The Unity of the Church
Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (1896-1979)
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psa. 133:1)
The book of Psalms has been appropriately called "the hymn book of the Bible." There are more than twenty-five hundred verses in its one hundred and fifty chapters, and doubtless that many songs have been composed from them through the centuries and millenniums since their sentiments swelled in the bosom of Israel's sweet singer.
Many of these verses were chanted in the worship of early Christians, and they will be sung in every generation wherever people are found worshiping God until we learn the "new song" in heaven, "when all the redeemed singers get home."
To rob our modern productions of the sentiments and psalms of David would be, indeed, to impoverish our worship of praise.
A Song of Unity
Psalm 133 is a song of unity. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" There is nothing more stifling and stultifying to the emotions of the soul than strife and division. There is nothing more soothing and benefactions to the spirit than peace and unity.
Unity among brethren is like "the precious ointment upon the head," in the psalmist's refrain: The Easterns perfumed with fragrant oil. Unity perfumes the church and sweetens the atmosphere like the precious oil "that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments."
Unity among brethren is like "the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion." Lofty Hermon was far to the north, yet its fragrant dews descended upon the lesser hills of Zion, spreading over hillside and vale. So unity, as an emblem of grace and benediction, will make the church a center of fragrance and a fount of blessing.
The Unity of the Spirit
Exhorting the brethren to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," Paul outlines, in Ephesians 4:4-6, the basis of unity. "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." The "unity of the Spirit" is the unity the Spirit teaches, or that results when the Spirit's word is obeyed.
There is one God - unity in worship. A divided worship cannot be rendered "in spirit and in truth." Wherever and whenever rendered, true worship must have the two elements - the right spirit and the right act; for God is one, and "seeketh such to be his worshipers."
There is one Lord - unity in authority. Human authority in religion is wrong. Christ is Lord, and his word only is authority.
There is one faith - unity in message. The Spirit, which guides "into all truth," does not impart conflicting messages. The gospel promotes unity; and where there is division, something else has been preached.
There is one baptism - unity in practice. Modes of baptism! As well talk about shades of white. There is no such thing.
There is one body - unity in organization. The church is one body. It is impossible to have "spiritual unity" and "organic" division. Unity is both spiritual and organic.
There is one Spirit and one hope - unity in life, in desire and expectation.
Thus Paul outlines the only basis of unity. Let the world cease their efforts toward amalgamations, federations, alliances, and unions, and adopt the divine standard and basis of unity - oneness in Christ.
The Prayer for Unity
The Lord's prayer in John 17:1-21 was an ardent petition for unity. "May they all be one." Jesus praying for the unity of believers! Yet it has not touched the heart of those who are promoting denominationalism in the world, nor even of brethren who sow discord and stir factions in the church.
Denominationalism is the misrepresentation of Christianity - a horrid caricature - and the authors of perversions in religion are enemies of Christ professing and even honestly thinking themselves to be his friends.
But "charity begins at home." We cannot with good grace preach unity and practice division. "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10). Paul's beseechment should not only be our preachment, but also our practice. The unity of Christians is the only hope of bringing the world to Christ. Jesus knew it, and therefore prayed that "they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (Gospel Advocate LXXII, 42 [11 Oct. 1930], p. 985).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 3, pp. 65, 79