Tolerating One Another

Dr. Rob Green August 12, 2018 Ephesians 4:1-3, Colossians 3:9-14
Outline

1. Although we did not choose each other, we are unified in Christ

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 1:4-5 - …just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Ephesians 3:8-10 - To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

2. On occasion, God’s people struggled to tolerate one another

A. Cain and Abel (jealousy over doing what is right)

B. Moses and Miriam (jealousy over God’s choosing)

C. Peter and the Gentiles (division over race)

Galatians 2:12-13 - For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

D. Paul and Barnabas (division over Mark)

 

Although God brought us into unity with him and one another, there are times when we struggle tolerating one another.

4 ways that we can tolerate one another as we seek to accomplish all that God wants us to do

I. Tolerating One Another by Valuing Our Unity More Than Our Differences

Ephesians 4:1-3 - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

A. Tolerance is part of living worthy of the gospel

B. We tolerate in love

C. The foundation of this command is prayer for knowledge and power

Ephesians 3:16-19 - …that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God   

II. Tolerating One Another Requires One Have the Humility to Remember That All of Us Were Given the Same Command

Ephesians 4:1-3 - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.

Romans 15:7 - Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

III. Tolerating One Another Because Others Contribute to Your Christian Growth

Colossians 3:9-14 - Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

IV. Tolerating One Another Does Not Mean We Celebrate or Validate Sin either Inside or Outside the Church

2 Timothy 4:3-4 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 - But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

- I’d like to tell you about something that happened to my wife Kris and me on Thursday, August 19th, Today represents the official end of the summer season. Some are thrilled and others are in deep mourning. Regardless …

  • School has either started or will begin this week.
  • Next Sunday is our Fall Kickoff. A very important time in our church as our fall ministries restart after the summer sabbatical.
    • Wednesday Night Kids of Faith will begin on August 29.
    • Men of Faith starts Saturday August 18.
  • We also knew that there would have to be a commitment in the DNA of our church as a whole, and every person in it, to have a character that properly reflects the Christian community that God designed us to be.
  • Having the right character of our Christian community is an important part of our overall theme of Being Careful How We Build.
  • The bad news is that this proximity will mean greater tests of our faith. Will we really be different? Will we exhibit something in our life that others will want?
    • Or will we be just like everyone else, except we carry a Bible?

In addition, Lord willing, a couple weeks from now the NCC will be open and Faith Church North will launch. This is a very exciting time in the life of our church!

We knew that the staff would have many tasks to accomplish in order to launch a third campus and the corresponding ministries with it.

Therefore, we have spent the entire summer thinking about the different passages in the Bible that use the phrase “one another” in order to understand how God designed the church community to function. We have called the series Building One Another.

The good news this fall is that we are going to be in closer proximity to unbelievers (it is true of our students going to public schools, it is true of our staff working in the NCC, it is true as vacations end and everyone is back to work).

