A new look at Amos 3:3 and walking together
(Have we misused and misunderstood this verse before?)
“Two (or more) can’t ‘walk together’ unless they first be agreed” is quoted over and over for the reason we remain separated from other family members -- brothers and sisters in Christ. We separate in many cases to the point where we won’t visit each other’s congregations, or invite brothers and sisters in Christ to dinner. We've misread Amos 3:3 and have misused it to our shame, partly resulting in the splits upon splits we see happening in the church organizations. I know most of you understand that “the body of Christ” is not the same thing as the organizations calling themselves “church of God” or some variant thereof. Most of you understand the body of the Messiah is the group of people who are being led by His spirit regardless of where they meet.But back to Amos 3:3. Pastors have applied it to explain that brethren can’t – and mustn’t -- come together unless they first agree on every doctrinal point (or variations thereof).
That is plain wrong.
We must come to see how the misuse of this verse has contributed to the wreckage we see at least in the organized body of Christ! Once we understand Amos 3:3, perhaps more and more of us will cross organizational lines at will and visit our brothers and sisters, as I've been calling for now for several years.
I know the brethren are hungering to meet with their kindred in Christ. I helped organize a most joyous first-ever reunion of over 110 beautiful people from several classes from our private college in Bricket Wood, England in early May. We met in San Diego, as a central point for classmates coming from around the world. Many came from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada and from all over the USA. For four glorious days, we all put aside our doctrinal differences and came together as the old brothers and sisters and friends that we were and are! The non-stop joy, the wonderful hugs, the re-bonding, the reaffirming, the expressions of love and acceptance that happened is beyond description. It was the proverbial “you had to be there” to have grasped the scale and enormity of what happened there in San Diego.
A handful were no longer even religious or were active in any spiritual sense – but they came as well, and were accepted. The high point for me personally was the hymn sing on Saturday morning. I was expecting maybe 20-25 to show up. Some had gone to local church services. Some didn’t come, but we had around 90 show up for the most incredible hymn sing I've been a part of. God’s kids from different organizations or even independent congregations, singing their hearts out –for the first together in many decades! In the opening prayer, I appealed to Father to accept the hoarse voices of His children – who used to dorm, work, play and praise Him together – and who wished to do so again as His kids once more.
The buzz from the reunion was strong. The spirit was wonderful. The buzz continues even yet, a month later, as I write this. Some had wondered if others would accept them with where they are now spiritually, or accept them as a divorcee, or for what and where they are today. They did. They were accepted, loved and enjoyed. Even those formerly “disfellowshipped” ones from various organizations, including me, were loved and accepted by all. How wonderful it was. A commonly mentioned theme afterwards was how the reunion was a “Healing” reunion.
But was the group agreed on every doctrinal point? Absolutely not. But we still walked together for 4 glorious, wondrous days. At the end of that time, a classmate named Alex brought up the matter of Amos 3:3 with me and how we've misunderstood it. I think he is SO right about it. Once we understand the simplicity of Amos 3:3, surely we can obey God rather than man, when a man tries to keep the Eternal’s children apart. There are other reasons why separation is better for some pastors, but that’s for another matter. A true pastor of God will be bringing God’s family together, and encouraging union and bonding – not separation.
Messiah said, “He who does not gather with me, scatters” (Luke 11:23; Matthew 12:30).
Pastors and brethren – what are each of us doing to gather the Body of Christ together? If we’re doing nothing, we’re scattering the body. That’s from the Master’s own mouth.
Take a fresh look with me at Amos 3:3. I think we've complicated what is a simple verse. Read the whole context. The Eternal God Yahweh is speaking and making statements which should be obvious on their face. Let’s look at several translations of Amos 3:3:
· “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (NKJV)
· Can two walk together without agreeing to meet? (Apologetics Study Bible)
· Do two people travel together without having so agreed? (CJB)
· Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? (NASU)
· Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? (NIV)
It’s NOT saying, “We can’t come together until we first agree on every doctrinal point”. It’s not. It’s just saying, “let’s agree to come together” – and then do! And the history of the early church – clearly evident in the books of Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, etc – makes it clear there were numerous doctrinal issues. Scripture speaks of a being a body together “UNTIL we come to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Yes, truth is vital. Father wants to be worshiped in spirit and truth (John 4:23) indeed. But UNTIL we agree on every point, do we create yet another splinter group?
