The red line between rules and commandments

Faith has its commandments, and the Church has its rules. But some find it hard to distinguish between the two. The Chief Apostle draws a clear line. Following is an excerpt from a divine service for leading ministers.

“… till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” This Bible text from Ephesians 4: 13 was the passage Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider used on 17 February 2017 in Bissau (Guinea-Bissau) for a divine service for Apostles, Bishops, District Elders, and District Evangelists.

Using several of Jesus’ “I am” sayings he outlined the mission of the ministers: preaching Christ as the path to fellowship with God, His gospel as the comprehensive truth, and eternal life as a gift of grace. And, with respect to attitude, it must reflect the example set by Jesus: serving instead of ruling, saving instead of condemning, and uniting instead of dividing.

There is only one who has salvation

“We want to preach the truth of Jesus Christ, not our opinion, not our traditions, not our conceptions,” the Chief Apostle emphasised. “If every District Elder invents his own rules and tells the members, ‘And if you don’t do that you will not enter heaven,’ we will never reach unity in faith, because the District Elder in the neighbouring area has already invented another rule.”

“We have been ordained to preach the truth of Jesus Christ. It is He who defines the rules,” the Chief Apostle clarified. “Of course we also need other rules for the Church to function,” he said, referring to organizational issues. But these do not have repercussions on salvation, he continued. If someone does not follow these rules, he can still go to heaven.

The red line: “We cannot define rules that determine our neighbour’s salvation. Only what comes from Jesus is important for salvation.”

Convince rather than decree

This makes great demands on those who are responsible for the organisation. They cannot stipulate that their guidelines be followed: “You have to believe that, it comes from God,” because that is not correct. “It comes from you. It did not originate at the throne of God, but in your head,” the Chief Apostle said. “We must be able to explain such rules. There must be a good reason for them. We have to convince people.”

Besides, the law of Jesus Christ is always valid, but we have to repeatedly adjust the rules we make because we are human, and humans change.

And what happens if these rules are violated? “I forgive the sinner and continue to love him as my brother, and I even pray for his soul. On the other hand, he has to bear the punishment for what he has done.” For example, if a minister does something that is not compatible with his ministry he cannot remain in the ministry. But he can still attain salvation.”

Mature children of God

“Please, let us make this distinction,” the Chief Apostle appealed in closing. “If we do what Jesus taught us, we will enter into the kingdom of heaven. Our rules are not on the same level as His rules.”

“Let us not treat our brothers and sisters like children by telling them, ‘If you do this, you will receive blessing, and if you don’t do it, you will be punished.’ We want to have grown-up children of God, not small children.”

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