Are Your Conversations with Those of the World the Same with Those of the Church?

 

Does this exchange sound familiar?

Bill: “Hello, how are you doing?”

Steve: “I am good . . . and you?”

Bill: “I am doing well also.”

Steve: “Great! . . . See ya later!”

Bill: “You too!”

This kind of short, being-friendly-but-not-wanting-to-really-talk-about-anything-important, dialogue happens all the time. We have these discussions with people at work, passing by in the grocery store, sporting events, parties, and unfortunately . . . at church.

This has bothered me for some time.

Why do we have these same types of conversations with our brothers and sisters at church? Now, I understand that there are occasions where it is not the best time or the proper setting to have a lengthy conversation. However, our time together is called fellowship (Greek. koinōnia). Koinōnia, in its biblical context, means to “share with someone in something which he has,” and “to have a close mutual association.” It’s a term I never use to refer to hanging out at a work related event, or birthday party with unbelievers, BBQ at a neighbors house, or any other type of gathering that is not with those of the family of God. I am sure no other Christian does either.

How are Christian relationships supposed to be different?

We who are of the family of God have a close, mutual association in Christ. In fact, it is because of Christ that we have been united into one body of believers, a royal priest hood belonging to God (Rom. 7:4; 1 Pet. 2:9). Paul uses the phrase in Christ quite often in reference to Christians.[1] Paul uses the term koinōnia to speak of the direct participation of the believer with Christ, which is a spiritual communion with the risen Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).

Why does he use that phrase and not just call us believers in Christ or fellow children of God?

Because all who are born-again have died with Christ in his death and have been made alive with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:5-10), granted that we share (koinōnia) in his sufferings.[2] We are united into one body, under the lordship of Christ, “having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).

Therefore, if we are to be of the same mind and same love, loving others, demonstrating that we are of God,[3] we should seek God’s will together in one mind, which is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3; cf. Rom. 6:19,22).

How are we to do that, staying the course on the path of righteousness?

Through the fellowship and discipleship within the church, united in Christ and in communion with the Spirit.

The author of Hebrews, speaking about the rest for us in Christ, says

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (3:12-14).

God’s means for keeping believers in Christ is through the body, to keep our hearts from the hardening effects of sin. It is through grace-saturated fellowship, exhorting, encouraging, and praying for each other daily that God uses as the means to sustain us until glorification (Read 1 Cor. 12:1-26). Our sanctification depends on our fellowship with our Triune God and each other.

Ultimately, true biblical fellowship is a relationship, not an activity.

How do we turn our quick, superficial conversations into koinōnia?

A few months back I decided to try something different, to be more intentional in my conversing with believers on Sunday or any other time. So, after the typical how-are-you-doing exchange, I ask, “What has the Lord shown you this week?” The responses I received have been astonishing. Every response gave me a glimpse into the window of a fellow brother or sister’s heart. We got to share in something we both have in common—struggles with sin and a desperate need for Christ.

Over the last few months, many have shared with me their joy in Christ due to a particular situation, whether in prayer, reading the Bible, or through trials. And some opened up in need of guidance, encouragement, or just needed someone to listen. The crucial element in all of this is that the conversations went from the natural to the supernatural. We were talking about something that the world doesn’t have or truly understand—our spiritual lives in Christ. We were experiencing true koinōnia.

Just recently, I ran into a newer family at our church just after our Wednesday night Awanas program. I have interacted with the husband a few times over the last few months but only discussed trivial matters. And our last interaction ended rather awkwardly, because there were no more superficial questions left to ask. So, we just sat there and stared at each other with silly grins on our faces.

This was before I began asking this question.

Well, this time when our trivialities ended, I asked him, “So, what has the Lord shown you recently?” He said, “Nothing.” And we were back at that awkward place again.

What now? You can’t say, “Oh, sorry to hear that. Take care.”

My entire purpose in asking this question was to “share” in another Christian’s life in Christ. And in this moment, here was a man that needed to be encouraged. I asked him if he has been reading his Bible, and he said he hadn’t but then pointed to his wife, letting me know that she reads all the time. I encouraged him to make time daily to be in God’s Word. I told him that he is the leader of his house, and if he wants his children to grow up in a house where the Lord is the head of it (and I now he does), then his kids need to see their daddy reading it daily, guiding the family by its wisdom, and uniting his family to be one in Christ.

He was much appreciative of what I said. Praise God.

I could have just shaken his hand and said, “How ya doing?” And I know he would have just said, “I am doing good.” And that would have been the end of the conversation, followed by a wave and a “see ya later.”

But really, he was in a rough patch. If you are not reading the Bible regularly then you are starving yourself (Matt. 4:4). That is an extremely dangerous place to be in. I thank God for that conversation and hope that the Spirit convicts him to be in the Word, and I look forward to asking him the same question when I see him again, Lord willing.

I have never been so blessed in fellowship. Seeking to talk and share what we truly have in common—Christ—is what makes our fellowship different from the conversations we have in the world.

 

Romans 11:36

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1. 86 times; or in him 33 times; Ex. Rom. 6:11; 8:11; 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:1; 2 Cor. 1:21; 5:17

2. Phil. 1:29; 3:10; 2 Cor. 1:5; cf. Rom. 8:17

3. 1 John 4:7-8; cf. Rom. 13:8

The Doctrine of Original Sin: If You Reject it, then You Have to Reject Christ’s Righteousness

In my recent discussions with a few open theists, the doctrine of original sin became a source of contention. They argue that the Bible doesn’t teach such a doctrine—that is, all are born in the sin of Adam, inheriting his sin nature, which God has given over to all of mankind (This is also known as Pelagianism).

