Saturday, Mar. 7
In Eph. 4:1-4 Paul gives four Christian traits that, when practiced, lead to church unity. One of the biggest problems in Paul’s day was the centuries old antagonism between Jews and Gentiles. Paul often speaks of how the gospel unifies these two historical enemies. He called it a mystery, something that neither Jews nor Gentiles could have anticipated. But it happened. The walls of hatred were torn down, and the two became one in Christ. In all the churches of that day Jews and Gentiles worshiped together. Attempts to undermine this new found unity was relentless opposed by Paul. The issue was forever settled at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. This unity has remained to this day, but another breach of unity surfaced in the middle ages. In the early centuries, a wide variety of false doctrines emerged, many of them rejected by church-wide councils. But eventually, many false doctrines—purgatory, the selling of indulgences, sainthood, Mariology, et al.—became standard practices in the church. These were opposed by a faithful minority, which, of course, meant disunity in the church. The first corporate breach was between the western church centered in Rome and the eastern Church, centered in Constantinople. The breach reached much greater proportions during and after the Protestant Revolution. I understand the facts of the matter, but not why it happened or why God allowed it to happen. So today we have countless denominations. Attempts have been made to unify all Christian churches (the ecumenical movement), but they are all based on compromise and excessively broad tolerance, not real unity. So corporate disunity remains and denominations flourish. I have no answer for that and I don’t expect it to change. As the unregenerate world looks on, there is no way they could say that the church is united. But there is a unity that we need to embrace. There is a sense in which the body of Christ is united. Every born again Christian is a member of the universal body of Christ, i.e., the Church. So whenever we meet a true Christian, we are brothers, despite disagreeing on some things. True unity can and should happen on an individual, personal level, even when it can’t happen on a corporate level. We have a ways to go to make this a reality.