Christian Unity: How Promoted, How Destroyed (Part 1)
The great curse of the church of Jesus Christ is division. Christ foresaw that strifes and divisions would be the weakness of the church and the curse of the world. The church of Christ is the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Whatever weakens its power and destroys its influence, injures the world and ruins man. Jesus Christ foreseeing this, in the prayer in which he poured out his soul to God, besought earnestly that his disciples “might be one,” that all who believe on him through the words of the apostles “may be one, even as I and my Father are one.” He prayed they might be one, “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” It is clear that without that oneness among his children, the world could never believe that he was sent by the Father, that is, that he was the Christ the Son of God. Without this belief that leads to acceptance of him, as Lord and Savior, and the obedience to God, through him, no man can see God in peace.
The apostles in their teachings, everywhere and at all times, condemned and warned against division and strife within the churches as the cause of weakness and inefficiency, of corruption and defilement — that unfitted them for temples of the Holy Spirit, that disabled them from saving their own members and from proving a savor of life to the world.
Christ warned, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Paul said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye 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). He asks, “Is Christ divided?”
The church is the body — the spiritual body of Christ, and if Christ is not divided against himself, the members of his body cannot be. When his people divide and strive, the divide the body of Christ; they rend his spiritual body, and sever its members from each other, and severe his spiritual, worse than his murderers did his fleshly body. His enemies pierced that body, but his children sunder the spiritual body, part from part, and leave it torn and lifeless without power to save itself or others. In every letter written by the apostles the sin of division is condemned — the danger is signaled and Christians forewarned against it as the sure premonition of death. The Master and the apostles not only warn against a danger so threatening, and so fatal and fearful in its results, but they give directions how to avoid division, and the way to promote and maintain unity. The Savior prayed that his disciples might be one, and he gave clear directions as to how they should remain one:
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee…I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. Neither pray I for these alone but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17.8-20).
The apostles also admonished them to speak the same thing, and the oneness of the word, which guides and directs all, secures the unity of the body, growing out of and guided by the word of the living God. Notwithstanding the prayer and warning of the Savior, the entreaties and expostulations of the apostles, and the specific directions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to maintain unity, the professed followers of Christ have been divided into striving parties from the beginning, often resulting in war and bloodshed. Many efforts, through the centuries, have been made at union, which have proved abortive.
About the beginning of the present century an effort was made to find ground on which all sincere worshipers of God could stand in unity and work together in harmony and love, for the honor of God and the salvation of man. The ground or fundamental basis of union was that all should lay aside all theories and practices based on human authority and standing in the widows o men, and in all religious service take the word of God as the only guide and do only the things required in the teachings of Christ and the apostles. It was expressed in the adage, “Where the Bible speaks we will speak, where the Bible is silent we will be silent.”