“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
“There is ONE body and ONE Spirit, just as also you were called in ONE hope of your calling; ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Eph 4:1-7)
Believers who are fully mature in Christ Jesus are not as divided as many may think. Christian maturity is not an issue of which denomination or Christian group a believer belongs to. It is about the nature of Christ at work in the believer’s life.
Speaking of spiritual maturity, in the Bible, the number seven often caries the idea of perfection or wholeness. In the new covenant it can include the idea of a spiritual completeness (or maturity). Notice in the above Scriptures, how the apostle Paul uses the word ‘one’, seven times. The apostle is addressing true nature of Godly maturity.
Our spiritual wholeness and maturity can be found in these seven terms. Listen to them again, in the sense of we as Christians are truly one people –
1. [We are] One body.
2. [We are of] One Spirit.
3. [We have] One hope.
4. [We have] One Lord.
5. [We have] One faith.
6. [We have] One baptism.
7. [There is but] One God.
The last ‘One’ tells the tale. The apostle said, “[There is] one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
But What About Divisions
So the question remains – If the Church is one body, why so many divisions? Perhaps there is a plus side that we need to consider. The plus side has to do with how the Lord describes His church. He uses the grape-vine with its many branches. There is only one vine but many branches.
All the branches have the responsibility of bearing fruit for the Vine Dresser, of whom Jesus says is the Heavenly Father. The fruit we bear, therefore, is the fruit of Christ Himself. (He is the Vine.) Therefore it can be said that if we are truly in union with Christ, then we will be one heart and union with other true believers.
We can even use ancient Israel as an example. There were twelve tribes and each tribe was given its allotted territory. Plus each tribe had particular distinctions and God-given purposes that gave them their differences. Yet there was only one tabernacle or temple to which worship was to be centered.
The new covenant carries the same idea with the exception that we have no earthly temple (other than the church itself), and no earthly high priest who stands between all believers and God.
There is no mediatorial ministry in the new covenant because every believer has direct to the throne of God.
But there can be a negative side to divisions. It has to do with …
The Stigma of Sectarianism
The negative side is when a branch tries to distance itself and seeks to disregard all the other branches of the vine. In this case that branch is unable to bear the true fruit of Christ. That branch will begin to bear withered fruit. It becomes more earthly minded and institutionalized in its thinking. According to Jesus, that branch can even lose its place in the Vine.
To carry this further, new covenant people are described as a heavenly people. Take care for these Scriptures:
“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. …
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:18-24)
“Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?’
“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.
“Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’
“Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.‘” (Joh 18:35-37)
Did you catch it?
And all this brings us to the negative side of the question, ‘If the Church is one body, why are there so many divisions?’
See the Problem –
Please go back and read the Scriptures just given above. Read them a third or fourth time. Read them until it dawns on you what the problem is.
The problem is that some have set about to make an earthly institution to represent the kingdom of God.
This does not mean that earthly institutions are wrong. They are not wrong if members of these institutions are given freedom of conscience, and given the right to hear from the Lord themselves, and can accept that they are only one part of the great Body of Christ.
(The picture here is provided by the Church of Christ in Galway, Ireland.)
Keep in mind that just about every war on this planet has sectarianism at its base. In years gone by Christians have killed other Christians over sectarianism. Ireland is a good example.
Look closely at the Muslim world today. Muslims are beheading other Muslims because of sectarianism.
But lets come back to …
The True Beauty of the Church
The beauty of the Church revolves around who the Church really is. The Church is the bride of Christ. And the Bible wraps itself around the story of God’s Son and His Bride.
The Old Testament and the New Testament both draw attention to marriage. Genesis opens with God presenting Adam with a bride. The New Testament shows the very first miracle of Jesus to be at a wedding. But notice how the New Testament ends –
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.'” (Rev 22:17)
Now for a last thought – What is the heartbeat of God’s true church? Is it not a love for the Son of God. The Irish church called attention to it in the above picture, in alluding to 2 Corinthians 11:3.
Listen carefully to what the apostle Paul was warning God’s people about –
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
“For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (2Co 11:2-4)
The church at Corinth had to struggle over their relationship to Jesus Christ. Many of their teachers where preaching a different Jesus. Could this really be at the heart of sectarianism today?
Should we not be cautious that our love for God, is not about a Baptist Jesus, a Pentecostal Jesus, a Catholic Jesus, a Methodist Jesus, and on and on and on.
May I add to this in saying that God only gave us one name that believers are to find themselves by. It is the name Christian. With that in mind, take to heart what the apostle Peter had to say –
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
“Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1Pe 4:14-16)
Just some things to think about.
Please take time for this song
Your servant in Christ,