The judgment from the world concerning the church is oftentimes correct. Although denominationalism, by some, is an attempt to preserve doctrinal purity it commonly ends upholding errors. For the dishonest, divisions bolster distinction that satisfy the ego. With numerous schisms the world naturally sees the lack of love, unity, and godly joy. On the other hand, many have attempted to produce a pseudo-love, unity, and joy. Ecumenicalism is itself an offshoot of denominationalism, another umbrella to identify the church with. Any attempt for love, unity, and joy that compromises sound doctrine is insincere and rejects the counsel of God. Yet, the Word of God teaches that love, unity, and joy are not only to be experienced in the church, but beseeched by God to be enjoyed.
Love, unity, and joy from sound doctrine reverberate from the pages of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. The Philippians were faithful to the gospel and its’ doctrine. They had continued “fellowship in the gospel” (Php. 1:5) and Paul was “confident” that Christ was “perfecting” His “good work” (Php. 1:6) in them because they were “partakers of my grace” (Php. 1:7). This partaking manifested itself in “the defence and confirmation of the gospel” (Php. 1:7). With this being the situation Paul understood there was more. Any individual partaking was also to be experienced before, amongst, and with the whole. The Philippians had a measure of the love, unity, and joy from the gospel of Jesus Christ they defended and confirmed. Yet, Paul’s prays for more,
“that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Php. 1:10)
Supremely, it is God that works “your furtherance and joy of faith” (Php. 1:25), that is, the church as a whole is to press toward this “furtherance of faith” and “furtherance of joy”. Growing up in the faith has its fruits, but one of its dainties is “joy”. This “joy” is not only dependent upon the doctrine, but comes at a cost. Faithful obedience to sound doctrine increases our joy and the joy of the church when we grow together in Christ. The apostle Paul strived, as if nothing else mattered, for the progress and joy of faith of the church and exhorted the church at Philippi for their abundance in these things.
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy , that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Php. 2:1-2)
The joy of the church emerges from sustaining that which we were granted and possess. Paul feasting upon the Lord’s table urges the church to remember that which they have been nourished with. Have they been consoled in Christ? Have they been comforted by the love of Christ? Have they been taught anything from the Spirit? Any affections and multiple mercies? The “mercies” hearken back to Romans 12:1,
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God…”
These mercies are the knowledge of God’s justice being pacified against us, His spiritual operation to make us alive unto Him, to please Him. These mercies include the receiving of the Spirit and the details of walking after His things, gaining from His teaching, and having communion with Him. These things provide the basis for our unity and origin of our joy. When the church gathers together for the truth, for sound doctrine that the Spirit has given we have something outside ourselves to be likeminded. The church then will have the same love and affections. The Spirit grants the church the supply to be unified with and the fruit of corporate joy.
The church is to have the same pursuit, benefitting from the same provisions, growing in the faith, and striving together for it. Frankly, the church strives against the truth, fighting the wrong fight, battling the wrong enemy becoming divisive, halting the growth of the church and collaborating with Satan’s devices. Love, unity, and joy are prescribed and formulated by God not from man’s ideas and endeavors. Love, unity, and joy are granted by God by His Word and experienced by the church when we learn and apply His Word.
Furthermore, how is the church to have this joy? When the church is set on and strives for the truth we are unified and will have the same love for the truth and for one another. Moreover, Paul details for us how this is to be “done” (Php. 2:3) and the means by which Paul’s prayer to “approve things that are excellent” and “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” will have this joy fulfilled. Abounding love in knowledge and judgment is not “done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Love, unity, and joy is only possible when you are the least important person in you life. The emerging church has been the self-seeking church demanding anything and everything they want – carrying out Satan’s will. Furthering yourself takes no time at all, furthering everyone else redeems the time. The furtherance of the faith in the church is the furtherance of the mind of Christ in the church. A church marked by looking on others, making ourselves of no reputation, and serving others will experience the joy of the Lord!
Simply put love, unity, and joy are determined, held, and provided for by God and His doctrine. His word is to be received, remembered, and kept by the church to gain the fulfilling of abounding love, strength of unity, and fulness of joy. Do you strive together with the church for sound doctrine? Or, do you strive against the truth? Are you always concerned about yourself, or think better of others? Do you have joy?
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”