By Bill Cavender
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us . . . . that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:13-16). “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” (Eph. 4:4-6).
These Scriptures, with many others, teach the oneness which must characterize the true followers of Jesus Christ. Men cannot justify religious divisions by the Scriptures, either in and among churches of our Lord, or in denominationalism and Catholicism. If all men believed only the word of God, all would be one religiously – in name, doctrine, practice and worship. When the apostles of Jesus were living, those who followed Jesus in that first century wore only the religious name of Christian, all worshiped God through Jesus Christ in the same manner, all observed the same acts of worship, all were members of the same body which is the church of Christ, and all obeyed the same will of God in service to Jesus (Acts 11:26; John 4:23-24; Acts 2:41, 47; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Matt. 7:21-28, etc.).
There should be only one fold and one Shepherd. Scripturally, there can only be one. The one fold is the one church. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Jesus is the one Shepherd (John 10:11,14). “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
Jesus’ disciples are to be one: in name, desire, aim, hope, belief, practice, worship, teaching and love” (John 17:20-21). One great reason, if not the greatest, for the unbelief, ungodliness, and disdain for religion in the world today is the divided state of those who claim to be followers of Jesus. Among the brethren the alienations, strifes and divisions, and the opinions and extremes of brethren, are of epidemic proportions. The unity about which Jesus taught and for which He prayed is not a unity of existing, warring religious bodies and factions, for such denominational factionalism did not exist in the first century. The unity which God’s word teaches is that of individuals, both Jews and Gentiles, converted to Jesus Christ through His word, walking by faith (Jas. 1:21, 18; 2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10:17; Matt. 18:1-4). Paul said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, 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). Again He said, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).
We hear and read much about “ecumenical councils,” “ecumenicalism,” “denominational mergers,” and “unity meetings.” We read of preachers, priests and rabbis who meet together in common services and in “ministerial alliances.” This pseudo-unity is no unity at all, for all retain their divisive religious names, doctrines, worships and practices. This is union without unity, compromise without conviction.
Men will not achieve the unity which is pleasing to God and which the New Testament teaches until they believe and practice what is clearly taught in the New Testament, and are willing to lay aside all their doctrines, practices, names and opinions which are not in the New Testament. God’s word is not contradictory, It is harmonious and produces harmony and unity among those who believe and obey it. Only when men believe in one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, will they be truly united with God in Christ, and with one another (Eph. 4:1-6). “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We are united together in Christ by the doing of His will, or we are not united at all. One fold and one Shepherd is still God’s will. Are you willing to lay aside and give up all denominational names, acts of worship, false plans of salvation, man-made churches and creeds, all denominational dogmas, and all human opinions in order to make the prayer of Jesus a reality? Would to God that all who may read this would be willing to do so?
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 16, p. 484
August 16, 1984