In the hopes of being a special community this summer we have thought about

  • Loving one another
  • Praying for one another
    • Our community does not just say, “warm thoughts” or “hugs and kisses” … we go before the throne of grace on behalf of one another because we know that God can do great things.
  • Encouraging one another
    • Our community encourages one another in doing right and encourages one another to do right when we begin to drift.
  • Forgiving one another
    • Our community does not reject one another when we hurt one another. We repent and forgive each other.
  • Greeting one another
    • Our community is not like a series of workers who punch their time clock when they enter the church house and then punch their time clock when they leave the church. We actually care that one another is here.
  • Showing hospitality to one another
    • Our community cares about one another and wants to be sure that everyone is included in the community.
  • I was reminded of that very fact two weeks ago. I had the privilege of travelling to Brazil and participating on the teaching team of a biblical counseling conference. The teachers gathered together and I was there, Bob Kellemen was there (we are professors in the seminary), Sacha Mendes and Lucas Sabatier (former M.Div students of the seminary), Randy Richner (MABC graduate), Cindy Richner and Larissa (current MABC students of the seminary). It was practically a FBS reunion 5,000 miles away.
  • Our union and unity in Christ was so encouraging. Thank you for all of you who have supported the seminary in prayer, in time, and financially. Two weeks ago I was able to see some of the fruit of that labor.
  • One group (Ephesians 2:14)
  • One new man (Ephesians 2:15)
  • Fellow citizens (Ephesians 2:19)
  • A dwelling for God (Ephesians 2:22)
  • But we would say that a person who has received the free gift of salvation seeks to live consistent with that salvation.
  • What it means is that the gospel priority of unity is more important than our differences.
  • They start thinking more about their struggles than about gospel priorities. Sooner or later there is a growing intolerance for the other.
  • The focus becomes the differences rather than the unity shared in Christ.
  • One of my missionary friends told me a story that was almost too crazy to be true. He was invited over by a family who decided to feed him road kill just to see if he would eat it. After all, missionaries eat anything and this family wanted to find out whether that was really true. I think we can all admit that such an action was not very nice, kind, respective, or worthy of the gospel.
  • But now that my friend was is in that position … now what?
  • Prayer for the knowledge of God … that we would know him … for in knowing him we are more inclined to want to live worthy of the gospel.
  • Prayer for the knowledge of God’s power … that we would believe in our hearts that God is capable of bringing about his will.
  • Prayer for God’s power to work in his … now it is not just about believing, it is about asking for the power of God.
  • In the song All I Have is Christ we find these words, “Now, Lord, I would be yours alone and live so all might see, the strength to follow your commands could never come from me.”
  • It is that I am saying that ice cream is better than cake, staying up late is better than going to bed early, being a few seconds late is better than being 20 minutes early.
  • All this is why I am awesome and you … well … are not as awesome as me.
    • You are here and I am here!
  • We are better than you.
  • But he has to remember that from his wife’s perspectives, he says things and does things that are annoying to her!
    • If she develops the same pride and intolerance that he has, then this marriage is headed for trouble. Both people are entrenched in pride and intolerance.
  • As long as you do not invest showing tolerance is easy, right? You see someone once a week, if that.
  • But as you get involved. As you work with people over time. As you get to know people a layer deeper than you did before, here is where tolerance is tested.
    • The guy in point man who speaks too much … you are sitting there … dude, let someone else speak.
    • The lady who comes to the Bible study 30 minutes late like every week.
    • You are serving with a person who does not pull their weight. Yes, they are physically there, but their mind is somewhere else.
  • The Ephesians passage focuses on gospel calling and unity. Tolerating one another in love is required to accomplish those things.
  • Colossians 3:9-14 explains the process of progressive sanctification. The focus is on the putting off and putting on process.
  • I am not a learner at that point. My role, at least in my mind, is that I am the teacher.
  • You need to agree with me and change in order to suit me.
  • They had to put off lying.
  • They had to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (we have seen all these before)
  • They had to put on bearing with one another (or tolerating one another)
  • When we gather on Sunday morning and sing that Jesus is awesome we are encouraged for our week to come. Some of us will be in situations with other people who do not think Jesus is awesome.
  • But that is not the only possible learning opportunity.
  • Maybe we are exposed to different foods
  • Different experiences
  • Different cultural elements
  • The way our family eats chili was forever changed by having dinner with another pastor.
  • We learn approaches to ministry by being together.
  • We learn how to handle difficult circumstances by being together.
  • We learn ways that we need to grow and change by being together.
    • One of the things I try to do more often is smile. This came out of being with seminary students. In the very first cohort … the guys said … Every time we present a paper to the class you look like we are complete heretics. My face said to them, “How is it possible that you could present something so bad?”
    • At first, I am thinking “Oh, my word. I have a bunch of insecure seminary students who need to grow a backbone. I reason I am looking intently at you is because I am actually listening and thinking about the hermeneutical processes you employed to reach that conclusion.”
  • You need to listen and recognize that maybe your face is saying something that does not put the student in the best possible position to succeed. Frankly, you have presented many papers in your life and looking at a person who appears irritated is not very encouraging. Maybe these guys are communicating a point that would actually help you be more like Christ and more effective in your ministry.
  • If you choose the path of pride and intolerance then you will fail to take the steps of growth that could result in both blessing and ministry effectiveness.
  • We know it will require a commitment to unity so that we do not let our differences define our relationship, to humility that we are careful about making value judgements that I am better than you, and to Christian growth that may come from learning from our differences.
  • A person could leave and say that no opinion is better than another.
  • Thankfully the Lord gave us some further instruction regarding the limits of tolerance.
  • However, I had heard (small town) that one of the deacons left his wife and children and was living with another woman and the church approved of that decision and kept him in leadership.
  • The man that I spoke to admitted it was true and told me that is what it means to just love people.

The final one another in this series is a very interesting one. It is Tolerating One Another.

Can you imagine a group of believers who have to be told to tolerate one another? Shouldn’t that be natural? Well … I guess the Lord provided it because we need it from time to time.

With that in mind I would like you to turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4:1. That is on page 152 of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you. Then put your finger in Ephesians 4:1 and turn to Colossians 3:9. That is on page 158 of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and Colossians 3:9-14

Before we can understand the force of this command to tolerate one another I think it is wise for us to remember a couple of points about our Christian community.

#1. Although we did not choose each other, we are unified in Christ

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This passage reminds us that the Lord worked in our lives, gave us grace, and saved us. When the Lord saved us, he brought us together into a community whose bond is the common relationship with Christ.

Before I go further [give the gospel here]

That bond is wonderful and encouraging.

