THE AMERICAN humorist Will Rogers reportedly said, "The more you read about politics, the more you got to admit that each party is worse than the other." On the contemporary scene, one political party has stood for the homosexual agenda (although they are not above modifying their position for political gain) and the killing of unborn babies (abortion). Not to be outdone, and hoping to likewise gain votes, some in another political party speak of the "big tent" where people holding such views, as well as opposing ones, may all be together. Both try to project the concept of unity in diversity which probably comes over well in our pluralistic society with its fuzzy, tolerating, and compromising mentality. Many have been brainwashed into believing that to be otherwise is to be "mean-spirited." To be for the only thing that marriage means in God's sight (Matthew 19:4-6), and to be against homosexual perversion, is to be mean and promoting hate. 
How reminiscent and suggestive this is of the religious unity espoused in these modern times as seen in the Ecumenical Movement in the denominational world (and any other movement that would downgrade good, solid Bible convictions to accomplish unity). It is inexcusable to say that we are all "erring brothers" and therefore should be together. That is not the issue. The apostle Paul stated long ago, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). (If grace and cleansing have been received, we are now not to willfully continue in sin--Romans 6:1,2). The problem is that when belief and shades of belief and unbelief are mixed together (including doctrines of the Bible and traditions of men), the results are disastrous. The homogenizing effect is to break down belief and blend it with unbelief (to blend truth with error). When we sacrifice good Bible convictions upon the altar of so-called "Christian unity," the results will not be Christian, nor is it the unity taught in the Bible. As someone has said, it is all right for the ship to be in the water, but it's anything but right for the water to be in the ship. Yes, there is something worse than religious division, and that is religious compromise and apostasy. Human nature is such that when convictions are lost, they are not easily regained. They are usually lost forever. 
If we really wanted to be united, it must be the unity taught in the Scriptures, and it is not a denominational one. It does not consist of "leaders" of denominational groups meeting and figuring out how to come together (and then compromising to bring it about). It does not consist of loyalty and support of denominational conventions, organizations, and agencies (although some have this mentality, that a person is not practicing unity unless he goes along with such). Really, the unity taught in the Scriptures is a spiritual one and undenominational in nature. It is a byproduct of being united with Christ in baptism, and thereby being united with everyone else who has been united with Christ. In coming to Christ a person is "baptized into one body" (I Corinthians 12:13) and "called in one body" (Colossians 3:15). Even as Paul said, we have all been reconciled "unto God in one body by the cross" (Ephesians 2:16; notice verses 12-22 of this chapter). That being the case we have been reconciled, not only to God, but to everyone else who has been reconciled to God; we have been made one with them. The unity taught in the New Testament is a spiritual unity. 
Then in Ephesians 4:3 Paul further admonishes that we are to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The initial unity was produced when we became Christians; now we are to keep and maintain this unity (unity with God and fellow Christians). This is done by us personally as individuals and in the context of the local church. Spiritually speaking, Christ has only one body in the world (his church). Organizationally speaking, that one body is made up of local, independent and autonomous churches. They are not organized as denominations beyond the local church level with external organizations and agencies that command their allegiance. They are not considered as one bloc of "churches" as opposed to another bloc of "churches." To have that mentality is to have a denominational mindset, thinking in terms of "us" and "them." If we are "in Christ" (Galatians 3:27; II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:1), we are already one and should think and act accordingly. Think in terms of oneness, and not division. 
The unity that we are to keep and maintain after becoming one in Christ is accented by the verses that follow in Ephesians 4 (verses 3-6). "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as 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" (Ephesians 4:3-6). Certainly God's plan calls for oneness, and to deviate from this is to deviate from His will. We are not being arrogant or self-righteous when we say that we must all belong to the one church found in the Scriptures. There is no more one church than there is more than one God or one Christ. By our denominational divisions we are the ones out of kilter, not God.
The word "denomination" signifies a dividing off and naming. It incorporates all of the distinctive man-made names, doctrines, traditions, organizations, and peculiarities that set one religious group apart from another. And in particular it signifies all of these man-made distinctions in contrast with the church in the New Testament, which is not a denomination. To follow the New Testament and that alone is to result in being one with the church of the New Testament (and one with everyone else who is doing the same thing). If all of the religious bodies of the world would come together to form one body, but still hold to the doctrines and traditions of men, their "unity" would be no more what God wanted than before they came together. They would not be practicing the unity of the Scriptures, and they would still be a denomination. Whereas conceivably if there was but one local church in the whole wide world following the New Testament (and that alone), and it refused to be united with those who didn't, they would nonetheless be practicing the unity taught in the New Testament. 
Yes, the unity taught in the New Testament is a spiritual unity as we are spiritually united with Christ and consequently united with everyone else who is united with Christ. We are one in Christ. The corporate unity of the church is realized only in the context of the local church as we follow the Scriptures, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. This is the unity we are commanded to keep. We are commanded to love the brotherhood at large (I Peter 2:17), not organize it. To appeal for corporate unity beyond the bounds of the local church (setting up conventions, organizations, and agencies) is to be denominational and have a denominational mindset. As we look to the Scriptures, and to the local autonomous church, let us practice the kind of unity taught in the New Testament. (VOL. 34, NO. 4, 1996) 
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