Many brethren who deplore the lack of harmony and peace in the brotherhood today are seemingly uninformed as to the cause and remedy of the situation. Even in the first century there was division and strife among brethren. Where division and strife are there can be no peace. Paul said to the Corinthians: "And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ . . . . For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal ...?" (1 Cor. 3:1, 3.) The cause for such a condition is obvious. They were not all speaking the same things and were not of the same mind and judgment. (V. 10.)
Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to establish peace. The reason for this need? Certain men were teaching things which "minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God, which is in faith." (1 Tim. 1:4.) Teaching a "different doctrine" and "things contrary to the sound gospel" is usually the basic cause for the lack of peace. James characterizes the "wisdom which is from above" as being first "pure" and then "peaceable." (James 3:17.) In order for there to be peace there must first be purity.
It is not so great a task to prove that the problem — lack of peace — exists, nor what its chief cause is; the difficulty is in applying the remedy.
Here is an inspired command, relative to our thoughts in this article. "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:1-3.) The "unity of the Spirit" which Christians are to preserve, is spoken of by Paul, in "the sense of something already in our possession." The "one faith" was being delivered orally and miraculously at this time. Then the "word" was in the men. (2 Cor. 5:19.) It was not necessary to wait until the "one faith" was in the book in order to start keeping the "unity of the Spirit." By "unity of the Spirit" Paul means "the unity which the Spirit produces or works." By the qualifying expression "in the bond of peace," he means "the bond by which peace is kept." How do we have peace ? By keeping the unity of the Spirit.
How can we keep the unity of the Spirit? Paul tells us how in 1 Corinthians 1:10. "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment." But this answer provokes other questions: Whose judgment shall be the standard for all; who has the right to say what we shall all speak ? Men have attempted to answer this question by convening councils, formulating creeds, legislating laws and other displays of human authority. But all such have failed in their efforts.
Paul said that those who revealed the gospel had the "mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16.) All should certainly be willing to abide by His judgment and speak nothing that does not conform to His "mind." Is it possible for all to be one in faith? Christ prayed for such a possibility. "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one." (John 17:20, 21.) If all are willing to conform to this sacred charge such is possible: ". . . . that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine." (1 Tim. 1:3.)
Paul told the Ephesian elders he had preached to them the "whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27.) The "whole counsel" is inclusive and exclusive. To keep the unity of the Spirit we must teach and practice everything authorized in "the whole counsel" and exclude everything not authorized.
If the sectarian world would apply these sacred principles peace and harmony would prevail. Such action would inevitably lead to the complete restoration of New Testament Christianity. It would bring about peace. The only way to have peace is by "keeping the unity of the Spirit."
These same principles need to be applied to the issues now disturbing the peace of the brotherhood. Peace is disturbed when brethren make use of practices not authorized in the whole counsel of God. The institutional orphan home and modern cooperative method for preaching the gospel are not often defended upon this ground. In fact, on this ground they are indefensible. Consequently, there is not peace. Peace will be restored when brethren endeavor to "keep the unity of the Spirit."