WILL BRING MORE UNITY
TO THE CHURCH
"Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
For many centuries the church has been desiring unity. The parameters and definitions of this unity have greatly differed.
The unity of the church has been elusive...
Some have tried to have unity by having denominations and congregations dissolve their differences by compromise so that all might agree.
Others have sought unity by conquering other opposing factions.
Some have tried to contend verbally to convince all others that they have the only right way.
The ecumenical movement of this day, has noticeably failed to achieve anything but divisiveness.
The holiness movements have only defined the differences, and increased the judgmentalism between factions.
The charismatic movements have too often sought to set themselves on a pedestal of superiority which has not aided unity.
The independent works have sought to divide from all the divisiveness of the others, but in so doing they have committed the same mistakes.
All these have sought to please God through disunity.
God is seeking a unity, that steps over the barriers that we have installed.
Much sword sharpening is vital to achieving the kind of unity we could have.
UNITY IS DESIRABLE, HOW DO WE FIND IT?
Unity is desirable, and the Lord asked us to endeavor to achieve some kind of unity. How do we find and maintain a unity of the Spirit? Jesus prayed in His High Priestly prayer for the disciples to find the same kind of unity as the Trinity has. This is a unity beyond the unity that man has even dared to think possible.
"...that they may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee..."
There is so much friction among Christians, and this disunity has hindered congregations for centuries. Even amidst the members of a congregation, of the same denomination, of the same dogmas, and sometimes even of the same family, the church has had debates and disagreements. If these cannot agree, how can different denominations, different dogmas, different forms of worship, and different backgrounds ever hope to achieve any degree of measurable unity?
True unity can be achieved, or the Lord (John 17:21) would not have asked the Father in heaven for it. Paul (Eph. 4:3) would not have told us to endeavor to maintain something that was impossible to achieve. This unity cannot be found until we first comprehend what it is, and then follow God's blueprint for finding it.
The whole of the Trinity is involved in the unity that God desires of the church. In the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul tells us that the oneness of the "body" of Christ is achieved through the ONE SPIRIT. Then he tells us that the one "hope" of the church is a unifying factor found only in our ONE LORD, Jesus Christ. Finally, then we will be brought to a oneness in "faith" through the "baptism" into the ONE GOD AND FATHER. As we comprehend these few concepts, we can come into a unity that the world will not understand.
First, we must realize that the church is ONE BODY of believers.
The human began as one cell. It grew, multiplied, and matures until all cells share the original life. The Originator of that life is the Spirit. Despite our different backgrounds, different genders, different nationalities, etc. we, as Christians, all share life by ONE SPIRIT. It is shocking how many Christians today have not comprehended this truth. When we finally realize that we all have spiritual life, because we are all given it by the same Spirit, we realize that we have already, via the Spirit, the necessary beginnings of the unity that God desires.
The strength of the church congregations is not in the number of members, nor in the organizational unity, nor in the number of programs and committees, nor in the wisdom and wealth of its members, nor in the size and magnificence of its buildings. No, but rather the strength and power of the church is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the church, and He is the power of the church. Until we come into unity with Him, we cannot have life, power, or unity.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."
When we come into the harmony with the Spirit of God, we will then find that we are working harmoniously with the Spirit as ONE BODY. If we get out of harmony with the Spirit, from Whom all spiritual life comes, we cannot ever function as ONE BODY. The unity that God desires for us to have as the church, does not depend on us all attending the same building of worship, nor does it require the same denominational name over the doorposts of the buildings of worship that we attend. Yet, the unity that God desires of us is to function as ONE BODY, and do a work for the Lord in this world. This functioning as ONE BODY requires that we find harmony and direction from the ONE SPIRIT of God. As we get into harmony with ONE SPIRIT, we will then have a beginning of unity.
Sword sharpening cannot start until we realize we are ONE BODY.
Secondly, we must comprehend the ONE HOPE.
This is vital if we are to come into a unity as God desires. Our ONE HOPE is the hope of the rapture of the church. It is to the Lord Jesus Christ that we look for this ONE HOPE.
"Christ in you, the hope of glory..."
I John 3:2-3
"...we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him, purifies himself as He is pure..."
When we see Jesus at the rapture, we shall be like Him, and the hope of this is our ONE HOPE. This ONE HOPE causes us to all seek a purity. Too many Christians ignore prophecy. One third of the Bible is prophecy. The Lord greatly emphasized prophecy in His training of His disciples. They were instructed to encourage others with these same prophecies. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ONE HOPE that all Christians, no matter what denomination, and no matter what background, should endeavor to have. When we find this ONE HOPE, we will find it to be a unifying factor for the church.
