Christian Fellowship 1996-08-05 - Unity

Taking a break from the names of Christ to look at unity. I have been hearing about how the Olympic games have brought the world together and helped us build a better world unity. I doubt that, but nevertheless, I thought I would ask the question, "What is Christian unity?" and attempt an answer.

Unity is the first attribute of the church. The church is a sacred society and it is necessary that the household of faith have union, one with another. Some of these bonds are inward, and others outward, some are essential, others by accident.

Inward, essential bonds:

  1. The unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3, 1 Cor. 12:13) This unites the church so that those who are unknown to each other can still constitute one body. There is one church, the universal church.
  2. The unity of faith (Eph. 4:5) There is one gospel and one way to embrace the gospel, that is by faith.
  3. The unity of love or charity. Those who are united to Christ are also united with each other in love, so that they may be charitable to each other, which is called, "the bond of perfectness". (Col. 3:14)
  4. The unity of hope (Eph 4:4) The unity of the thing hoped for, a heavenly inheritance.

These four are essential bonds of union. There are others which are accidental; such as agreement in all doctrines, and uniformity of the laws, government, and discipline of the church.

Schism is breaking the bonds that constitute the unity of the church. There are two kinds of schism.

  1. Universal: This is when someone renounces the general truths which constitute the foundation of Christianity, and to which all Christians hold.
  2. Particular: This is when someone renounces some truths, which are not fundamental to Christianity.

The bottom line: All separation is not schism, but all schism is separation. Separation which renounces the fundamentals of the faith is always schism.

The church is called catholic (catholic {small "c"} means universal, or all-inclusive). This is because of its orthodoxy. Early in the history of the church Theodosius passed a decree that only churches that acknowledged and worshipped the holy Trinity should be called catholic and that those of a different opinion should be called heretics. The church is also called catholic because it extends throughout the whole world. It is composed without distinction of any race, order, or condition of mankind (Rom. 10:12, Acts 10:35). Lastly, it is catholic, because the church will continue through all ages until the end of the world.

I don't have a great application for all this. I guess my application is that we should consider carefully how we treat each other. Truth is objective in nature, but our interpretation of it is far from perfect. As we have interaction with the household of faith we should strive for one aim: graciousness. This will go far in advancing and maintaining the unity of the faith.

Soli Deo Gloria,