F. G. Patterson
"The unity of the Spirit" is that power or principle which keeps the saints walking together in their proper relationships in the unity of the body of Christ. It is the moral realization of its unity: and endeavouring to keep it maintains our relations with all saints according to the Spirit of God — and in the truth.
We meet with others in the name of the Lord, on the principle of "One body and one Spirit." (Eph. 4:4.) We thus "endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," and we seek thus to be in the "fellowship of the Holy Ghost" who maintains the unity of the body of Christ. Consequently we find ourselves apart from those who are not in this blessed path, even though they may be perfectly sound in doctrine and godly in life, or who are, perhaps unwittingly, associated with those who are neutral and indifferent to Christ's glory and this truth.
We thus meet on a ground wide enough to embrace every member of His body, to the exclusion of none. If those who come are knowingly in connection or association with that which cares not for His truth and glory, it would exclude them from fellowship at the Lord's table. If they are unwittingly mixed up with it, we should be glad to meet with them, but we should feel bound to tell them the ground we take with reference to Christ, and the position they occupy with reference to Christ. This would leave it on their own responsibility to be with us or against us. We could not "return to them," while we are told, "Let them return to thee." (Jer. 15.)
Consequently we could not join with them in gospel work, because they have not God's end in view. God's end is not salvation merely, but that His people should be on earth a living witness for Christ and His body, during His rejection and absence, and with other members of His body — walking in unity and peace. The church of God is the witness on earth that "God is light," "God is love," and "God is One." The Holy Ghost on earth answers to and reveals Christ on high. He is the "Holy and True;" the Holy Ghost on earth is the "Spirit of Holiness" and the "Spirit of Truth."
One member cannot be said to represent the body, or to be the body, because he eats of the one loaf. If he comes together in any place, according to God's mind, to eat the Lord's Supper, with other members of the body of Christ, they would be collectively a true expression of Christ's body on earth in that place. A number of members of Christ may be together, and not in the unity of the Spirit at all (as I doubt not is often the case). It is not that Christ does not sustain them as members of His body, but they may be together on independent ground, or linked with the widespread (and widening) principle of neutrality to Christ. The Holy Ghost, consequently, would be hindered; and though much that is true, as open ministry, and the like, be owned in principle, it could not be owned as an assembly of God, because Scripture would not recognize it as such. There is but 'One Spirit," and if we are seeking with others to maintain the unity of the Spirit, there can be no antagonistic principle which we could own.
The Holy Ghost has not left God's house (now like "a great house," or Christendom), although many corruptions are there; while at the same time Scripture does not own the claims put forward by many in it to be "an assembly of God."
The Book of Ezra gives the account of the return of a remnant from Babylon to a divine position and city. They did not pretend to the former greatness, without that which would answer to these pretensions, but they sought to walk in faithfulness before God, with an empty temple — no Urim and Thummim — no Ark of the Covenant — no Glory; but God's Spirit with them (Haggai 2:5), and separation from all that was contrary to Him, characterizing their course. (See Ezra 1:59-63; 4:1, and 10:1-9.)
Analogously — there is now a remnant separated to God from the corruptions around — owning the divine ground of the church of God before Him, pretending to nothing, but seeking to be together in the fellowship of His Spirit on earth, and waiting for Christ's return. They are glad to give the right hand of fellowship to every member of His body who desires to walk in the truth with them in like separation from all that is evil around.
I believe it is a day when we must gird up our loins through His grace, and fix our eye upon Christ alone; we shall then be able to judge of what is due to Him, and not from our judgment by looking at our brethren. We shall be able then, through His grace, to escape the master-corruptions of the day — false doctrines — and the enemy's imitation of the true — the principle of Jannes and Jambres withstanding Moses by a counterfeit.
The expression "One body" is used in 1 Cor. 12 with reference to all the saints upon earth at any given time. But "Ye are the body," is also said in Corinth, as the assembly in that place; that is, that in the ground and principle of their gathering together they were "the body" — a most important passage. It shows that an assembly of God, to be really such, is ever on the ground and principle of the body. (Ver. 27.) Those who now meet in one place and partake of the "one loaf" on this principle, are no more the body of Christ at that moment than at any other time. But they have faith in the truth of it, as seen in their practice, while others who speak of it without practice do not seem to have. The former can show their faith by their works — the only way in which such can be done.
The "body" is not used to express union with Christ. The body is united to Christ by the Holy Ghost. Those who are together in the practice of this truth are "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The Holy Ghost constitutes the unity of the body. They are seeking to walk in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost — a divine Person who will not bend His ways to us — we must bend our ways, in the truth, to Him. People suppose that because they are members of Christ they must consequently have the practice of such a truth. None can have the practice of it (although really members of it) unless in the unity of the Spirit, and with those who have been there before them; it is impossible to have it avowedly apart from such. The common practice of the day is to accept divine principles and terms apart from their practice. Scripture is too strong for this.
May our hearts be led into that love of the truth, and love in the truth, and for the truth's sake, that we may be enabled to escape the vortex into which so many are falling!