Christian Unity or Ecumenical Babel?
By Howard Green
The past four months have ushered in a crisis like nothing else we’ve seen in recent history. To be certain, September 11, 2001, was a day that will continue to influence our way of life for the foreseeable future. As horrific as that event was, the coronavirus (Covid-19) and the current social unrest is equally consequential in scope and may prove to be even more momentous, because it has literally altered every aspect of society and daily life. As believers and ministers of the gospel, we need to understand what the Bible says regarding events that Jesus warned about, and we need to consider how to prepare Christians to walk circumspectly in a time when fellowship and faith are being compromised (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Compromise is a word I don’t use lightly, but it is exactly what a growing number of believers and even leaders are doing regarding fellowship and the gospel. This is nothing new, and many of us have noted these conditions as we write and preach about the growing defection from the faith that will ultimately lead to widespread global apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-4).
While compromise isn’t new, it can become increasingly hard to recognize by those who place little emphasis on meeting together and the study of God’s word. In fact, compromised faith can be mistaken for the real thing, because it has just enough spiritual authenticity to deceive many people into believing a lie (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Our enemy is crafty, and the word of God reminds us as we approach the second coming of Jesus, great signs and wonders will occur through false prophets; and if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived. I’m so thankful for the grace of God (Matthew 24:24). So, how do we protect ourselves from the widespread deception Jesus said was coming and is increasing daily? We immerse ourselves into like-minded, Christ-honoring fellowship with other believers and remain grounded in the eternal truths of the Bible. Hebrews 10:25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that if you are a discerning Christian, you will prioritize meeting together for encouragement and exhortation toward love and good works. Where does discernment come in? We are told to meet together and stir up one another all the more, as we see the Day approaching. This exhortation in light of the nearness of our Lord’s return can’t be understated, because a discerning believer will recognize the very same conditions Jesus warned about and know that time is short. This is no time for apathy or compromise. Our lamps should always remain full (Matthew 25:3-4).
Obviously, we have a biblical mandate to meet together for fellowship; and please let me encourage you to make it a point to reach out to other Christians for fellowship, discipleship, and encouragement. Even if it is just a quick email, letter, phone call, Zoom meeting, or FaceTime, it will be such a blessing to others and will go a long way toward stirring up one another to love and good works.
There is another side to fellowship and meeting together, and it is what I want to focus on in light of the recent events surrounding coronavirus and the recent social upheaval. I’ve listened very carefully to solid biblical teaching from fellow preachers in the past few weeks, and there is a consensus regarding the spiritual condition of our world in light of Bible prophecy. The current events surrounding coronavirus, social unrest, and its global impact are also serving as a reminder that, just as God has a faithful remnant church, there is an increasing number of people who name the name of Jesus but are being led astray into compromise and apostasy (Acts 20:28-30).
Just as there is authentic biblical unity among the true church rooted in the centrality of Christ and sound doctrine, there is also a convergence among those who are deceiving and being deceived based on unity at all costs and false doctrine. Looking at so-called Christian movements, celebrity pastors, and popular ministries that mimic the world’s methods, you will observe a consensus among them as well. The commonality is that they are focused on their kingdom, not God’s. It’s quite a racket because, on the surface, they are involved in ministry activities that masquerade as Christianity. In reality, they build their programs that lead many people away from the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
This false unity is increasingly, obvious during the current pandemic and social unrest because of the overtly ecumenical move toward putting our doctrinal differences aside and coming together for the common good. They will use religious words like church, gospel, and love to authenticate their spiritual deception. Often, this unity pays in dividends in increased numbers, worldly acceptance, and prominence in groups who laud one another instead of Christ.
Here is what one preacher said regarding fellowship in Christ vs. unity: “One hundred worshippers looking to Christ are nearer in heart than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” – A.W. Tozer
Friends, anytime there is unity for the sake of the greater good and togetherness at all costs, instead of God’s glory, we are at Babel (Genesis 11:4). Please understand, I’m glad that people are being fed, churches are distributing protective masks, and tangible acts of human kindness are happening because true Christians should care for the least of these. But the unity that’s becoming prevalent in the evangelical world, especially here in America and the West, is based on a different gospel, albeit cloaked in religious programs, platitudes, and pandering.
