In One Accord
How did the church get so fragmented? How did we drift so far apart? From the beginning, seeds of discord were being sown. Satan wasted no time in his attempt to choke the life from the future bride of Christ. Before the church was born, Jesus was already warning us of our enemy’s attempts to snuff out our spiritual life. Pay particular attention to the parable of the sower. In this parable, three out of four conditions mentioned are destructive. First, birds came to consume that seed which fell upon the wayside. Then, other seed fell upon stony places and was too shallow to take root. Last, some fell among thorns and their life was choked out (Matthew 13:3-9).
The seed in this parable represents the seeds of the kingdom of Christ, the seed of faith. In yet another parable, we find this very seed being sown in a field; good seed. While the farmer slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. Today, as in the church’s beginning. we have weeds among the wheat. In the first century church, it was the circumcision; a group of legalists professing to be part of the church. These were at least in part, converted Pharisees trying to put new wine (the gospel of Christ) in old wineskins (the law of Moses).
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (KJV)
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV)
They forgot that we are free from the penalty or curse of the law and if Christ has freed us we are free indeed (John 8:36).
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (KJV)
Please note above that even the Apostle Peter was influenced by these weeds that were sown among the wheat.
Indeed the devil wasted no time in attacking the church of Jesus Christ. He has planted his weeds among us and sent out his ravens to pluck the truth of God’s word from our hearts. Why? What is his strategy? First, we must realize that while the seed that was sown by the apostles was the same, that sown by the enemy was a variety. The Apostles sowed the seeds of truth while the enemy crept in shortly after to sow discord, division, deception, and pride. Have you ever noticed when you plant corn you get only corn when you harvest but the variety of weeds and pests seems endless.
If the early church experienced division in the age of the Apostles, is it any wonder it flourishes today? Where division exists, the weeds of discord, division, deception and pride go unchecked. Discord says, “Let’s argue over anything.”
9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (KJV)
2 Timothy 2:23
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (KJV)
Division says, “Let’s separate under different leaders and doctrines.”
1 Corinthians 1:11-13
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (KJV)
II John 1:9-10
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (KJV)
Deception comes as a lamb in sheep’s clothing looking like Christ and deceiving those who don’t know the truth or don’t practice it. What is the truth? God’s word!
I John 4:1
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (KJV)
Pride usually finds a comfortable place in the heart of man. It flatters him; it makes him feel special. It says, “You must never allow others to see your weakness or error, how you appear is the most important thing.”
2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (KJV)
10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (KJV)
18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (KJV)
These four: discord, division, deception and pride, are the assassins of unity within the body of Christ. They are often joined by their first cousins greed, appetite, gossip and envy to destroy any work of potential significance within the body of Christ. What does God’s blueprint say? What does God want us to do? Would God ask us to do anything that wasn’t possible with His help? Of course not. Then look closely at 1 Corinthians, chapter one, verse ten and consider the possibilities.
1 Corinthians 1:10
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (KJV)
You say “Impossible!” God’s word reminds us that all things are possible in Him.
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (KJV)
What keeps this from becoming reality? The previously mentioned four assassins and their four cousins.Think about it.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (KJV)
What do we mean when we say unity? Men have been trying to accomplish unity since one hundred and twenty people gathered in the upper room to await the promised power of the Holy Spirit. Not content to let the Lord establish unity, those in the church have taken the matter of unity into their own hands. The church, already betrothed to Christ, began to play the harlot by entering into a marriage with the state; the Roman state. Rome, with its iron weapons and its iron laws, first attacked the bride of Christ like a wild beast, devouring many of the faithful in the Roman arena. When this failed, the deceptive practice of seduction was employed. Seduce the Christian population by giving them peace from persecution; safety from the powerful Roman authorities. Herd the Christian masses together, bring them under one central self-serving authority, fill their hearts with false doctrine and teach them to serve idols and to pray to the dead rather than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. During this period, the people lost the light of education (the dark ages), only those in monastic orders of the Roman Catholic Church could read and write, those who later learned could no longer find any scriptural material written in their language for the Roman institutional church, which possessed the only available manuscripts, had them translated and read in Latin, a language no longer spoken. Even as early as 329-330 AD, Rome, through Jerome, was preparing a translation of the Holy scriptures into Latin in the form of the Latin Vulgate. The church, now dependant on Spiritual Rome for all spiritual nourishment, had become one large sea of uneducated and totally dependant masses. This was not a unity brought about by love and relationship but instead by fear, dependence and intimidation. The great imitator, Satan, had brought about his own unique brand of unity. He had successfully seduced the church into accepting the Roman government as its model for church organization. Its Emperor became the model for the Pope; the Roman Senate became the model for the college of cardinals, and so on.
