Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Surely we all agree that unity is a wonderful thing and should be desired in the church. As David observed in Psalms 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” However, it is not only something that is worth seeking, but it is actually the Lord’s will “that there should be no schism in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25). Hence anything that is a barrier to peace must be discarded and rejected. Paul says that it is something that we must be “endeavoring to keep.” Here we have the idea of “haste” and “giving diligence.” Yes, it takes effort to have unity in the church; we must work at it and never take it for granted.
A PARTICULAR KIND OF UNITY
Paul is not discussing just any kind of unity that permits us to pursue it at any cost, but he specifically makes reference to the “unity of the Spirit.” This is the unity that is wrought by the Holy Spirit [See Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament]. That fact alone tells us that we should never strive to have unity at the expense of truth! After all, such action would be contrary to the mission of the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
The following is found in a sermon by R.E. Elmore: “There may be a sort of superficial union of heterogeneous elements, but this is not Christian unity. Christian unity is the oneness which results from the common possession of the ‘like precious faith,’ and from the practice of that faith. We keep the unity of the Spirit when we keep the Spirit’s teaching without addition or subtraction. It is superficial and self-contradictory to talk of ‘spiritual unity’ in the midst of denominational and doctrinal diversity. This is not true and never can be true. The unity of the Spirit is the unity of the truth.” This preacher of yesteryear hit the nail on the head, didn’t he? [I found this sermon in a book published back in 1930] We need to realize that unity based upon error is not the solution to division!
SCRIPTURAL UNITY VS ECUMENISM
Ecumenism is defined as “a movement seeking to achieve worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding.” We must not confuse the “unity of the Spirit” with a “union” devised by man for the purpose of minimizing important doctrinal differences that might exist. As we have already noticed, Jesus referred to the third person of the Godhead as “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13). He is obviously so designated because of His relationship to the truth. As Guy N. Woods noted in his commentary on the Book of John, He is styled “the Spirit of truth” because He would teach the truth, all of the truth and nothing but the truth in the revelations promised. Also, Paul went on to declared in Eph. 6:17 that the “sword of the Spirit” is the word of God. If we’ll all walk according to the truth (as inspired by the Holy
Spirit), we’ll have the unity that He gives, enabling us to “speak the same thing” in matters of faith (1 Cor. 1:10).
One man wrote the following: “The majority-view today holds that the way to produce unity is not to discuss and consider doctrine, but rather to work together and pray together. The slogans include ‘doctrine divides.’ This becomes serious when applied to the question of evangelism. The most common argument used is that evangelism is impossible apart from this unity, that a divided church is an offense to the world, and that while we are divided the world will not listen to us. During an evangelistic campaign in London, a Christian newspaper carried the headline: ‘Let us have a theological truce during the Campaign’.” Brethren, where are we authorized in the Scriptures to have a “theological truce” with error and to allow false doctrine to go unchallenged? The same Spirit that inspired Paul to write Eph. 4:3 also inspired Jude to say that we “should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude, verse 3). A compromising of the truth has nothing to do with the “unity of the Spirit!”
“THE BOND OF PEACE”
Please observe that Paul said we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit– “in the bond of peace.” As I understand it, this means that a bond exists between brethren which is peace. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul has emphasized that the enmity between Jew and Gentile has been abolished in Christ (Eph. 2:13-16); there is now a bond of peace that should unite them in the one body. In a very real sense that bond is love– the “bond of perfectness” referred to in Col. 3:14. The truth is that we can all believe alike in matters of doctrine, but if we don’t treat each other with love and respect, the result is not going to be unity. Indeed, we all know of congregations that divided, not because of doctrinal differences, but because of personal conflicts.
Brethren, unity is desirable and must be maintained, but “unity-in-diversity” is not the answer. Joining hands with heretics and false teachers, all in the name of pseudo-unity and so-called love, is obviously not the solution. In the book of sermons I’ve already referred to, Isaac Errett said, “In the essentials of faith in the Christ, the Son of God, and the keeping of His commandments, the apostles were the farthest possible from the sickly ‘liberalism’ of the present time. They knew no compromise here; they would tolerate no differences; they would have no fellowship with any who denied the faith or refused to keep the commandments of Jesus.” Did you get what this preacher of yesteryear said? He called it “sickly liberalism!” It looks like to me that things haven’t changed all that much in the last 80 years are so. In fact, the “sickness” has been spreading and the result has been only more division. That is true because the unscriptural movements of men have nothing to do with the “unity of the Spirit.”
Article by: Billy D. Dickinson