Unity In The Church - Taught by the Apostles and Paul

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Perhaps in my earlier posts and in my zeal and love for the wonder, which God has given us in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I came out a bit too strong in what I said to you. For that I will apologize, we are both brothers in Christ and we are one—each seeking to love for Him and do His will.

Though we may differ in opinions, ideas and thoughts, as a follower of Christ, I am compelled to love. For He has said ”A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”. So my brother I am compelled to love, and my love extends to all including you.

Having said this let me further state that what I said about the role of women in the Church I still believe and still must affirm, as a Christian who also happens also to be a Proud A.M.E.

Paul was a bishop in the Church. While Paul wrote to the First Century Church, he was clearly often prophetic in what he wrote. An example of this is what he wrote to Timothy of the “Latter Day”. Once again I must state that when we lift out a single text we often get a misconception of who Paul was and what he wrote. Too often Paul is blamed for being opinionated, sexist and chauvinist. I believe this is an unfair assessment of him. When we read Paul’s Epistles as a whole, comprising more than half of the entire New Testament. Paul often takes issue with the First Century Church for raising the issues we have addressed here, especially being bound to the Law.

Taking a closer look at this issue from Paul’s viewpoint, I think this will bear out the points I made in my earlier posts. In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 3, we get a clearer understanding of Paul’s teaching on the equality of each member of the Body of Christ. By reading the entire chapter in a Modern Translation, we may clearly see that he makes no distinction of race, gender or class.

I quote from Galatians 3:28 using the World English Translation of the New Testament.

“There is no longer any difference between a Jew and one who is not a Jew; between a slave and a free man; between a man and a woman. When you are in the body of Christ Jesus, you are all alike”.

Also from Colossians 3:11 (WE):

“In this new person, there is no difference between a Greek and a Jew. There is no difference between a man who is circumcised with the mark of the Jew and a man who is not circumcised. There is no difference between a person from a friendly country or someone from a country which is not friendly. There is no difference between a slave and a person who is free. Christ is everything and is in all of them”.

I would also invite you to read the Scriptures from an historical view as well. In Rome Paul found himself in prison with a runaway slave, Onesimus, who had stolen his master’s good and had been captured by Rome, cast in prison and was being returned. Paul wrote a letter to his master Philemon, practically twisting his arm, telling Philemon that he not only must forgive his debt but that as a Christian, he must set him free. Scripture makes no further mention of it, nor tells us what happened when Onessimus returned with the letter in hand. But, history records that Onesimus was not only freed but became a Bishop in the Church.

In the oral history, writings, letters and other historical data that comes from the founding of the Church. There are references to the Apostles and to the first pastors and leaders of the local Churches. In the writings of Ignatius, there is a letter to the Bishop of Ephesus. It is addressed to one called, "Onesimus" Most scholars believe that this is the same Onesimus in the letter written by Paul to Philemon.

So this and other points I have made here and in my other posts should assist us in understanding that in Christ all are “one”. Although, we are just catching up to it in the 21 Century Church, this was the teaching of Paul and the Apostles more than twenty centuries ago. Among Christians there simply can be absolutely no distinctions made whatsoever between race, gender or class—Jew or Greek, male or female, bond or free. Jesus our Lord has made us truly ONE regardless of our position, gender, race, state or class.


-- Anonymous, February 07, 2004


In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:1-5)NIV Dearest Brother Matthews,

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and to the holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ of the A.M.E. Church. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, in all humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love. For there is one body and one Spirit - just as we were called to one hope when we were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:4-6)

There are many hard questions and difficult issues that the church has faced over millinia, centuries, decades and years-even this very moment. Reformation and revival are continuous in the Church as the assaults of the adversary are incessant. Challenges to conventional wisdom however, inevitably results in persecution and even martyrdom just as our Lord declared to his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matt 16:24-28)NIV

Case in point-the question of women and the leadership of the church. What person in their right mind (as the world would count right mind) would dare to challenge the correctness and uprightness of womem clergy? Wouldn't this person risk bringing down on themselves fierce wrath from those who believe otherwise? Wouldn't this wrath be hotter still if the congregation being so challenged was predominately women? Wouldn't those who support the proposition mount a vigorous defense? If centuries of thought, practice, doctrine and theology can melt under this wrath's heat; if the very Word of God would be perverted to justify error's end, then what chance does the voice of one crying in the wilderness have?

We can go back on forth forever on what the Scripture says on this matter and other controversial issues too. But what we as Christians can all agree on, is that the Word of God is immutable. As it is written: "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Prov 30:5) Let us not bite and devour one another but rather lets take refuge in him, pray, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, speaking boldly the Word of Truth as the Spirit gives us utterance. Insodoing, our love will transend schism and therein glorify the Lord.

I understand and appreciate those opinions contrary to my own. I also understand that I have no lock on perfection-yet! So until then, I hope that through constructive discourse involving both honest disagreement and harmonious agreement, that we will emerse ourselves in his word, diligently seek his will and drink deeply of his love as we are led in the Spirit to a knowledge of all truth.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (Cor 13:14)

-- Anonymous, February 08, 2004

" Too often Paul is blamed for being opinionated, sexist and chauvinist. I believe this is an unfair assessment of him. "

Paul was every one of these. He was a Pharisee also. If you study all of Paul's writings as you no doubt have; his growth from and opinionated, sexist, and chauvnist is chronicled in his writings. I believe this is exactly one of the major lessons that God wants us to derive from the life of Paul; how he can take a Pharisee who is opionated, sexist, chauvnist and make an Apostle of him; a servant of Christ.

As I am sure you know, Paul was not writing the Bible when he wrote all those letters. He was writing to the specific people and churches he addressed. He had no idea that we would be reading his letters much less discussing them today. God was using Paul to write the Bible and God wants us to see the changes that take place in Paul to demonstrate what He can and will do in us.

-- Anonymous, February 08, 2004

Here's what Paul says...

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings- what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:10-17)

-- Anonymous, February 08, 2004

Reverend Paris,

You make and excellent point here. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God can take us and use us right where we are, then mold and lead us into the person we truly ought to be? Perhaps that is why I love the hymn, “Just As I Am Without One Plea".

-- Anonymous, February 08, 2004

Robert - I'm glad to see your response addreses the Book of Philemon. It's intereting that Paul did not chastise Philemon for being a slave owner. Onesimus's value (as a believer in Christ) exceeded his contractual servitude obligations. The practce of slavery in Roman antiquity was not only ubiquitous but widely accepted as a legitimate form of social organization. QED

-- Anonymous, February 10, 2004

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