Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 8, 1951

Unity Or Merger?

Gene R. Fox, Wichita, Kansas

Much has been said recently concerning the mergers and proposed mergers of some of the leading denominational churches. The eventual end of these proposed mergers is the consolidation of all the churches (all the Protestant churches at least) into one body. It would be good if this could be accomplished, as it would eliminate much of the present bickering and discord between and among these bodies.

But what is meant by "unity" and "merger" as denominationalists use the terms? Do they mean what the apostle had in mind when the fourth chapter of Ephesians was penned? The "unity" which Paul had in mind contained a list of seven "ones"—"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:5, 6) If the "merger" our denominational friends seek is to be the "church" of the New Testament (as pictured in Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23), then the new body will have to submit to John 4:24, which says, "God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The worship must be in accord with the one faith; it must be done by those who have submitted to the one baptism; it must be in obedience to the commands of the One God, and not in compliance with the human creeds and doctrines which are the products of men.

Unity Always Desired

Down through the corridors of time, there have always been pleas for the unity of God's people. The division at Corinth, for example, is used as an awful example of the sinfulness of division. While some were saying, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Apollos," Paul cried out, "Is Christ divided?" That unity is the aim and goal of all New Testament teaching is too plain to be denied. Some today are not concerned about unity; but Christ, in the very shadow of the cross, prayed to the Father that all his disciples might be "one." The only kind of unity that is possible for God's people must be the unity that comes from all of them walking in "the old paths," and according to the doctrine laid down in His book.

Is "Merger" Unity?

But let us ask our denominational friends, "Is the "merger" which you are seeking the kind of "unity" the Bible teaches?" To ask that question is to answer it. For in the very agreements by which these mergers are reached there are numerous agreements and compacts by the merging parties that they will not insist on certain plain Bible teachings. All that is achieved by the mergers is a plan by which the denominationalists can work together in the furtherance of human doctrines, human organizations, and human plans. There is not the possibility of achieving that unity for which Christ prayed in John 17. But consider the "unity" of that chapter from these five points of view:

1. The scope of the prayer of Jesus. All believers are included in it. He said, "neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word." That means all believers of all ages.

2. The object of Jesus' prayer: "that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."

3. The ultimate effect: "that the world may believe that thou didst send me."

4. Implication: This prayer plainly implies that religious division and denominationalism prevents belief, hence produces infidelity; but that unity among believers is a most powerful and effective weapon against infidelity and atheism.

5. Application: Let no man thank God that there are "so many churches" unless he means to thank God that the prayer and desire of Christ have been defeated! Those who respect the will of the Lord should promote that unity for which Christ prayed, and should refuse every action or word that would in any way promote denominational divisions of any sort.

Unity And The Church

Unity and the church go hand in hand; they cannot be separated. For the very word "church" means "the called out." Members of the church are those who have been called out of darkness into light, out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of the service of Satan into the service of Christ. All those who have accepted this "call" are a part of the church. The very word "denomination" suggests a fraction or a fragment of the whole. The Church of God is not a "part" or a "fraction" of anything! The church includes all the saved. God does the adding (Acts 2:47), and there are no mistakes in the enrollment God has made. (Heb. 12:22, 23) Whereas the Church of Christ includes every saved person on earth, there is no denomination known to us that claims to have all the saved within its membership. Hence, there is no denomination that can claim to be the one true church.

If we are to have Bible unity, then we must have it in the one church which Christ established. (Matt. 16:18) The illustration of the human body gives a striking comparison when referred to the church. Our body is made up of many members; not all members have the same function; but every member in the body is subject to the head. And when that is the case there is perfect unity in the body. So in the church we have many thousands of individual members, but when every member is completely subject to Christ, then we have unity—the only kind of unity the Bible knows anything about.

If the denominational friends are truly seeking Bible unity, then they must consider this: to achieve unity all denominational organizations, names, doctrines, creeds, and distinctive features must be abandoned. Every member of each of these denominations must become simply a Christian, having been buried through baptism into Christ (Rom. 6:4), and willing to work, worship, and live as a humble member of the New Testament church. When and if that spirit is present, then unity is not only possible, it is inevitable. And until that spirit is there, there may be mergers, but there can never be the unity for which Christ prayed.