The last words of a man who is about to die and he is seeing his associates for the last time are usually strong and heavy, they show vividly the greatest desires of the man especially those he has not seen in his life time. This was exactly the case when Jesus prayed that prayer. “That they all may be one.”
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 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 may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me”. (John 17:20-23 KJV+)
This statement was made by our Lord Jesus when He was praying for his disciple just before he went to Gethsemane.
Being one may not really refer to an ecumenical oneness where every Christian comes together under a single denomination where they will be doing everything uniformly. The criterion which the Lord Jesus used in measuring unity during his earthly ministry was not the economical uniformity. We can infer this from this incidence in the Bible.
“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part”. (Mark 9:38-40 KJV+)
In other words, the Lord is not really particular about a single gathering, rather a single set of ultimate kingdom principles. As far as God is concerned, as many that follow this single set of ultimate principles are one no matter the physical gathering (local church denominations) they belong. But to us the Christians, the big puzzle is how to identify these set of ultimate kingdom principles.
It is in the search of these that resulted into doctrines and invariably denominations; I believe some of the “founders” of denominations had some measure of insights and revelation into some of these kingdom principles, but one important fact to note about this revelation is what the scriptures said in 1 Corth13:9-12
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12 KJV+)
In other words, all these “founders” only had just a part of these set of kingdom principles for the scriptures says that the wisdom of God is manifold (or many sided)
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10 KJV+)
While some believed they have had all, they don’t know that they are might be only seeing and preaching just a side, whereas there are also other sides of the same wisdom of God. To complicate the issue many of these “founders” added some of their personal views and principles and handed it over to their church members, who follow this to the letter. Others added their personal commitments to God which are offshoots of their personal consecration and covenants with God. Before you know it, doctrines and traditions of denomination have been born. And this is the base line for the segregation in the body of Christ today because everybody sees the doctrines of his/ her church as superior and thus finds it difficult at times to refer to another believer in a different denomination as a fellow Christian
It is easy for someone after reading the first part of this piece to then conclude that disunity seem inevitable in the body of Christ; But God has a way out.
Yes we agree that the “founders” must have had insights into various sides of the wisdom of God; but they added in many cases some of their ideologies and principles in order to get what we have today as doctrines in our churches. Why not let us first filter them, which of them are the inspiration of God and which are the ideologies and commandments of men, the only way we can get these is through the Holy Scriptures, the bible. Any doctrine that does not work in line with the scriptures is not from above. They are principles of man which cannot guarantee eternity (although some of them may be with seemingly good intentioned) they are traditions of men.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV+)
Even with that, Christendom today has experienced the influx of preachers armed with the skills of oratory and intellectualism. These men and women have come into the church carrying no other thing but the bible. However, they pick the scriptures out of context and wrest it to suit their lust. The twist the scriptures in the name of interpreting them from the original translations and end up telling us the direct opposite of what we have written in front of us in the pages of the scriptures. Some have even emerged in the name of a new revelation and they preach doctrines alien to the gospel of Christ luring men out of Christ. Beloved Beware!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it is bad to attempt to understand more of the scriptures by referring to the translations of the scriptures in the original languages; neither am I saying that God cannot reveal something that “looks” new to a person; but what I am saying is that these new revelations will not contradict any other part of the scriptures. Rather they will make you to understand other scriptures more. They will not roughen the context from which they have been taken. If they do so, they are not from God they are from hell!
And for the purpose of this interpretation of the scriptures in a harmonized format that is why God gave the church the gift of the five fold offices
“And he gave some, 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: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-14 KJV+)
The ministrations of the apostle, teachers, prophets, evangelist and pastors are very necessary in the body of Christ. It is the long run effect of the manifestations of their ministrations that can really bring the “oneness” that Jesus prayed for i.e. when we will come to 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.
As a Christian, you can not get to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ until you are thoroughly exposed to the ministry of these five fold offices, for many people this may be hard to believe because may be they grew up in faith under the tutorship of a pastor they believe is very sound so they believe they are okay. Let me tell you, no matter how sound he is, he cannot impart in you what the unique offices of an evangelist, teacher or prophet will do for you, you may not know it, you will be deficient in the nutrients of other offices if you do not get a means of exposing yourself to the other ministrations. By this, I am not expecting you to be moving from one church to the other, rather, I encourage you to make use of other mediums like the print media (magazines, bulletins, books etc.) and televisions and radio broadcasts of the preaching of other men of God, and even occasionally when they have big programs feel free to worship with them but remember, in all these be like the Berean Christians in the early church.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. (Acts 17:10-11 KJV+)
Carefully weigh every form of revelation that you contact in the light of the scriptures. With an open mind, consider the contexts and the interpretations, ask questions where necessary from people that can help you, and hold on only to the truth for the sake of your eternity. Stay at the safest side of the controversial issues in the Christendom. Do not gamble with you eternity. No one except you will stand before God to receive the repercussion of your actions and inactions which will be your portion for eternity.
As we have discussed, the “oneness”, the unity that our lord Jesus prayed for is that all the believers will come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man (that we described in the beginning part of this piece) is walking in line with the set of ultimate kingdom principles. Beloved this is very important to us, the Psalmist said
“… how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aarons beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments” (Psalms 133:1-2 KJV+)
Do you know the implication of that oil that was poured on Aaron in Leviticus 8:12? It was to sanctify him, to consecrate him for the priestly office, an unequaled office in the dispensation of law where he (the priest) will be able to go before God in the holiest once in a year to atone for the sins of all Israel. That office looks like the Zenith (peak) a man can reach with God in terms of religious worship and rituals. Not until the oil came upon the head of Aaron, he was not consecrated for the office. Also there are realms and heights in God we cannot attain in this dispensation of Grace until we attain that unity. As a generation of believers, there are moves of God’s manifestations we cannot experience until we get to that mark. Even as individual Christians, there are depths in God we cannot reach until we lay hold and live by those set of ultimate principles of the kingdom of God. This is the only key to live a balanced and successful life here on the earth and in eternity. So beloved, like Paul, let us press forward to that mark of high call in Christ.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 KJV+)