Friday, October 9, 2009

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism - and Unity

In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul writes, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (emphasis mine).

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, the apostle (to be simplistic about it) writes three chapters telling us what God has done for us, and then writes three chapters telling us how to live out our lives in Christ.

The above passage comes from the beginning of chapter four. Thus, this is the first thing Paul had to say to the Ephesians about how they were to live together after being saved. Interestingly, Paul chooses to emphasize the importance of unity. In the above passage he uses the word "one" eight different times. He also writes that they are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

As there is one God, as we have one hope, as we have one faith, we also should be part of one body.

As the Trinity is united, we should be united (see John 17 for more on that).

Paul is clear: the church is to be united. There is no room for disharmony and division.

13 comments:

Jeff Nelson said...

Eric,

So here is my question-- a question that I hear echoed by unbelievers. So many churches today claim to be "bible-believing-churches". If the Bible, in no uncertain terms mandates unity, why do we so often model the exact opposite?

It seems that no issue is too small to divide over today. Cut and paste theology?

-jeff

Eric said...

Jeff,

I think some folks, in wanting to be biblical, look at other Christians who aren't being biblical (at least in their view), and then decide that they cannot do anything but separate. This is a sad and faulty assumption.

Part of the problem is that so many of our churches are stuck in the vast denominational structure. With that in place, there is little room to come together.

The key seems to be what people think they need to divide over. Is baptism (for example) really an issue that should divide Christians? I no longer think so. The separation point, if we want to be biblical, is the gospel (Galatians 1).

A. Amos Love said...

Unity. Hmmm?

Sometimes good and some times, er, not so good?

I was just wondering? Don’t know for sure?
What if God is the author of our disagreements and separations?

Didn’t he confuse man’s language once before?

Aren’t those things that happened to others,
written for us to learn from?

Now all these things happened unto them for
ensamples: and they are written for our admonition,
upon whom the ends of the world are come.
1Co 10:11

For whatsoever things were written aforetime
were written for our learning, that we through
patience and comfort of the scriptures
might have hope.
Ro 15:4

Didn’t God intervene when “man” was in unity
with their own devices, their own plans,
trying to build something themselves,
to reach heaven and
make a name for themselves?

Could that be our problem also?

Man trying to build something?
And make a name for themselves?
And being in unity they could accomplish anything?

...let us build us a city and a tower,
whose top may reach unto heaven;
and let us make us a name...
Gen 11:4

And the LORD said, Behold,
the people is one, (unity?)(this dosn’t sound good?)
and they have all one language; (unity?)(sound alike?)
and this they begin to do: (work together?)
and now nothing will be restrained from them,
(we can do anything, working together?)
which they have imagined to do. (thoughts of man?)
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.
Gen 11:6-8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

wikipedia says there are over 38,000 denominations. Wow!!!
All started by man, leaders, who said they heard from God,
who wanted to do it right, not like the other guy.

Hmmm? Seperation?
Languages being confused?
Not able to understand one anothers speech?

What about “titles?” Don’t “titles” seperate brethren?

Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles;
in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
Job 32:21

Don’t titles become idols?
Don’t titles make us a name?
And cause walls of seperation?

Don’t titles say, I am, you’re not?
Don’t titles say, we are, they’re not?

Baptist, Lutheran, Assemblies of God ---- separation.

Reformed, Evangelical, Charismatic ---- separation.

Clergy – Laity ---- separation.

Leaders – Followers, ---- separation.

Shepherds – Sheep ----- separation.

And some will lord it over others, yes?
Isn’t that the beginning of spiritual abuse?
Someone coming between me and my Lord?

If someone says their title is not an idol,
just ask them, well if it’s not an idol
then just get rid of it,
lay your title down,
lay your power and prestige down,
walk away from your reputation,
become a brethren,
become a “servant of Christ,”
become a “disciple of Christ.”

Didn’t Jesus make himself of no reputation,
and take upon himself the form of a servant
and humble himself? Php 2:7

Don’t titles make a reputation
whether you want it or not?

Didn’t Jesus say I receive not honor from men?

Don’t titles create honor whether you want it or not?

Be blessed in your search for truth... Jesus.

Eric said...

Amos Love,

Thank you for your lengthy comment. I'm not really sure how to respond. Your questions seem less like questions than like you are trying to make a point. I'm not sure what that point is.

Let me just say that unity at the Tower of Babel was man-focused unity. Unity within the church, as Jesus spoke about in John 17, is Christ-focused. It is this Christ-focused unity we should strive for.

A. Amos Love said...

Eric

1 - I guess my first point would be; it’s possible that God himself
is the author of all the divisions in what man calls “The church.”

