Monday, June 13, 2011

"Mercy and Truth, Met Together"

     Divisive personality cults arose within the carnal Corinthian church of the first century.
    "It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" (I Corinthians 1:11-12).
    Some in Corinth purported to follow Paul the teacher.  Others loved the orator Apollos.  Still others embraced the passion of Peter (Cephas), and then there were those who professed themselves above the fray by haughtily affirming no need of human teachers or influences - "We're of Christ." 
     The Apostle Paul dealt with this issue by indicting the divisiveness of the Corinthians - "Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).  He then decries the Corinthians' emphasis on the messengers rather than the Giver of the messages - "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.  So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (I Corinthians 3:5-7).
    Clearly the issue of Corinth, and our issue as well, involves our attitude toward fellow believers, particularly those with whom we regularly fellowship and minister.  Scripture calls us to "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).  We do not sacrifice our convictions in order to do so, but we do sacrifice the exalted view of both ourselves and of those ministers by whom we believed (and/or continue to believe).  "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:31).
    There are few greater challenges in our Christian lives.  Satan loves to sow the discord among brethren that God "hates" and declares to be an "abomination" (Proverbs 6:16-19).  Thus, God calls us a great tenderness of heart toward each other, and the determination to live with each other in merciful love.  However, we are also called to be a people that emphasizes doctrine, sound understanding and conviction (I Timothy 4:13-16).  We are to "walk in truth" (III John 1:4).  Clearly our Father calls us to heed the words of the prophet: "Love the truth and peace" (Zechariah 8:19; emphasis added).  But how do we do this?
    Only God Himself can motivate and enable this dual emphasis that often seems contradictory in our own minds.  He commands devotion to both truth and peace, and let us rejoice that our Lord's mandates are always accompanied by His gracious and empowering presence.  Our calling involves the determination to love both our brethren and the truth, trusting God to lead and enable us in the wisdom that only He can administer.  We are led, as always, to "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  In Him, truth and peace perfectly unite, and through Him we can love the truth and love each other in a manner that glorifies our Lord and faithfully reveals His saving grace to a dying world.  How He will do this, we will not know until He actually leads and enables.  That He will do it is sure, however, as we trust Him and submit ourselves to the Truth and to our brethren.
"I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
(Psalm 85:8-10)

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