Emerson J. Estes
In Ephesians 4:4-6, we read, “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…” Again, “But now are there many members, yet but one body” (1 Cor. 12:20). The one body is the church. “He is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18). “For his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). The church, which is his body. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Since the Lord organized but one body, and that being the church, it follows, with the strongest degree of certainty, that He sent in order only one church.
It is the Lord’s will that His church in all its membership be, “Fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16); that it may be united by “joints and bands” and “knit together” in holding to Christ, the head (Col. 2:19); that its members “all speak the same thing,” having “no division” among themselves, but being “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment “ (1 Cor. 1:10); and that they endeavor to “Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Just before His mission of suffering and sorrow to Himself, but of happiness and salvation to man, was finished on earth, Jesus fervently prayed that all His people might be one, as He and His Father are one, that the world might believe on Him.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (Jn. 17:20-21).
God and His Son are perfectly one in their thoughts and ways, and this is the kind of unity the Lord prayed for and the kind of unity taught by the Holy Spirit in the above passages. The professing followers of Christ cannot, in love to Him, create and justify divisions among themselves, for He says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words…” (John 14:23) and His is the prayer for oneness of His people.
The way to cause division is to teach and practice things not taught by Jesus and His apostles. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
The church, as seen above, is called “the body of Christ.” He gave His fleshly body to be tortured and crucified that He might establish and save the church—His spiritual body (Eph. 5:23-26). It would seem, therefore, that the latter is far more dear to Him than the former, and hence he who would willfully teach and practice that which the doctrine of Christ does not contain, and thus rend and divide the spiritual body of Christ, becomes guilty of a greater sin, than they were guilty who wounded His fleshly body.
The only way for unity to be effected and promoted is for all to believe, love, and obey the teaching of Christ, not going beyond it or discarding anything therein. Thus alone can we stand in God’s favor. “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9).
The religious world can never be united upon the opinions, devices, and creeds of men. This is self-evident from reason and past observation, and could they be so united it would not be pleasing to God. But those who love the Lord and His truth above everything else, who seek to honor and obey Him in all things, and who, with hearts beating with anxious solicitude for salvation of dying men and women, unceasingly work and pray for the conversion of the world are so “fitly joined together and compacted,” so strongly united by “joints and bands,” and so thoroughly “knit together” by the cords of love, that the powers of darkness and of gospel perversion cannot sever them in their onward march to victory and glory.