By Dennis C. Abernathy
We are certainly hearing a lot about unity in the religious circles today. In this article we want to look at unity as it is in Christ, by simply pointing our minds to the Word of God.
First of all, man can be united with God, but it is in Christ. This is termed reconciliation. “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . . be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19-20). God is our Father (2 Cor. 6:16-18). The church is the family or the household o# God (Eph. 2:19). Christians, of course, being God’s family, have an inheritance from their Father (Rom. 8:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). God has demonstrated His great love for His children. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jno. 3:1-2). In consequense of this great love for us and the hope which we entertain in our hearts, we purify ourselves, “even as he is pure” (1 Jno. 3:3, 2 Cor. 7:1).
In order to be united with God, one must be united with Christ. This takes place in our initial obedience to the gospel, baptism being the culminating step. It is in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection. (Rom. 6:1-11). Keep in mind, dear reader, that it is sin that has separated man from God in the first place (Isa. 59:1-2). Consequently, there must be a new life –a putting off of the old man and a putting on of the new man. “Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4; see also Col. 2:12). This baptism puts one into Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3; see also Gal. 3:27).
All of this talk about an individual’s accepting Christ and at that instant he is born again (all of this taking place before baptism) is simply the doctrines and commandments of men and not God’s will at all! We must obey God fully in order to be free from our sins. Partial obedience will not do! There is no freedom from sin without first there being obedience to that form of doctrine which has been delivered that we might be made righteous before God. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye become the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). I want you to notice, and forever mark it down, that they became free from their sin when they obeyed from the heart. Did they obey just anything? Certainly not. What did they obey? That form of doctrine which was delivered you. Is this not true today? Must not we obey God’s revealed will with all of our hearts? Surely we must, if we would be free from our sins.
What have we said? Sin separates from God. Therefore the sin must be remitted (the barrier removed) before one can be united with God and this takes place in baptism (Acts 2:38).
Unity with God is achieved in Christ, and unity with Christ is achieved in His one body, the church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. . .” (1 Cor. 12:13). “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). Simply stated, it is impossible to be united with God, in Christ, and not be in His church.
Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:20-23). “And he is the head of the body, the church . . .” (Col. 1:18). We are reconciled in the body, the church. “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16). (Note here that reconciliation is said to be in Christ and in one body, the church. Hence to be in Christ is to be in the church). We are baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41,47). We have already shown that we are baptized into Christ. Therefore, to enter into Christ is the same as entering into the church, the one body.
People talk about being saved and not being in any church. That idea certainly did not originate in the mind of God, therefore it is not in His Word. Ephesians 5:23 states that Christ is the Saviour of the Body. The body is the church (Col. 1:18). If that means anything it means that those who are saved are in the church, and that those who are not in the church are not saved. This is what Acts 2:47 teaches. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (or, were being saved).”
The church was purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Then people are bold and brazen enough to say that the church is not essential to one’s being saved. No, dear reader, our Lord did not shed his blood for a worthless institution or for a vain cause.
Are you united with God? If you are you are in Christ and His church. You got there by obedience to the blessed gospel of Christ, through which God’s mighty power to save you and me is exerted.
We hear so much today about “Just accept Christ.” While I know we must accept Him and His terms of pardon, maybe we need to put a little more stress upon the fact that it is God who must accept us. We must be accepted of God or reconciled to Him, and not God to man (2 Cor. 5:19).
In conclusion, one must obey the Lord in order to be saved. That implies more than faith only or even more than faith and repentance. It means obedience to all of God’s plan which results in unity with God. “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46).
Truth Magazine, XX:21, pp. 13-14
May 20, 1976