The Church of the Bible
The religious world today seems to be more concerned than ever with the unity of the church. The reason for this is because there is so much religious division in the world. All are tired of it. And yet, unity can never come about with the religious bodies of men agreeing to disagree. The division will still be there. There may be some degree of union or harmony, but that is all. What is the answer? The answer lies in the Bible itself. In order for true unity to exist, men must lay down their teachings, doctrines, names, churches, creeds, books, etc. They must pick up the Bible. They must read and study it. They must believe it. They must obey it. Then there can be genuine unity, the kind the Lord prayed for in John 17. When men do this, they will all believe the same thing. All will obey the same teachings. All will wear the same name. All will work together. All will teach the same thing. All will go to heaven together. It will be easy for unity to exist when men quit following men and begin to follow Christ.
The Bible condemns division. The Bible says God hates those who sow division or discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:19). In 1 Corinthians 1, we are told of the church at Corinth becoming divided. The apostle Paul took immediate steps to destroy the cause of it. He began by saying, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you 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). Then he asked three questions. The questions were: "Is Christ divided?" "Was Paul crucified for you?" "Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" In all three questions they would have to answer "NO." He showed how terrible their division was.
The apostle Paul wrote the brethren at Rome, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18). In Colossians 2:20-22, he says, "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; 'Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men?"
All of this is to say that (1) the teachings of men, (2) the doctrines and commands of men, (3) exalting men, (4) accepting and following books other than the Bible, are all things which cause division. On the other hand, unity can be had and enjoyed only as one follows Christ. It was Christ who prayed, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21). Did Christ pray for the impossible? No! Surely then there can be unity. When? When we simply follow Christ. Man-made teaching will divide us. Bible teaching will unite us.
In Ephesians 4:1-6, we are told how to have unity. Listen to it:
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
Notice that this is a plea for unity. Notice, too, there is but one of each of the things listed. Who ever got the idea there was more than one?
The unity of the church is seen in that Christ said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18), meaning ONE. It is His spiritual body (1 Corinthians 12:27). He is the head of it (Colossians 1:18). Surely, one would not accuse Christ of having two bodies or two heads. The church is also pictured as the house of God, or the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15). But how many houses or families? One, of course. We read of the kingdom of Christ, or the kingdom of God, with Christ as king (John 3:3-5; Colossians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:15). How many kingdoms does the Lord have? How many kings are there? Just one in both cases.
On and on we could go. Surely the Bible is opposed to the very thought of denominationalism, that which is division. On the other hand, it pictures unity, oneness, completeness, and wholeness. The Bible does not picture the church as being a body made up of all religious people regardless of their beliefs and practices. It does picture the church as belonging to Christ. It is made up of those called out, the saved, who have followed Christ and have obeyed His teaching. Christ is not divided. His church is not divided. To be divided, or to uphold division in any way, is to oppose Christ and that for which He prayed.