The True Church of Jesus Christ (made up of true believers – those who are truly saved and members of the Body of Christ) is under pressure to do something today that it should not do. The Church is being asked to flip its Unity priorities from Doctrinal-Practical to Practical-Doctrinal.
The Greek word translated by the English word “unity” is used only twice in the Bible – both times by the Apostle Paul, both times in the same chapter of the same Book of the Bible.
“… endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace …” Ephesians 4:3
“… till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …” Ephesians 4:13
The Greek word is ενοτητα (henotes) and comes from the word for “one” (heis). The idea is “oneness, unanimity.” The Apostle Paul used it with the Ephesians to emphasize the importance of unity among Christians.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:1-6
It’s important to note that Paul spent the first half of his letter to the Ephesians dealing with unity from a doctrinal perspective. There are many people in Christian circles who believe practical perspective should trump doctrine for the sake of unity among Christians, but that’s not how God presents His Truth. He always begins with right doctrine that guides right practice. God does not sacrifice “truth” for the sake of imagined “unity” by His people.
The True Church of Jesus Christ (made up of true believers – those who the Spirit of God saves and places into the Body of Christ) is under pressure to do something today that it should not do. The Church is being asked to flip its Unity priorities from Doctrinal-Practical to Practical-Doctrinal.
I bring this up because the Church is facing a big challenge to Paul’s teaching about “unity” among believers. Three examples are the World Council and National Councils of Churches, the “Emerging and Emergent” Church, and the Apostolic Church (New Apostolic Reformation).
The World and National Councils of Churches
The World Council of Churches grew out of the ecumenical movement that began after World War I. The World Council began after World War II (1948) for the purpose of seeking “to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (World Council of Churches) What does that mean for individual member churches?
“As members of this fellowship, WCC member churches:
- are called to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship;
- promote their common witness in work for mission and evangelism;
- engage in Christian service by serving human need, breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation; and
- foster renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.” (World Council of Churches, About Us)
Notice that “visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship” is the first purpose mentioned. But what does “visible unity” mean? The WCC says it represents more than half-a-billion Christians who attend Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, United and Independent churches. Given that broad spectrum of doctrinal positions, how do those member churches practice unity and what kind of unity is it?
The WCC adopted the Toronto Statement in 1950. Here’s a small part of what it says concerning the Council and how it views the theology of individual member churches.
“The Council as such cannot possibly become the instrument of one confession or school without losing its very raison d’être. There is room and space in the World Council for the ecclesiology of every church which is ready to participate in the ecumenical conversation and which takes its stand on the Basis of the Council, which is ‘a fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour”. Toronto Statement, World Council of Churches, 1950
Make note of the words “ecumenical conversation,” because that will come up again as we look at the current “unity movement.”
The National Council of Churches was started in 1950 for the stated purpose of “ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States.” Those groups include the Catholic Church, Evangelical and Pentecostal, “and other Christian bodies”. The NCC also works with other religious groups as explained at the NCC official website.
“In addition to ecumenical partnerships, NCC promotes harmonious relations among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, practitioners of traditional Native American religion and many other faith groups in a society that is increasingly multireligious. The NCC has been particularly focused on building relationships between Christians and Muslims in the aftermath of the national crisis of September 2001.” National Council of Churches
Notice that the NCC promotes “harmonious relations” among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, practitioners of traditional Native American religion and many other “faith groups” in a society that is “increasingly multireligious.” Is that what the Apostle Paul meant when he called on Christians in Ephesus to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? Is that our Lord’s definition of “unity”? Notice what the National Council of Churches describes as “genuine unity.”
“Reflecting the rich variety of its members, the NCC believes that genuine unity demands inclusivity and a respect for diversity, and strives to embody this belief in its programs, decision-making, and staffing.” National Council of Churches
There’s another important word to note: inclusivity. The World Council and National Council of Churches want more inclusivity and less exclusivity in their member churches. Does that sound anything like what Jesus said to the churches in Revelation or what the apostles wrote the early Church? Tell me if you see “inclusivity” or “exclusivity” in these words to the Church.
“… you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars …” Revelation 2:2
“… I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan …” Revelation 2:9
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:14-16
“I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:20-24
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:1-4
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” 1 John 1:18-19
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4
“These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” Jude 16-19
“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:25-31
The “doctrine” of Jesus Christ – the same Jesus Who prayed that His followers would be “one” even as He and His Father are “one” – is “exclusive” when it comes to false teachers and false doctrine. There is no place for inclusivity when that means allowing error into the teaching and practice of the Church.
The mission statement of the National Council of Churches is –
“The NCC is a community of communions called by Christ to visible unity and sent forth in the Spirit to promote justice, peace, and the healing of the world.” (http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/)
That’s an interesting mission statement in light of the real “mission” Jesus said the Holy Spirit would have on earth:
“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:8-15
When the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul out from the church that was at Antioch, He said – “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The other teaching prophets at Antioch, along with others in the church, fasted, prayed and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them away. Barnabas and Saul (Paul), “being sent out by the Holy Spirit, went to Seceucia and Cyprus – “And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:5).
“Preaching the Word of God” is what Paul and Barnabas, and later Paul and Silas, did throughout their missionary journeys. The Holy Spirit called them out of Antioch to do a specific “work” that was aligned with what Jesus said the Spirit would do when He came – “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (Acts 16:8-11).
The key to determining whether a “unity movement” in the Church aligns with God’s purpose is to compare the stated purpose of the movement with the stated purpose of God. If they don’t line up, then be wise and hear the warning of the Apostle Peter –
“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:18-22
The so-called “unity” of the National and World Councils of Churches is dangerous to the health of the True Church and should be avoided and exposed.
The positions and activities of the National and World Councils of Churches should be obvious to Christians who are careful to discern truth and error. However, something that is not as obvious is known as the Emerging/Emergent Church. We’ll look at that next time as we investigate unity in the Church.
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