At Babel they were buiding a tower to make a name for themselves.

Is there division in, Jesus, “He is the head of the body, the Church?”
Don’t think so, we’re all brethren, and Jesus is the only head.

2 - The second point is; God turns man over to his own devices.
Man wants to build things for God and make a name for himself.

So man creates “Titles” that naturally seperate and also gives man
power, profit, prestige, recognition, reputation.
So they can lord it over others.

And they build organizations and institutions that give them
power, profit, prestige, recognition, reputation.
So they can lord it over others.

Those things that are of the flesh and not of God.

1John 2:16
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Eric said...

Amos,

Thanks for the clarification.

I have difficulty with the idea of God being the author of divisions within the church. The reason I say this is that He exhorts us to unity within the church over and over.

It may be that we are not speaking of the same thing when we use the word "church." When you write "church," what do you mean?

A. Amos Love said...

Eric

I agree with you. I don’t believe God creates division in “His Church.”
Now, “mans church” that’s another story.

“When you write "church," what do you mean? “

This is how I'm seeing it now. I do reserve the right to be wrong.
I've changed my mind a few times after I knew I really knew it all. {;o)

We are warned that some will preach another Jesus. Yes?
Do you think some preach another ekklesia?
A false ekklesia, where man is in control and not Jesus in control?

Isn’t Jesus is the head of the body the church?
Doesn’t Jesus want to be our teacher and leader? Not man?

Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples not to be called rabbi/teacher?
And do not be called master/leader for you have one leader the Christ.
Matthew 23:1-10

1st Samuel chapter 8 is about God's people rejecting God’s leadership
for that of a man, A King, to be like the other people.
God was not happy but he gave them what they wanted and said to Samuel;

"they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me,
that “I should not reign over them."

God’s people did not want God to “reign” over them?

Can you see or think of any differences between

“The Church of God,”
and
“The Church of Baptist?” (or any institutional corporation called church.)

Can you see or think of any differences between

The Kingdom of “God;”
The rule, the “reign,’ the dominion of “God” ruling in a man’s heart.
and
The Kingdom of “Baptist;” (or any institutional corporation that rules.)
The rule, “reign,” dominion of “Baptist” ruling a man?

Didn’t Jesus say, “You can’t serve two masters?”

1-“The Church of God,” (the ekklesia, us,) is purchased with His blood.

1-“The Church of Baptist” (or what ever name) (Church of Man, Lutheran, etc)
purchases us with things that are of the world. Fear, flattery, security, friends,
sense of belonging, etc. Those things that feed the flesh.
Power, profit, prestige, salary, retirement, flattery, invitations to speak, titles, etc.

2-“The Church of God” is built and added to by Jesus. It’s His body.
I will build my church... Matthew 16:18
And the Lord added to the church daily those who should be saved. Acts 2:47

2-“The Church of Baptist" is built by man.
With programs, seminaries, conventions, crusades, tithes and offerings sermons,
guilt and commitment sermons, bring your neighbor to church sermons,
submission to authority sermons, etc.
3-“The kingdom of God” comes not with observation, it is "within" hidden.
It is the rule, the “reign,” the dominion, the government of God in one's heart.
This government shall be upon Jesus’ shoulders.

3- “The kingdom of Baptist” is "without," names on church buildings,
schools, credentials, diploma's, business cards, phone books,
written “I believes,” rules and regulations, how to dress, how to speak,
where it can be “seen.”

“...let us build us a city and a tower,
whose top may reach unto heaven;
and let us make us a name...” Gen 11:9

It is the rule, the “reign,” the dominion, the government of Baptists.
This government shall be upon Southern Baptists Conventions shoulders.

A. Amos Love said...

4- In “The Church of God” you serve one master, Jesus, and we are one, brethren.
The Lord is our shepherd and we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
None call themselves leader or shepherd. All are one in Christ, brethren, “Unity,”

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
John 10:16

There is, One Voice - One Fold - One Shepherd.

4- In “The Church of Baptist” you serve many masters,
some more equal than others.
You have hierarchy, local leaders, youth leaders, church leaders,
board leaders, district leaders, denominational leaders.
You have, leaders - followers, clergy - laity, shepherds - sheep,
And you have separation. You have some lording it over others.
You have the beginning of spiritual abuse.

There are many voices - many shepherds - many leaders.

5- When “the Church of God” comes together, meets,
everyone can participate. And is expected to participate.
Everyone is needed to participate for the building up of the body.

