That They All May Be One.

 

 

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Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

 

 

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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;

 

 

that they may be one,

 

even as we are one:

 

 

(John 17 v 20 through 22)


 

 

My exercise in writing this booklet is to consider

 

1.      The Lord's love for His bride (the church) and His desire for the unity of His church to be displayed in a practical way while He is away.

 

2.      How some have responded to this love that Christ has for His church and His desire for its unity.

 

3.      Scriptural guidance for the serious Christian who desires to keep His word and not deny His name in this day of general breakdown of the display of practical unity.

 

4.      Examples from History of not maintaining the Spirit's unity as understood by the author.

 

Portions of four articles have been included at the end of this paper. If anyone desires to see the full article, the footnotes indicate where they may be found. I believe what is contained in this paper is scriptural and my simple purpose for including the articles is just to show that what is contained in this paper has been clearly taught for many years.

 

One only desires that the Lord would be glorified and His people might be stirred to search the scriptures for themselves and live according to what they find.

As no human work is perfect, communication from serious minded Christians, who would be willing to correspond about this most important subject, would be welcomed. No one has all the answers and we might be able to learn from each other. Christian love would not only criticize (that is constructive criticism), but also seek to help.

 


The Lord's love for His bride (the church)

and His desire for the unity of His church

to be displayed in a practical way while He is away.

 

* * * * * *

 

Most of my readers are aware of this very wonderful truth of Christ's love for His church. Many things have been said and written about what Christ was willing to suffer that He might have a bride, His church, those who since Pentecost have believed on Him and have responded to His words,

 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

 

Some verses are simple statements yet require a little meditation and comparing to other portions of God's word to be able to grasp something more of the full meaning of what is behind it.

 

Christ ... loved the church, and gave himself for it;

(Ephesians 5:25)

 

The love of Christ:

 

Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: (1Corinthians 13:4-8)

 

Giving Himself:

 

Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)

 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

 

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)

 

Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:6)

 

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14)

 

Many of my readers will, no doubt, be able to add much more to what it means that Christ gave Himself: the great suffering He went through at the hands of His countrymen, the great suffering He went through at the hands of the gentiles and last but far from the least the greater suffering He went through at the hand of God when He took our sin upon Himself during the three hours of darkness, paying the debt we could not pay.

 

But let us back up to the night before this suffering took place. He was with those that loved Him in the upper room and knowing of the suffering He would soon face, He makes known His desire for them to remember Him when He is away. He also spoke about many important things that they should know about, but it seems to me that it was just before they leave to go to the garden (where He was met by those that took Him away) just before they leave the upper room, He prays to the Father. His request was clear and easy to be understood. It is the Lord's desire for His people while He is away.

 

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (John 17:20-22)

 

It is very important to understand that this oneness (unity) began on the day of Pentecost when the body of Christ was formed. Ever since that time every one that turned to Christ for salvation became part of that body. It was and is the Spirit's work and no matter what man does that body is going to be one. It is the practical outward expression of this unity that has been placed in the hands of His people. In Ephesians 4 v 3 we are instructed to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As we abide by the Spirit's teaching, as found in the Word of God, we will be doing and saying the same thing, this is the unity of the Spirit.

 

Any unity that is based on something other than God's word, if it be years of tradition or the words of any prominent man or men, if it is not consistent with the Spirit's teaching found in God's word, it is not the Unity of the Spirit.

 

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

 

It is very helpful to keep before us, that most wonderful fact, that in a soon coming day we (the church) are going to be one with Christ in glory. Most believers readily acknowledge this but few believers even consider His desire that it be shown in a practical way now.

 

 

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

(Ephesians 1:7-10)


How some have responded

to this love that Christ has for His church

and His desire for it's unity.

 

* * * * * *

 

Some have attempted to bring Old Testament principles in to support divisions. This only confuses those who are not clear on what God's desire is for His church. There was division in Israel and The Lord said,

 

"This thing is from me" (1 Kings 12:24).