God has greatly exalted His Son, Jesus. He has had all the prophets to prophesy concerning this Jesus. All of the Bible's message concerns the first atoning coming of Jesus, and the final victorious second coming of Jesus. This ONE HOPE in the return of Jesus for His saints is a vital factor to any unity the church can have. Until we can come into harmony with that vital truth, we cannot find unity.
"Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
ONE FAITH AND ONE BAPTISM
All action comes from belief. We should seek to have ONE FAITH, for there is only one truth and one right teaching.
We are instructed to "contend" and seek to preserve the ONE FAITH that was given to us by God.
"Contend for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints."
Only ONE FAITH brings us to God. There are not many roads to God, but only ONE. There are not many truths, but ONE body of Scripture that we must grasp and comprehend.
There is ONE BAPTISM that we should seek. This does not refer to "water baptism" for "water baptism" is only a symbolic representation of the true ONE BAPTISM. It is not the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" for that is only part of the process of the ONE BAPTISM.
I Corinthians 12:13
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink of one Spirit."
At the moment of salvation, we are baptized or immersed into Christ Jesus, and become part of His body.
At the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are immersed into the power of the Spirit for ministry.
Our Christian experience brings us into the immersion into a relationship with God the Father.
This is the total process that the Bible calls the ONE BAPTISM.
It is the coming into the relationship that the sin of Adam and Eve broke in the garden. We can come into an immersion of relationship with God, Christ, and the Spirit by becoming part of the ONE BODY, and possessing the ONE HOPE in the return of Jesus, and then through seeking and contending for the ONE FAITH AND BAPTISM we come into relationship and fellowship with God the Father.
Adam had relationship with God and walked and talked with Him in the garden. Sin broke that relationship. God's whole plan with the church is to restore that relationship. Unity in the church comes when we find that unity with the Trinity. When we are in tune with the Trinity, we are in tune with each other. It is like the story of the 100 pianos that needed tuned. If one would be tuned to the previous one, the last one would undoubtedly be out of tune with the first, when the tuning of one to the previous one was completed. Yet, if all the 99 were tuned to the same One... they would all be in tune with each other. In the same way, if all believers would get in tune with the Trinity, we would all be in tune with each other.
The ONE BODY, ONE HOPE, ONE FAITH, and ONE BAPTISM are to bring us to ONE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE THREE MEMBERS OF THE TRINITY. THE GOAL OF ALL SWORD SHARPENING IS TO BRING ALL US INTO THIS RELATIONSHIP TOGETHER.
I Peter 3:18
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."
"...ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry 'Abba Father.'"
The unity that God wants in the church is a unity of relationship with the Trinity. When the "cells" of the body are in unity with the Trinity, they are in unity with each other. This unity is the ultimate goal of the Lord within the church. Yet, this unity must be maintained.
"Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit..."
How do we maintain the unity of believers together? There is hatred, bad attitudes, judgmentalism, quarreling, bickering, struggling, resentment... that creep into congregations, and between Christians. These create disunity, and make the church's ministry to be ineffective. Christians need to love, pray for..., forgive, be kind to...
Relationship with the Trinity will bring love for the brethren, regardless of denomination, background, particular dogmas, nationality, etc. When we are in harmony with God, we are in harmony with the brethren. Sharpening is not to accomplish unity of two, it is to bring both into more unity with God, then the two in the sharpening process are in unity.
Unity is not found in attending the "right" division. We cannot classify Christians by the organizations which they attend. There is not any denomination which can claim all its adherents will make it to heaven. Even the independent congregations need to beware of feeling superior for not being in a denomination. They may be only a small version of something imperfect. They are no more than a "one congregation denomination." No one denomination is the "only one." God leaps over every division that people try to create. Even the weak are to be welcomed into the true unity.
In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, the Lord is seen knocking at the door of the church at Laodicea. As imperfect and lukewarm as this church is, the Lord still seeks to come within. The Lord will be in every congregation where two or three gather in His name. He does not read the name on the door, and decide thereby whether to enter. He reads the hearts of the congregation. He does not do as many, or most, Christians -- who decide whether to fellowship with a Christian based on the name on the building in which they worship. This is not God's plan.
"...him that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations..."
