Unity in Christ
It was our Lord who prayed for all those who believe on him through the apostles' words, saying, "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:20,21). No disciple, who respects his Master, would want God's people divided; but, rather, being like his Lord, he too prays for unity. Unity is pleasant, says David (Psa. 133:1). Yet, as much as scriptural unity is longed for, no Christian has the right from the Lord to ignore or set aside any of his Master's teaching to be one with any man! Wonderful as unity is, it is NOT to be gotten at the price of sacrificing the truth of God; and who or what kind of disciple would seek unity in error! Who desires unity with men at the price of war with God? The unity the New Testament teaches is achieved by the Lord's people speaking the same things and walking by the same rule (1 Cor. 1:10; Gal. 6:16), and this is the means of maintaining unity. Any other action produces disunity.
What Maketh thee to Differ
The New Testament does not fail us in identifying men who are factious as men engaged in works of the flesh (Rom. 2:8; Gal. 5:19, 20). "Who maketh thee to differ?'' asks Paul (1 Cor. 4:7). It is the individual who does not recognize or who does not respect the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Disunity defeats God's program with man (Luke 11:17). Rather than building up the body of Christ, the man who speaks the wisdom of men destroys (2 Peter 2:1, 2).
Religious doctrine that is not spiritual is carnal, and efforts to serve God on a carnal basis not only produces disunity, but makes the worshipper worse off before God (1 Cor. 11:17-19)
Ecumenical movements which seek to achieve unity while ignoring truth as the means of judgment-making spells disaster. And for brethren to seek unity now while ignoring the ground upon which long, hard battles have been fought, can only mean that the path to scriptural peace and unity was soon forgotten.
Unscriptural positions taken some twenty or so years ago, which led many into the church-support-of-human-institutional-ism party was ground for disunity. Those brethren were determined to practice the will of their own hearts, and therefore took their institutions and left us because we no longer occupied common ground. The sphere of their service, we were convinced, was outside the pale of the divine oracles. We were then convinced that we could not go with them! We believed that they believed, taught and practiced philosophies different to New Testament doctrine, and therefore the common ground had been abandoned. When they left truth to this degree, they were doomed to repeat history. They now are known as "liberals" and "ultraliberals." The "liberals" continue to hold their church support of human institutions, and the "ultraliberals" have advanced to (1) tongue speaking, (2) the Holy Spirit corroborating what they learned from the Bible, (3) the time for the Lord's Supper not limited by apostolic example of Acts 20:7, etc. THIS WAS INEVITABLE!
As these "ultraliberals" move on out from the "liberals" it seems to me that some brethren are indicating that common ground now exists between us and the "liberals", and especially so since the "liberals" have created new journals through which to battle the "ultraliberals," and the "ultraliberals" have their papers to fight the "liberals"! However, if they were wrong some twenty years ago when they left with their human institutions, they still are wrong. They have not given up their church support of these institutions and aren't about to. This is why I am having difficulty understanding why some seem to think we have common ground. These liberal brethren have not given up anything; so, from this standpoint there is no concession even back to the division. Looking at the situation from the other side, we ask: Are we compromising truth or signing a truce to have common ground?
What are we teaching or practicing that we must cease to have unity? What are we not teaching or practicing which we must to have common ground? What are the "liberals" teaching and practicing or not teaching and practicing that keeps us divided? To answer these questions one will then see our common (?) ground.
As we "speak the same thing" (1 Cor. 1:10), "shun foolish questions" and "refuse factious men" (Titus 3: 9-11 ), emphasize the "faithful word" and "sound speech" (Titus 1:9; 2:7), live for the God of Peace (1 Cor. 14:33; Heb. 13:20), honor the Christ of peace (Eph. 2: 16) and we will live in peace (2 Cor. 13:11).
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 14, pp. 4-5
February 12, 1970