Splinters hurt the body.
I will give a full-fledged sermon this summer, God willing, on handling doctrinal differences. I've learned a lot myself over the years about this and admit I've also mishandled it in the past.
When we’re family, we should be able to come together in God’s House and get along. All of us who have the Spirit of God are really in one house now – the Father’s house -- and we’re just His kids living in it. It doesn't have to mean we see eye-to-eye on every little thing right now. But we do see eye-to-eye on the fact that we who have God’s Spirit are all baptized by that one spirit into His one body. We are in the same house. But what organizations of man have done is to tell each of the various brothers and sisters to “go to your room” and not come out and play and sing together to our Most High God, our Father.
What have we done? It’s become too easy to find a “room” apart from the others. Then we pick and choose scriptures to explain why this is OK. Or why there “must be” divisions – and then ignore the clearly stated will of our Master that “there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10-13). How about His prayer that His brothers and sisters be ONE – as one as Yeshua (Jesus) is with Father (John 17:11, 21)? You and I do not belong to this or that organization! We belong to Christ (Mark 9:41)! I am HIS and He is mine. Are you not tiring of hearing people saying they “belong to” or are “a part of” so-and-so’s church (a man’s name given there)? Was HE crucified for you?
Let’s wake up brethren. Until we learn this, splits will continue.
Brothers and sisters – it’s time. It’s time to stop the splitting. It’s time to come together. It’s time. It’s time we wake up and refuse to split into further splinter groups. I don’t know about you, but splinters don’t feel good in a body!
As an anonymous writer years ago wrote, “Is Christ really returning to marry a Bride composed of people who, for the most part, want nothing to do with each other?” I’ve decided I’m not going to buy in to the old worn out explanations that somehow it is AT the wedding supper when we come together. Or at a “Place of Safety” – that somehow that’s when we learn to get along. Or worst of all, that somehow it’s impossible for us to do it now! How crazy is that!?
I submit we WON’T BE at either place UNTIL and UNLESS we have first learned to get along and be the LOVING body that MARKS US as the disciples of Christ (John 13:34).
Listen to my sermons given Nov 2009-February or March 2010 on various aspects of being one body. Listen to the new ones I’ll be giving soon about handling doctrinal differences. And quit making this an issue for the ministers to resolve. I think SOME of the ministers have been a big part of the REASON for the splits! We are all members of one another. To EACH of us our Master says, “If you’re not gathering with me, you’re scattering” (M***). What are YOU doing to be part of the greater whole – rather than part of an isolated group? What are YOU doing to be a gatherer of God’s children?
And see Amos 3:3 for what it says. We simply have to agree to come together. If we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we WILL come to a unity of the faith. If we truly love one another, we will be able to forgive old hurts and demonstrate the love that proves we are His disciples.
Some still believe “one body” has to mean “one organization”. I think not, but will submit to whatever God shows me. It seems obvious there was considerable autonomy in the congregations of the early church. I’ll speak on that more in future sermons. But we must stop avoiding fellow children of God and start bonding with each other. The time is coming when there will be severe persecution. God spare us, if the prophecies of “brother betraying brother” mean spiritual brethren betraying one another. Please, brethren – let’s come together in love and harmony. Feel free to send this blog to others. I do not want us to form yet another body or group. There can be only one body (Eph. 4:4). There is only one church (though many man-made organizations!). Let’s just quit staying apart! Let’s come together and visit one another and cross the organizational lines, as more and more of you are doing, in fact. Praise God for people like you if you are doing that.
Jesus prophesied there is a time coming when even sheep “not of this fold” will come together and be one flock (John 10:16). That’s HIS mindset! That’s where our Master is going. Even the high priest was inspired to foretell the time when God “would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:49-52).
We've been “scattered abroad” for a long time now. The time for gathering together into one has come.
I experienced a tiny, tiny glimpse of what that can feel like for 4 wonderful days in early May 2011, and would love to experience it again – over and over – until the greatest reunion of all time, the great Wedding Supper – comes about. Of course that will be with those who are truly filled with the spirit of God and have become one by that spirit. I want to be there, and want you to be there. But only those with God’s spirit and who are bonding now, and loving each other now, have a good shot at being there. See you there!