This article deals with the oneness of the Body of Christ. For purposes of this article we will treat the churches as members of the universal Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12). There are more than 450,000 churches in the U.S. alone, most with different doctrines from the other churches. Adherents to the doctrine of their particular church tend to disagree with the other churches and how they serve God. This leads to division between the churches even though all believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. In general the Catholics war with the Protestants, the Protestants war within themselves and the remaining independent denominations disagree with everyone. This was not the way the early church was created. When we say “the early church” we are referring to the churches of the first century C.E (see the Books of Acts and the epistles that follow).
Paul laid out the original way the church was to relate. “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. 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” (Ephesians 4:1-6). Paul is completely right. There is only one God, one Jesus Christ and one Holy Spirit that are themselves one and desire the Body to be one with them.
The Lord said at the Last Supper: “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me” (John 17:20-24). The oneness between the Body and God was supposed to be a witness to the world. However the disunity of the churches today is a negative witness and as a result many do not believe and do not attend church or seek the Lord on their own. People sense that all is not right with the churches for a variety of reasons and refuse to become involved in the dispute.
Many churches are founded on the ego of one or more ministers and reduced to money making schemes that are obvious to most. These churches are financially able to use the media to preach their message of disunity. Most interesting is the involvement of Satan in the churches. Satan has no unity in himself and transfers this disunity to the churches. Jesus speaking to the religious leaders said: “How can Satan cast out Satan? “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. “If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!” (Mark 3:23-26 also see Mt 12:25; Luke 11:17). The disunity among the people is the result of Satan and his division among he and his helpers.
Satan is a religious minister of unrighteousness and he so influences the churches he has access to. Paul said: “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Can you imagine? Satan transforms the ministers of the churches into ministers of unrighteousness with the attending disunity of Satan. That deception will not always come from a Satanist church. Even Satan’s ministers are transformed into ministers of righteousness. Satan himself comes forth as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14–15). Religious people who are basically dishonest in their heart will become deceived and go along their way. What was behind ancient Babylon? Isaiah 14:12 says “How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning!—there—it is Lucifer—the one that fell out of heaven and the outstanding religious spirit of all time! A religious spirit, he comes as an angel of light. He transforms his ministers as ministers of righteousness when they are actually ministers of unrighteousness and disunity. As we shall see this is because of a lack of love.
Religious m/women are aware of this widespread disunity and have taken steps to correct it. He convenes Councils to take up the subject of what doctrines can be accepted by all the churches. An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church. There have been many such councils conducted over the years. Both Catholic and Protestant churches have their own councils. The Catholic Council, conducted with the ultimate authority of the Pope, becomes law for the Catholics.
Not so for the Protestant Churches (i.e. Lutheran, Methodist etc). They reject the findings of the meetings for a variety of reasons but primarily because the Council fails to find many places where the churches can agree on doctrine. Each church, especially the larger churches, are bound to their own doctrines and consider it too big a job to change the beliefs of thousands of people. The fundamental differences between these churches are too large to be considered in this short article. But they are many and are defended vigorously. For any interested the website below sets out with detail most of the major differences in doctrine of the denominations:
What is the answer? Christian churches will never be effective if they are preaching different doctrines. They will not stand in their division. Only one ingredient will overcome the division. Gary Hargrave in his pamphlet “A Call to Oneness (2014, Living word Publications) said the following (p. 7): “How will the Church in this current day, with all its apparent separation and division, ever become one? It will become one as we love one another. The oneness Jesus prayed for us to have[John 17] was born out of the relationship of love between Himself and the Father. We do not need to pray for oneness and unity; we simply need to have a love from one another”.
The source of this bit of truth is drawn from John 17, one of the last things the Lord spoke to the disciples at the last supper: “…that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me. “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. “O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me; and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:21-26). The Lord is saying that the love and unity of He and the Father be the same love the disciples have for each other, and the Father and the Son, so that all will be one. The world will see this and see that He and His followers love each other and are thus perfected in unity.
In the end time all men will know His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35), It is not human love; it is God’s love and we have had to be trained in this love step by step. The Word has been coming for years on never throwing up a wall to a brother, always keeping the door open to him. That is the same as staying open to Him yourself. You could open a door next to you and let someone walk through that door while you stay totally closed off and walk away. That is not what the Lord is talking about. You have to keep yourself open so that people are able to come and flow through you and be one with you (Stevens, John Robert: This Week, Volume XII (1981). North Hollywood, CA. : Living Word Publications, 2007, S. 558).
As Paul said: “IF I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
All our differences and our diversities can be perceived as divisions. Paul said: “But now there are many members, but one body. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many….that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 25-26).
The diversity of the body, in complete oneness, is the beauty of God in the Body of Christ.
Scriptures: “The New American Standard Bible”, 1978 and 1995 editions unless otherwise noted.