True Christians are diametrically opposed to racism, but understand that manmade attempts to stop social unrest and the evil of racism through any other means outside of Jesus won’t work. No amount of ascribed guilt, unity based on a movement, or solidarity based on color instead of Christ will end hate. We can mourn and lament the brokenness of humanity and evils of racism with others, but attempts by Christians to engage hearts based on anything else but the gospel is nonsense. The wretched human heart must repent and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus for authentic love for others to flow (1 John 4:20).
False unity is exemplified by leaders in the largest denominations and supposedly gospel-based movements in the US and the West compromising biblical standards regarding sound doctrine to satisfy itching ears. False unity is many churches being preoccupied with social justice, instead of pointing people to the Prince of Peace who will bring true lasting justice. It is pop-star evangelical preachers promoting unity based on worldly movements instead of warning people about them. This isn’t the kind of fellowship and unity the Bible commands; rather, it’s an ecumenical movement leading toward apostasy (2 Timothy 4:3).
The imperative to not neglect meeting together as believers in Hebrews 10:25 should give believers a sense of biblical urgency, because it’s bolstered by discerning the nearness of Jesus’ return. The phrase “As you see the Day approaching” is meant to remind believers that we must make gathering together a priority as we discern the times we live in. Fellowship among the Saints is of utmost importance as discipleship, accountability, and encouragement stir up one another to love and good works in light of the Lord’s return. This is exactly where a mass divergence is taking place in the church. It’s no coincidence that those who teach and preach sound end-time Bible prophecy with regularity place an emphasis on evangelism, discipleship, and holy living (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Conversely, when Bible prophecy is ignored, or worse, maligned by Christian leaders, what follows is fellowship and unity based on a different gospel. 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
I wrote an article a few weeks ago and explained that: Coronavirus may come and go. I don’t know if it is one of the end-time pestilences Jesus warned would come, but I have no reason to believe it isn’t one. Although we certainly aren’t in the Tribulation as some conjecture, we may very well be approaching the birth pains and beginning of sorrows Jesus warned about as these events are increasing in frequency and severity like never before. I just can’t imagine fellowship that’s based upon mega-church programs and head-in-the-sand type of worldly optimism, all the while failing to warn people about the wrath to come, especially in light of recent events. I was hoping that we would see the emphasis taken off of men and methods and placed on proclaiming the gospel with a renewed sense of urgency.
I believe as spiritual deception increases, so will the divide between those who fellowship based on the gospel and others who base fellowship on an ecumenical purpose-driven type of false gospel (Jeremiah 23:16-17).
I expect that as we contend for the faith and base our fellowship in the centrality of Jesus, we will see growing disdain for the truth, even among those who profess to teach it. Those of us who lovingly teach that God’s righteous judgment is coming and warn people to repent will be ridiculed and maligned. The temptation to compromise our message is always at the door, because it comes via the preachers and prophets that Nehemiah warned about, albeit in our time. If you preach repentance, you are labeled out of touch. If you warn about the wrath to come, you are fearmongering. If you confront false doctrine, you are called divisive. If you teach end-time Bible prophecy, you are distracting people and irrelevant.
This divergence among professing Christians, and especially preachers and teachers, is growing more pronounced by the day. I was reading an old favorite book written in 1976 by David Wilkerson called Racing Toward Judgment. In it, he refers to slumbering shepherds as “Prophets of the positive.” Not much has changed in forty years. In fact, this type of unbiblical optimism has only increased exponentially, and we are that much closer to the wrath of God falling on an unrepentant world.
Dear friends, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the discernment to understand the times we live in and gives us the will to fellowship together, especially as we see the Day approaching. Let’s stand firm in our proclamation of the gospel and in true biblical unity based on the gospel of Christ alone. Even in these days of social distancing, we must be deliberate about fellowship, because none of us can stand alone. We need like-minded, Spirit-led brethren to stir one another up in the love of Jesus and Spirit-led discernment.
Philippians 1:9-11, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Please reach out to other Christ-followers using whatever methods you can, because we can certainly see the Day approaching. Maranatha!
Every blessing in our Lord Jesus,