 

But this is not what we find in the New Testament, though many New Testament Scriptures have also been misapplied in an attempt to support division, but we plainly read in the New Testament,

 

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

 

We also read in the New Testament,

 

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Romans 16:17)

 

This is the teaching for the church, division is contrary to this teaching (doctrine), and the New Testament also tells us,

 

"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

 

Our instructions are very clear, each one is to make a conscious effort to keep this outward expression of the unity that was established by the Spirit at Pentecost. We are to promote a unity that is only based on the Spirit's teaching and His teaching not only tells us what to do, but also that we are to do it with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love. If we remember what we were, before the Lord saved us, it would not be hard to seek to keep that unity with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love. After all what love did the Lord show to us before and after we were saved?

 

There are two verses of scripture that I believe we need to consider before we proceed. In Acts 20 Paul is speaking to the elders of Ephesus.

 

First For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

(Acts 20:29)

 

The Apostle Paul tells us that some people who have no heart for the flock will find a way in and be the cause of real sorrow.

 

Second Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:30)

 

He also tells us that some of the elders thinking more highly of themselves than they should would also be the cause of sorrow by speaking things that are contrary to God's word and doing so would draw some away.

 

The predictions in Acts 20 verses 29 and 30 have proven to be true throughout the history of the church.

 

The Lord intended His people to be marked by an oneness (unity) that displayed the character that was found in the Lord Himself. This unity was to be practical as they were to endeavor to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.[1]

 

There is never a scriptural reason to leave those that are gathered according to scripture, for if they are so gathered, they are both

 

1.     Abiding in the doctrine of Christ and

2.     Seeking to practically display the oneness that the Lord so desires for His people and not become a sect.[2]

 

Again, this oneness (unity) is the Spirit's unity, be it only a few believers endeavoring to maintain it.

 

Let us look closer at these two important items as they are the very foundation for the existence of the church.

 

1.   Abiding in the doctrine of Christ has to do with:

a.   His person (who He is) and

b.    His finished work (what He has done).

 

a. His person - Definition from scripture of the doctrine of Christ, having to do with his person found in the following verses.

 

The Christ, the son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

 

God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)

 

Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. (2 John 1:7)

 

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. (John 4:25-26)

 

b. His finished work[3] - Definition from scripture of the doctrine of Christ having to do with his finished work found in the following verses.

 

But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:28)

 

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:3-4)

 

2.   A scriptural definition for the practical display of oneness that the Lord so desires for His people and not become a sect.

 

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. (Romans 15:5-7)


 

Scriptural guidance for the serious Christian

who desires to keep His word

and not deny His name

in this day of general breakdown

of the display of practical unity.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Abiding in the doctrine of Christ

 

 We have just discussed, on pages 8 and 9, the scriptural definition of abiding in the doctrine of Christ. Now we are going to look at some scriptures that tell us how to respond to those who are and who are not abiding in this doctrine.

 

But first it is necessary to point out that if you find any who claim to be believers in Christ, it is important that we speak the truth to them.

 

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (1 Timothy 4:6)

 

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:16)

 

Now we have clear instructions as to how we are to conduct ourselves depending on the response we get.

 

1. Receive them - If they acknowledge the truth of the doctrine of Christ and His finished work and there is no scriptural reason not to, they should be received.[4]

 

If I use my own thoughts to prevent believers from remembering their Lord I would be guilty of scattering the sheep.

 

The weak have ye not strengthened, nor have ye healed the sick, and ye have not bound up what was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought for that which was lost; but with harshness and with rigour have ye ruled over them.

(Ezekiel 34:4)

 

The doctrine of Christ - His person:

 

Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

(3 John 1:7-8)

 

"No other doctrinal difference of any kind would prevent us from welcoming a professing believer into our homes".[5]

 

The doctrine of Christ - His finished work:

 

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:15)

 

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:21-23)

 

2. Refuse them - If they confess not the truth of the doctrine of Christ and His finished work as we find in the scripture, refuse them.

 

The second epistle of John gives us instruction as to those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ. By not abiding in this doctrine, they have given up the truth of the person and/or work of Christ Jesus, the one who loved us and gave Himself for us and gave His own blood to wash away our sins.

