Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133)
Brothers and sisters, we are not identical. There are a host of ways in which we prove to be dissimilar Christian siblings:
- Accumulation of Knowledge
- Character Strengths
- Character Weaknesses – Sinful effects of the Fall by Nature and through Nurture
- Developed Skills
- Spiritual Gifts
- Redemptive Testimony
- Specific Missional/Vocational Calling
- Political Positions and Platforms
- Interpretations of God’s Word
- Stylistic Preferences in Worship
- Adoration for the Verbiage of the Westminster Standards
That being said, there is something about us, that though we be different, causes us to dwell in unity. Yes, while we may be more dissimilar than similar, there is a glue or a “tie that binds.” Together, we are a family who stands for:
- Grace Alone – No one ever keeps God’s standards. There is not a one of us who ever has or will keep God’s Law. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion it is by God’s gracious will alone that we will ever find ourselves communing with the Holy One. Every day we commune by grace and never by merit.
- Christ Alone – The only means by which sinful men can commune with the Holy God is through the meritorious obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Due to his grace alone, Jesus Christ alone earned our merit and paid our demerit. Every day, when the Judge looks at us, he sees us a holy, blameless, and perfectly righteous through the work of Jesus Christ alone.
- Faith Alone – This gracious work of Jesus Christ is received by hearing, believing, and resting in the perfectly completed work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We have no part in earning or contributing to the holy merit desired by the Father, earned by the Son, and applied to us by the Spirit. There is nothing — believed or practiced — that makes us more or less righteous in the eyes of the Judge. The holy work of God was to provide righteousness for us, and the holy work of the worshiping sinner is to believe.
- Scripture Alone – Men learn all the above, not through General Revelation, by means of God’s special revelation. And this special revelation has been provided to us by means of the Holy Spirit working through his prophets and apostles. We believe all needed for spiritual life and godliness is found in the inerrant and inspired Word of God. The Bible alone is to constrict the hearts and mouths of God’s children. Other documents can be helpful, but nothing equal the already-given Word of God. The Bible holds greater sway than any legend, tradition, preference, council, creed, catechism, confession, or constitution.
- Glory of God Alone – All the days of man’s life on the earth, and all the days in which he dwells in the Father’s eternal dwelling, men and women are to enjoy glorifying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yes, resting in the finished work of the Son, we are to live like adopted sons and daughters of the King. Daily we are to rest in the Gospel while making progress in showing forth the holiness that is already ours in Jesus Christ. Our lusts, thoughts, words, and deeds are to progressively smell more and more like the fragrant Spirit who fruits us from within. This is our calling. This is our duty. This is our new natural desire, for our new hearts move us towards this end.
Therefore, that being said, as we go to our churches this weekend, as we write our blogs and make our comments about overtures and one another, and as we gather this summer at our General Assembly in Dallas, let us do our worship with Psalm 133 in our hearts.
Brothers and sisters, what says the Lord? What is his Law? How would Jesus do church? How does his Gospel transform us from within? What does the fruiting of the Holy Spirit look like within the household of faith? Well, here we go …
In our Gospel-driven denomination, presbyteries, and churches …
Despite our dissimilar positions, practices, and preferences …
We who are …
- Characterized by the Solas
- Informed by God’s Law
- Impacted by God’s Gospel
- Fruited by God’s Spirit
- Already agreeing on 98% of our scriptural theology
- Standing in a long history of godly reformers separating from the unorthodox
- Standing in a long history of godly reformers differing much
- Standing in a long history of godly reformers elevating the Word over all
- Surrounded by great enemies around us
- Consumed with the great work before us …
We should meet, confront, sharpen, hold accountable, admonish, encourage, debate, politic, and vote with the glory of God in view. And he has told us how to do so. We are encouraged and commanded by our joint Heavenly Father to dwell together in unity. Yes, in the words of the Psalmist and the mind of our Savior, this is that which is good, pleasant, precious, blessed, and characteristic of we who are enjoying eternal life. Consequently, anything else is bad, unpleasant, odious, cursed, and characteristic of those outside the kingdom.
Fathers, brothers, and sisters, we do not have to be identical. That’s good, for we are not. Great are the differences between the “Good Faith Subscriptionists” and “Strict Subscriptionists,” between those “Totally Reformed” and those called “Grace Boys,” and between “Uber-Traditionals” and “Flexible Progressives.” However, this summer, we get an opportunity to worship well by majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. We get to differ heartily, heathfully, helpfully, and in unity regarding our positions, practices, and preferences. Fathers and brothers, this is our privilege, but let us keep Psalm 133 before us. As members of the same household of faith, let us differ in unity. This is God’s Law, and those affected by his Gospel will watch him do his good work amongst us.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends … (1 Corinthians 13)