CHRISTIAN UNITY IN A BIBLICAL SENSE

Armando Di Pardo

Message delivered at Moorestown Bible Church, Sunday, February 11, 1979

 

Bible reading: Psalm 133 and John 17:21-23

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BRETHREN: It is my privilege to be with you this morning to share with you some thoughts about the "Philadelphia Testimony", a spiritual burden for Christian Unity, which the Lord laid on our Fellowship of twenty Fundamental Churches in Argentina and Uruguay (South America) back in 1966. I will do this by dealing with the subject: "CHRISTIAN UNITY IN A BIBLICAL SENSE".

First of all, let me state some necessary definitions to clarify concepts:

    1. By "Christian Unity in a Biblical Sense", we of course understand the Unity of Christians in the light of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
    2. By "Christians" we understand only born-again believers, washed in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 1:18-25; 1 Jn. 1:7) and indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:4-7). Romans 8:9 is final in this respect, as it says: "NOW IF ANY MAN HAVE NOT THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE IS NONE OF HIS".
    3. As a consequence, only born-again believers are the real subjects for Christian Unity in a Biblical sense. That is what we have read in Psalm 133 verse 1: "HOW GOOD... FOR THE BRETHREN TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY!". "The Brethren" is the focal point here; and, in the light of the New Testament, the "brethren" are only the CHILDREN OF "ONE GOD... THE FATHER" indwell by "ONE SPIRIT" having "ONE FAITH", "ONE LORD", "ONE BAPTISM", and are members of "ONE BODY" (Eph. 4:4, 5).

In the light of this Biblical teaching, let me now state that Christian Unity has nothing to do with so-called "Ecumenical Unity", because "ecumenism" does not respect the Biblical meaning of "BRETHREN", as it includes not only "Children of God" but also those who are not. Such a mixture is sufficient to disqualify the "Ecumenical Movement" according to Scriptures, but, as "ecumenism" is a very serious matter which has become so popular because it is presented as true Christian Unity, permit me to deal with it more deeply.

WHAT IS "ECUMENISM" REALLY? -"Ecumenism" is a deceitful and gigantic fraud, both Grammatically and Biblically. Grammatically, because as a word, "ecumenism" comes from the Greek "oikoumene" which literally means "the inhabited earth", and, logically, it can only qualify that which is earthly. But the ecumenicals use this word to qualify the very nature, mission and unity of the Body of Christ, all of which is of a spiritual nature and Divine origin, and has nothing to do with what is earthly. And Biblically this is also fraudulent, because the New Testament in the fifteen times in which the Greek word "oikoumene" is used, it is always used in reference to the "earth" or matter relating to the world. So, it is both UnBiblical and AntiBiblical to apply the word "ecumenism" to the true Christian Church.

In reality, "ecumenism" is not a genuine cause of Christian Unity, on the contrary, it is a new form of "ecumenical syncretism" because of its inclusivism, as it tries to put together all kinds of religions and all kinds of ideologies: philosophical, cultural, political, economical, etc., all into one pot. Such an intent, according to the Bible, is apostasy. In other words, "ecumenism" is really "syncretism" because in its long reach and deeper sense it includes not only the so-called "different branches of Christianity" but also all other different areas of human experience, promoting all kinds of "dialogue" trying to find a way for Universal-Union.

In the religious segment, "ecumenism" has in the so-called "WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES" a clear example of syncretism. For instance: (1) Its Doctrinal Basis is so brief and so flexible that it can be confessed both by Christians and modernists alike; (2) Its Method is also syncretistic, as it is inclusivistic and dialectic, not only inviting "dialogue among Christians" but also with non Biblical -Christians such as Modernistic-Protestant, Roman Catholics, Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, and other religious groups such as Judaism, Islamism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., and even Marxists; (3) Its goal too is syncretistic because, by means of the so-called "Incarnation of the Church in the World" they hope to produce some kind of "Kingdom of God on the earth" which really is an utopian "One World to come" the old modernist dream of the so-called "Social Gospel".

To a competent observer, all this seems to be a new intent to apply the teaching of "evolution's theories" both to Churches and Society, philosophically related to Dialecticism, Relativism, Universalism, Pantheism, Humanism and Secularism, etc.