 

The doctrine of Christ - His person:

 

For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John verses 7-11)

 

The doctrine of Christ - His finished work:

 

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

 

Seeking to practically display oneness.

 

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

 

Please notice carefully; it is the leaders that Romans 16:17 is referring to, the followers are not to be treated in the same way.

 

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. (Romans 14:1)

"True, there were divisions at Corinth as there are divisions in Christendom today; but that did not, in any wise, touch the truth of God. The apostle rebuked the divisions - pronounced them carnal. He had no sympathy with the poor low idea which one sometimes hears advocated, that divisions are good things as superinducing emulation. He believed they were very bad things-the fruit of the flesh, the work of Satan."[6]

 

When it comes to the practical display of the unity (oneness) that the Lord was praying about in John 17, it should not be necessary to point out that two or more are not one. To abide by the Spirit's teaching found in the word of God is the only way to maintain this unity, this oneness. It would be inconsistent with the truth of unity to attend gatherings where the leaders promote separation (division) from those that are seeking to meet on scriptural ground. Though the followers should be received if they come simply in the name of the Lord. In the third epistle of John one was commended for helping brethren on in their service for the Lord, though they were strangers.[7]

 

The Church (Some prefer to use the term "Assembly", but it is exactly the same thing) is not a man made group (it is not a group at all); It is not an organization, it is not a denomination and it does not have an earthly headquarters. The Church is an organism, it is the body of Christ and its head is in heaven.

 

The Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Colossians 2 v 19)

 

It is not of earth, as it is heavenly in origin and it is heavenly in destiny and it is to be heavenly in character. As far as earth is concerned, those who make up the body of Christ are just passing through as pilgrims and strangers.

 

There are three important points that come to mind.

 

1.   Taking an unscriptural name divides.

(1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4-5)

 

2.   If some have been meeting on scriptural ground, but for some reason leave others that are continuing to meet scripturally, they have given up the scriptural ground of gathering and have become a sect. (1 Corinthians 12:21)

 

3.   If those that have been meeting according to scripture are made aware of others that the Spirit has revealed this truth to, and they refuse to recognize the Spirit's work with them, they have actually refused to display the unity that the Lord was praying about in John 17 and have become a sect.

 

We do not seek to establish a new unity, but to recognize it where it is found.


Content to be like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds.

 

Some, who wanted to be leaders, have tried to make the church something great. They promote great gatherings with large ornate buildings, rather than seek to influence others by a simple moral uprightness. They obviously are not aware of what the church (assembly) is intended to be.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven

 

In the Kingdom of heaven, there is a mixture of what is true and what is not while the king is away. Though the church is not the kingdom of heaven, it is part of it.

 

One thing that the Kingdom of Heaven is likened to is a grain of mustard seed.

 

In Matthew 13 we are told that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds, yet it becomes a tree. "This reads as if its normal class was that of a large herb, but by some mysterious means it became a tree."[8] It is abnormal for a mustard seed to become a tree; this is what man has attempted to make the church while the Lord is away. This abnormal growth has provided a place for unscriptural principles and practices to get a foothold and grow.

 

Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. (Matthew 13:32)

 

It is helpful to notice that the word for "birds" in verse 32 is the same word for "fowls" in verse 4

 

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (Matthew 13:4)

 

Then the Lord tells us about the fowls in verse 19.

 

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (Matthew 13:19)

 

If we lose sight of what the church (assembly) is, we could easily fall into the snare of sectarianism and promote principles that will once again bring further shame on the testimony and further sorrow to the Lord's people.

 

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23)

 

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.

(Romans 12:4-5)

 

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

 

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:24)

 

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

 


Examples from History

of not maintaining the Spirit's unity

as understood by the author

 

* * * * * * *

 

This sketch of history is what I have gleaned from my own reading. It is an attempt to be fair and not bias, yet knowing that we all have been influenced by our past contacts and associations. I have no desire to promote a party. If any think that what I have written is not correct, I would appreciate hearing from you that we may search the scripture together and find the mind of God so we can follow His word by saying the same thing.