"By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, that ye love one another..."
These Scriptures are two of the most ignored and disobeyed Scriptures in the Bible. Many Christians want to apply them to situations other than what God wanted to apply them. The whole of the church age has been too distracted by the battle of disunity.
Just as a physical body can get out of order, so can the "body" of believers. A body can be paralyzed, diseased, or crippled. The rest of the body suffers when a part of the body is out of order. The church is the "body of Christ" that needs a healing. At least part, if not all, of the church needs a healing so it may function in a unified way.
The human body is a self-functioning unit. The body is automatic in action. A mechanical computer depends on outside sources of current and information. Yet, the "body of Christ" has the Lord which is the Head, and He is the source of direction. The Spirit is the source of the communication of this direction. The "body" can therefore function properly if all the body parts receive the messages from the "Head" and obey properly. As the human body receives messages from the head, and the muscles move into action, so the Lord has become the "Head" of the "body of Christ" and when this body functions properly... the body can spring into action.
If the "Head" commands the leg to raise, and the leg doesn't respond, we call that "paralyzed." When the tongue is commanded to speak, and it speaks something else, we call that "gibberish." Whenever parts do not function properly, the whole body is affected. If your legs will not carry you to the kitchen... your whole body is going to get very hungry. If your eyes would refuse to open, you are going to have a hard time finding the kitchen, even if the legs decide to cooperate.
One part cannot do the work of the other parts. The hand has a hard time doing the work of the foot. The eye cannot do what the mouth is supposed to do. When the mouth refuses to eat, intravenous feedings are necessary to keep the body alive. Cooperation of all the parts of the human body is necessary. And in the same way, unified response of the parts of the "body of Christ" is vitally necessary if the "body" is to accomplish its great commission.
The "body of Christ" belongs to God. He has chosen our part within the "body." He has given us talents, abilities, and gifts. The smallest part is necessary. If a toe quits functioning, and dies, it must be amputated. The whole body will suffer with the pain and the loss of the toe. Therefore the whole "body" needs to be more concerned with the welfare of the other parts.
"Bear ye one anther's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ..."
All the parts of the "body of Christ" have burdens. Each of us can help others with their burden. Share their burdens, and you'll share their joy. You will also be fulfilling the commandment of "love" that the Lord Jesus gave to the "body."
I Corinthians 12:26
"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
God made it this way. The suffering part cannot help itself usually. So God makes the other parts suffer too, so they can more willingly aid the ailing and suffering part. The whole church is harmed more and more, if the ailing part is ignored. Yet, too often, the church of our day is trying to ignore suffering parts. This disunity needs attention, and correction.
Unity in the church is found only in relationship with the Trinity. All sharpening should have that unity with the Trinity as its goal.
The Spirit brings us into the ONE BODY.
Then Christ gives us the ONE HOPE of the rapture of the church.
Finally God the Father unites us into ONE FAITH AND BAPTISM.
This unity with the plan of the Trinity, brings us into a relationship with God that will make us willing to love the other parts of the "body of Christ."
Don't measure the unity, by the unity of believers... No!
Measure the unity of the "body of Christ" by its unity with the three members of the Trinity. When we are in functioning unity with the "Head", we will care for all parts of the "body." There will always be some members of the "body" who will bicker, fight, debate, and divide. Get into relationship with Jesus, the Spirit, and God the Father, and all barriers disappear. You will be able to love and seek to help even those dis-unified parts of the "body." They may not have the unity and love as God desired, but you will be able to love them.
So don't seek unity by looking for an ecumenical movement, or the right doctrines that we can all agree on, or which doctrines we can ignore so we can get along... No!
Sharpen swords by getting into revival of relationship with the Trinity. When you get closer in relationship with the Godhead, you will be in unity with the body. If we would all get into that kind of relationship, we would have the unity of the "body of Christ" that the Lord desires. The other kinds of unity are only pipe dreams, and will never yield their desired ends.
The "good Samaritan" helped the wounded Jew, though he would likely not have helped the Samaritan in return. Even though the Jews hated the Samaritans, the good Samaritan had a personal unity with the Lord that allowed him to be in harmony with the wounded, beaten man along the roadside. The good Samaritan was sword sharpening.
We need to seek a unity with the Trinity that will allow and compel us to be in harmony with those who hate and despise us. This is the unity that is possible for the church. The unity of brotherhood is one that does not even consider necessary a unity of dogma, denomination, or nationality.