Unity in the Local Church

By Roy E. Cogdill

“Unity” primarily concerns the relationship of the members of a local church one with another. Unity on any other level or upon any other basis without this is unimportant and does not conform to heaven’s will.

Unity in the congregational relationship is an individual obligation and grows out of the very nature of God’s plan for fellowship among Christians in the church as a body. In New Testament scriptures this local relationship is emphasized in many passages and all of them point up the requirement of that attitude toward one another that brings about and preserves unity.

In Eph. 4:15-16 Paul calls this to our attention in these words, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; From who the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

In Eph. 2:19-20 we have this statement, “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Col. 3:12-15 calls attention to the attitude so essential to the unity of any local church, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forebearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any roan have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

Still another such statement setting forth the disposition of Christians toward one another in the congregational relationship is that found in Phil. 2:1-4, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

Read again such passages as 1 Cor. 12:25-26, and Romans 12:3-10, as well as many other passages and your mind will be impressed with the necessity of humility, lowliness of mind, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should think, kindly affection toward one another, and having the same care one for another as the body of Christ and members in particular.

Fellow members of the body of Christ are said to be “builded together,” “knitted together in love,” “members one of another” and all of these expressions emphasize the relationship that Christians must maintain in the fellowship of the local church. When any member takes such an attitude toward himself and his fellow members that creates “schism ‘in the body” and disturbs its harmony and peace, he has committed a crime against God and the temple of God and against his brethren.

In Eph. 4:1-3, Paul emphasizes unity as an individual obligation, “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, forebearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” When an individual member of the body of Christ is not characterized by humility and meekness, there is pretty good reason to expect that he is not making the contribution to the peace of the church in that locality that he is obligated to make.

Our liberal-minded brethren tell us that their brotherhood federations such as Herald of Truth, their human benevolent societies (so-called Orphan Homes and Old Folk’s Homes), and their human societies for edification such as Pepperdine College are merely “methods,” matters of human judgment, and that they belong in the realm of expedience. But if these brethren are right in claiming that they are matters of expedience, what right do they have to think so highly of their “judgment” that they thrust them into the local church and demand that those who believe they are violations of the Faith of the Gospel, and whose consciences will not allow them to participate in such acquiesce in supporting them or be castigated, exorcised, and mistreated in every conceivable sort of way.

They promote their humanly devised “idols” from the pulpit and through their bulletins and other mediums but deny the voice of opposition the right to any expression in either. Sometimes we witness incidents of such extreme treatment against the best of former friends, the closest of fleshly relationships, and those formerly most beloved of their brethren. This is even sometimes the case when the actual support of such human arrangements has not been begun by ‘the congregation but where there is only a difference in attitude and conviction concerning them.

Such incidents, and there are many of them, evidence a lack of such attitudes as are set forth in the passages cited herein above, viz., “lowliness of mind,” “meekness,” “longsuffering,” and “forebearing one another in love.” It appears that if such “methods” and “expediencies” are not essential and are properly regarded as human expediencies and if those who judge them to be permissible have any regard for the “Unity of the Spirit” or recognize any obligation to “Keep the bond of peace” in the local church or have any love and regard for brethren and interest in their souls, they would not assume the attitude of “Lords.” not even if they are elders, by demanding that in order to have peace in the church everyone must bow down to their “idols,” for this is what they become when they take such an attitude toward them.

Truth Magazine, XX:25, p. 6
June 17, 1976