I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
But the preacher said we don’t have to have this unity! Yes, I have heard it myself, and you probably have too. Below are quotes about the mystical unity of the Body of Christ from men such as evangelist Billy Graham, Episcopal bishop James Pike, and pastor Chuck Smith. The mysterious unity of the Body is one of the few issues that unite conservative, liberal, and fundamentalist preachers.
But what if they didn’t teach that there is unity in diversity? What would people think as they read over such passages as Ephesians 4:1-3? What conclusions would they come to then? The natural assumption people would make is that outwardly divided individuals also lack inward unity. Outward, visible unity, such as a married couple living together and sharing all things in common, requires love. One would normally think that outwardly divided people have nothing holding them together at a personal, heart-to-heart level. For people to be one takes love — the kind of love that makes covenants. Entering the New Covenant takes exactly that kind of love and commitment.
Divorce is the evidence of the absence or death of love, not its presence. In just the same way, according to Paul, factions and division are the evidence of spiritual perversion and sin. They even prove the self-condemning pursuit of one’s own glory.1 No one can deny that there is one religion above all others that is the greatest breeding ground for divisions and denominations. It is Christianity, with its 39,000 denominations2 and climbing! How can that be?
This is a question that occurs to many, many people. There is only one way for people not to come to obvious conclusions when confronted by firm evidence. They have to be taught to view reality differently — by someone they trust. As Bob Dylan sang, “Everybody’s got to serve somebody.” Equally so, everybody’s got to trust somebody.
Billy Graham wrote to new believers about division in his book, Growing as a Christian. Such questions, if unanswered, could even cause people to doubt his gospel.
I have learned that although Christians do not always agree, they can disagree agreeably,” Further, he assured them, “within the true church there is a mysterious unity that overrides all divisive factors.3
James A. Pike was an Episcopal bishop and liberal theologian, yet he said the same thing. He disagreed with Billy Graham about much, but not about this. Mr. Pike and Mr. Graham are in full agreement that there is nothing the world can see to prove that the church is one. This is from Reverend Pike:
The Church is one. This unity is not based on an external and evident united Christian fellowship existing without division or disagreement. The fact is we are sadly disunited. Yet the Church is one. The unity which we profess in the Creed is already here, in Jesus Christ Himself and in the truth that all who are members of His Body are united in their Lord. It is a unity in Christ.4
The fundamentalist preacher, Chuck Smith, said the same thing. His Calvary Chapel churches remain the largest surviving legacy of the Jesus Movement.
Paul points out that some say, “I’m of Paul,” while others say, “I’m of Apollos.” He asked, “Isn’t that carnal?” But what’s the difference between saying that or saying, “I’m a Baptist,” “I’m a Presbyterian,” “I’m a Methodist,” “I’m a Catholic”? I have found that the more spiritual a person becomes, the less denominational he is. We should realize that we’re all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren’t any real divisions in the Body. We’re all one.5
It is certainly a spiritual thing to say divisions don’t really exist in the Body of Christ. But what spirit? Perhaps Mr. Smith means that just as you can’t see a spirit you can’t see the unity of believers today. You can see divisions, but Pastor Chuck, Bishop Pike, and Evangelist Graham all teach us to deny their reality. If we don’t, they would say we’re not “spiritual.”
All of these teachings seem much different than what the Savior said or what His apostles taught. Why don’t these famous preachers and the Scriptures agree? Perhaps the Scriptures are wrong. What do you think?
These basic Christian teachings on unity stand in stark contrast to what the Savior prayed for on the night Judas betrayed Him. Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one as the Father and the Son are one, which makes you wonder about things if you take an honest look around.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
In the interest of finding the truth hidden underneath centuries of tradition and dogma, let’s do something radical. Let’s assume that these words of Jesus are true of Christianity — that all believers have actually received the glory Jesus spoke of. If we assume this, it leads to some shocking conclusions.
We can tell with some certainty just how the Father and the Son get along. There’s two thousand years of evidence, after all.
So, as the Father and Son are one, all true believers are one. Conversely, then, as all true believers are one, the Father and the Son are one, right? (It’s hard to say these things without sounding disrespectful, but sometimes seeing the truth requires looking at things from another perspective.)
So, do the Father and the Son fight as Christians do? Do they speak ill of one another to the angels and the cloud of witnesses? Or do they not speak to one another at all, but put a good face on things when they are having a spat? Stiff upper lip, and all that? Or when it gets positively irreconcilable, is there war in heaven as on earth? As Christian nations have battled for earthly supremacy, do the Father and the Son “have it out” with the help of legions of angels at their sides? Or do they just disagree agreeably as Billy Graham says Christians do? (The watching world over the past 1900 years has wished Christians would, however, it just hasn’t worked out that way.)
So in the end, judging by Christianity, we really can’t be too sure that the Father and Son don’t hate each other. It’s pretty difficult to think that the God of the Bible is like His followers, isn’t it? And if He’s not, where’s the disconnect?
Could it be that those who claim to believe in Him don’t? Could it be that those who keep a tight grip on their possessions, their swords, and their own individual lives do not love Him at all? Read Luke 14:26-33 and decide whether Jesus meant what He said. If He did, then John 14:24 describes the people and the religion of those who have His words but do not keep them:
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)