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One Mark of a Healthy Church September 15, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.


As you know, tomorrow night at our church there will be a meeting open to the congregation to discuss a newly drafted position paper on the issue of divine election.  I was involved in the process of drafting part of this document, and I am grateful that time was taken by church leaders to get together for many weeks to discuss the great and glorious doctrines of election and predestination.

Yet I know that there are some in the church who disdain that such meetings take place.  They think that to sit around, discussing and debating doctrinal matters, is a waste of time.   ‘Let’s stop worrying so much about the details of doctrine, and let’s start reaching the lost and loving one another,’ they might say.

One thing that I find interesting about the kind of person who typically is irritated by doctrinal debates is that they also typically express a desire to live like the Acts Church.  They say they long for the Church to be like it was in the New Testament, the way it is described in the book of Acts.  No doubt they have in mind verses like these in Acts 2,

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awecame upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

They read passages like this and they say, ‘Come on!  Let’s make our church like this one, with real love and fellowship!’  And I agree!  But what I find interesting is that these lovers of Christian community who long for an Acts Church experience are skeptical about doctrinal debates.  It seems as though in rejoicing in the Acts Church, they seem to overlook Acts 15:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question…When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

This is amazing, isn’t it?  The Acts Church that everyone wishes we could re-kindle, was a Church that experienced doctrinal dissension followed by debating among the leaders to determine what was true and valuable for the souls of God’s people.

So I agree with my doctrinally skeptic friends; let us pursue an Acts Church experience in all our local churches.  In doing so, we ought to see genuine love and fellowship among God’s people, and we ought to see great care when it comes to matters of doctrine.  When there is disagreement, careful, humble debate and discussion by the leaders is necessary to preserve a true New Testament church experience for God’s people.  Only by doing the hard and glorious work of discussing the whole counsel of God will we preserve the ‘faith once for all entrusted to the saints’.

Longing for An Acts Church,




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