Such an absurd complexity proves that behind the ecumenical mask there -moves an idea, a program and a power that are not of God. Therefore, the author and finisher of the ecumenical dream, is Satan himself. For that reason the Word of God presents the real fruit of ecumenism, as the "MISTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT" (Rev. 17). And for that the Lord commands: "COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE" (Rev. 18:4).

YES: separation is the only Biblical way to face "Ecumenism". All true Fundamentalists agree on this. But not all the brethren understand with the same clarity what the Biblical Doctrine of Christian Unity really means and what the obedience to it really implies. Many of them think of it only in terms of some kind of affiliation to Fundamental Councils with the purpose of Christian cooperation, specially to fight apostasies and nothing beyond that.

Good as this can be, let me say this-. There is much more in the Scriptures about Christian Unity. So, let us go on to deal more specifically with our subject.

 

THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.

    1. The word of God reveals Christian Unity as a Unity IN Christ: "I in them" the Lord said (John 17:23). "Christ in you" wrote Paul (Col. 1:27), and: "For ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).
    2. That unity in Christ is essentially of a spiritual nature:
    3. (a) Because the essential Unity of the Holy Trinity is its source, current and pattern. "... As thou Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us." "That they may be one, even as we are one". (John 17:21-23).

      (b) Because it requires the Person and work of the Holy Spirit for its outworking. That is why it is called "The Unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:3).

      (c) That unity is vitally established in believers, in the experience of the new birth. "Ye must be born again... of the Spirit" (John 3:3, 5-8). This experience takes place at the moment of our salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus: "… after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13).

    4. But Christian Unity does not end with the new birth. That is where it really begins, because the Holy Spirit, when we are born again, baptizes us, at the same time, into the Body of Christ, which is the Church. (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22, 23). So, Spiritual Unity is not limited to one isolated individual fact, but includes the Unity in One Body (Eph. 4:4), whose Head is Christ (Eph. 1:22; 4:15, 16; 5:23) and whose members are both "members in Christ" (1 Cor. 6:15a; 12:14-27) and all "members one of another" (Eph. 4:25; Rom. 12:5).
    5. This "Unity in the Body of Christ" implies relationship and fellowship with Christ and with our fellow members. That is why we read: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship,..." Acts 2:42a, and also in 1 Cor. 12:25 we read: "That the members should have the same care one for another."
    6. This "Unity in the body" must be kept by us, because it is written: "ENDEAVOURING TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE" (Eph. 4:3). This proves that the responsibility falls on us, and that it is a matter of Christian behavior, and Christian behavior in the New Testament is related to Christian love: "Let all things be done with love" (1 Cor. 16:14).

But "love" in a Christian sense, is something more than natural-human-love. "Christian love" is related to God's love. For this reason the apostle Paul wrote: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5), and, "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Gal. 5:22).

Summarizing: So, "Let all things be done with love" means that all things be done with the love that God hath given unto us. Only in this way can we keep the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

That is why the Lord said to his disciples: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another", and note this: "AS I HAVE LOVED YOU" (Jn. 13.34). Furthermore He says: "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you, continue ye in my love" (Jn. 15:9). For this same reason Paul also wrote: "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb. 13:1).

But love, which in essence is spiritual and therefore invisible per se, can only manifest itself in one way: the practical way. The apostle John states clearly in 1 Jn. 3:18: "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth".

Now let us look at several practical ways to manifest that kind of love among brethren:

Beloved, it is obvious that only if we are surrendered to the Lord can His love be manifest through us in these practical ways, and Christian Unity can become a reality among us, both in the local church as in an inter-church relationship. Speaking of relationship between churches, naturally we think of local churches of a certain fellowship or association of churches with like doctrines and practices. But, what of the relationship and fellowship with churches of other associations and "denominations" with which we hold doctrinal discrepancies? Let us remember here we are talking of "Fundamental Churches" only. But even among fundamental churches there are discrepancies in doctrine and practices, such as time and form of baptism, church government, the Blessed Hope (pre -mid or post tribulation; pre - post or a-millenialism, etc.).

