Okay, so what do I mean by saying such outlandish things.
I write such things because the protest that started with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 ended in 1999. But like brothers still fighting the American Civil War in their hearts and minds 150 years after the fact, we find ourselves protesting a lost cause, forgetting what unites us in Christ. Or worse, we continue to propagate the dissent through fear by demonizing the other with our party propaganda.
So, what am I talking about? In 1999 the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Lutheran Church signed an agreement that brought an end to the 482 year-old protest. Luther believed that we were saved by grace through faith alone; the Roman Catholic Church held that we were saved by works. And that disagreement continued until 1999 when the two churches reconciled their differences. This is a quote from the Vatican website in a document titled, “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification”
“Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.“
And Paul would agree with this statement (bold-text added)….
“For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works,
lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:8-10 NKJV)
So, my question is, what’s the issue here?
If we believe that salvation is only by grace through faith alone, and the Roman Catholics believe the same, what are we still protesting?
I suppose you’re going to tell me it’s all the other stuff they add on to the gospel with their traditions. Okay, fair enough. But what about all the traditions we add on to the simple truth of salvation by grace through faith alone?
So who’s the Pharisee here?
It’s interesting that there was only one church for over 1,000 years until the Great Schism when the Eastern Orthodox broke off from the Western Roman Catholic Church. It was like that for another 500 years until Luther’s Protestant Reformation.
Since then, there have been over 33,000 denominations! The splits are usually over doctrinal differences.
So, if the Pharisees were called such because they were separatists, what does that make us?
One body, many parts
I believe that God loves diversity, but He hates divisiveness. Again, here’s what Paul says (bold-text added)
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts,
but all its many parts form one body,
so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit
so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—
and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part
but of many.” (1 Cor.12:12-14 NIV)
So we see that while we’re united by the Spirit as one body on the earth, we can express Him in many different styles and forms.
When we’re divisive we prove we’re not spiritually mature
Paul tells us that divisiveness proves that we’re not spiritually mature–actually worldly and acting like infants in Christ (bold-text and insertions added)…
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you
as people who live by the Spirit
but as people who are still worldly—
mere infants in Christ.
I gave you milk, not solid food,
for you were not yet ready for it.
Indeed, you are still not ready.
You are still worldly.
For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you,
are you not worldly?
Are you not acting like mere humans?
For when one says,
“I follow Paul,”[insert “Catholic”] and another,
“I follow Apollos,”[insert “Protestant”]
are you not mere human beings?” (1 Cor.3:1-4 NIV)
While doctrine is important, as long as we insist on relating to one another based on doctrinal agreement we will stay immature and divisive, but if it’s based on who we are in Christ we will be united in the Spirit (more on that next time).
So, beloved Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and all you 33,000 variations of Protestants, isn’t it time we grew up and became spiritual? The body of Christ is not divided. There are no Catholics or Protestants–Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Charismatics or any other schism–in heaven.
There are only sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.
And while there’s nothing wrong with denominations, denominationalism is not the heart of sonship but that of a spiritual orphan.
So, shouldn’t we stop acting like orphans and actually celebrate our multifariousness?
Let me declare some good news to you today. The feud is over! We are all brothers and sisters of Christ! And I say, about time.
More on the unity of the faith next time.