Autonomy and Unity: 2 Lies of the Devil
Luke 9:49-50 has become the 'source text' for innumerable errors in the church today in terms of how to do ministry, worship God, and who to do these things with. Pastors take this verse to mean that if Jesus is the focus it doesn't matter how we do things or who we do them with. In other words we can do ministry however we want, we can worship God however we want, and we can do these things with whomever we want as long as Jesus is the main focus. They claim that this passage promotes diversity in ministry and worship. Even more twisted they claim that it is a call to pursue unity with those who simply claim Jesus or do things in his name.
To interpret this passage in this way is to commit violence against the Scriptures. The text makes no mention of how to do ministry or how to worship God and it does not encourage us to unify with those who do things in Jesus' name. It simply states that those who do so might not be against us. That's it.
In juxtaposition to this, God has provided us with a sound blueprint for ministry and worship in his Word. Take for instance Matthew 28:19-20 which says that the church should be about gospel-centered church planting and discipleship. Or Acts 2:42 which gives us a biblical pattern for ministry and corporate worship. Or 1 Timothy and Titus which lay out the guidelines for church leadership. Lastly, we can look to John 4:24 which says that God is to be worshiped with hearts set ablaze with affection by minds that have been filled and transformed by correct biblical doctrine.
My points are simple: First, God has not given us autonomy when it comes to ministry and worship. Ministry must be based on what God has revealed in Scripture and it's the same with worship. We don't get to do whatever we want. God has set the guidelines and ministry and worship are done correctly when his guidelines are followed. When ministry and worship are done apart from his guidelines we are not doing true ministry and worship. They may seem true and even good but to God they are nothing more than religious activity. Second, God has not commanded that we unify with any and all who claim Jesus. What we actually discover in Scripture is that he exhorts us to test every spirit (1 John 4:1), be discerning (1 Kings 3:9), and adhere to sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3), so that we can know who to unify with.
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