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine,
hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
Let all things be done unto edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:26

5- When “The Church of Baptist” meets,
only a few participate. Pastors, elders, “so called” leaders,
choirs, ushers, sunday school teachers, etc.
Most in this meeting are spectators, pew sitters,
expected to pay, pray and obey.

Have they rejected God, that God should not “reign” over them?

For “the leaders” of this people cause thee to err;
and they that are led of them are destroyed.
Isaiah 9:16

O my people, “they which lead thee” cause thee to err,
and destroy the way of thy paths.
Isaiah 3:12

My people hath been lost sheep:
“their shepherds” have caused them to go astray...
Jeremiah 50:6

Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person,
neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles...
Job 32:21

Do titles become idols
and pastors become masters?

In “The Church of God”
there is only one with a “Title,”
Only one “leader.”

In “The church of man”
there are many with “Titles,”
and many “leaders.”

Where can we hope to experience “unity?”

The Church of God or The church of man?

Peace.

Eric said...

Amos,

I agree that there are many unbiblical practices going on the most local churches today. Some of these churches should simply disband - those who reject the gospel. As for those that hold to the gospel, but are unbiblical in leadership, etc., I believe these ought to be encouraged to seek the scriptures for truth as it is taught and modeled for us.

lil'Gracie said...

Eric,

Good thoughts. So what do you think Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 1 by saying I wish that "you all would agree"?

And Jesus in John 17, the High Priestly prayer where He prays for His own glorification and oneness with the Father towards our oneness with Him and the Father? Because He also prays for what I've heard termed "the missional unity of the church" [Lesslie Newbigin]. This is the focus in John 17 where Jesus prays for the church's unity and oneness "so that" the world may know and believe that Jesus is the Son and that they may come to know Him. So it's a unity that's missional.

Which leads me to ask, then with the current disunity in the church today (conferences, denominations, creeds, etc.) what Gospel are we preaching to the world? If we unified by the Gospel in Jesus as One, maybe the world would come to know Him.

Thoughts?

in Christ,
Jonathan Chambers
Statesboro, Ga.

Eric said...

Jonathan,

Good questions. I'll tell you what I think.

As for I Corinthians, I believe Paul wanted the church there to stop bickering over secondary issues. The rallying point is the gospel. Everything else should be able to be worked out without division.

In John 17 the wording is very clear that the unity of the church has an impact on the lost coming to Christ. Today's denominational structure only hampers this. It must be confusing and discouraging for lost folks to know what all the differences mean.

In the end, the unifying point and the dividing line must be the gospel and nothing else.

lil'Gracie said...

Eric,

Thanks for the response. But what is it going to take to get this unity and what does this unity look like? On the one hand you have extreme circles like the Ecumenical movement which has gotten flack because they sacrifice too much truth for the sake of unity. And then the groups that say uniformity is unity. And then the groups that say unity is simply being physically in the same area.

So I think Jesus' prayer was not some utopianistic prayer that was only possible 2 seconds before the rapture jump. I think our High Priest was dead serious about unity and it's mission to bring in the lost. I've talked to so many people who think this type of unity is "impossible this side of heaven". Well that's a view that is filled with misunderstanding and a lack of faith in the sufficiency of the Gospel and of the power of the Holy Spirit to unify.

The problem I see is churches having issues agreeing on what is essential. Even if they all said "Yes the Gospel is key", all of them will believe different aspects of the Gospel or as Paul warned in Galatians, a "different Gospel".

So Eric is this something you believe is possible? If so, what do you think it will take to achieve it? And thirdly, are our churches being intentional enough?

I've heard a wise man recently say that this type of unity is not possible period without a biblical structure of ecclesiology and of proper Ephesians 4 gifting. Namely, apostolic oversight. Not "apostle" the same as Paul but apostolic guidance over churches that keep them accountable to each other and together.

What more can the church do to reconcile to each other across cultural, racial, preferential, traditional lines for the sake of preaching a unified Jesus to the world?

thoughts?

-jonathan

Eric said...

Jonathan,

You are asking some good questions that we all need to ponder.

I may take a simplistic view on this issue, but here it goes.

First of all, we need to make sure that our dividing/unity line is always the gospel. What is described in the Nicene Creed, for example, is a good set of beliefs. It is not too inclusive nor exclusive, and is a good description of believing in the gospel.

How can unity take place? Within the current denominational structure it is difficult. However, I think it can happen. Churches must be intentional about it. They must make a decision that they will be united with others not as a luxury but as a necessity.

Are churches being intentional enough about this? No. The reason for this is that we tend to stay within our own church walls or denominational structures where we all believe the same thing.

The house church structure and format is probably the best for promoting unity.