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Volume 16, Issue 3: Doctrine 101

Christian Unity

Patch Blakey

Many Christians are concerned about a lack of unity among churches and Christians of differing denominations. I'm not addressing schism, which is when a church splits. Certainly there is a lack of unity when half the congregation departs in a "holy huff." Instead, what I am referring to may be seen in a comment such as, "Your church teaches on such-and-such biblical doctrine, and in so doing, you are promoting disunity within the Body of Christ."

Well, what exactly does "promoting disunity" mean? Is this like complaining that someone is spreading the fingers on one of your hands too far apart and it's starting to hurt? Or is this more like someone settling you onto the platform of a guillotine? The way some Christians talk about a lack of unity, you'd think it was the latter.
But what is Christian unity? In Romans, Paul says that baptism unites Christians with Christ. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection"(Rom. 6:3-5).
"But," some may complain, "the word unite isn't even mentioned in the passage." I would argue that when Scripture says that we are baptized into Jesus Christ, this means that we are united with him. In other words, His death is our death. His burial is our burial. His resurrection is now our resurrection. In some newer translations, the word planted in the passage from Romans above is, in fact, translated as united.
Let's take a brief diversion for a moment. If Christians believe their Bibles, and in it Christ commands that His followers, His disciples (i.e., Christians, Acts 11:26) are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20), then presumably, in obedience to verse 20, they are baptized. How can we argue that someone is faithfully following Christ if they are not obeying him? We must be baptized if we are going to be faithful followers of Christ.
So, if Christians are all baptized into Christ, then they are all part of Christ. And this is exactly what Paul told the Corinthians: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:13). Paul's question is rhetorical. Christ is not divided. Such a thought would be a mockery of Christ's resurrection. Christ rose from the dead bodily, as a new man, the first alive from the dead. He was not a pile of loose bones.
In the same manner, we, as members of Christ's body, are also united. We are not all under the same roof every Sabbath, but this is not necessary to be united because we are all united to our Head, which is Christ, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:22, cf. Eph. 4:15; 5:23).
Paul further makes the point that there is only one body, and he links it directly to our baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many" (1 Cor. 12:12-14, emphasis mine).
Denominations are not a problem as far as unity goes. If they are faithful, believing churches, then they are part of the body of Christ, and that body is one. There may be many members, and many denominations for that matter, with differing doctrinal views among them, but they are still one in Christ. How could it be otherwise?
The real oddity in this issue of unity is that some churches and Christians propose to solve their perceived problem of a lack of unity with other churches or Christian brothers by severing ties with them. Go figure! This is like trying to stay afloat by tying lead weights to your feet. The Apostle Paul addressed this, "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (1 Cor. 12:21). Indeed, Paul goes so far as to say that we have to get along with other denominations and Christians because this is what pleases God: "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him" (1 Cor. 12:17-18).
Maybe this is why Christ commands us to love one another, because we wouldn't otherwise. Because we are all united in Christ, maybe we should stop accusing one another of promoting a lack of unity and start obeying another command in the Bible to "fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (Phil. 2:2). Maybe then we would begin to look united to the unbelieving world, and maybe even to ourselves.

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