Greetings to all and welcome to our website for The Unity of the Spirit.
January 27, 2015
“The Unity of the Spirit - in the Bond of Peace”As the new year of 2015 begins I am reminded that it was twenty years ago this spring that we first began publishing The Unity of the Spirit newsletter which, after being published quarterly for some twelve years, gradually evolved into this web-site. As regular readers can see we have taken the opportunity of the new year to refresh and update the website. This has primarily been the work of my dear wife Dorota who has put a great deal of time and effort into this task. Her work, of course, builds on the original work of Adam Kleczkowski who started our website, and on the on-going contribution of both Dorota and our brother in Christ, Scot Hahn. We are also grateful to our nephew, Piotr Kusek, whose suggestions helped initiate the update. We hope that this newer and more up-to-date look and format will make the website even more inviting and easy to use while still retaining the original feel of both the original newsletter and the original website. Our purpose from that beginning in the spring of 1995 has been to help build up the body of Christ on the basis of the fundamental truths of God’s word as well as to explore specific, detailed, and sometimes more controversial Christian subjects in a spirit of Christian unity and peace. Thus, the name chosen for our publication and website: The Unity of the Spirit – in the Bond of Peace, which is taken from the beautiful section of Ephesians:“I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:1-6 ESV).With the start of the next twenty years our goals at The Unity of the Spirit remain the same. To the best of our ability we will continue to make available the best knowledge and understanding of God’s word that we are aware of through our own articles, blogs, books and audio teachings. In addition, we will continue to recommend what we consider to be the quality works of others even if we have some disagreements with their perspectives. Of course, though finding very much that we agree with in the works of others that we recommend, we can only vouch for our own articles, etc. which set forth our own understanding of God’s word. In all that we present and recommend we assume a high level of Christian maturity on the part of our readers and we rely on them to think for themselves and to judge all that they hear and read on the basis of their own mature understanding of God’s word. As fellow Christians, we are all children in God’s family and, despite differences, we recognize and accept as our fellow brothers and sister in Christ – from whatever background, denomination, church, or fellowship - all who sincerely “call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, their Lord and ours.” (I Cor. 1:2). Of course, it would be naïve to think that Christian unity in all matters of faith and practice will be achieved this side of the return of Christ. Divisions had already begun within the pages of the New Testament itself and they will certainly not all be resolved now some two thousand years later. In addition, every local church or fellowship must apply the principles of God’s word to its own unique circumstances and this produces legitimate differences in the practices of churches and fellowships around the world. Nevertheless, we believe that despite our differences we as Christians can for the most part be unified on the fundamental truths of the Christian faith and that we can continue to learn and grow together as the family of God and body of Christ. It has been the basic assumption of The Unity of the Spirit from the very beginning that the Bible – according to its original intent and meaning - is our only standard for truth in matters of Christian faith and practice and it is there that truth must be found and established. Nevertheless, we also believe that true Christian unity should, and must, transcend denominational and sectarian groupings so as strengthen God’s people around the world. We are all growing and none of us has a perfect understanding of the truth in all of its dimensions. We, at The Unity of the Spirit, continue to learn from fellow Christian believers, especially biblical scholars, from across the denominational spectrum. And this is as it should be. As fellow Christian believers we are all united “in Christ” above and beyond denominational differences and we should endeavor grow up “into Christ” in all things. Thus, the goal of every Christian in the world should be Christ-likeness in all that we think, say and do in all of life’s endeavors. On this we can surely be united as fellow-Christians as we move forward to the ultimate time of Christ’s return when we will all see him “face to face” and “be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. Therefore, let us as children in God’s family and members of the body of Christ continue to grow up together in Christ as God’s people. And, as we grow in our own personal walks with God and within our own fellowships and churches let us “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”To start this new year I append three of my favorite articles from our past years that are representative of what we stand for at The Unity of the Spirit:One God, One People of God, and One Hope of SalvationOne Spirit – One BodyThe People of FaithRichie Templerichie@unity-of-spirit.org
December 24, 2014
The Christian Message in the Christmas Season
As Christmas day - the day in which we celebrate our Savior's birth - nears I would like to extend our heartfelt greetings from The Unity of the Spirit to all of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from anywhere in the world who may read this online message. As a lifelong Christian believer who grew up within the institutional Protestant church but who has been involved primarily with the house-church movement for most of my adult life I've come to appreciate Christmas in its many dimensions amongst various Christian traditions. What unites us all and what always must remain primary during this Christmas season is the Christian message itself. That is ultimately what Christmas is about if it is to remain true to the biblical accounts that set forth the events and significance of our Savior's birth. As many other Christians through the years - especially those who are children of the Reformation - I confess that I even use the word "Christmas" itself with some reserve. It is not of course a word that is used in the Bible itself and its post-biblical designation as a "holy-day" to be celebrated once a year near the end of our December goes beyond the biblical witness and, indeed, involves a good deal of pagan notions and traditions mixed in with its more biblical aspects regarding the birth of Christ. The much later additions of Santa Claus, etc. to the Christmas tradition have, of course, just pushed it even farther away from the true significance of the birth of Christ as explained in the Bible. Nevertheless, the word Christmas is a part of the language, thinking and culture of the world, especially the Western world, that grew out of medieval Christendom. Therefore, I use the word but, unless speaking in a wider secular context, I use the word to refer primarily to the event and significance of the birth of Christ. Fortunately, this significance has continued to shine through in varying greater or lesser degrees in both the institutional church - Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox - and in the non-institutional church through the last two thousand years of Christian history. Thankfully, since the Christian message - including the significance of the birth of Christ - is a simple message it is hard to totally obscure its meaning.From its simple beginnings some two thousand years ago up until today the "glad tidings of great joy" of Christ's birth and its significance for the world as recorded in New Testament has continued to be proclaimed to the world. God's word is not bound and its liberating truth shines through the darkness that has tried to dispel it. Centuries and centuries of tradition and the often mishandling of the New Testament scriptures have not completely covered over the simple truths of God's plan of salvation accomplished through his Son. Thus, for most Christians around the world, enough of the light of the truth shines through that the Christmas season is a time of joy and blessing often accompanied by special, and often beautiful, church services and warm family gatherings. However, for quite a number of other Christians Christmas can actually be a time of stress or even more difficulties or loneliness than usual because of the circumstances they face in the world. As with so many things in life it is perhaps better to not allow ourselves to get too high or too low emotionally in the midst of Christmas holidays. Instead, we should focus our lives on the Christian message itself; that is, the purpose for which God sent his Son. This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with festivities, parties, or material gifts. In fact, it doesn't even have to do with "family", unless, of course, we are speaking of the family of God. All of those other things may or may not be well and good depending on how they are done. However, the true Christmas message is simply the Christian message: that God sent his Son into the world to bring salvation, meaning, and hope to a world in desperate need. It is this Christian message that is intended for every individual person in the world no matter what their family, nation, race, ethnicity, or station in life - high or low - may be.As I so often do at this time of year I will summarize this Christian message with the liberating truths of Paul from his Letter to the Galatians:"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." (Gal. 4:4-7).Let us as God's children rejoice in this joyful and liberating Christian message in this Christmas season of the year!Richie Templerichie@unity-of-spirit.org
There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you 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 NIV)