A Church Set Apart – Part 1

What is it that sets us apart?

Have you ever thought about what sets the church apart? What is it that makes you and I, as God’s people, genuinely different? During times like this, it’s an important question to ask. What does it mean to be set apart?

Last week we looked at the idea that living by fear and not by faith would be to abdicate our set-apartness.” The Scripture tells us we have not been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). We’ve been given a new spirit, one of power, of love, of discipline. With this in mind, let’s look at what truly sets us apart.

Have you ever thought about what sets the church apart? What is it that makes you and I, as God's people, genuinely different? Click To Tweet

Does the Church have a Monopoly on Generosity & Compassion?

First things first, what doesn’t set us apart? One thing we need to realize is that Christians do not have a monopoly on kindness, compassion, or even charity. The Bible itself shows us that the non-believing world can and does many good things (Luke 6:32-36). Doing good things, and even doing them for people different than ourselves, is not what makes the church unique.

In 2019, one of the 100 largest charities pulled in $51.5 billion in donations—and that was up 5% from 2018. This charity’s contribution equaled 12% of 2019’s total of $427 billion in total charity contributions (access report through Giving USA). A fantastic fact about this statistic is that the Church provided the lion’s share of that amount. In total, for 2018 and 2019, the Church gave 96% of charitable donations. There’s no doubt that the Church is generous and compassionate.

But there is the question of the wisdom and righteousness of Church spending. To say that all religious giving is intrinsically good is to downright ignore sin which so easily entangles (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 7:11; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 21:1-4).

All in all, the Church is a giant of generosity and compassion but we aren’t the only ones who are generous and compassionate. Even if non-believers represented a fraction of a percent, it proves that giving doesn’t make us unique.

Does the Church have a Monopoly on Self-Sacrifice?

We hear the claim that self-sacrifice is the Christian way. This is intimately connected with Jesus’s own definition of love. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

Some will say that Christians lay down their lives for the sick and dying, the needy, and they do this at the risk of their own lives. History does support this as an overwhelmingly true reality and I suspect if we had statistics to prove it that the ratio of Christian-to-world self-sacrifice would mirror the giving stats above. Though we may be leading the way in self-sacrifice, the point still remains that someone else is in second place and self-sacrifice cannot be what sets us apart.

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The World’s Justice

Neither does justice set us apart, even though justice is deeply connected with God’s definition of love (see 1 Corinthians 13:6 “love does not rejoice in evil but celebrates with truth [justice]”).

The world may have a perverse and bitter form of justice (Amos 5:6-7), but the fact remains that Christians and non-Christians alike fight alongside each other to usher in justice. We fight together for those caught in sex trafficking, those caught in modern forms of slavery, those stuck under oppressive or tyrannical governments, and the list goes on.

And again, we have to admit that justice, social or otherwise, does not set the Church apart. Let’s do a brief thought experiment—feel free to engage in the comment section below. If all the Church did was provide charity, live self-sacrificially, and advocate for justice in this present life, how are we not in one sense offering people the world while for forfeiting their souls? We wouldn’t be offering them anything of eternal value. This is the thought that should drive us to uncover what truly sets us apart.

The Good News of Jesus Christ

So here’s the answer—and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us—the Gospel of Jesus Christ sets us apart. It is the good news and it is the hope that that good news presents. Some may say our hope is too simple, maybe even a little bit foolish but think about this: Paul himself acknowledged that the Gospel would appear foolish to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-23).

Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. What we have—what we are sharing—is vitally important for the world. And here’s a powerful thought: a message of reconciliation is how God has always operated.

The scripture tells us that Jesus is the “logos.” Jesus is the “word,” the “message,” and through him all things that exist came into being (John 1:3; Romans 11:36). God created the world through a message and he is saving the world through a message. God spoke life into existence and he is presently speaking new life into existence through his Gospel.

Let’s also not forget that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11). The fact that we are saved by grace through placing our trust [faith] in a saving Lord and in his Gospel is unique to us. We must also remember how faith comes. According to Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The Gospel! This Gospel is what sets us apart.

And, don’t forget, in 2 Timothy 1:8 we are reminded to not be ashamed of that message. Many in the Church today struggle with this. In 1 Peter 3:14-16, Peter encourages his readers to always be ready to give a defense (apologetic) to anyone who asks about the hope they have.

Next post, we’ll talk more about what that hope is.

God created the world through a message and is saving the world through a message. Click To Tweet

Let’s Talk

How are you doing during this time of global upheaval? Do you feel equipped to live out 1 Peter 3:14-16? Comment in the comment section below or drop me a line at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com.

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