What Do We Know About Bible Unity?
When the word "church" is used, many people think of the building in which the church meets. The Bible never speaks of the church as a physical building. The church in the Bible is always people. According to Acts 11:22 the church has ears. "Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch." The church is always saved people.
Many view the "church" as a group made up of all denominations. A denomination is a religious group separated from others by a particular name or doctrine. Denominationalism is opposed to the will of God. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10)
In Ephesians 4:4-6 the Bible teaches that there is one church. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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." This one church is the body of Christ. "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) In the Bible there is one body or one church. Today, however, there are hundreds of "churches" in the world.
What do we know about Bible unity?
We know what divided original Christianity. Paul wrote to the Galatians to show that division was caused by men perverting the gospel of Christ. "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians1:6-9) The Devil is always busy trying to pervert God's message. He perverted God's statement to Adam and Eve. God told man that sin would lead to death. The Devil perverted the message. "Then the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die." (Genesis 3:4)
The Bible spoke plainly to show that men would depart from or fall away from the faith. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." (1 Timothy 4:1) This departure from the faith would come because men would not endure sound doctrine. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4) One thing that caused original Christianity to be divided was a departure from the "one faith" to other beliefs. (Ephesians 4:5)
We know that denominationalism does not please God. A denomination is a named division. Paul commanded that there be no divisions among you. "...That there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10) Christians in Corinth were denominating themselves by wearing the names of preachers who baptized them, thus dividing the church into "named divisions" or denominations. "Now I say this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:12)
Jesus prayed for unity. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21) But, denominating divides Christ's spiritual body, the church. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:13) Paul thanked God that he had baptized only two or more of the Corinthians because the names of preachers were causing divisions. "Lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name." (1 Corinthians 1:15) Division is contrary to the will of God for His church.
We know that we must work and pray for unity. The faith was given once for all to Christians. It must be "contended for" in every generation. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3) Our hope for unity rests in the original truth being preached; as it was before men turned away from it. (John 8:31-32) This truth which must be proclaimed with boldness is the word of God. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." (John 17:17)
We must restore the original unity of the church as it was before denominations divided it. This restoration can be accomplished only when the truth is proclaimed and truth must always be proclaimed in the correct spirit. "But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ." (Ephesians 4:15) Traditions of men often blind people to the truth of God. "He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?"' (Matthew 15:3) Restoration of true Christianity can be accomplished only with God's word and with His help!
We know that the early Christians were in one church and Christians today should be in one church. Acts chapter eight gives the account of the conversion of a man from Ethiopia. "Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized? Then Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:36-39) After his baptism which church was this Ethiopian man a member of? He was a member of the church of Christ. You can be a member of the church of Christ and never be part of any denomination. The saved are added to the church. "Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)
The church is composed of those who have been freed from their sins. God's plan of salvation leads both to salvation and introduction into Christ's church or kingdom. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." (1 Corinthians 12:13) Those who are saved are delivered by God into the kingdom or church. "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." (Colossians 1:13) The church into which the Lord delivers people is His church. He has built only one church; but men have established many. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
All who comply from the heart with the conditions set forth in the Bible become Christians, members of the Lord's church. To become a Christian, you must believe (Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Acts 2:38), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized into Christ. (Galatians 3:27, 1 Peter 3:21) Those who obey the gospel are saved and added to the church. (Acts 2:47) That men should serve God in the one church was the eternal purpose of God. "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:8-11) Are you a part of the blood bought church of Christ?
By Charles Box, Walnut
Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama. 36037