So, when theologians speak of original sin, they are not speaking about the first sin of humanity per se; rather, they are referring to the effects of Adam’s first sin upon his posterity. All born after Adam have inherited the guilt of his first sin, the loss of original righteousness (that state of fellowship as God originally created man to exist in with him), and the corruption of our whole nature. Adam was the head of the human race, and when he fell, we all fell in him. What it ultimately teaches is that we are all sinful not by actions but through progenation; specifically, we are not sinners we because sin; we sin because we are sinners.

Stemming from the doctrine of original sin is the teaching of federal headship. And open theists reject this doctrine as well, (1) which teaches that Adam’s action, as the head of the human race, to disobey God’s command, results in our condemnation.

What open theists believe is we are only culpable for our individual sins. Our individual sins alone are what count against us. While it is true that we are all going to have our sins brought before us (Romans 2:16), what they don’t realize is that if we don’t accept Adam’s headship, we have to reject Christ’s headship for the new humanity, for Paul is the one who makes this contrast in Romans 5:12-19 between the head of the old, fallen humanity and the Head of the new, redeemed humanity. Now, I know we would never consider rejecting Christ’s free gift; however, I think many want to reject Adam’s freely chosen trespass. But we need to be consistent!

Let’s examine these verses:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 

– Sin came into the world through the Adam’s sin, producing death.
– All die because all sinned (both Adam and his progeny, which the biblical narrative demonstrates clearly in the idolatrous nature of mankind)
– There is a causal inference here.

The Bible is clear that all people without exception sin (except Christ) (Romans 3:23). As Adam’s progeny, we are all under the power of sin (Romans 6:14). While we will answer for each sin, our judgment remains because of Adam’s sin, for Adam’s sin is imputed to us. This will be more apparent in verses 18-19. We are all separated from God. That is why Christ did not come from Adam, so he would not be in sin by virtue of Adam’s imputation of sin to all his posterity. Furthermore, if you remember the Genesis 3 account, it was Eve who actually sinned first; however, it was Adam who was held accountable for it. But what did he do? He immediately tried to pass the blame on her. So even then, we see the headship role Adam had over humanity, with the first being his wife.

13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 

– Sin was in the world before the law. Why? Because of Adam’s sin.
– Though sin was not counted before the law, people still died. Why? By virtue of entering the world in a state of death, all humans sinned. Adam’s transgression meant condemnation for all (see vv.18-19)

14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

– Again, ‘yet’ death reigned from Adam to Moses, explaining why people died though they did not have the law.
– Adam was a type, being head of humanity, as Christ is head of the new humanity.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

– Christ’s free gift was his perfect life of obedience to God, his offering for reconciliation, leading to eternal life and fellowship with God—which is not like Adam’s trespass; his act of unrighteousness severed that relationship.
– Many died through Adam; many are made alive through Christ (his act of righteousness).
– Though all die through Adam, the ‘many’ are those who are in Christ (Unless you are a universalist).

16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.

– The free gift results in life; Adam’s sin resulted in death (for all, the many included).
Key point: Judgment followed the one trespass, bringing condemnation—for all
Key point: The free gift, Christ’s act of righteousness, brought justification—for many
– Christ’s act does not include all, otherwise that would mean universalism.

This is really important to understand, for I know many may struggle with this. As I mentioned in my introduction, we are under judgment for Adam’s sin; it brought condemnation for all.

17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 

Death reigns because of one man’s trespass (to all and many).
Righteousness reigns because of One Man’s righteous act (only to the many).

  • Here is the conclusion of vv. 15-17; therefore
  • Adam’s trespass resulted in condemnation for all men.
  • Christ’s act of righteousness results in justification and life for all men.
  • By Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners.
  • By Christ’s obedience many will be made righteous.

It may sound a bit repetitive, but it is important that you see the contrast and groupings of the old humanity under Adam and the new humanity under Christ.

-What is the relationship between Adam and us?
-Why do all without exception sin? Verse 18-19 explains

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

– Because of Adam’s trespass, death reigned through him, leading to condemnation for all men.
– Because of Christ’s act of righteousness, justification and life is given to all men in Christ.
– Verse 19 shows us what Christ’s gift does for the many, who were made sinners by Adam’s disobedience—they, the many, are made righteous.

So, what we see is that all men are physically born, stemming from the root of Adam; therefore, all men receive condemnation for Adam’s trespass. Christ’s, representing those who are born of God (the elect), act of righteousness results in justification for all of those he represents. The many that were made sinners through Adam’s disobedience are the many that will be made righteous through Christ’s obedience.

Here are some important points to see in this:

Did we do anything to earn righteousness on own individual efforts? No
Did we do anything to earn condemnation by our own individual efforts? No

However, after the fall of Adam, our nature in Adam is corrupted, and we can do nothing but sin, so we are judged by our works. But after the resurrection of Christ, our nature in Christ is restored, and we can now live righteously.

This is the big picture of Paul’s argument. And if one rejects the portion regarding Adam, then one also has to reject his argument about Christ because the logic of the argument is the same for both.

If you don’t get the sin from Adam, then you don’t get the righteousness from Christ.

If you struggle in accepting Adam’s sin, just think of it this way: if you were in his place, you would have done the same exact thing, and we could all be under the headship of Bob or Jack or Steve. We know we sin because we are sinners and that is why we need a Savior who can redeem us and regenerate our hearts to love God and no longer turn away from him

 

—Romans 11:36

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1. I don’t intend to speak for all open theists; however, my experience has demonstrated that this is so.

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