That part of the conference was super cool. God’s word also reminds us that this sweet fellowship I enjoyed is not because I came up with this system. God worked in my heart, Sacha’s heart, Randy’s heart, Cindy’s heart, and then he brought us together.

Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will

Because God chose us our commonality is not always clear. People who would not normally live in community with one another are placed into the same community.

Have you noticed that the Lord did not ask your permission to rescue someone else? He is in the business of helping people see their sin, and believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He did it because he wanted his wisdom and his glory to be on display.

Ephesians 3:8-10 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

God brought us together as a part of his wisdom and for his glory. Since God is the God of the nations there were going to be various squabbles so he also taught us about how he made us into one.

In the book of Ephesians, God gave us several metaphors of commonality and oneness.

Ephesians was written during the controversy of how the Jews and the Gentiles could be in the same church. The Jews were like, “Lord, if you saved them, that is your business, but don’t make me hang out with them.” The Gentiles were like, “Lord, we know they are your chosen people, but they are kind of stuck up. It is pretty annoying.”

The metaphors of one group, one new man, fellow citizens, a dwelling for God were reminders that they are together. Our togetherness is a picture of God’s wisdom and his glory. Having said that …

#2. On Occasion God’s people struggled to tolerate one another

Let us consider some of the great historic break ups and why they happened.

  1. Cain and Abel (jealousy over doing what is right)

Their break up was violent. Cain decided to kill Abel rather than tolerate him. Why? The Bible tells us that Cain was jealous. His jealousy was more important than any common ground that he shared with his brother.

Friends, sometimes our behavior is not far off of Cain’s. We may not kill one another, but jealousy leads to division.

  1. Moses and Miriam (jealousy over God’s choosing)

Miriam was Moses’ sister. God used to her play a significant role in saving Moses’ life. But after many decades God chooses Moses as the leader of the nation. There comes a time when Miriam is jealous over God’s choice. She convinces herself that she is just as significant and important as Moses and attacks him.

Amazingly enough God strikes her with leprosy until Moses prayed for her. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Moses had not been willing to tolerate his intolerant sister and he never prayed for her.

Here again the jealousy bug bit and created a godless division.

  1. Peter and the Gentiles (division over race)

Galatians 2:12-13 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

There was even a moment when the great apostle Peter became intolerant of other believers. He was willing to eat with the gentiles until the Jews arrived. Once the Jews arrived they decided to eat together and no longer participate with the Jews.

  1. Paul and Barnabas (division over Mark)

Then there was a division over what to do with Mark. Paul and Barnabas were missionaries. On their first journey Mark quit. Paul and Barnabas were about to leave on their second journey and the dispute occurred over Mark.

My point:

Although God brought us into unity with him and one another, there are times when we struggle tolerating one another.

I would like us to consider 4 ways that we can tolerate one another as we seek to accomplish all that God wants us to do.

I. Tolerating One Another by valuing our unity more than our differences

Ephesians 4:1-3 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 … showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When we find passages about tolerating, they come in the context of unity. The metaphors of Ephesians emphasizing fellow citizens, one new man, one building which is a dwelling for the Lord, and the command of v. 3 to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit all remind us of the unity that God’s people are to enjoy, practice, and preserve.

A. Tolerance is part of living worthy of the gospel

We see that showing tolerance toward one another is one aspect of living consistent with the gospel. We would never say that a person earns their salvation.

God tells us that those who live consistent with the gospel learn to tolerate one another. That does not always mean it will be easy. It does not mean that all suffering is eliminated.

Some couples who would say they know Christ are growing more intolerant of their believing spouse by the day. What happens is that they begin thinking more about their differences then their commonality.

Sometimes it happens between children and parents. They get very frustrated by the actions, choices, and attitudes of the other.

Sometimes it happens in the church. People leave ABFs, small groups, point man groups, refuse to attend an activity because so-and-so might be there.

When this happens the gospel, the saving grace of Jesus Christ, is not nearly as important as the things that bother us.

B. We tolerate in love

This little phrase, in love, is very important. Not only does it remind us that we tolerate the weaknesses and failures of others, but we do so with a genuine concern for their well-being. This pushes the ante even higher.

It is possible to be motivated in such a way that you just grit your teeth and bear it. You suck it up and deal with it. You do so because the gospel calls you to.

He decided to do a couple things. First, he ate it as an act of love. I was grossed out. Road kill – seriously? Later I will tell you the rest of the story.

We might rightly ask, How can we possibly tolerate one another in love – especially when God’s people come up with really strange ideas?

C. The foundation of this command is prayer for knowledge and power

We often hear about the gospel truths (indicatives) in Ephesians 1-3 and the gospel commands (imperatives) in Ephesians 4-6. But one interesting point in Ephesians 1-3 is that roughly 50% of all content in Ephesians 1-3 is prayer.

