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Unity -- At All Cost?
By David A. DePra
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 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…… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Eph. 4:1-6, 11-13)
Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Phil. 1:27)
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:3-5)
Ecumenicalism is everywhere today. Christian leaders are more and more striving to unite all Christian denominations under ONE banner – including Roman Catholicism. Of course, the motive behind it is said to be love, peace, and the cause of Christ. And make no question, the Bible does teach unity. This is clear from only the couple of passages above. But the real question is, "How does God define UNITY?" What kind of unity pleases God?
Unity – as a THING unto itself – can be quite evil and destructive. Nazi Germany had unity. The folks who tried to build the tower of Babel had unity. In fact, God said they did. And His reaction was to bring confusion and division:
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Gen. 11:6-9)
Many other examples could be mentioned here of unity that was evil. But the answer to our question, "What kind of unity pleases God?," ought to be obvious: Unity in Christ is what God is after. But unity in anything, or anyone else, is NOT what God is after. Indeed, in the end, God intends to smash it.
This is verified by again reading the passages at the beginning of this article. We find the phrases, or the implied thought:
Unity of the Spirit
Unity of the Faith
One Mind – that of Jesus Christ
Striving together for the faith of the gospel.
Growing together unto the fullness of Christ.
Here we see the key: Unity in Christ. Unity in the Person. The same FAITH. The same motives and intent towards Jesus. This is UNITY in the mind of God.
It is at this point that your average ecumenicalist will chime in with, "That’s right. Doctrine doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we all believe in the same Jesus." You hear that all the time today. But it is not what the Bible teaches.
Let’s look at a few passages which stress, not just the important of unity, but the important of the Truth:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)
(Rom 16:17-18) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
(1 Tim 1:3) As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
(1 Tim 1:10-11) For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
(1 Tim 4:16) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
(1 Tim 6:3-5) If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
(Titus 2:1) But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
(2 John 1:9-10) Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
(2 Cor 11:3-4) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
(Gal 1:6-9) I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Doctrine is a statement of what we believe about God and His Redemptive plan through Jesus Christ. It represents Truth to us in a verbal or written form. It instructs us as to how to walk and live in the will of God. Therefore if our doctrine is wrong, we are misrepresenting God.
So now we are seeing that, yes, God desires unity. But not just unity as a THING unto itself. Unity must be an agreement in the Truth. Or better said, unity must be an agreement in a Person, Jesus Christ, and then from that, unity must be an agreement in doctrines which rightly represent Him and His purposes for us.
God also gives us time to grow. You will notice that in some of the passages about unity you find the phrases, "striving together," or, "till we all come." This tells us that true unity is only possible if everyone has the same goal of unity – that it be in the Person of Christ – and that people are all pulling in the same direction.
The trouble is, this isn’t what usually happens. Usually, people define unity as, "Convincing everyone else to agree with me." Or, they will define unity as, "Everyone giving up what they believe." Or, people will say, "We will agree to disagree." But none of these things are right.
That last one especially annoys me. Where, in the Bible, does it ever tell Christians to, "agree to disagree?" Do we realize what we are really saying in a statement like that? We are saying that we are DONE seeking the Truth, and no one is going to budge. So let’s just, "make nice." And the end result is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have freedom to guide anyone into the Truth.
It might sound good to say that we will, "agree to disagree," all in the name of love, but doing so changes NOTHING. The love part is good. But such an agreement is often nothing more an agreement NOT to change or to see more Truth.
Unity in a Person
The key to unity is to first recognize that the Person of Jesus Christ is the center of Christianity. Not merely doctrines about Him. But the PERSON. Secondly, we must realize that unity is not the outcome of Christians making peace with each other. It is not the outcome of Christians, "agreeing to disagree." No. Rather, unity is the outcome of ME making peace with Christ, and you making peace with Christ. Then guess what? Unity with each other is inevitable.
I am here talking about a INNER work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit wants to lead me into all Truth, and wants to lead you into all Truth, then if each of us, individually and personally, allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth, aren’t we both going to end up with the SAME Truth? Yep. Then we will have UNITY. And it will be real. It won’t just be doctrinal. It will be spiritual, and in Christ.
As long as we think unity is based in common doctrines we will never see the Truth. But on the other hand, as long as we think unity must dismiss doctrine as important, we will never see the Truth. Unity cannot be imposed, conceded, created, or faked. Unity will arise if people are personally walking in Christ. And the doctrines will agree as well.
So now we see WHY there is no unity. People are more interested in defending their theological position than they are in seeing the Truth. We still think Truth is a list of doctrines. No. Truth is a Person. Thus, the question is never, "Do you know true teachings?" The question is, "Is the Truth in you? Is your life adjusted to the Truth of God in Christ?"
Building Bridges to Christ
Many well-known Christian leaders today are striving to create unity. Indeed, I heard one of them the other day say, "I have become known internationally as a bridge builder between Christians." And he was right. This man does strive to build bridges between people. But in looking at what the fruits are of what he has done, there emerges one disturbing trend: Compromise. He endorses EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.
I do not believe that any of us ought to be defined by what we are AGAINST. No. We are to be defined by what we are for, namely, by Jesus Christ. But read the Bible. If you teach the Truth, and stand by it at all cost, you are going to have to expose error. You may need to name names. You will do this, not because it is your primary mission. You will have to do it because in order to teach the Truth, you must often state what the Truth is not. And you must often state who is not teaching it. This is all part of what it means to protect the Body of Christ.
There is something wrong when everyone is my friend, everyone considers me to be a bridge builder, and everyone comes to me for endorsement. The operative word here is, "everyone." The fact is, Jesus promised that we would be hated by as many people as we are loved. And by others in the Body of Christ. We will be hated IF we stand for the Truth. By definition, if we do that, we are going to step on a lot of people’s turf – especially leaders.
It is good to be a bridge builder. But only if every bridge I build is from the person in question to Jesus Christ. I think the leader in question probably does some of that, but I also think, based on the fruits, that he builds a lot of bridge between people – and those bridges never get to Jesus. The result is that ERROR abounds – but we all agree to disagree. The question ought to be: Is all of this leading to what Paul said was the goal – that we all come into the UNITY OF THE FAITH, and the full stature of Christ?
Instead of building bridges between people, maybe we ought to burn them down. And then rebuild all of them to Jesus. If we do that, then we will have unity IN CHRIST. With that as the foundation, we can then think in terms of bridges between people – because these bridges will then be built from OUT OF Christ.
Unity in Christ
Every single time people achieved unity OUTSIDE of the will of God in the Bible, it was disaster. Read the account of the tower of Babel. Was God pleased with unity outside of Jesus Christ?
The fact is, we are never going to have unity in Christ in this age. It is not promised, although it is God’s ideal and highest will – and we ought to seek it in Jesus. Indeed, we are told the opposite will be the case. Why? Because the end time is the time of apostasy, not unity in Christ.
If you and I want to be a vehicle for unity in Christ, the place to start is by personally becoming ONE with Christ. This means I must give Him my life and my heart. Unless I do that, I might strive for unity, but it will be nothing more than unity as a THING. It won’t be unity in a PERSON.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:11-15)
Unity at all cost is of the Devil. And yet there is a unity in Christ that could have been possible, if only Christians would personally surrender to Him.
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