We have spoken of the church's holiness, her catholicity, and her apostolicity. There is another characteristic or attribute of the church, and that is her unity.
When we speak of the church's unity, we mean that there is essentially only ONE church and body of Jesus Christ. Christ is not a monster that He has more than one body.
This unity is not easily seen because of the multitude of different denominations, congregations, and churches that exist. To some extent this variety is due to the sinfulness and weakness of the church and her members, to some extent it is not.
Geographical differences and differences of language to some extent make it impossible to have perfect unity in the visible church. Those differences will be removed only in the new heavens and the new earth when there is "no more sea" (Rev. 21:1). Then no differences of language or anything else will separate believers from one another.
Nevertheless, the sins or the church and her members make institutional unity impossible also. Differences of doctrine and practice, all of which are the result of a sinful failure to understand and obey the Word of God, also separate believers from one another.
Because sin destroys our unity and keeps believers apart, we ought always to be doing all in our power to overcome these differences, by studying the Word and by speaking to one another of what we believe. We ought not be tolerant of division.
Even where ecclesiastical unity proves impossible, we ought nevertheless to keep fellowship with other believers as much as possible. Nor ought we to reject them or speak as though there are no Christians besides ourselves.
We may not, however, seek unity at the expense of the truth. We are to buy the truth and sell it not (Prov. 23:23). That is where ecumenism goes wrong. It sells the truth for a mess of ecclesiastical pottage that has no true unity in it.
Seeking and praying for unity, we should not forget that this unity is in diversity. The unity of the church does not mean that every believer must be exactly like ourselves. Nor does it mean that every congregation and church must be a carbon copy of another.
Paul makes this clear in I Corinthians 12. Not only is there a diversity of members and gifts, but every member is necessary, something we also often forget. Only thus is the church the body of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless until sin is utterly destroyed, there will be divisions. Because of this the unity of the church is now largely a matter of faith. We believe, as the Nicene Creed reminds us, "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church."
We must, therefore, with regard to the unity of the church, walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). How important that is! That faith will keep us from abandoning the visible church when we see her faults and sins and the divisions within her.
Nor is that faith vain. When Christ returns He will "gather in one all things" (Eph. 1:10) and destroy sin. Then even the possibility of disunity will be gone.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 8
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA