“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. John 17:20-21
The master communicator has been ignored, ignorantly followed, and incautiously misrepresented. By self-admission, I was one who scoffed at the idea of there being a God to adhere to, and following His commandments was out of the question. The religious world as a whole has done the very same thing, even those who claim to be His adherents have willingly ignored His commandments. Christendom has placed the bread of Jesus on the backburner right next to the casserole of truth, only waiting to mix them both in with the soup of relativity. The doctrines and thoughts of men have become more prevalent as the centuries have gone by. Unity is now a term thought to mean: ‘we can all agree to disagree as long as we accept one another.’ Throughout the denominational (including non-denominational) world this is the idea Christianity is built upon. A man, whom I dearly love but disagree with on this point, described the church Christ came to build (Matthew 16:18) as a very large pie with individual pieces that represent the denominations (sects) of ‘Christianity.’ This statement brings forth a question Paul asked to the Christians in Corinth, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:13)? The question would be asked differently now. Has Christ been divided? John the Baptist, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Joseph Smith were not crucified for you, were they? Or were you baptized in their names?
In John 17 Jesus knows His life is about to come to an end on earth. He prays a three-fold prayer for the apostles. First, He prays that the Father will keep them from the evil-one (John 17:15). Secondly, Jesus prays that the apostles will be sanctified in truth (John 17:17). Lastly, He prays that the apostles may be one, and not only one, but perfected in unity (John 17:22-23). Not only did Jesus pray a prayer for the apostles here in John 17, but He prayed for those who believe in Him through the teachings of the apostles. Jesus prays that we would all be one. Jesus says He wants us to be in Him and in the Father, so that the world may know the Father sent Him (John 17:20-21). Jesus prays that we may ‘all’ be one. This ‘all’ corresponds to those who believe what the apostles have taught. We have the letters the apostles have written, so if we believe what they have written and taught, then this puts us in this category of those who should ‘all’ be one. Is it really possible for all to be one? Paul exhorts the brethren in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that they should all agree and there should be no divisions among them, but that they be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment. Does this sound like the ‘Christianity’ the world sees? ‘Christian’ denominations do not all agree. The very term denomination denotes division. Denominations are not in the same mind or in the same judgment. The very term ‘denominationalism’ goes against everything Jesus prayed for before His death. ‘Denominationalism’ is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) as the emphasizing of denominational differences to the point of being narrowly exclusive. Paul defines it in Galatians 5:19-21 as a deed of the flesh: dissension. The end of this dissension, or even faction, is not having a part in the Kingdom of God. We can be made complete in unity, but as long as this ‘pie’ of divisiveness exists true biblical unity is unattainable.
The Bible is very clear on what biblical unity consists of:
1. 1 Corinthians 10:14-15=> We partake of the Lord’s Supper as one, because Christ’s body is one.
2. Romans 12:16=> We must not be haughty.
3. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14=> We must be baptized into the one body, which is Christ’s body, the church.
4. Philippians 1:27=> We have to conduct ourselves in a worthy manner of the gospel of Christ (striving together for the faith of the gospel).
5. Philippians 2:1-5=> We have to have the same attitude which was in Christ (humility – corresponds to Romans 12:16) (intent on one purpose).
6. 1 John 1:3,7=> We must walk in the light.
7. 1 Corinthians 12:22-25=> We must regard each other as equals.
8. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11=> We must have a love for the truth.
These are just a few, but the most important of them all lies in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, which goes along with Romans 16:17. This is the most important because the rest will follow if there is a love for the truth and sort of abstention from those with false teachings. God said to those who do not have a love for the truth, He will send a deluding influence so that they will believe a lie. They will sink farther into the false teaching than they had ever intentioned, all because they did not have a love for the truth. Jesus says in John 17:17 that the Father’s word is truth. Jesus also calls himself the truth in John 14:6. If we do not have a love for God’s word or Jesus, who is God’s word, then we will fall into the traps of the evil one.
Unity is a very biblical principle. Jesus prayed for it. Paul gave us an outline of how to be unified. God has given us the standard on which we are to be unified. We cannot take away from His word, nor can we add to it (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19). Another principle which can be seen in not adding or taking away from the word which God has given is that we cannot add the thoughts of men to God’s word. 2 Corinthians 4:2 speaks of ‘not adulterating the word of God.’ The adulterating occurs when something not on the same level as the original has been added. When adultery is committed in the marriage relationship something is added which was not originally intended, something not on the same level as the original. Unity is broken when teachings which are not on the same level as God’s word are introduced and taught as God’s word. Creed books, traditions, apocryphal and pseudopigraphal books are not on the same level as God’s word, so they are not allowed to be taught along with God’s word. All of this does not even deal with false teaching from God’s word, but it merely deals with extra-biblical teachings.
So, to say we are all a part of this large pie and we can accept each other for our differences as long as we agree to disagree is based off of an unbiblical thought. God expects us to be unified, but unified on His word. Jesus prayed for the apostles to be sanctified, set apart, in the truth and God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The fairy-tale view of Christendom is stamped out by Jesus’ prayer, Paul’s exhortations, and God’s expectations. Differences do not make us unique, but separate. If we do not all preach the same gospel, then one if not all are in error. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9)!
Jesus prayed for our unity in Him and in the Father. There is one avenue to which we can become in Jesus and in the Father. That avenue is baptism. “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3)? At this point, many have already tuned out and dismissed everything that has been said forgetting Jesus’ words in John 14:15,21 only to fall into the trap Jesus warned against in Mark 7:9. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 how we, who are many, can become a part of the body. We cannot be unified until we have rid ourselves of sin and Acts 2:38 tells us that by repenting and being baptized we receive the forgiveness of our sins. There is no other way in the New Testament for non-Christians to receive the forgiveness of sins.
The very core principles of the Bible are the ones which cause such derision and denominating. The core principles have been slighted and given a cold shoulder for the doctrines and feelings of men to have their own way. The issues have been compiled in the dust pan and swept under the hermeneutical rug for far too long. Galatians 5:19-21 urges the opposition to division, lest there be those who do not inherit the Kingdom of God. As long as this pie of division exists the number of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God will continue to grow, because unity has not been aspired to nor achieved as a byproduct. It is my sincere prayer, as well, that we who have believed in the apostles’ word, which is Jesus’ word, will be made complete in unity. In order for this completeness to occur we must first have unity, but in order to have unity we must first agree on the word of God and its application and erase divisions. Only then can we be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).
God Bless and may we all attain to the unity of the faith. Maranatha
- Eric Ramseur