Essentials of Church Unity
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)
In verse three Paul admonishes the Ephesians to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Therefore, it is incumbent upon every member to strive for the continuity of this unity, or oneness which the Holy Spirit has generated in the church.
In verses four through six Paul lists the seven essentials which constitute the foundation of true church unity. They are: “One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.” The spiritual numerical value of the number seven (7) is perfection or completion. So it is, nothing needs to be added nor deleted from the foundation of church unity which the Head of the church has laid.
Verse four, “There is one body ...” There is unity of mind among students of ecclesiology regarding the metaphorical term “body” used in this text. All agree it is a reference to the Lord’s church. The parting of the way comes when the question is posed, “What kind of a church does the term refer to?” The universal invisible church theorist answers immediately saying, “It refers to the true church, the universal invisible church.” To be consistent with this answer the proponent must deny the existence of the local church, for whatever Paul refers to with the term “body” we know it is “one.”
Adherents of the universal invisible church theory have two churches, one which he calls the true church, which in his notion includes all believers, and a local visible church which is constituted of a fragment of the whole body of believers. When one of two things is referred to as the true, by inference the other is denied genuineness. Thus it is, the universal invisible church theorist, by his doctrine, which calls for two kinds of churches, places himself outside the Lord’s church. The Lord’s body, in the ecclesiastical sense is not anything more or less than a local visible true church. The Lord’s churches are chaste and virtuous (II Corinthians 11:2), and shall enter glory in “fine linen, clean and white” (Revelation 19:8).
If the “one body” of the text can be dualized, then the other six elements which constitute the foundation of church unity may also be dualized. The impossibility of which is seen when one considers such an interpretation has Paul saying, there are “two bodies, two Spirits, two hopes, two Lords, two faiths, two baptisms, and two Gods.” Such an interpretation would be ludicrous if it was not so ridiculous. The “one body” in the text does not mean one in number, but one in kind, the same as “one baptism” in the text means one in kind. Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, says, “Now ye are the body of Christ ...” (I Corinthians 12:27). Now, we know every saved person on the earth at the time was not in the church at Corinth. Yet, Paul says to the Corinthian church, “Ye are the body of Christ.” In admonishing the church at Corinth, Paul says, “There should be no schism in the body ...” (I Corinthians 12:25). There are not only an infinite number of schisms and divisions in the so-called universal invisible church, but many of their differences are of such nature that they are irreconcilable apart from the abandonment of all reasoning. It is the devil’s delight to take those who are wise in their own conceit, having turned their ears from the truth and are feasting on fables, and use them in building his ecumenical church. They are victims of that vain philosophy, which says, “Nothing is either black or white, everything is a beautiful shade of gray.” So they conclude that their dissimilarities are only imaginary, and the ecumenical architect realizes his diabolical designs. The last word, or the bottom line concerning the ecumenical harlot is in Revelation 17, “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill His will ...” (verses 16 and 17).
ONE SPIRIT - ONE HOPE
Verse four, “There is ... one Spirit ...” There is but one Holy Spirit, but there are many evil spirits (I John 4:1). It is the Holy Spirit that gives oneness and unity to the Lord’s churches. “There is ... one hope ...” (vs. 4). The Holy Spirit gives life and unity to the church, and instills the same supreme hope in all the body. Which hope is, to eternally share in the glory of the Head of the church as His bride. Paul, in the Colossian epistle identifies the church as the body of Christ (1:24) and then says to the Colossian church, “... Christ in you (institutionally) the hope of glory” (1:27).
Verse five, “One Lord ...” Baptists have been martyred by the thousands because of their unshakable faith in the ‘‘one Lord” of the Bible. In the early history of the church the Roman Empire was in ascendancy, and the known world was subjugated to Rome. The Roman emperors set themselves up as deities, and commanded worship of all their subjects. Baptists, being mindful of the word of their sovereign Lord, wherein He said, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them ...” (Exodus 20:5) went joyfully to the stake. They were willing to render unto Caesar the things that belonged unto him, but they preferred to die rather than deny their one Lord. Polytheism did not die with the Roman emperors, but is present in the papalism and paganism of religious Rome. The gods of Romanism are legion, the Pope, Mary, angels, canonized saints, etc. are all objects of worship. Baptists being biblicists, adhering to the letter of their one Lord, knowing they have no option as regards worship, and rather than say, political or spiritual Caesar is Lord, they stand “ready to be offered.”
Verse five, “... One faith ...” This is a reference, in the primary sense, to an experiential faith in the “one Lord.” Yet, it is readily understood one cannot be a true worshipper of God without assimilating and propagating His doctrine.
Verse five, “... One baptism ...” This is a reference to water baptism. In the New Testament where the term “baptism” is used, it is a reference to water baptism, unless there is in the context given a description which expressly identifies it as something other than water baptism. I Corinthians 12:13 will not support the Scofield idea of Holy Spirit baptism. While the Greek preposition “en” is translated “by” in I Corinthians 12:13, it is by the same (KJV) translators, translated by the word “among” 114 times. “With” was their choice 139 times, “by” 142 times, and they chose the word “in” 1,863 times. To be consistent with the rest of the New Testament regarding baptism, (for nowhere is it said that the Holy Spirit ever baptized any person or thing), the translators should have used the word “in” instead of “by” in I Corinthians 12:13. Yet, the deceptive power of the devil is such that he has caused a whole doctrine to be built upon this erroneous translation of one Greek proposition. The incongruity of the word “by” in I Corinthians 12:13 is made apparent when the subject of baptism is studied in the light of the whole New Testament.
ONE GOD AND FATHER
Verse six, “One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Every religion except Christianity has a plurality of Gods. And under the canopy of Christianity there are mock denominations which by their practice and doctrines reveal that they believe in the existence of more than one God. God alone has the power to forgive sins, and any person or thing which takes this power unto themselves assumes God-ship.
If baptism saves or helps to save, then baptism should be deified and worshipped. If freewill saves or helps to save, the wrong God is on the throne. But we know “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:16).
“One God and Father of All ...” God is the creator of all, but He is not the spiritual Father of all mankind (John 8:44). The context bears out that the reference is to God being the Father of all who are Christians, and more particularly of those who are in His body, the church. The word “all” is a reference to Jews and Gentiles, and within the frame of reference it has to do with both Jews and Gentiles within the same body. God is not “through all, and in all,” men without exception, but He is in and through all men without distinction. God indwells every believer by the “one Spirit” and is ever ready to intensify the intimacy of His relationship with the believer. The word is, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).
Thus we see, at the top of the list of the seven things which are necessary for church unity, the “one God”. God is always at the top shining in His own glory, and sending down on His church every gift necessary for spiritual unity and growth (James 1:17).
The “one God” indwells every New Testament Baptist church by the “one Spirit” thereby empowering each church to preach the ‘‘one hope”, “one Lord”, “one faith”, and “one baptism” whereby unity is realized and perpetuated in each respective body.
(Sovereign Grace Advocate - April, 1978)
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