should determine that, by God's grace, we shall be concerned with serving our Lord. Then, we will not be concerned about what others may think or say or do.

Let us check our inner spirit, our attitude. May we seek, but God’s grace, to have no part in anything that will bring disharmony in the church. Anything that stirs up unrest.

See Eph 4:1-3: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond or peace.

Study Questions

1. What is love called in Col 3:14?

- The bond of perfectness. The NASB version reads “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

2. What is a basic position believers are to take in relation to one another – Eph 5:21?

- Submission to each other in the fear of God (I Pet 5:5). We must respect one another. Pride must be eliminated. We are to be humble and seek to serve others.

3. How may we overcome evil that someone else may do to us - Rom 12:20-21?

- Do him good.

4. According to I Sam 12:23, what is another way we sin against God?

- Failure to pray for others.

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Archie Rines