Sunday, March 12, 2006

Love Covers, part I

In the next couple of posts, I would like to present a number of quotes from the book Love Covers, written by the now-deceased Paul Billheimer, and published in 1981 by Christian Literature Crusade. Many who read this blog may not agree completely with all of Billheimer’s doctrinal views espoused in other writings. However, the message contained in Love Covers is a message that has significantly impacted my life and ministry, and a message to which I believe we as Southern Baptists, as well as those in the entire Body of Christ around the world, desperately need to pay attention today.

The quotes from today’s post are all taken from the preface of Love Covers

"The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected, and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity. The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined."

"What is the basis for the fellowship which represents, defines, and gives content to this unity? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the term "fellow" from the word "fellowship" denotes ultimate identical derivation. In other words, two persons being designated as fellows implies common origin, a common family relationship. Therefore the primary, fundamental and distinguishing basis for fellowship is shared ancestry rather than shared theories, concepts or opinions.

If this means anything at all it means that fellowship between born-again believers, members of the same family, should be on the basis of a common spiritual parentage rather than common opinions on non-essentials to salvation.

For centuries, fellowship within the Body of Christ has been primarily on the basis of conceptual, theological and organizational persuasions and practices. The principal thesis of this book is that in the Church, or Body of Christ, acceptance and fellowship with one another should be on the basis of common spiritual parentage rather than on common views or opinions in nonessentials to salvation."

"For the purpose of this book, the term ‘essentials to salvation’ will be considered as the minimum beliefs necessary for the new birth."

"In this book, the term ‘nonessentials to salvation’ will then be understood as doctrinal matters not related distinctly or directly to the new birth."

It is only natural that the measure or dimension of fellowship may be affected by the degree of agreement or disagreement on various phrases of divergent theological positions. But fellowship based on a common family relationship through the new birth should properly overshadow or even dwarf fellowship based on opinions not essential to divine life. In other words, membership in the same family is a more important foundation for fellowship, especially to the heavenly Father, than intellectual or theological agreement."

"This does not require the abandonment or the compromise of vital principles. It is not a plea to relinquish or reduce any convictions. No one has to give up any precept, persuasion, or canon of faith to love a ‘blood-bought brother.’ It is an appeal to cease making one’s opinions on nonessentials the basis for fellowship or unity in the Spirit.

Neither does this mean that truth in these beliefs is unimportant. It does mean that, in God’s sight, relationship is supremely important. It does not mean that such error may not damage the Body. It does mean that breaking fellowship over beliefs not vital to the new birth does more damage to the Body than the error that caused the break.

Again, this does not mean that the search for truth in other areas of doctrine is wrong. Neither does it mean that having one’s own opinion is wrong. It does not even mean that earnestly contending for one’s opinion in these matters of doctrine is a sin. This is not where the problem lies. In God’s sight, the wrong is in allowing opinions to cause a breach of fellowship between born-again members of the same family."

"According to Church history, the Church has never clearly seen at any one period the supreme importance of this truth. Can this be the one thing that has delayed the fulfillment of the Great Commission and prevents Christ’s glorious return? If so, should not every lover of Jesus give highest priority to His prayer in John 17, ‘…that they may be one as we are one’?"


imb worker said...

Thanks for mentioning this book!
I just read it within the last two months ago after checking it out from our region's library. (Does this mean someone's now going to go and see whose name is signed in the book?) It really hit home! I had mentioned it on another site, and really encouraged people to read it. This book was written 25 years ago, and there is more need now than ever for the message in it.

Jason in Central Asia said...

david, i'm a fellow worker w/our comp in central asia. i wanted to thank you for a comment i read the other day conc the doctrine of the unity of blvrs as more important than some other less essential doctrines, that are currently taking center stage over and beyond the unity of brother/sisters in christ.
i began to think about the last time i heard a message in an sc ch about the importance or significance of the unity of blvrs, i couldn't remember. i think the stress has always been on unity among brethren in that particular local fellowship, but not necessarily outside of it.

GuyMuse said...

"The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected, and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity."

THE PROBLEM OF DISUNITY. I am beginning to see the reason why Jesus was so repetitive in saying over and over "love one another". It is because this is the hardest commandment to keep, and the one He knew we would most need to be reminded of.

Disunity is another way of saying we have not yet learned the lesson of "loving one another".

If there is one thing that would turn missions around and make an A-bomb impact on today's world it would be for the Body of Christ to unite. By somehow doing so, we could finish the task in a few short years, rather than the decades we are currently looking at. Any ideas of what might be done to unite us as One Body in Christ?

Of course there is a price for unity. It means laying aside our own preferences, and agreeing on those core issues that would allow us to unite and work together to accomplish the common goal of finishing the GC.

Do you have an link to the book?

Anonymous said...

As the song goes on page 238 in the Heavenly Man:

When the sun starts to set
Our hearts long to go home
For we are one family forever.

We left the family when we were young
And launched out on our own paths
Each of us has suffered alone
So now we can understand each other's pain.

We should accept each other as brothers
Walking down the gospel road
All streams and rivers finally join the ocean
For we are one family forever.

This is in response of two house church networks reconciliation. Humility is the way.