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UNITY…AT WHAT PRICE?
by Keith Green
Today there is much talk among Christians about the need for
unity. Wherever Christians gather you can hear someone saying, “If
only all the believers could get together and agree, then the world
would sit up and take notice! THEN the devil would be running scared!
Then there would be real revival!!” The whole ecumenical movement is
based on such a conclusion.
I must admit the thought sounds wonderful – to have all those
different denominations (and “non”-denominations) in love and
fellowship with one another – that would be something, wouldn’t it!
Ah…but don’t hold your breath…IT CAN’T HAPPEN. There’ll always be
a couple of real Christians around to spoil it!
“What?!” You say, “How could REAL Christians spoil it? Wouldn’t
THEY be the very ones who would be the most loving and ready to
unite?” Oh yes! True belivers are full of love – love for God, love
for their brothers and sisters, love for souls – in fact, love would
be the VERY THING that would make them oppose a mass move of unity.
“What?!” You say again, “Why that’s the most absurd thing I’ve
ever heard! How could love keep them from wanting to get together with
everyone else who cofesses to love God? You’re not going to get me to
believe that people with such deep love wouldn’t just LOVE to see all
the churches and professing Christians come together in unity? Why,
what could they love more than that??”
Well, they love THE TRUTH! Yep, they’re pretty attached to it –
those true believers can even seem right stubborn and ornery at times
– the way they stick to the truth.
UNITY – MAN’S WAY
Some people have the craziest ideas! They want to try and do what
only God can do. “Let’s play Holy Spirit!” That’s what they seem to be
saying. They think that if they can just get everyone to quit arguing
about their different doctrinal beliefs, then unity is right around
the corner. “Let’s just all try and fellowship and talk about those
things in the Bible we all can agree on.”
There’s only one problem with that kind of thinking…isn’t the
Bible ALL true? How can we just find the lowest common denominator to
which all Christians can agree to, and label the rest of the Bible
(God’s Holy Word) “unessential for unity.”
In his book, Today’s Gospel – Authentic or Synthetic?, Walter
Chantry looks into the reasons for the failures of modern evangelism
and foreign missions. In the introduction Mr. Chantry writes:
“Having accepted the theory that unity is all-important for world
evangelism, both the Church and the individual must lower their
estimate of the value of truth. In a large congress on evanelism we
could not insist on a truth of God’s Word that would offend any
brother evengelical. After all, unity (among Christians) is more
essential than doctrinal preciseness.
“It is for just this reason that the mission boards are hesitant
to answer the question, ‘What is the gospel?’ Thoroughly to answer
that would destroy the mission society, which is a federation of
churches who have differing answers to that question. To adopt the
position of one church would be to lose the support of five others.
The whole system built on unity and generality would crumble.”
UNITY – GOD’S WAY
(Jesus’ prayer in John 17)
Many base their quest for true godly unity on an important
passage in the gospel of John. Here in chapter 17, Jesus is praying
for His disciples “that they all may be one…” (v.21). This verse
certainly shows that the Lord desires His followers to have unity and
truly “be one”. but in the very next verse (v.22), we see some key
words “…that they may be one EVEN AS WE ARE ONE.” How are the
Father and Son one? In every way! They have no doctrinal disputes.
They have no differing theologies. They do not argue over the rapture.
They completely agree…on EVERYTHING!
But you might ask, “How can every Christian agree on doctrine? If
we wait for that, we’ll NEVER have unity!” You’re missing the point.
It’s not knowing “doctrine” that’s important, it’s knowing God. Only
through entering into an intimate, personal relationship with the
living God and leaving behind the doctrines and theologies created by
men and church tradition, can we ever hope to find the unity Jesus
prayed for: “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect
in one…Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be
with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory…” (John 17:23-24).
What does the word “theology” mean anyway? It means “the study of
God”. Today, theological students do not study God, they study about
God. At best, they study the writings of men who themselves have
studied God. Why, they really ought to change the word theology to
theology-ology or “the study of the study of God!”
TRUE AND FALSE DIVISION
How many times have you heard that somebody was “causing division
in the church?” Well, maybe they were supposed to! After all, there
are two things that cause division according to the Bible: truth and
error. (I can just see now all the eyebrows raising.) Haven’t you
heard the scripture, “Do you suppose I cam to grant peace on earth? I
tell you, no, rather division!” That’s right! Jesus said that “from
now on five members in one household will be divided three against
two, and two against three” (Luke 12:51-52). He said that whole
families would be divided over Him. And there are many occasions in
the New Testament when whole assemblies of people were divided because
of Jesus (John 7:43, 9:16, 10:19, Acts 23:6-7). You must remember
people who love the truth will divide from people who love lies.
Now the Bible does warn us about those who would enter into our
midst and cause divisions and factions (Matt. 12:25, Rom. 16:17, 1Tim.
6:3-5, 2Tim. 2:14, 2John 10). And yes, it has always been the devil’s
strategy to “divide and conquer.” But these divisions are obviously
based on error, lies, and usually come from bitter and evil motives
Division that comes from the proclaiming of the truth will
usually include some intense reaction and opposition, but it will also
produce good fruit and the advancement of God’s kingdom (not to
mention the conversion of souls.)
What bible story is there, Old Testament or New, where the doing
of righteousness or the preaching of the gospel does not divide men
and separate them into two very distinct categories: those who are
willing to turn and obey God, and those who actually turn on the
messenger, because he violently disturbs their false (and usually
And today, when there are so many who are professing religion, is
it any wonder that some of the deepest truths in the Bible –
repentance, faith, holiness, etc. – are also some of the greatest
objects of debate in the Church. It must be said that those who truly
want to know God’s views on these great pillars of Christian doctrine,
will appear to be divisive – and rightly so, in an age when the great
gospel message of salvation can be reduced to such a sugar-coated,
bakery-item as, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your
WHAT THE SCRITPTURES SAY
Those who believe that Christians should stop bickering about
their “pet doctrines” are right. Christians should not be
argumentative, “…and the Lord’s bond-servant must not be
quarrelsome…” (2Tim. 2:24). How many times have you heard stupid
arguments about prophecy? “But I just KNOW the 10th head on the dragon
in Revelation is Tahiti!” This kind of “division” is for the birds.
Yet there ARE scriptural commands to defend the truth. “Study to
show thyself approved.
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