 

It should be the desire of every dear believer in Christ, to glorify the Father and the Son by understanding the word of God and living according to what is found in the epistles in the New Testament. The Old Testament is valuable in its place. It was written for Israel and it contains pictures of better things that have been revealed in the New Testament to the Lord's people today. The Gospels are also valuable, but great care must be taken as much of what is recorded in the gospels was addressed to the disciples that were with the Lord when He was here on earth and will be instructions for the disciples, that will make up the remnant, after the church is taken to the Father's house.

 

It has been said, "Every scripture has a context, leave it there."[9]

 

If we understand history differently, what would hinder us from considering each other's thoughts in the light of God's word? If we could listen to each other and agree on the scriptural position that the Lord would have us to take, we should be able to also agree that any past actions that were not consistent with God's word should have not been followed, as it would divide the Lord's people.

 

Let us look at some of the events of history since the beginning of the Spirit's work when the church was formed at Pentecost.

 

The early days of the church.

 

During the time of the Apostles the truth of the unity of the Spirit was revealed to the Lord's people. There were some divisions as noted in 1 Corinthians and Galatians and The Apostle made every effort to correct this sad development. Unity, not division, is God's mind for His people. To divide is to forsake the scriptural ground of gathering and become a sect.[10]

 

The predictions in Acts 20 verses 29 and 30 began to come true.

Even before the Apostles went to be with the Lord, decline set in and the affections began to wane as generally many left their first love.

 

Shortly after that time persecution came in and this persecution drove many into the catacombs for personal safety.

 

300 AD

 

About 300 AD Constantine came to power in the Roman Empire and, because of a dream, he brought many out of the catacombs and gave them good positions in his government.

 

When some difficulties arose in the church, instead of dealing with it according to scripture, some went to Constantine to get his judgment on the matter. By doing this, a man was set in a place of authority that God never intended and over the years a system was formed that actually persecuted those that sought to meet in the scriptural way and would not bow to the demands of the system.

 

Some seeing the wrong of setting Constantine in such a position continued meeting according to scripture. We understand that such meetings were scattered throughout Western Europe into England and Scotland. These, we believe, remained on scriptural ground, though discrepancies were apparent, as they did not have many copies of the scripture to refer to. It is reported that many of them knew the whole New Testament by heart.

 

The Dark Ages - 500 AD to about 1500 AD

 

Through the dark ages their numbers did dwindle as they were greatly persecuted by Rome as it gained power and influence.[11] The Inquisition was established to exterminate those that did not bow to the authority of Rome and we understand it lasted until 1820 when the last known prisoners were rescued from torture in Madrid.[12]

 

About 1500 AD - The time of the reformation and the recovery of the truth of the gospel of the grace of God.

 

The reformation was a recovery of the truth of the Gospel of God's grace (justification by faith). Though it had been privately held and preached, it then became more public and widespread.

 

At the time of the reformation a number who had previously been meeting to the Lord's name alone had been drawn in to some of the groups that were formed at that time, yet some did remain separate. We understand that, mainly in France, there were still those that remained separate from the systems of men and continued to meet to the name of the Lord alone as instructed in the scripture.[13]

 

The early 1800s - The truth of the scriptural ground of gathering.

 

In the early 1800's the Spirit of God was stirring the hearts of some and they came out of the systems of men to just meet to the name of the Lord alone. In a number of locations and without knowledge of the Spirit working elsewhere some were being led by the Spirit to understand that all Christians made up the Church irrespective of what ever system of men they may or may not be involved in. Also they came to understand that taking a name that was not given in the word of God was practically denying the name of Christ. The, natural, next step would be to leave aside all unscriptural names and meet only to the name of the Lord.

