A Plea For New Testament Unity
Unity is a subject that has enlisted the attention and the interest of many religious people. Jesus prayed just a short while before he died for the unity of his people. He said: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:20, 21)
Religious division has been a tool of Satan to create disbelief in the word of the Lord. If the word of God is so contradictory as to authorize so many conflicting religions, the devil has reasoned with men, it cannot be true and dependable, so why pay attention to anything it may say? Without intimating that all religious people are included in the prayer of Jesus, it must be said that such division has hindered the progress of truth in the world. Religious people, knowing this, have made many efforts toward unity.
Permanent Unity Better Than Temporary Union
Many efforts made have been toward a temporary unity, or perhaps it might be better expressed by the term "union." The two terms are used generally as synonyms and yet a number of things may be brought into a state of union of some kind when unity is not really present. On the surface of things unity may seem to dwell, but within there is much that has not been united.
Just such efforts are demonstrated in the various "union meetings" held from time to time in various cities of the nation. They purport to be united efforts toward the salvation of souls, but the divisions existing between and among the churches participating still exist, though for the duration of the meetings such differences are kept under cover. In these meetings the denominations taking part agree for a period of time to lay aside denominational differences, to discard party names, to drop their denominational creeds, and for all to work as one to accomplish the good of men and the salvation of souls.
But why have meetings like this anyway? Why lay aside the dogmas of denominationalism for this period of time? Surely it is because those taking part believe that more good can be done than if each should continue to advance his particular denomination during the same period of time. Unless such is conviction of those concerned, there could be no reason for such a meeting.
Have you ever considered seriously what this involves? It simply shows that these denominations acknowledge that party differences and denominational peculiarities and names and doctrines are a hindrance to the salvation of the souls of men. If not, why discard them for the duration of the meeting? Why have a union meeting, unless this is admitted?
It also shows that the doctrines peculiar to any denomination are not essential to the salvation of any one, for surely they would not surrender, even for a brief period, that which is necessary to the saving of souls; and it shows that these denominational doctrines are not the gospel of Christ, for the gospel is necessary to salvation. (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15: 1, 2)
As these party doctrines can be given up for a short while without damaging the souls of men, why can they not be given up permanently? If a temporary union will add to the blessings of religion and advance the salvation of men, why would not a permanent union be worth a hundred times as much? And if sectarian creeds, party names and denominational systems can be surrendered for a brief period without suffering loss, they can be given up forever and the world profit by the "sacrifice." Consistency demands that the churches taking part in such meetings never return to their former teaching and practice.
Permanent Unity A Long Cherished Desire
A permanent surrender of denominational names and creeds would lead to a permanent union, and permanent unity is a long cherished desire Yet a permanent union might be effected which would be no nearer right than the denominational division that originally existed. Any permanent unity must be reached upon the principles of the New Testament. We have had already a "confederation of churches" that has led to a "permanent union" of some religious bodies, but while such may abolish some parties, it adds just another sectarian group to those that remain. Such is not the unity taught in the New Testament.
Union upon a program outlined by uninspired men is not New Testament unity. You might unite every religious denomination in the world into one big body and still have one big denomination, unless all return to the New Testament plan. In that case there would still be one denomination too many, for just one is more than the New Testament knows anything about.
The only permanent union worth while is a return to the New Testament as the sole rule of faith and practice. To accomplish this, all must be willing to reject all human creeds. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Matt. 15:9) They must be willing to reject all denominations and just be members of the one church you read about in the New Testament, the church of Christ, the church of the Lord. (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; Acts 20:28; Rom. 16: 16) They must throw aside all denominational names, such as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, Adventist, and Mormon, and be content to wear the one divinely authorized name, the name Christian. (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:14-16) Upon this plan only can New Testament unity be possible. A unity of that nature will be pleasing to the Almighty Father; no other kind will.
Perfect Unity — A Permanent Principle
The Lord said there should be one fold and one shepherd. (John 10:16) He promised to build but one church. (Matt. 16:18) He is the husband of one wife. (Eph. 5: 23-25) Through Paul he has exhorted us to speak the same things and to be of the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10-13) He authorized the existence of no denominations, and every denomination in the world today exists without divine sanction.
The Church of Christ has long pleaded with men to return to the simple New Testament plan. We do not ask people to join any denomination, but plead with them to be members of the church the Lord built; we do not ask that they subscribe to any creed, but that they follow the New Testament. In short, we plead with men to give up everything the New Testament does not authorize, and to accept and practice everything which it enjoins.
If all members of all denominations today would be content to take nothing but the word of God, we would instantly have a unity that would shake infidelity the world over. And we would have a permanent unity that would silence skeptics, please the Lord, and save thousands of immortal souls. Is it not worth the effort? Think of this seriously, constantly, and prayerfully.