Previous Week Archives Next Week

Dr Tow's Letter 19 Nov 2017

My dear readers,
(Extract from RPG, January 1987, Edited by Dr SH Tow)

1. ONE SPIRIT ONE MIND (Phil 1:27)

A house divided will fall; a church divided, no less, will fall. The Gospel cannot advance if a church or a group is split by factions. Paul's chief concern is that the Philippians remain united in their stand for the truth of the Gospel. The greater fear is not the enemy without but the one within. Our adversary the devil is ever ready to sow seeds of discontent and dissension within our fellowship and church.

The story is told of a certain father who was burdened by his five quarrelsome sons, always striving among themselves. On his deathbed he gathered them together to divide his property among them. Then he called a servant to bring five sticks, tied together in a bundle, and asked each son to break the bundle. Beginning with the eldest they each had a turn, but none could break the bundle. "Now," he said to the eldest, "untie the bundle, take one each and try again." The object lesson was well learnt: united they stood; divided they fell.

In 1747 the Moravian brethren were sorely divided by differences among them. Their great leader Count Zinzendorf called them together to a Conference to settle their differences. The many representatives assembled from all parts of the country, each prepared to contest the view he held. With godly wisdom, Count Zinzendorf proposed a preliminary period of Bible study and prayer.

The book chosen was the First Epistle of John. For three days the brethren submitted themselves to the teaching of God's Word and its main lesson of "love for all the brethren." By the fourth day, being the Lord's Day, they gathered for the Breaking of Bread, and they were reminded of the love of Christ which drew them together, By the time the business session opened on Monday, the ill feeling and self-assertiveness were largely dissipated. Soon all differences were dissolved as each leader bowed under the Word of God. Thus they were restored to "one spirit and one mind."

When self rules, division and distress prevail; when Christ rules unity and love.

KEYNOTE: United we stand, divided we fall.

PRAYER: Lord, teach me to see all of Christ and none of self.

2. FOR HIS SAKE (Phil 1:28-30)

Many people embrace Christianity as a solution to their problems and difficulties in this life. But this is not what our Lord promised. In Luke's Gospel, He openly declared to the multitudes (five thousand having been fed and satisfied): "… If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Shortly before He went to the cross, He spoke these words to the disciples, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Christianity is no bed of roses.

Paul's catalogue of sufferings is unrivalled. But the Lord saw him through each time. He could therefore speak and write from experience. To the Philippian Christians, and us, he says: " And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Phil 1:28).

Suffering for the sake of our faith and for the sake of our Lord is part of our Christian heritage. Our Lord said it. The Apostles experienced it. We, who follow in their steps, can we expect anything less? Christianity is not meant to be smooth sailing. Consider the Apostle's words: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil 1:29). We should not be surprised then if, because of our faith, persecution and adversity should come our way. If it does, we should not be dismayed or surprised. Rather, let us be as the Apostles, rejoicing after they were beaten by the Jews for preaching Jesus, "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).

Why should we suffer for His sake? Simply because He suffered for us! The Lord Creator forsook Heaven's glory, took on the form of a servant, “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2) and died the death — for our sakes. What suffering have we borne for His sake?

QUESTION: Can you count the times you have suffered in any way — for His sake?

THOUGHT: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.

3. BE LIKE-MINDED (Phil 2:1-3)

What does the Apostle have in mind? Obviously he is greatly concerned over any divisions that might creep into the church and mar its ministry. To be "like-minded" means to be agreed and unanimous in the great things of God. In lesser things, where unanimity is not possible, there should be charity to accommodate a different viewpoint.

We who belong to the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church) are enjoined to be "like-minded" on four grounds as presented by Paul.

1. Because of the "consolation in Christ." Have we not all received the same consolation from the same Lord? This common salvation grace is sufficient reason for us to feel a kindred spirit without fellow Christians in the church.

2. Because of the "comfort of love." This is a potent binding force, drawing believers together. Nothing so comforts as the Saviour's love. The experience of such love has constraining power to dispel all disagreement and promote brotherly love.

3. Because of the "fellowship of the Spirit." As members of the same Body, believers share the same Spirit. Partakers of this spiritual gift should not engage in any selfish or divisive activities. Rather, they should seek to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace" (Eph 4:3).

4. Because of "bowel and mercies." What bowels of compassion and tender mercies has the Saviour shown to each believer! We deserved none of it, only God's displeasure and wrath. Yet our Lord overlooked our faults and showed us abundant compassion. Therefore, show the same "bowels and mercies" one to another!

In review, Paul's appeal goes something like this: If you have received these four spiritual graces from the Lord whom we all serve, forget all trivial differences and disagreements. Be of one mind. This will make my joy complete!

QUESTION: Can you name some of the causes of division in your group or church?

PRAYER: Lord, may I who serve Thee have Thy mind.

God bless all readers.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,

Dr SH Tow