Vol.XIV No.XII Pg.6
February 1978

Union Versus Unity

Robert F. Turner

Ponder these words from "A Short History of the Baptists," by Henry C. Vedder; p. 45-46.


"So soon as the churches founded by the apostles lost sight of the truth that man must be born again, and that this new birth is always associated with personal faith in Christ, the way was prepared for all that followed.

In the earliest Christian literature, after the apostolic period, we may trace three tendencies toward degeneration, all proceeding from this common cause, developing along lines parallel at first, yet distinct, afterward converging, and at length constituting a logical, consistent whole. These are: the idea of a Holy Catholic Church, the ministry a priesthood, and sacramental grace.

Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one, and his apostles taught that the church is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and therefore both one and holy. Early in the second century however, these ideas assumed a different form from that of the New Testament. The churches were conceived of as forming together one Church, not spiritual merely, but visible, extending throughout the world, and therefore catholic (i.e., universal).

Persecution doubtless had much to do with emphasizing in the minds of Christians their unity, but an exaggerated notion of the value of formal oneness came to prevail until schism was reckoned the deadliest of sins a Christian could commit. The preservation of outward unity thus becoming the paramount consideration, it followed that whatever error a majority in the church might come to hold, the minority must accept it, rather than be guilty of this deadly sin of schism. (Emphasis mine-- and I would like to request that you reread these statements carefully. rft) This ideal of a Holy Catholic Church, outside of which was no salvation, unity with which was necessary to unity with Christ, prepared the way for all the Corruptions that were introduced."


In our own time we have known brethren who seemed to be more concerned about maintaining union (oneness in an external way — meeting in the same building) than in developing commonness of purpose and spirit in the hearts of true saints. To say or write such a thing is almost like questioning motherhood, and yet it was Jesus who said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matt. 10:34-35).

True oneness will be found among brethren who are alike determined to put God first; who love the praise of God more than the praise of men. It is the result or product of unity of spirit, but never a substitute for it. When union with men becomes more important to us than conscientious service of God, we have come to love men more than we love God. True saints will never forget, God is a majority.