 

By the beginning of the 1800's, the testimony in France had become very weak and they had been absorbed into a number of the systems of men. But when some from Britain finally visited France they found that many were so exercised about the unscriptural practices in the systems of men, especially the corruption of the Church of Rome, that they were ready to embrace the truth when they heard it. Some had come out of the systems before any from Britain had made contact and were breaking bread at home. This resulted in a number of gatherings, meeting to the Lord's name alone, being established in many parts of the country.[14]

 

The truth of the one body was being worked out in a practical way. Every one that comes to Christ and has their sins forgiven is part of that one body. Maintaining the unity that we have in the Spirit is a practical expression of the truth of the one body. To be intelligent about what the unity of the Spirit is, would be very helpful in maintaining this unity, but it is not a prerequisite to be able to remember the Lord together. Unless there was some scriptural reason not to do so, all that know their sins forgiven were received.

 

As time went on there were many believers in different countries that were meeting only to the name of Christ. As these gatherings gained in popularity, they also attracted some that had no idea of what principles were to guide the Lord's people, this led to a series of events that resulted in the scattering of the sheep. If there is any testimony that would be for the glory of Christ, it seems that the enemy is not far away to try to destroy it. After a short time of enjoying the new found liberty, in knowing the truth of the scriptural way of gathering, the apostle's prediction in Acts 20 v 29 and 30 was proving to be true again. A few would be the cause of great sorrow for many.

 

Not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.

 

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16 v 16 thru 18)

 

Let us look at a couple examples of not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.

 

In 1846

 

It came to light that at Plymouth, England, one of some influence, a Mr. Newton, had been putting forward a teaching that was not in keeping with the doctrine of Christ and had gathered a following. When shown their error, they would not give up the teaching and by doing so left the ground that the church was established on.

 

In 1890[15]

 

We once again find a prominent person, a Mr. Raven of Greenwich, England, teaching error about the person of Christ. Some had requested that his local assembly look into the matter, but they refused. This person then had led many away. Though this was not so clear at first, in time it became clear that this teaching was indeed serious error.

 

This sad doctrine about the person of Christ has been so promoted among this company that today it would be almost impossible to find some among them that did not hold the error.

 

Not promoting scriptural unity.

 

Now we will look at some examples of not promoting scriptural unity.

 

In 1848 - Independency is giving up the truth of unity.

 

"In the year 1848, while Brethren from all parts were holding meetings in different places for prayer and humiliation because of the sad work of the enemy (at Plymouth, England), the rulers of Bethesda received to the Lord's table several of Mr. Newton's devoted friends and partisans who were known to hold his heresy... had adopted independence, and openly avowed it. All who adhered to the principle of the "one body," as the only true ground of Christian fellowship, were directly opposed to it."[16]

 

To condone such action it was taught that each assembly was to function independently from all the others. By doing so they forsook the Unity that the Lord desired for His church. [17]

 

To be fair with them, many among them today are not aware of what caused the sad division of 1848.

 

In 1881[18], 1884[19], 1885[20] and into the 1900s

 

Though the circumstances varied the principle was the same. Further testing came and some, rather than seeking to maintain scriptural unity, the brother involved, willingly or unwillingly, had a following and contrary to scripture started to break bread separately.

 

If a gathering of God's people enacts some kind of unscriptural discipline, it is important to learn to deal with it in a scriptural way. The course of action should be patience and laboring for the good of all, not separating and starting a group of their own.

 

"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:2-3).

 

In 2004

 

It seems obvious, but some have not been clear that a few cannot make a decision for a local gathering of God's people.[21]

 

More recently, in Ottawa, Canada, another test came that caught some off guard. Some wanted to discipline a brother and after a lengthy meeting of the local assembly, being unable to come to a conclusion, a decision was made, and agreed to by all, to come together at another time when they would continue the discussion. Before the date came there were a few men who claimed they had authority to make a decision for the assembly and drawing many others away with them separated and started to break bread at another location. Of course they had no such authority as the responsibility lies with the whole assembly, not a select few.[22]

 

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: (Luke 22:24-26)

 

Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

(2 Corinthians 1:23-24)

 

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

 

Some of those who were drawn away were not aware of what took place. We have all sinned at times without knowing it, but once it is brought to our attention and out of a love for Christ and His people, it is important that we acknowledge it.

