God's Will Regarding Unity
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
Each member of the body of Christ, the church (Col. 1:18,24), is plainly taught by our Lord to make a definite effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (the unity which the Spirit produces among believers) in the bond of peace. "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" . . . "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom. 12:16-18; 14:19). The sincere, diligent practice of these Scriptures, the expressed will of our Heavenly Father, would well eliminate false teachings, opinionism, strifes and divisions among us, and bring us into obedience to Jesus, our Master. Many are not making such sincere efforts.
The will of God, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, revealed in the New Testament, is plain, sensible, reasonable and understandable (Jn. 7:14-18; Matt. 7:21-23,28,29). The gospel of Christ is revealed in such words, phrases and sentences that, when preached and taught, honest-hearted men and women can understand, faith can be created in their hearts (Rom. 10:13-17), and many will obey the truth (1 Cor. 2:8-13; 15:1-4; Acts 17:10-12; 18:8). The apostles of Jesus went everywhere preaching the word of Truth and thousands of sinners understood, believed and then obeyed the word (Mk. 16:19-20; Acts 2:41,47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 11:22-26; Col. 1:23). It is false and unthinkable that the God of heaven would teach us that we must hear, believe and obey his will to be saved here and hereafter, then reveal such a will and testament so obtuse, difficult, mystical, technical and involved that it takes a Philadelphia lawyer to decipher it for the common, ordinary, reasonable person who would consider it. If one reads all the papers and bulletins of our brethren, and realizes all the debates, controversies, disagreements and discussions going on among "sound" brethren, he is made to think that no one can understand the word of God. It is highly inconsistent and hypocritical for us as a people, claiming to believe the Scriptures, telling our friends and neighbors in the world about us how simple and understandable the word of God is, and then belie those statements by our own controversies, foolish and divisive opinions, and practices. If we ("conservative brethren") cannot understand simple, clear statements in God's word on such subjects as the Deity and humanity of Jesus while he was in this world in the form of a man; or his will regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage; or the nature, function and purpose of the church of our Lord, and all other such relatively simple subjects, who are we to be telling anybody, anything, about how simple and understandable the word of God is? No wonder there is disunity and divisions among brethren rather than peace, unity and goodwill. No wonder we are a laughing-stock to sensible people outside and inside the body of Christ who are aware of our internal feudings, factions and fightings.
Everything our Father is, and has done and said, demonstrates his will regarding oneness and unity. There is one God, one Godhead, comprised of three persons, a Trinity in unity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9; Matt. 18-20; 3:13-17; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Eph. 4:4-6). Our God created one universe, one world, a triune creation of space, matter and time. The universe operates harmoniously, without variation, all of its parts and purposes so arranged and synchronized to function as a whole (Psa. 19:1-14; Rom. 1:20). Man, the offspring of God, made in his image, is a triune being, composed of body, soul and spirit (Gen. 1:26-27; Acts 17:24-3 1; I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12). All human beings are to love and care for each other by God's will (Lk. 10:36-37; Matt. 22:34-40; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 6:9-10, etc.). Warfare, violence, murders, conflicts, hatreds, envies, jealousies, discords, strifes and divisions exist among people in the world and in the church because humans do not learn and practice God's will regarding proper standards of decorum, conduct and behavior. There is a tremendous lack of true brotherly love, compassion, patience, kindness and consideration among us and among peoples of the world. The "golden rule" has been changed to the "iron rule," and "sounding brass and a thinkling cymbal" are substituted for "speaking the same things" in far too many circumstances and relationships (Matt. 7:12).
Marriage, home, family, is the basic relationship and unit of society - the nation, the church, the community. Marriage - one man with one woman for life - duly united by his holy will, bound together in the love of God and for each other, dwelling together in peace and compassion so long as they both shall live, in his will for all of mankind (Rom. 7:1-4; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-21; Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:1-11). Death is the only honorable means by which a marriage is dissolved. Immorality (fornication, adultery) is the only dishonorable way for a marriage to be dissolved, the innocent party being permitted to divorce the guilty partner, and to remarry. The guilty party is not granted liberty nor given concession to remarry (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk. 10:11-12; Lk. 16:18). Our Father's intent is that a husband and wife should truly be one in mind, life, body, aim, purpose, love and devotion to each other for their lifetimes (1 Pet. 3:17; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Cor. 7:1-11).
The gospel of redemption and salvation, conceived in the eternal councils of the Godhead, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Rom. 11:33-36; 2 Tim. 1:8-12), is a plan designed to produce peace between God and man, and between all human beings who are obedient to the gospel. "But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For lie is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us . . . for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:13-22).
The church of Christ is a holy temple in the Lord, a habitation of God through the Spirit. We are builded together in the body of Christ as saints, brethren, children of God and fellow-citizens in this holy, spiritual family and building (1 Pet. 2:5-10; 1 Cor. 12:12-27). In such heavenly realms and relationships, we are to live in peace with each other. We are to think and speak alike. "Now 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). "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others . . . Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and preserved generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:1-4,14-15, NASV).
It is the prayer, desire and will of our Lord Jesus that we should be united together in peace. He prayed that the apostles would be one (Jn. 17:11); that all believers would be one (Jn. 17:20-23); and that all of us should behold his glory and be where he is (Jn. 17:24-26). The "oneness" and "unity" which our Saviour prayed for and about is that which is taught us in all the Scriptures given thus far in this paper. We can attain to this unity and oneness if we want to do so. Our Father has never commanded the impossible. Whatever he tells and teaches us, we can do - if we set our minds, hearts, purposes and actions to this end.
Unity, peace and good will among brethren should be so desirable that we would sincerely and truly make a personal, definite effort to comply with our Father's will. Our love and appreciation for our Lord, and his love and death for us, should prompt obedience to his word. Our love and care for the church, our brethren, and for the souls of all our friends, neighbors and family members, would compel us to go the second, third, and fourth miles to be united with each other, in harmony with the revealed truth of God in the New Testament.
Some of the ways we can do this are these: (1) We can shift our emphasis from fighting and arguing with one another, to fighting sin, the devil, worldliness, denominationalism, Catholicism, humanism, etc., among the peoples of the world. (2) We can go back to basics, to the first principles, to teach those plain New Testament truths and doctrines which create and identify the true church of Christ. (3) We can begin to visit with, and have home Bible studies with, people not Christians and teach them the gospel, how to become Christians, and how to live a sober, righteous and godly life in Christ Jesus. (4) We preachers can get out of our offices, get away from our typewriters, computers and gadgets, get out of our church buildings, go out where the people are and the world is, and try to go into the places where the gospel has not been preached and where the church does not exist. (5) We can cease using papers published by brethren and churches for discussions of opinions and foolish questions which engender strife. No one's opinion or matters of personal faith or "conscience" are necessary to salvation, and are not to be bound upon anyone in their service and worship to God. We have so many divisive opinions among us nowadays, so many written and unwritten party "shibboleths," that we are rapidly appearing as a sect, a party of divided people, who have no certain foundations, doctrines and directions to offer the world of saints and sinners alike, and are not sure anymore of anything we say and teach. We are "shooting ourselves in the feet," decimating ourselves in numbers, diminishing our resources by divisions, beginning churches which are not needed, and discouraging brethren who do want to do God's will. There is hardly a growing "conservative" church of Christ anymore, i.e., growing by baptisms, restorations, and internal spiritual development.
The only way we can reverse our circumstances is to obey the will of our Father regarding our mind and conduct, to truly, each one of us, keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 1, pp. 3-5