Chapter 11 - The Unity of Believers

As we have already shown, the definite and instantaneous experience that makes us living members of Christ is the new birth; and as we thus become members of the family of God, we also by the same act and experience become members of all those who are members of the divine family. “We are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
So complete and perfect is this Bible standard of divine relationship, of spiritual unity among all the saved, that they are declared to constitute one body in Christ. We are reconciled “unto God in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). “Ye are called in one body” (Col. 3:15). (Also see I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:30.) This represents the closest possible union, both with Christ and with one another.

Unity Illustrated

In different passages the Apostle Paul uses the natural body to illustrate the spiritual body, composed of all the truly saved. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:4-5).
There is perfect harmony in a normal body, for its unity is not effected by external means, but is organic. Many and diverse though the members be, still they are all necessary for the completeness and harmony of the whole. So it is with the body of Christ. We are many members, differing in age, in sex, in intellectual attainments, in material possessions, in social advantages, in nationality; still, it can truthfully be said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
The body of Christ is “subject unto Christ,” its head (Eph. 5:24), therefore we all have “one mind” (II Cor. 13:11), “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16), and are able “to be like-minded one toward another” and “with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6).

In One Body

One purpose of Christ’s death was that “he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52). Jesus himself said, “Other sheep I have Gentiles, which are not of this Jewish fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold flock, and one shepherd” (10:16).
In the second chapter of Ephesians we read how these two classes of people were made one. Although “in time past” the Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world … they were made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both Jews and Gentiles one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us … that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:12-16). This unification of peoples so diverse was not effected by Jews becoming Gentiles or by the Gentiles becoming Jews, but by both accepting Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” and rejecting all that was antagonistic to Christ and his truth.
The prayer of Christ recorded in John 17 shows the sacredness of this doctrine of unity. He prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.… 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.… I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (vss. 17, 21, 23).
Though salvation itself brings us into a divine relationship with each other, the indwelling evil nature prevents the full realization of that perfect unity of heart which Christ so much desired, and for which he most earnestly prayed. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, mentions the strife and division over preachers that was manifested among certain brethren there and attributes it to the fact that they were “yet carnal” (I Cor. 3:1-5). But sanctification purifies the heart, destroying carnality, and therefore makes the people of God “perfect in one.” (See Acts 4:31-33.)
Even the idea of division among Christians was foreign to the pure apostolic church (Rom. 16:17). To the Corinthians Paul said, “I beseech you, brethren.… that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10).

Unity Through Relationship

The underlying foundation of true Christian unity is relationship, not development or attainments.
We are “all one in Christ Jesus.” What does it mean to be in Christ? First of all, it means to be “born again,” for without this experience we are not Christians at all and “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Why? Because they have been “made free from the law of sin and death” (vs. 2). To be in Christ, then, signifies to be born of God and to have our sins removed by his grace (II Cor. 5:17; I John 3:6). By this spiritual birth we enter the spiritual family, where we possess the divine life which flows in all its members, and are thus “all one in Christ Jesus” by virtue of a spiritual blood relationship.

Unity Perfected

But we must also develop in spiritual life, attainments, and behavior in such a practical, visible manner “that the world may believe.” We must “dwell together in unity”; we must “all speak the same thing.” Now, how is this possible? How can those who are one in spirit, by virtue of spiritual birth, be made “perfect in one” before the world, so as to convince unbelievers of the truth of Christianity? The conditions for this perfect unity are expressly stated in John 17, where Christ’s prayer for the unity of his people is recorded:
1. We must be “in Christ,” which signifies salvation from sin—“not of the world” (vs. 16).
2. We must receive the Word of God and keep it, which requires the rejection of all contrary doctrines and commandments of men.
3. We must be kept in the Father’s name only. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (vs. 11).
4. We must be sanctified wholly, which removes from the heart the cause of carnal divisions.
There is a standard of so-called unity made prominent throughout Christendom, which is simply an attempt to bring together by external organization the professed followers of Christ. This may be in the form of human denominational organization, or in the grouping together of a number of such individual organizations, but such can never be more than a counterfeit. True unity is of the heart and can be effected only by meeting Bible conditions. Mere external organization—bringing together multitudes of people, the majority of whom know nothing about a saved experience and sinless life and never have been born again—is not in any sense an exhibition of true Bible unity. Bible unity is based on spiritual life and is in accordance with the Word and Spirit of God. The truly saved have spiritual fellowship with each other, and know each other, and have no spiritual affinity with those who are not of God. They “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). They are instructed to “stand fast in one spirit” (Phil. 1:27).
Not one text in the New Testament teaches that division among God’s people is right, but everywhere unity is enjoined and division denounced. We read of one Lord, one salvation, one God, one faith, one Spirit, one mind, one mouth, one body, one baptism, one new and living way, one Savior, and one heaven. And in order to serve this one God aright, follow this one Lord according to his one new and living way, and obey his one revealed Word, we must be “all one in Christ Jesus.”

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