Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 14, 1957

Religious Unity

Gordon Wilson, Henderson, Nevada

Anyone with a knowledge of the scriptures will agree that unity among believers in Christ is both desirable and necessary to the carrying out of God's will. It is a fact that it is nearly impossible to preach effectively to the heathen while supposed Christians are themselves divided in their religious thinking.

It is strange to hear preachers thanking God that there are so many kinds of churches when these churches represent religious division, and their very existence is an argument against the unity which ought to prevail. There cannot be unity while the churches differ in every doctrinal area. Large union meetings between the sects will accomplish nothing, even when they succeed in bringing different denominations into organic union. Sectarianism itself must be abolished.

In John the 17th chapter Jesus prayed for all who believe on Him through the apostles' word, that they might be one. Please notice that our Lord was not praying for union of the sects, but rather for unity among the believers — that is, those in His church. He knew that this is the only kind of unity possible. There cannot be unity in sectarianism, for the two are opposites.

Hebrews 5:9 says that Christ authorized salvation for all who obey Him. In Acts 2:47 we learn that the Lord adds to the church such as should be saved. Taking these two passages together we have this: All who obey the Lord should be saved; all who should be saved are added to the church. Thus, all who have obeyed Christ are saved and are united in the church. Which church? Well, the Bible' only speaks of one. "There is one body." (Eph. 4:4.) The fact that there are hundreds of churches that are unknown to the New Testament is proof that many refuse to obey the Lord, therefore are in false churches and not Christ's. Abolish the false churches and there will be one true church left. There will be unity.

Causes Of Division Or Sectarianism

It will be worthwhile to discover some of the reasons why men are not united in religion. Eliminate these causes and you will eliminate sectarianism.

1. First, we want to mention human creeds as a cause of religious division. Every church is founded on a creed. The church of Christ is founded on Jesus himself as our creed; His book, the New Testament, is our only source of authority for what we teach and practice. Now, if all churches took only the Bible, there would be no division. How could there be? If I believe the New Testament, and you believe the New Testament, then we believe the same thing. But if I believe the Baptist Manual, and you believe the Methodist Discipline, then we are divided, for the two books do not agree. It is impossible to unite on human creeds. Let us take the one book which all agree is the inerrant word of God. Burn the creeds, and you burn the basis of division. We cannot all accept the Bap-list Manual because lots of folk think some other creed is superior to it. We cannot have unity on the Presbyterian Confession of Faith because the Episcopalian considers his Book of Common Prayer superior. But there is one book which all of us will agree is superior to all human creeds — the Bible. The problem is to get men to give up their creeds.

2. We want to indict, as the second cause of religious division, the idea that "we can't all see the Bible alike." Even if we convince men that we ought to take the Bible alone, they will say, "Yes, but we don't all understand it the same way." We freely admit that men do not all see the Bible alike, but we do not admit that men cannot see it alike. The Bible is either true or false. If true, then it does not contradict itself. So when people hold contradictory ideas about what the Bible teaches, it is because some simply do not understand what the Bible does teach. Those who understand it at all understand it alike. Many do not understand it at all because they study it with a prejudiced heart, and with a desire to prove their personal notions.

Once the masses are convinced that it is not possible to see the Bible alike they will quit trying to see it at all. They will not work for unity, for they will be convinced that it is impossible to unite upon the teachings of the Bible. On the other hand, when men realize that we can understand the scriptures alike they will then be aware of the proper ground for unity.

3. A third major cause of religious division is the failure to respect the silence of the scriptures. So many things are done in religion for which there is no scriptural authority. The usual idea is that anything not specifically condemned is permissible. By this rule things are introduced which the New Testament says absolutely nothing about, and division is the result. The division here is not over what the Bible says, but over what it does not say.

Take, as an example, the use of mechanical instruments of music in church worship. There is division on this point. Most churches use the instrument, but several do not. Even in the churches which use it many members feel it would best be left off. What does the Bible say about this question? The Bible says "sing." Can we not all agree that it is right to sing? We have unity on this point. But concerning the instrument the New Testament says nothing; there is division over this. The division is over something the Bible knows nothing about. The solution is to observe the silence of the scriptures; to speak where the Bible speaks, and to be silent where the Bible is silent. To do nothing unauthorized by the scriptures is the only way to have unity.

Another example on this point: Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16.) All churches agree that it is right to baptize believers. But what about the baptism of persons who are incapable of belief — infant baptism? There is division here. We are united on the baptism of believers. Why? Because the New Testament authorizes it. 'What does the Bible say about infant baptism? Not a word, and here is the point of division. 'What is the solution? To respect the silence of the scriptures and leave off that which is not authorized.

We have shown three outstanding causes for the religious division prevalent in the world today. Our plea is that these causes be eliminated. To our friends in sectarianism we plead, lay aside your creeds and unite with us upon the Bible. Lay aside your personal interpretations of the scriptures and accept what it says, because it says what it means. Let us practice no unauthorized thing in the church. The choice is yours, to remain in sectarianism or to step out and work with us for religious unity.