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God

Valuing our unity and tolerating one another in love does not come from our own strength, but from the love and strength provided by the Lord.

The more that we see that God gives us the love we need and the strength we need the more we will be willing to tolerate one another in love.

II. Tolerating One Another requires one have the humility to remember that all of us were given the same command

Ephesians 4:1-3 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love

When one does Bible study we do not just look for a specific word, we also consider whether there are synonyms or related words. We find

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

That is a wonderful statement. Accept (or tolerate) one another because that is exactly what Christ did with us.

I think the call to humility in Ephesians 4:2 and in Romans 15:7 provide another very important element to the command to tolerate one another.

When I refuse to tolerate I not only recognize a difference… I value the way I am different above you.

I am not just acknowledging that you like cake and I like ice cream or you like to go to bed early and I like to stay up late or you like to leave 20 minutes early and I like to leave 20 seconds late or you like to watch movies and I don’t like to watch TV … etc., etc., etc.

Do you see how the lack of tolerance and pride go hand in hand?

This plays out in families, in workplaces, and in churches. Our lack of tolerance for one another is a demonstration of our pride.

A good place to start combating this mentality is to remember that the person you valuing less is given the exact same command to tolerate you.

In a marriage … it is possible for a husband to think about some of the annoying (to him) things that his wife says or does. It is possible for him to think that his ways are better. It is possible for him to be very prideful about it.

Imagine how this could be different if the husband reminded himself that in the power of God he can exercise tolerance in love. In the process he reminded himself that just as his wife does some things he wishes were different he also does things that she wishes were different.

This same idea is also true in the church in our ministries, in our relationships, in our point man groups or ladies bible studies or mom to mom tables.

In each case, we benefit from praying for knowledge and power so that being rooted and grounded in love we are able to tolerate in love. We benefit from exercising humility by reminding ourselves that tolerance is a 2 way street. Just as I have to show tolerance of others so do they have to show tolerance of me.

III. Tolerating one another because others contribute to your Christian growth

Colossians 3:9-14 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

One of the things that I am doing this morning is a biblical theology of tolerance. We are looking at where the concept is found in the Bible and then organizing our thoughts using those passages.

While the subject of unity is in the Colossians passage, the overall focus of the Colossians text is different.

This provides another important element of the concept of tolerance. If I am stuck in my pride and intolerance, then growth is not possible.

When the Lord wrote to the church at Colosse he gave very specific ways that the people needed to grow.

Verses 11-12 provide the theological foundation for such a command.

If we are intolerant than we might miss out on opportunities for growth. We can be encouraged when we find people like us. It can reinforce what we believe to be true.

It is very possible that some of the most important learning opportunities come through the humility and unity commitments to tolerate one another.

We do that in our marriages. Our unity is greater than the inconveniences so we get exposed to things that we might never have done otherwise.

We are better for it.

The same can be true for relationships within our church family. 

After a while, I had to recognize … Rob, this is an expression of pride and intolerance. So I had to have a conversation with myself.

Friends, do not be afraid of tolerating one another in love, because the Lord may have several learning opportunities for you.

Up to this point, the biblical theological concept of tolerating one another in love has been the focus of our time.

But here is the risk. A person could leave here saying that we just tolerate one another for any and every reason no matter what.

IV. Tolerating one another does not mean we celebrate or validate sin either inside or outside the church

We are not always called to be tolerant because tolerance is not always right – especially in relationship to ideas and truth claims.

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

2 Cor 11:3-4 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

False teaching – that is teaching that clearly violates God’s Word – is not to be tolerated or accepted.

So the person who says well we can have sex because we love one another --- wrong. Or there are many ways to heaven – as long as you are sincere --- wrong.

Tolerating one another does not mean that we turn a blind eye to sin. Years ago I was speaking with a deacon of another church. It was a rather strange conversation. They were wanting the church I was pastoring at the time to partner together with something. Normally the answer would have been a resounding yes.

Friends, there is a case of tolerance where there should have been a calling to repentance.

I mentioned the story of my missionary friend who decided to eat the road kill. He did something else. His wife, who was also there, ate something else. My friend made it clear that testing to see whether a missionary would eat anything was not a loving gospel centered thing to do.

Tolerance in our Christian community does not mean we put agree with whatever a person chooses to do.

Friends … we believe that God is going to do great things in the future just as we have seen him do great things in the past. But we have to be good stewards of the Christian community that he has made us to be. We need to be a counter culture to the world.

If we are going to tolerate one another for the long ministry haul then we have to believe our unity is more important than our differences, our humility must keep us from puffing up ourselves in pride, and that Christian growth results from significant relationships.

 

Dr. Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.