I wonder what the Apostle Paul would say if he were still writing letters to the churches today. How would he address all of our differences? He never minced words if he saw error being taught. That’s for sure. Consider his words to the Galatian church.
“The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Galatians 5:2-12
Nothing wishy washy there! Maybe our lack of unity is more about believers embracing error than anything else. After all, there is only one Truth, one Gospel, one Spirit.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6 NIV
I’m 68 years old and I’ve seen a lot. For one thing, I’ve lived in seven different cities and been a part of at least 7 denominations including “non-denominational”.
In the 80’s, a church I attended split over teaching coming from the Word of Faith movement. It introduced new ideas not in line with that church’s beliefs. Someone started a new church and many people left.
Another church I attended split in the 90’s in conflict over teaching with roots in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
Both of these splinter groups caused an uproar, but made little impact after they left. (For info on NAR see: https://bcooper.wordpress.com/?s=nar)
Looking back, the real crisis was that a strong church lost a large part of its membership due to the influx of new teaching not condoned by the denomination, and for good reason. Many people took sides to go or stay based on little Scripture searching and a lot of emotion.
Paul told the Corinthians,
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4 NIV
Is unity even possible? What would it look like? For one thing, serious error would not exist. And serious error does exist in the Church. If you have been part of a strong, Bible-believing church since childhood because of your parents’ leadership, you are very fortunate.
But many people accept Jesus as adults and they are frequently so excited that they get caught up with churches that do not preach the pure Gospel. They only look at the excitement and enthusiasm in the praise and worship and do not examine the teaching to see if it is true. They often read books about God instead of the Book, the Bible. In their defense, they are new Christians.
Do we have unity with other believers even when their theology is tainted by error? Consider this message from Charles Spurgeon:
Where the Spirit of God is there must be love, and if I have once known and recognized any man to be my brother in Christ Jesus, the love of Christ constraineth me no more to think of him as a stranger or foreigner, but a fellow citizen with the saints. Now I hate High Churchism as my soul hates Satan; but I love George Herbert, although George Herbert is a desperately High Churchman. I hate his High Churchism, but I love George Herbert from my very soul, and I have a warm corner in my heart for every man who is like him. Let me find a man who loves my Lord Jesus Christ as George Herbert did and I do not ask myself whether I shall love him or not; there is no room for question, for I cannot help myself; unless I can leave off loving Jesus Christ, I cannot cease loving those who love him. (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. XII, 6)
Although I know very little about High Churchism, I do understand that Spurgeon loved his brother in Christ even though they held different views on theology. The important thing was that they both loved Christ. Spurgeon loved his brother in Christ, but I don’t think they were in unity (of one mind).
Let us pray for true unity and always seek to know the truth and hold it in high esteem even as we love everyone who also loves our Lord Jesus Christ. Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ does not mean forsaking the Truth, but it does mean we are completely humble and gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4: 11-16 NIV
These verses tell me that unity comes with maturity. Building each other up to be like Christ will bring the unity we desire. Maturity in Christ will protect us from false teaching and teach us instead, to walk in love with one another, holding on to what is true..
This Is My Journey Unscripted.
Do you want to become a Christian? Click this link to learn more: Who Is Jesus?
Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash