John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB)
A Proposal For Unity Part 1: One Body
Christians should be united because we are part of the same body.
In Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address, the first proposition
affirms that there is but one church. According to Campbell, that church is made up of those who believe in Christ, commit to obey Him, and demonstrate that commitment with their lives. Campbell chose a great place to start his proposal for unity. When the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explained the compelling reason for unity among Christians (Eph 4:3-6), he began by saying "There is one body..." Paul was saying that because we are all part of the same body, we should be united.
At this point we need to pause for a biblical definition of terms. The global church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18). Jesus built the church (Matt 16:18), and he built only one church. So there is one body; there is one church; and they are the same thing.
So according to Eph 4, we should seek unity with everyone in the church. But how can we know who is in the church? The scriptures show us the answer:
Act 2:36-41 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
On the day the Christian church began, Peter preached the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Everyone who accepted the gospel message, responding in baptism, was "added to their number.
" Because we are told that this promise is to "all whom the Lord our God will call
," we know that all who respond in like manner today are also added to the church.
Today, there are many distinct parts of the Restoration Movement, where new converts respond to the gospel message in exactly this way. Those people may become members of very different "churches" or congregations, with deeply differing convictions on various topics. But regardless of which part of the Restoration Movement they attend, and regardless of where their congregation aligns on those different convictions, because those people responded to the gospel message in the same way as those in Acts 2, they were added by God to the church, the body of Christ.
Someone might protest that people who hold erroneous beliefs on these disputed topics are not truly part of the church, because they do not manifest the required obedience to their Lord. Romans 14:1-15:13
gives us the divine answer to this concern. We are not to pass judgment over one another regarding such matters. If a correct position on the matter is not a requirement for conversion, then it cannot be a requirement for continued membership in the church. As Paul wrote:
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
It may be uncomfortable to embrace someone as a brother, when he does not agree on some doctrines we hold dear. We should remember that Jesus is not ashamed to call him brother (Heb 2:11). Who are we to be more exclusive than Jesus? Our clear instruction from the Holy Spirit is not to pass judgment over such things.
So, with that background, here is the first proposal for unity:
Proposal #1: There is one body of Christ, which is the global church of Jesus Christ. All who have responded to the gospel message according to the example of the 3000 in Acts 2 are Christians, and have been added to that church. All of these Christians should accept one another as parts of the same body.
Labels: Proposal for Unity