While in Troas, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9, 10).
The canon of Scripture is complete, and there are no longer any apostles. But there are still “Macedonians” standing and appealing for help from the real church of Jesus Christ. For some, the appeal is a direct call to preach the gospel in a place other than their native land, as was the case for the Apostle Paul. In the majority of cases, the appeal is to provide material support to churches elsewhere. For example, Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem” (I Cor. 16:1-3). And always, the appeal is to pray: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (I Tim. 2:1).
It would be a grievous mistake to think that Christ’s blood was spilled for the members of my congregation alone or that God’s interest in human beings begins and ends with ________________________ Church (fill in the name of your church). And some of us are so insular, that our interests and concerns do not go beyond our immediate family, and we live as though neither do God’s. Certainly, we never state such a sentiment verbally, but the practical reality of our lives expresses it.
Doctrinal differences are real and significant, and we must remain faithful to the truth of the Word of God and the dictates of our consciences. But the reality is that no two individuals have an identical understanding of the Word of God or of its practical outworking in the individual life. Therefore, we must always guard against doctrinal error and destructive, unscriptural practices while being able and willing to recognize the Spirit of God working in and through other individuals and assemblies. While some differences must stymie fellowship, they should not incite contempt but provoke compassion. An error that someone recognizes ought to be a provocation to intercede, certainly before the throne of grace, and in some circumstances (depending on the opportunity and relationship) directly and face-to-face. More of the divisions among believers result from pride or lack of charity than we might recognize and care to admit.
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