A Testimony of Unity in Christ
This tract is a testimony of unity among the Christian groups listed at the end. Jesus prayed in John 17:23, "... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
We confess that we as Christians have fallen short of that verse, but we are working together to demonstrate our unity in Christ. The rest of this tract shows the kind of unity we are to have, the basis for our unity, and groups that wish to be united in love, prayer, and purpose.
"... I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you." Philippians 1:27-28.
Not Unity, But Unity in Christ
A misconception many have is that Christians should be for unity. Christians had unity under men who were Popes in the Middle Ages and those were terrible times, where true Christians were killed for owning Bibles. The Bible never says to create unity or even maintain unity with those who do not have God's Spirit inside of them. Instead, Ephesians 4:3 says, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." So Christians are to have a unity of the Spirit only with other believers.
While Christ is the only basis of unity, this base is built on by the prophets and apostles of the Bible. Ephesians 2:19-20 says,
5. Reach Out
"...fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." So our unity is founded on this basis, and not under any who claim authority on par with Jesus, the prophets and apostles of the Bible.
True Christians have a special bond that goes beyond time and place, through Jesus Christ. It goes beyond culture, race, and gender (Gal 3:28). Do you pray and praise God for His work in other churches?
Our desire should be as Psalm 133. We strive to follow Romans 15:5-7 which says, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."
Obedience, Not Unity is Primary
Some might point to the division of Judah and Israel in the O.T. as an evil cause of disobedience. Rather, 1 Kings 11:25-12:24 shows that God himself caused that division because of Solomon's disobedience. Thus the root cause of all the problems was not divisiveness but disobedience to God. Eph 4:11-16 shows that unity in faith is a process; God's people should grow in unity as we follow Christ.
There are some essential things Christians must believe to be Christians.
"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1 Cor 15:1-2
If a so-called Christian does not believe these primary things, Paul says their faith is in vain, or worthless. Paul goes on in 1 Cor 15:3-6 to tell us what these are.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." (Also read Rom 10:9.)
John 14:23-24 says, "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching....'"
Great problems occur when Christians do accept as believers others who deny the essentials. Problems also occur when Christians fail to accept in their church other believers due to disputable matters.
What About Denominations?
A denomination is a group of churches united in some way. Churches in a denomination have closer ties with each other than with other churches. Different Christian denominations have formed for different reasons. As a matter of fact, some only formed when religious authorities made believers leave for being incompatible with their own tradition and agenda.
Some denominations today are mainly used to organize local church resources for
missions and church planting,
pastor's training, care, and discipline,
defending against false teachers,
uniting for moral causes and justice,
help victims, poor, and ill,
care for addicts and prisoners,
orphanages, schools, and hospitals,
and to be a friendly home away from
home for newcomers to a new city.
Even good denominations can have some bad tendencies though. They can cause pride and reinforce extra-biblical beliefs as scripture (1 Cor 4:6-7, Prov 30:5-6). It is an error to equate an organization with the one body of Christ (Eph 4:4). Isolation from other Christians who function as different parts of the body of Christ can lead to unchallenged and unjustified interpretations of God's Word. How is "parochial pride" combatted in your church?
Some Christians think that denominations are a good and useful means to work together for the Lord. Other Christians do not see a need for them. Regardless of what a believer thinks though, 1 Cor 10:17 and 12:12-31 show we are all members of one body, and we should work together.
Dark Sides of Some Groups
Denominations can also divide, confuse, and perpetuate error. Some groups may call themselves denominations, but even ones that do not may be just as divisive.
Paul said in 1 Cor 1:10-12, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.'" Even a group that divided under the name of Christ was equally as bad as the other divisive Christians.
What About Leaving Babylon?
Some divide from other groups claiming others are part of Babylon referred to in Revelation. Among other things, Babylon is a real city with seven hills (Rev 17:3,9,18, 18:10,16,18, 19,21), is religious (blasphemous, demonic, and magical Rev 17:3, 18:2,23), and is drunk on the blood of the saints (Rev 17:6, 18:24, 19:2).
God commands believers to flee Babylon in Rev 18:4. However, if a group is not Babylon, but is instead a good tool God uses so that people can be born of God, calling that group a part of Babylon is a serious, divisive error. Gal 5:15 says, "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."
In Titus 3:10-11 Paul told us to separate from Christians who are divisive. So how can you tell if you are separating from divisive Christians, or if you are the one being divisive, or both?
What Christians Believe
Acts 10:34-43: gives a clear presentation of the gospel.
"Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from ever nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached -how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen -by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'"
While Christians have different rituals, practices, and beliefs on secondary and trivial matters, Eph 4:4-5 says, "There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all..." We are to have unity with those who believe, experience, and obey God's Word.
The New Testament Church
New Testament Christians were not perfect. Some churches erred seriously in tolerating heretics, and the Corinthian church erred in tolerating an immoral person. Some also treated the Lord's Supper lightly, had wrong understandings about the use of tongues, and were divisive (1 Cor 11:18). Paul and Barnabas even argued sharply in Acts 15:36-40. Yet, Rom 15:7 says, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."
We must not have unity with those who call themselves Christians but have defiant sin (1 Cor 5:11,13 and 2 Tim 3:1-5), are idle (2 Thes 3:6), deliberately disobey Biblical teaching (2 Thess 3:6,14-15), deny God's power (2 Tim 3:5), and who are divisive (Titus 3:10-11) without ourselves being divisive (Jude 19). However, for all other believers, if Christ accepts them, then so must we. We will pray for each other, pray with each other, love each other, labor with each other, encourage and correct each other.
To summarize, we are to accept as fellow believers those God wants us to accept, and we are not to try to have unity apart from unity in the real Christ.
UT Groups United in Christ
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35. The Christ centered groups in the next column testify that we are united by our love for one another, faith, and love, and labor for God and other people, though we may have different ministries, emphases, and perhaps vast differences on non-essential matters. However, we wish to declare that He who unites us is greater than anything that divides us. Austin, TX. 09/12/94
Active Christians Together in Service (ACTS) [Eng]
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.