If you want a good place to start in achieving Christian unity in your church congregation, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ (Dr. LJ) book ‘The Basis of Christian Unity’ is it. A masterful work and I do not attempt to think that I could top what he has said within its covers. However there are a few points I would like to highlight.
#1. The Roman Catholic solution to the problem…is simply absorption into her institution and organization…Therefore it is quite logical that her notion of unity should be that all other sections of the church should return to her who is ‘the one and only true church of Christ.'(pg. 2)
Dr.Jones is very polite here as we all know that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is not and was not the one and only true Church. In fact, its popes do not even go back to Peter for that church did not come into existence until approx. the 5th century AD. The true church can be and is called catholic but that term or identity has nothing to do with the RCC.
Of course the RCC wants absorption because, like its earlier medieval version, it wants power and control over everyone. We know this just by studying its history and historical use of excommunication to manipulate Kings and governments. But absorption is not achieving Christian unity, it is merely stamping out any true opposition and forcing one’s will over others.
#2. Unity means that all sections of the Christian church , anybody, everybody claiming the name of Christian, should meet together, have fellowship together and work together, presenting a common front to the enemies of Christianity. (pg. 2)
Those words are not Dr. LJ’s and he deals with this thought in much greater detail later in the book. He does a great job showing how this idea does not work. For me, it is the bold words that he does not address and I would like to. The idea of ‘presenting a common front’ is not Christian teaching nor is it honest. We do not lie to unbelievers about our standing with each other and we do not hide our beliefs and doctrines, nor can we say bad or false teaching is good for that would be misrepresenting Christ and biblical teaching to the unchurched world.
We also cannot call what is sinful ‘good’ even if it is practiced by those who claim to be Christian.
#3. The commonest argument used to press upon us the vital and urgent importance of this question of unity is that evangelism is impossible apart from it, that the divided church is an offence to the world, and that while we are divided the world will not listen to us. Therefore, we are told, it is urgently essential that we should come together in order that we may evangelize. (pg. 3-4)
Those who promote this idea, and again it is not Dr. LJ, are not being honest, for they know that their alternatives cannot stand up without the legitimacy of the truth supporting their false ideas. While Billy Graham did practice this idea, i do not like it as it tells the world that false teaching is okay, and a viable option for those who repent of their sins.
It is also allowing wolves in sheep’s clothing to prey upon vulnerable and unwary people.Unity is not an excuse to disobey God or misrepresent ourselves and our beliefs. We cannot have unity if we do not agree with each other doctrinally or theologically nor can we have unity if we lie and sin.
#4. They are based upon, it is said,on proof texts. We are told we must never do that, that we must take the general tenor and sense of Scripture, and not base out position upon particular texts. (pg. 5-6)
The people who make this claim are those who are trying to get their alternative ideas into the church. They do not like these specific texts because they shut the door on their endeavors. There is nothing wrong with using the so-called ‘proof texts’ as long as we do not distort their meaning, take them out of context or abuse them by applying them to personal desires instead of God’s wishes.
There are a lot of scriptures that do stand alone even when you ‘remove’ them from their context. John 3:16-17 is one such passage as are Romans 3:23, 6:23 and on we go. Those who argue again those passage use are merely trying to avoid what God says about a given topic. I agree with Dr. LJ about keeping passage sin context, yet again, there are those verses which stand alone and says everything. Another example is, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
That one verse shuts the door on any alternative idea any person who cannot accept the Bible’s account of our origins conjures up.
#5. …keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one. (pg. 7)
Those words come from John 17:11 and the ones in bold are the key. These are words Dr. LJ does not go into great detail over so I would like to illustrate how God and Jesus are one as referenced by those words. As we look at scripture we see that Jesus does not rebel against God or his will. Jesus did not argue with God, disagree with him, challenge him, nor does he say God lied, or misrepresented himself.
Jesus and God are one in their message, what is God word, what is God’s teaching and you do not see Jesus saying something different from God had Paul or Peter write later on when he had them pen his further inspired words. They are one on all accounts and not in disagreement on theology, doctrine or God’s will.
The church cannot achieve unity if there are people in their congregation who disagree with what is God’s word, his teaching, his will and so on. There also cannot be unity in the church if there are people who say God lied in Genesis or misrepresented himself. Those people are not following God and striving to do his will nor proclaim his teaching as God wants. They challenge God instead and reject much of his teaching because those words do not line up with their ideas or acceptance of the secular culture.
Unity means that the message is the same in all people and it agrees with God’s just like Jesus agreed with his father. Though unity does not mean we rubber stamp every idea and plan that comes down the pike, or that we blindly agree with everyone else when it comes to methodology or opinion. It means that we discuss thoroughly, honestly, trying to reach the spot where we find God’s will and then, once found, we put aside contrary thought and implement his directions.
Unity is not naive nor ignorant.
#6. …For I have given unto them the words which thou has gavest me; and they have received them… (pg. 8)
These words come from John 17: 6-8 and again the key words are in bold print. Notice those who are achieving unity are those who have received the words Jesus gave them. Those who do not accept the words of Moses, the words of Paul and other biblical authors are not receiving the words Jesus gave us. They are rejecting his words, as Jesus said in John 5 that if one cannot believe Moses they will not believe his words (slight paraphrase).
Jesus also did not counter anything Paul wrote or overturned God’s order for his temple so if we receive the words of Jesus then we must receive the words of all the Bible. This means that those who reject a literal Adam and Eve are not receiving Jesus’ words, or those who reject the historicity of the Patriarchs are not receiving the words of Jesus or God’s. As you can see in that quote, God gave the words to Jesus thus if we reject Jesus’ words, then we are rejecting God’s.
Unity means that the members of the church are all on the same page doctrinally, theologically and historically. Those who reject passages of the Bible cannot be a part of the congregation nor can there be unity in the church.
Again, you need to read Dr. LJ’s book to get the full gist of what he is saying and it is an important message for those seeking unity in their church congregation. If your church leaders do not want to rock the boat by ejecting those who do not believe or have rejected the words of God then it may be time to find a new church home. Unity cannot be achieved if the leadership of the church refuses to exclude those who are not one with God (new converts and other exceptions do not apply here)