By Bob Saffett
The word “oneness” is defined as “the quality or state or fact of being one, as a. singleness, b. integrity, wholeness, c. harmony, d. sameness, identity, e. unity, union ” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 801). Although the word ” oneness” is not found in the Bible, the concept of the “oneness of the church” is. This can be seen in the claims of the Bible as to the “singleness” of the church and the “unity” that is to be in the church.
First, let us look at the “oneness” of the church in regard to its number. The apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, said, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4.4-6). He had said earlier in that same letter, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in aIP’ (Eph. 1:22-23). From these verses we can safely conclude that there is but one church or body, just as there is but one Lord and one God and Father, and one Spirit.
As we read through the pages of the New Testament, we read of only one church. That there would be but one church is a fact which was clearly established before the church even came into existence. After Peter had made the statement that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God, ” Jesus answered Him saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:16-18). Notice that Jesus said that He would build His “church,” not His “churches”! Those who claim otherwise do so without the backing of the Scriptures.
Second, there is the “oneness” of the church in regards to its unity within the body. Recently, there has been a number of appeals for unity among the churches of Christ. That would indeed be a wonderful thing? As the psalmist expressed it, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133: 1). This should be the desire of each and every child of God, for it is also the desire of our Lord: “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me. and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us,* that the world may believe that thou didst send Me” (Jn. 17:20-21). But how must this unity be obtained?
This is the problem with many of the appeals for unity. The means often suggested whereby this unity may be attained are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. The denominational world believes that unity can be achieved in spite of the many doctrinal differences which exist among them. Many of our own brethren are now beginning to think in this same way and suggesting that we can have unity in spite of our doctrinal differences I Some have even gone so far as to extend this appeal for unity on these grounds to some of the denominational bodies!
There is only one basis upon which we can appeal for unity. Upon hearing of the divisions that existed in Corinth, the apostle Paul said, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Divisions will continue as long as we are unable to agree on these differences and “speak the same things” (KJV)! It is impossible for us to be what the Lord would have us to be and unite ourselves with those who teach and practice things which are contrary to the Word of God. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Unless it is achieved in this manner, there is no real unity!
This, then, is our plea: Let there be but one body, and let that body be one! And let us strive to accomplish this through Bible ways!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 24, p. 747
December 20, 1984