Unity

The discussion of questions generally results in the formation of parties and sects; the ministry of Christ unifies His saints, for it binds their hearts together and makes them glow with a common object. Questions will arise as long as the church is here below, for the devil will not cease his efforts to scatter the one flock, but if these questions are brought to the light of God's all-sufficient Word, which is able to elucidate every one of them, and approached from the standpoint of how they affect the glory and heart of Christ, in dependence upon Him, and not from the standpoint of tradition or precedent, or in self-will, they will be rightly answered and the devil's malicious intentions be frustrated. Yet the work of the servants for Christ is not to occupy the saints with questions, but to minister the truth as to Christ wherever an ear is inclined to hearken to their words. It was so at the beginning, and it has not been changed during the course of the centuries.

While being devoutly thankful to God from all the truth that has been opened out during the last century, let us not be too much occupied with the immediate past, or imagine that in these latter days the divine standard has been given to us, but let us go back to the revelation of the truth as it was given by the Holy Ghost at first in all its force and glory; for only so shall we be able to act rightly; and we may be sure that any revival that may have taken place within the last century has been the result of the servants of the Lord coming under the power of that.

Take that most triumphant passage in Ephesians 4:8-13: —

"Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave same, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Mark well these expressions "for the perfecting of the saints," "for the work of the ministry," "for the edifying of the body of Christ." Are these things not worth labouring in and for? This is the greatest work that is being done beneath the heavens today; we say it without fear of contradiction, this is the greatest work that is being done in the universe at this moment. No empire on earth, no matter how great its might or righteous its cause, is prosecuting so glorious a campaign as this — if we may be allowed to adopt military phraseology — of which the great Leader is our victorious Lord in heaven, and of which the power is the Holy Spirit of God on earth. Will the devil remain passive while this is going on? Certainly not. Of old he tried to hinder it by persecutions, but these frontal attacks only served to further the truth — "the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church" — and the tribulation only made the saints of God value the more the blessed unity into which He had put them. The public persecutions have ceased, but let us not suppose that the enemy has been driven from the field. To do so would be to blind our eyes to his diabolical strategy. He has succeeded in these closing days of much light, in filling the minds of the servants of Christ with questions, so that they, instead of unitedly and without fetters, carrying on the work of Christ, indicated in this passage, often waste much time in discussions one with another, sometimes with much heat — alas, that it should have to be said — resulting in estrangement of heart one from another and further division in the flock of God.

The discussion of questions, either in public, or by pamphlet, or in private intercourse with the saints, or by letter will not result in "the perfecting of the saints," it is not "the work of the ministry," it will not "edify the body of Christ." The saints are perfected as the truth as to Christ is formed in their souls, and by this they grow into the "unity of the faith . . . unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." But questions provoke the flesh, cause emulation and strife, and stunt the growth of the saints, so that they are imperfect — babes, as witness the Corinthians (1 Cor. 2:3). This is the devil's work.

The saints of God might well learn a lesson from the British Empire at this time. How speedily all questions were abandoned, and how the greatest extremes became as one when the supreme need of defending her honour and maintaining her integrity arose. Have those who love the Lord no common cause? Or, to put it in a way that should affect all our hearts: Have not those whom He has loved, and for whom He gave Himself, no common cause? It was said in our hearing recently: "Nothing would be so calculated to produce practical unity amongst the saints as an outbreak of persecution." We did not question this, for we are more than a little selfish, and while on the one hand the sorrows of others might draw out our sympathies, we should be glad to have sympathy in our own. And beyond that, the flying to one common Help in trouble would throw us more together, and perfectly right too. But is there not something higher than this? What of the glory of our Lord and the truth? In these last days, as never before in the church's history, the enemy has attacked our holy faith. Not the outworks of Christianity merely, but the very citadel of it — the truth as to Christ's own person, and His atoning work. Ought not the love that He bears us, and His own glory, which is surely more dear to us than life, have made us, because of these attacks of the enemy, "Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27)?

Who could imagine, by way of illustration, the British soldiers in the fire-swept trenches forgetting the great conflict and quarrelling with each other, or wasting their time in debating questions, or refusing to succour each other in their need, or withholding words of cheer or of good news which was their common right! And if only the saints of God were alive to the infinite seriousness of the conflict that they are called to wage, and the tremendous issue of it, and their need of one another in it, it would surely result in a solidarity in their ranks that would be for the glory of the Lord; it would make them greatly appreciate that unity which is a divine fact, and which cannot be dissolved.

Every part of the revelation of God in our holy faith has the oneness of the saints in view. Take a few familiar passages of Scripture.

(a) "I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd" (John 10:15-16).

(b) "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17:22-23).

(c) "For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 4:13).

(d) "Wherefore He saith, When He ascended on high He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . . till we all come to the unity of the faith . . . speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom 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" (Eph. 4:8-16).

(a) The Lord gave up His holy life, passing down into the darkness of judgment and death that His saints might be one. Was His death in vain? Impossible. The saints of God are one flock.

(b) The glory of sonship has been given to them that they might be one — given to them in a new and inalienable life and title. They are brought into an intelligent relationship with the Father and the Son, and this in a way that baffles all description: the Son of God in them and the Father in Him, that the oneness might be in the power of that unbreakable and eternal love in which the Father and the Son abide, So that as no thought of division between the Father and the Son could possibly be entertained, so also should they be indivisible.

(c) The Holy Ghost has been given to the saints also, that they might be one. He has come upon them baptising them into one body, and they have all drunk into one Spirit. So that they are no longer feeble and isolated atoms fighting their way against storm and wind and tide to the glory, but they are one body by the power of the Holy Ghost. Being in that body, it might be said that they are in the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is in them, so that as you cannot divide the Holy Ghost, for He is one, so neither can you divide that body that He has formed.

(d) And Christ in glory is the Head of His body on earth, and every member of it has been formed in Him, so that each one, in the virtue of the life and grace that it has in Him, may contribute to the self-building up of the one body in love.

These are great truths. Shall those who profess to know them practically falsify them by a sectarian spirit, or by withholding them from those who do not know them, or only know them imperfectly? Or prevent the effectual working of this divine organism by raising needless questions and divisions amongst saints? Nay. If these truths are known they must be obeyed, and ministered wherever a listening ear can be found. And if any who know them act otherwise, they will speedily lose the joy and the power of them.

Contrast with the foregoing scriptures the following: "The wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep" (John 10:12).

"For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not yet carnal and walk as men?" (1 Cor. 3:3).

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, fornication . . . idolatry . . . strifes . . . contentions, disputes, schools of opinion . . . murders" into what terrible company the sectarian is here put, and mark the declaration of the Holy Ghost — "as to which I tell you beforehand, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom" (Gal. 5:19-22, N.Tr.). It is evidently a fleshly and devilish work to scatter and divide the saints of God. May our souls shrink with horror from having any part in it.

But to return to what we said at the beginning; the practical abiding in this unity can alone be maintained as Christ is before the soul. We have a song, one line of which is —

"All the mind in heaven is one";

but that is because Christ is everything to all. Ministry in the power of the Holy Ghost, according to John 16:13-15, will perfect the saints in this now, and nothing else will. Questions distract, doctrines, apart from this, harden, but by the ministry of Christ the work of the Holy Ghost proceeds and the body of Christ is edified. May this be our great object now and henceforward.