The Gospel and Unity 27-29 Feb 2020
The Gospel as taught in Ephesians shows that as a result of our Lord Jesus' resurrection and ascension, the church has the capacity to be equipped in such a way that we might 'all attain to the unity of the faith' (Eph 4:13). In particular Jesus accomplishes this through the church being built up according to His teaching, 'the faith'.
The Gospel is therefore a real challenge to all Christians today, and here in Malaysia we too have to ask whether real unity exists. If the easy unity we see so popular with churches and para-churches was measured by the Gospel, by its high standards, would it be the Gospel's unity? We are told to 'reject a factious man' in Titus 3:10, but without the unity that comes from 'the faithful word' and 'sound doctrine' (1:9) we may ourselves be guilty of being divisive.
Any present unity we may have is therefore liable to shatter easily, or hold together well under false premises.
This is exactly the concern the Gospel Growth Fellowship seeks to address in Fellow Workers' Conference 2020. Thirteen years after the first conference, the struggle to keep our churches centered on the Gospel is still the critical concern.
In dealing with this topic, John Piper speaks of those who emphasise truth and keeping doctrine pure to the neglect of unity, versus those who emphasise unity to the neglect of truth. FWC2020 attempts to frame the matter as it should be in its title theme: 'The Gospel and Unity'.
We cannot in fact have one without the other. Importantly, the Gospel is what comes first, with unity coming from it. Any unity that Christians have is therefore nurtured by this same Gospel, and can only thrive under this Gospel. Any unity we strive for is defined by the Gospel and so it is the Gospel that draws clear lines of division and determines where we must make our stand.
In a pluralistic world it is sad that Christians share the world's belief that no truth deserves agreement from everyone and that all truth is equal. Christians fail to realise that this is not even a position with integrity – those who argue for this are not themselves prepared to accept the Gospel as truth, even if they pay lip service to giving it the respect it deserves.
As Christians then let us strive for the unity that comes from the Gospel that will make us the church Jesus has built to face the storms of 'every wind of doctrine' (Eph 4:14).
It is too easy for us to not care about unity. Caught up in the busyness of our local churches, unity has not been for us a conscious Gospel-centered concern. No doubt some of this is also because Christianity has become for many, a private matter. But this is not a realistic attitude given that we are warned regularly in the New Testament to watch out for those who would bring disunity e.g. Jude 18-21. There are no neutral combatants since even those of us who believe we stand on the sidelines safely are unhelpful accomplices if we remain neutral in the persecution of those who are struggling for the truth. We are all in fact called to watch out for those who would 'cause divisions', contrary to 'the doctrine that we have been taught' (Rom.16.17).
Let us heed that call by clarifying our understanding of the Gospel and Unity at FWC2020
“The gospel of unity is another popular offering just at the moment. We are told the gospel is unity and unity is the gospel. In a slightly more nuanced form we are simply told the gospel is intrinsically about the unity issue. The gospel brings people together and so anything that separates people is against the gospel. Now clearly unity between Christian brothers is a wonderful gift of God (Jn 17.20–23). It is a very good thing (Ps 133.1). It is something given but also something we are called upon to maintain and protect (Eph 4.3). The divisive person is described by Paul as ‘warped and sinful' and ‘self-condemned' (Titus 3.10–11). Yet the gospel of unity goes a step beyond valuing unity highly. It involves defining the gospel in terms of unity.
The ecumenism of the early- to mid-twentieth century made much of this and so have postmodern approaches at the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. No matter how serious you may think a theological issue is, no matter how far you may be convinced a particular person or group has wandered from the biblical gospel with dire consequences for them and others, unity is more important. To utter a criticism of another's behaviour or another's teaching, no matter how justified that criticism might be in light of Scripture, is disallowed because it is an assault upon unity and ultimately an assault upon the gospel.
More nuanced contemporary forms would not go that far. They would still leave a place, at least formally, for repudiating false doctrine. However, by making the gospel intrinsically about unity they are in reality more reluctant to engage in that repudiation themselves and suspicious of those who do. In some circles the only heresy that remains is intolerance. Truth and unity are still valued highly, at least in theory; but unity trumps truth almost every time.
Yet immediately at least three issues arise…”
Snippet from Mark Thompson's article.
|Concession (early bird)|| RM340 |
| Concessionary pricing is available for students and those in full time ministry who may not be able to afford to pay the full price ||26 Jan 2020|
|Normal (early bird)|| RM360 |
| Normal (early bird) ||26 Jan 2020|
|Concession|| RM360 |
| Concessionary pricing is available for students and those in full time ministry who may not be able to afford to pay the full price |
|Normal|| RM380 |
How to pay
For instructions on how to pay, please visit How to pay.
Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson
Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson, BA (Macquarie), BTh, MTh (ACT), DPhil (Oxon). is Principal and Head of Department of Theology, Philosophy and Ethics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia.
His great passion is to see men and women equipped in understanding, character, conviction and skill for the remarkable privilege of participating in God’s great mission of bringing men and women from every nation into the kingdom of his Son. He is convinced that study at Moore College is one the very best ways to be so equipped. Apart from College he enjoys family life, friendship, reading, movies, gentle exercise and meeting with God’s people at St Andrew’s Cathedral on Sundays. He is involved in a number of ways with the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, chiefly as the Chair of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission. He has also been involved with the GAFCON movement from its beginning, serving on its Theological Commission and Statement Group. Before teaching at College he served on the staff of two churches in Sydney (St Swithun’s Pymble and St Luke’s Dapto). He has served as Principal of the College since 2013.
Mark is married to Kathryn, and they have four daughters: Elizabeth, Anna, Rachel and Mary.
His research interests include the doctrines of Scripture, Christ, justification by faith, as well as Martin Luther and reformation history and theology.
Bayu Beach Resort, Port Dickson
4½ Miles, Jalan Pantai, Mukim Si Rusa, Port Dickson, 71050 Negeri Sembilan
GPS coordinates: 2.490584, 101.842781
Transport provided upon request.
If you have any questions, please contact David Kuok at email@example.com or 017 243 9897.