 

What part must Brotherly Love play in such cases?

Some brethren believe that, in love, these discrepancies should be laid aside if we are to be together in some council of churches and in cooperative activities. Others say that "there are matters which are not very clear in the Bible and are of secondary importance". The general consensus is that the following formula should govern us: "In things essential unity, in things indifferent liberty, but in all things charity".

But, what does the Bible say? It says: "Love... rejoiceth in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6). And the Lord says: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17).

Therefore, Bible believers cannot accept the consensus in which tacitly, everybody "agrees to disagree". This status-quo is a scandal among fundamentalists because, while on the one band they confess the Bible to be their only authority in doctrine and practices, on the other hand they maintain their discrepancies, precisely on Biblical matters, under the cover of an "agreement" where we find both truth and error coexisting in the name of truth! This is incongruous! Fundamentalists should confess the scandal of discrepancies in Biblical doctrine and practices and seek a solution if they are truly to stand for "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" (Acts 20:27).

It is very obvious that to stand for "all the counsel of God" which the Lord has given us in the Holy Scriptures, obliges us to testify not only for several fundamentals, but for all Biblical truths; including of course those doctrines on which we are in disagreement with other brethren.

We need to speak out. For this reason the Bible says: "Speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). You see; here we arrive at the crucial point of the problem of Christian Unity and at the same time we find the Biblical solution which is: A Testimony to all the Counsel of God, without minimizing or partializing any part of any truth which the Lord has given us in the New Testament.

This kind of testimony can be given, in its fullness only if we understand well what the "Philadelphia Church" of Rev. 3:7-13 really means in this last time of the Dispensation of Grace. As we read in Rev. 3:8, the Lord says to the Philadelphians: "Thou hast kept my Word and hast not denied my Name". Logically "My Word" means for us, all the Biblical truths. After that, we read in Rev. 3:10 that Philadelphia would be the last faithful remnant with the promise that it would be kept "from the hour" of the final Tribulation. Therefore, the testimony representative of the Philadelphia Church will be present on the eve of the final Tribulation in the last times.

Now, every student of prophecy knows well that the "signs of the times" points this out. We are moving on to the rapture of the Church before the Tribulation. Therefore: this is the time, the hour of the presence on earth of the Philadelphia Testimony, for the Word and the Name of the Lord!

Let us take a look at the same matter from this other historical point of view: if historically, the errors of the churches of Pergamus and Thyatira, mentioned in Revelation, developed into Romanism, and the error of Sardis and Laodicea into formalist Protestantism with its modernistic and ecumenical movement, we would ask: Will not the testimony of the Philadelphia Church have any spiritual and historical identity in the last days? The answer is YES!, because God "left not Himself without a witness" (Acts 14:17). As Dr. Scofield affirms: "Philadelphia is whatever bears clear testimony to the Word and Name in the time of self-satisfied profession represented by Laodicea" (Original note on Rev. 1:20).

YES! The Philadelphia Testimony must be given because it is required by the Lord, by the Bible, by History and by brotherly love: A Testimony for Christian Unity in a Biblical Spiritual and doctrinal sense. Such words as we have seen already: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship..." (Acts 2:42), "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3), and "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), urge us to travel again the "Antioch-Jerusalem" route, as the early Christians did to solve their differences (Acts 15). For the sake of Christian Unity at the present time, let us do likewise, with the purpose of submitting our discrepancies to a Biblical re-examination and to the "washing of water by the Word" (Eph. 5:26b).

We need to be sanctified in the Word by the Holy Spirit, both individually and as a church, while we await the coming of the Lord; so that Christ may prepare His Church to "present it to Himself a glorious church" (Eph. 5:27).

There in Argentina we felt very strongly the claims of the Lord and His Word for a testimony that should be given by all Fundamental churches throughout the world, having understood that this is His precious will.

After more than forty years of "contending for the faith..." I am here this morning witnessing for Christian Unity according to the Word of God.

My prayer is, that each local church and every association of fundamental churches may say with Paul: "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision", these alone are the kind of people who can rightly sing:

"We are not divided

all one body we

one in hope and doctrine

One in charity."