 

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

(James 5:16)

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(1 John 1:9)

 

"Men might appear to be gathering together, but if not with Him it would prove to be but scattering. This is a point we do well to note. There is a great urge today for gathering men together in all kinds of associations and groups; but if not with Christ, central and dominant, it is a process of scattering, and will ultimately be manifested as such."[23]

 

By putting forward principles that are not in keeping with maintaining unity, those who are affected become in bondage to these unscriptural principles. It therefore becomes very important to be clear on what is scriptural and what is not.

 

This sad history is why one is exercised to have a clear understanding of what it means to endeavor to maintain the unity of the Spirit. I am convinced that if it were not for the distortion of this truth, those who sought to lead others away would not have been able to do so. My heart goes out to those who are now under this form of bondage.

 

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

(Romans 15: 5-7)

 

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

(1 John 3:20-24)

 

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:1-5)


Appendix A

1883

 

It is well to know the Lord's mind as to receiving Christians to break bread who may not as yet see their way clear to come out of the varied systems. Suppose a believer, not seeing the place he is in as identified with system to be unscriptural, yet through circumstances desirous of remembering the Lord with those intelligently meeting on scriptural ground: is it imperative that such should be intelligent as to what the church of God is, and the Scriptural ground of gathering?

 

If souls are known to be believers walking consistently, though surrounded by much that would defile brethren of greater light, yet (Christ being the alone ground of reception, and the membership and fellowship at the Lord's Table being that of the whole body of Christ) I see no Scripture for refusing such.

 

The responsibility would be theirs in returning to the place and things opposed to it. Such depart from you and the practical unity of the Spirit; but you do not, by their individual act, identify the divine ground with them or their unscriptural system. Christ, and not light about Him and truth, is the test; so that whilst intelligence is blessed and needful to carry out the mind of the Lord, it .is not the standard of reception. It may ever be well to press on souls what is due to Christ, making known the place taken in relation to Him. Moreover it is never advisable to bring souls in hastily or by pressure, but rather through their own exercise or desire. Doubtless there will and must be the call for grace and wisdom on the part of those better acquainted with the true or the false position. Through the lack of intelligence and the measure of cleaving to former associations and teaching, the soul may not be sufficiently established to get clear at once of the things previously sanctioned. Patience with pastoral care is needed; but to bring in a standard of intelligence or rule would be to displace the Lord Himself as the true center of gathering and thereby shut out many of the Lord's little ones, whom He may be graciously leading on to act in faithfulness to Himself. Where weakness, failure, and ruin are contemplated, provision is made for even two or three. Matthew xviii. 20 declares " Where two or three are gathered in [or 'to'] my name," to such Jesus vouchsafes His presence though little may be known, yet counting that light and understanding will follow. If Christ be the gathering center and governing object, it must be so; moreover, the Holy Ghost having liberty to act in relation to Christ, it becomes the true place for growth and blessing.[24]

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Appendix B

1872

 

Now every Christian is a member of this body, or of Christ. But to be a member of a particular body is quite a different idea. Now the Lord's Supper being the expression of this union of the members, as it is said (1 Cor. x.17), when a body of Christians only recognizes the right of receiving its own members, there is a unity directly opposed to the unity of the body of Christ. It is possible that it may be by ignorance, possible that these Christians may never have learnt what the unity of the body really is, and that it is the will of God that this unity should be manifested on the earth; but as a matter of fact they form a sect, an utter denial of the unity of the body of Christ. Many of those who are members of the body of Christ are not members of this particular corporation; and the Lord's Supper, though the members (of a sect) participate in it piously, is not the expression of the unity of the body of Christ.

