Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The unity that comes from knowing "the firstborn of many brethren"

Octavius Winslow has been a great encouragement to me over many years. His writings are full of Christ. Since Reformation Heritage republished his Morning Thoughts in 2003, it has been my favorite book to recommend for daily, devotional reading. Fortunately, Morning Thoughts is readily available on the web, too.

Today's thought is based on Romans 8:29, "that he might be the firstborn of many brethren." It is so appropriate for what is happening today. The recovery of the gospel and its centrality to all of life is resulting in renewed--and sometimes new--fellowship among brothers and sisters who a few years ago would not have regarded one another very kindly. Such fellowship is crossing denominational lines and theological traditions. It is very encouraging to see brothers come together not over political alliances or tertiary issues but on the basis of the gospel.

This renewed fellowship befits the younger brothers of Jesus. It is not a syrupy, spineless ecumenism that pretends we do not have any differences. Rather, it is a robust love for all those who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. Frankly, I do not see how anyone whose love for the Lord Jesus is sincere cannot be encouraged over this renewal of gospel fellowship that is arising out of a renewed commitment to the gospel itself. John says, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him" (1 John 5:1).

Nevertheless, there are some who, rather than join in this movement of God's Spirit, seem intent on undermining with accusations of conspiracies and compromise. I pity such people. Their spirit is contrary to spirit of Jesus and the Word of God. Winslow understood that. And his morning thought for today could not be more timely.

If you don't understand all the talk about the centrality of the gospel, commit yourself to read Winslow's Morning Thoughts for the next year. Even if you are not convinced, you will certainly be helped to see what so many in our day are getting excited about with the recovery of the gospel and its centrality to every aspect of life. The excerpt from today's reading will give you a taste of what to expect.

Romans 8:29, "That he might be the firstborn among many brethren"

The one family of God is composed of “many brethren.” They are not all of the same judgment in all matters, but they are all of the same spirit. The unity of the family of God is not ecclesiastical nor geographical, it is spiritual and essential. It is the “unity of the Spirit.” Begotten of one Father, in the nature of the Elder Brother, and through the regenerating grace of the one Spirit, all the saints of God constitute one church, one family, one brotherhood—essentially and indivisibly one. Nor is this relationship difficult to recognize. Take an illustration. Two brethren in the Lord of widely different sections of the Church, and of much dissonance of sentiment on some points of truth, meet and converse together. Each wonders that, with the Word of God in his hand, the other should not read it as he reads it, and interpret it as he interprets it. But they drop the points of difference, and take up the points of agreement. They speak of Christ—the Christ who loves them both, and whom they both love. They talk of the one Master whom they serve; of their common labors and infirmities, trials and temptations, discouragements, failures, and success; they talk of the heaven where they are journeying; of their Father’s house, in which they will dwell together for ever; they kneel in prayer; they cast themselves before the cross; the oil of gladness anoints them; their hearts are broken, their spirits are humbled, their souls are blended; they rise, and feel more deeply and more strongly than ever, that they both belong to the same family, are both of the “many brethren,” of whom the Son of God is the “Firstborn,” the Elder Brother. Oh, blessed unity! What perfect harmony of creed, what strict conformity of ritual, what sameness of denominational relation, is for a moment to be compared with this? Have you, my reader, this evidence that you belong to the “many brethren”?

2 comments:

Douglas Shivers said...

Thanks Tom. A fine bit of writing and very encouraging. I'd used Winslow's devotional in the past and will take it up again for 2011 I think.

Gathering around the gospel appears to be a growing phenomenon and one for which we should thank God.

In Christ,

Doug Shivers

John said...

Tom, it has been many years since I saw you or spoke to you. several friends sent me to this blog today. It is superb my brother, superb. Thanks for sharing how we can and should love those who love our Lord Jesus Christ. The spirit of suspicion and unnecessary criticism has truly hurt the church in the North American context as we have embraced sectarianism in the name of fidelity.