24 January, 2013 Justin Mote
Justin Mote has shown us the foundations of Gospel partnership start with the Apostles and with the Lord. In this third section he looks at how we have partnership. You can read part 1.
3). WE HAVE PARTNERSHIP WITH EACH OTHER
In v7 John spells out the implications of our ‘fellowship’ with God. ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.’ To walk in the light means to be in relationship with God because ‘God is light’ (verse 5).
Partnership with one another comes from being in partnership with God which comes through being in partnership with what the apostles proclaim. Let me draw out some implications of this. First Christian partnership is not something that is man-made. It is not something that we strive to create. It is an objective reality when we come to partner with apostolic truth and so to partnership with God. A Gospel Partnership is, therefore, not something that we are striving to create. Rather it is a working out of what is already true. As brothers and sisters, and as churches, who believe the apostolic word, so we have become partners.
Let me try and illustrate. When I got married the minister said ‘I now proclaim you man and wife’. On that day my wife and I were married. You can’t get any more married than we were on that day. The question was would it be a good marriage or a bad marriage. If we didn’t live in the same house. If I didn’t love her we’d still be married, but it would be a poor marriage.
Gospel Partnerships are a way of acknowledging the reality that the gospel brings about. Of course Christians, and local churches, express their partnership in other networks as well. But the rise of Gospel Partnerships, across denominations, is a way of expressing the reality that the apostolic gospel brings us into fellowship together.
There are, therefore, two possible dangers we must guard against. The first is to give the impression we are in partnership with people that we are not. I think this can easily happen in the historic denominations. Sadly there are plenty of people in our denominations who don’t hold to apostolic truth. It means we are not in partnership with them. It can be confusing when we give the impression that we are in partnership with people that we are not!
The second danger is isolationism. Historically this may have been more a danger for independent churches. Independence in terms of church government, mustn’t mean independent of other Bible believing Christians. I rejoice that in our Gospel Partnerships we have seen real expressions of partnership together that cross denominational boundaries.
Having established the foundations of ‘partnership’ let’s turn to what the New Testament says good partnership looks like.
The partner ship that we have with each other is, obviously, most naturally expressed within our own congregations. But it is not limited to that alone. In Philippians Paul is expressing great joy and thanks for the partnership that the Philippians had showed towards Paul, who was ministering the gospel far away from where they were. It shows us that partnership is something Paul expects to be expressed beyond our own congregations.
Let me mention two things about such partnership.