 

But now a difficulty presents itself: the children of God are scattered; many pious brethren are attached to such an opinion or to such a body (other than the body of Christ), and in many respects, even in religious things, mixed up with the worldly-minded. There are alas! many who have no idea of the unity of the body of Christ, or who deny the duty of manifesting this unity on the earth. But all this does not overthrow the truth of God: those who so join together, as I have already said, are but a sect in principle. If I recognize all Christians as members of the body of Christ, if I love them, if I receive them most heartily at the Lord's Supper provided that they walk in holiness and truth, calling on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. ii.19-22; Rev. iii.7), then I do not walk in a sectarian spirit (even though I cannot reunite all the children of God), because I am walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ and seek practical union amongst the brethren. If I join with other brethren to take the Lord's Supper, as a member of the body of Christ only, not as the member of a church, whatever it may be, but truly in the unity of the body, ready to receive all Christians who walk in holiness and in the truth, I am not the member of a sect, I am a member of nothing less than the body of Christ...

 

A sect is therefore a religious body united on another principle than that of the unity of the body of Christ. It is absolutely such, when those who compose that particular body are regarded as being the members of it. A sectarian spirit is shown when these alone are recognized in a practical manner, without calling themselves properly the members of a body...[25]

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

Appendix C

1859

 

Q. 1 Corinthians. v.

 

Is the assembly competent and responsible to judge known evil? Or is it the function of elders or other rulers only, which the body is bound to carry out?

 

Does the ruler's verdict bind all? Or is it open to discussion or reconsideration?

 

How does the true principle differ from that of dissent on the one hand, and from clericalism on the other?

 

A. "I recognize that guides (elders, if you please, in principle[26]) can inform and clear up the conscience of a body of Christians. No doubt, if they have, by reason of use, their senses exercised to discern good and evil, and are deeply acquainted with God's ways in the Scripture, and with the human heart, it is just their service in such case, and, I believe, God's order; and saints will be always thankful for it, as far as I have seen. One may have spiritual discernment to suggest what all may have spirituality enough to see is right when suggested, but never would themselves have thought of. Now it is by no means necessarily a teacher that does this. But to impose a verdict which cannot be debated is the most monstrous thing that ever was heard of. It is pure, unmasked popery - the clergy dictating to the conscience of the church, which can only register and give their weight to its decrees. Is the conscience of the church to be disposed of thus by others, be they ever so wise? A thing may be urged on the church; may be insisted on; let it be that rebuke be given; but it is always to bring the conscience of the church up to the right level. This St. Paul did with Corinth (where, note, elders never appear at all), but he never acts for them without it. "You have proved yourselves clear in this matter." That is the principle the apostle goes on. No doubt he could guide and rebuke them too, and tell them he had judged the case already; but to impose a verdict on their consciences they could not debate, not an apostle even attempts. How could that be proving themselves clear? It is monstrous. No one who reads Scripture can question, however weak we may be now, that there were guides, leaders, who watched for their souls as accountable to do it, men of reputation, and at that time appointed elders. But it is a very different thing to govern or rule or guide the church, which is Scriptural, and to govern instead of and for the church, which is popish, and then call the Scriptural principles democracy. And even so the apostle declares he was as a nursing mother with the saints. And the government of the church is not a setting of points right, but of souls right, and therefore nothing is done unless the conscience of the church is carried into the act. It is evident that the apostle did bring the whole church round to separate from evil which he had already judged himself. Had he not done it, the Corinthians would not have been set right at all; they would have remained associated with the incestuous person. Had their consciences not heeded his appeal, he might, in the exercise of apostolic authority, have used severer means, and come with a rod. But he is anxious to show that whom they forgave he forgave; and if he forgave it was for their sakes, so that they might act together, and Satan get no advantage over them by dividing them from him about a point of discipline...

 

It is in vain to say that it is not denied. We have not the honest confession of this in terms, it is true, but we have the thing itself. The guides pass the verdict. The body are to register it without a debate. The judgment of their consciences is in the hands of a clergy. I can well suppose this reply to this plain and evident truth is to the case: " We do not deny the presence of the Spirit in the body. But, God having put this office into the hands of those who have addicted themselves to the ministry, the proof of the Spirit being in the body is their submission to the judgment of those whom God has placed over them. And thus the verdict is the verdict of the body by the Spirit." Now, this is exactly Popery. The verdict there is alleged to be the verdict of the Church, and the body are called upon to act, and do act as a body upon it. But it is arrived at by the clergy. It is in vain to say that it is presented to the body when arrived at, which the Roman clergy do not. They must not debate their verdict. They must take what is given them. For, supposing they are dissatified with the verdict stated, what can they do? Debate it before they make it theirs? No, that is positively refused. Examine witnesses? No, that is denied them. What then? Submit, or leave. The answer will be: " But God is with His Church, and He will guide the leaders into a right judgment, and they will only propose clear, evident cases." That is, the clergy are not only to be guides, but infallible guides; for they have come to the conclusion, which is to be taken to be the leading of God Himself! If the verdict be undebatable, it certainly ought to be infallible." [27]

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

Appendix D

1887

 

"One often hears it repeated: "What does it matter if there are divisions?  Have we not all the same end in view?  Are we not all fighting for the same Lord, although it may be under different standards?"  Is this then the teaching to be gathered from these chapters?  No, they were one; one in their victory, one in their failure, one in their defeat, one in the judgment of the evil, one in their restoration.  We see around us the poor children of God scattered and divided, and they are content to say: "What does it matter?" Brethren, for what purpose did Christ die?  Was it not "to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." (John xi.52) Does God scatter them after He has gathered them?  No; it is the wolf who scatters the sheep. (John x.12.) And can we say: "What does it matter?"

 

Diversity is not division; for it displays itself in unity. The ambush take Ai and set it on fire, whilst the twenty-five thousand men flee before their enemies, until advised by the smoke of the city to turn back upon them.  Just as they begin to fight, the ambush issuing out of the city join in the battle (verse 22), and then all the Israelites return unto Ai and smite it with the edge of the sword. (verse.24.) Thus there is diversity in the action and service, but it is an action in common.  The body is one; the several parts are joined together, and Joshua with his spear is the bond of union. If the unity is lost sight of, defeat is the result.[28]

 

 

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

 

We see Jesus

who was made a little lower than the angels

for the suffering of death

Crowned with glory and honor.

 

Hebrews 2:9

 

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

Don Lewis

515 E. Carefree Hwy #700

Desert Hills, Arizona 85085

 

WeSeeJesus.com

 

E-Mail: editor@weseejesus.com

 

 

 

 

May 10, 2013

 



[1] Ephesians 4:3

[2] See Appendix B

[3] Necessary and sufficient for our salvation.

[4] See 1 Corinthians 5:11 - I would not want to be responsible for keeping a believer from responding to his Lord's request, "This do in remembrance of me", without having a definite scripture to guide.

[5] See the Bible Treasury vol 14 page 156

[6] CHM Notes on Deuteronomy Page 383

 

[7] See Appendix A

 

[8] New and Concise Bible Dictionary.

[9] H. S.

[10] See appendix B

[11] Millers Church History Chapter 29

[12] Millers Church History Chapter 26

[13] Millers Church History Chapter 52

[14] See "Ancient Dissidence" by W. J. Lowe

[15] Known as Raven/Taylor Brethren

[16] by Andrew Miller

[17] They became known as Open Brethren

[18] Known as Kelly Brethren

[19] Known as Grant Brethren

[20] Known as Stuart Brethren

[21] See appendix C

[22] "And that is the meaning I believe of 'angel;' the symbolical representative of the assembly seen in those responsible in it, which indeed all really are". JND note NT Revelation 2:20

[23] F.B. Hole on Luke chapter 11

[24] For the full article see - The Bible Treasury vol. 14 page 316 August 1883

[25] For the full article see - The Bible Treasury vol. 9 page 191 January, 1872

[26] If we are going to abide by scripture, there can be no official position of ELDER today as there are no apostles to appoint them. There are those who have the moral qualities of an elder and though they are to guide the Lord's people, they are to guide by example, not authority. See Bible Treasury vol. 17 page 42 and vol. 19 page 112 and CHM on Deuteronomy page 286.

[27] For the full article see - The Bible Treasury vol. 2 page 351 October 1859

[28] Rossier - Joshua Chapter 8