The unity of Christ’s church had now become supplanted by organizational unity. To belong to the Church of Christ, the only true church, you must belong to the Roman Church organization; they considered themselves to be the only church in the world. No longer was the church a body of believers it had now taken on a political dimension. It had moved completely outside the realms of scripture by establishing its own structure and its own authority. Nowhere in the cannon of sacred texts could you find a spiritual model like it.
Unity wasn’t a matter any longer of love, acceptance, or relationship it was now a matter of belonging to the same club; coming together under the same earthly authority. It had mutated into a dictatorship. Instead of royalty and commoner we now had clergy and layman. The clergy became the royalty in this new spiritual setting and the common folk had better obey them or pay the consequences.
The members of this organization had become driven together like cattle. They weren’t being led by a loving Shepherd but driven together by hired sheepherders. Some unity! The model of unity and worship given to us in God’s blueprint had been replaced by an imitation; a plastic model based on things seen with things that can’t be seen; things spiritual in nature. As ants drawn to a sugar cube, the institutional church created its own myths, wonders and magnificent spectacles to impress the masses with its wealth, power and beauty. Gothic Cathedrals, stained glass, sculptured icons, royal tapestries, paintings and robes of magnificent design, all produced to impress the very kings of the earth. Is it any wonder the common folk were seduced into believing that all such towering figures were God’s true sportsmen. What happened to the fishermen, tax collectors and tent makers that the crowds followed in the beginning?
Even the false material, political unity of this corrupt system was brought down. This same system unraveled in the reformation of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, but instead of returning to the unity of the spirit, each fragment developed its own set of pet doctrines, its own style of worship and its own label often taken from the name of one of its most celebrated leaders or its favorite doctrine.
True spiritual unity is born when it has as its Father, the word of God and as its mother the law of liberty.
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (KJV)
Each church must be free to follow the Word of God, as their understanding permits, and each must be free to change or expand that knowledge as God, through the Holy Spirit, gives them light, the light of increased spiritual truth. Unity must flow freely from the heart, from the same place that love does. If two churches unknown to each other are building and growing according to the same blueprint it’s likely they will bear a strong resemblance to each other. Most often in these cases, the only differences observed will be the amount of God’s blueprint completed. Some may be more advanced than others. When this is evident, the more mature of the two churches will be content to let the other continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not attempt to speed up the process. The speed of the process may be directly related to the maturity of its membership. If they seek your help, they’re ready for it, but if not, it’s better to lead them in God’s hands. Our labor is to love them and model it through our fellowship and worship among them. Let’s share our resources, our music, our table, our excitement, our spirit and if they desire, our testimonies and teachings.
The church in the world today builds unity in the same way as big business, through the use of legal instruments, like contracts, agreements, recorded results of council meetings written and signed statements of faith, etc. When two assemblies come together it is more likely to resemble a merger than an increase in God’s family.
Where does it say that we must be part of the same earthly organization to be part of the Lord’s church? Are we all not part of His body? Does not the body have many members?
1 Corinthians 12:14
14 For the body is not one member, but many. (KJV)
Are not these members part of the same body? Can we say to one another we have no need of thee?
1 Corinthians 12:15
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? (KJV)
Are not all members controlled by the head?
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (KJV)
Who is the head?
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (KJV)
If Christ is the head then is it not reasonable that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is the spinal column that carries the message of the head to each part of the body? The Spirit of God is the conveyer between God and man, He is the revealer of truth.
1 Corinthians 12:11
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (KJV)
By Him all the members are brought together into obedience.
1 Corinthians 12:25-27
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (KJV)
Please take note that we are all members individually (1 Corinthians 12:20). As we are members of an assembly, each assembly has its place in the body. As a finger, you are part of the hand, (an assembly of fingers) which in turn is part of the body. What controls the finger? The hand? NO! The head through the spinal column or if you prefer, the central nervous system. If the finger is controlled by the control nervous system then what controls the hand? The same system. The head, working through the central nervous system, controls all parts of the body individually and collectively. Jesus is the head, the Spirit is the central nervous system carrying the message of Christ to all members and moving them individually and collectively. The finger doesn’t report to the hand, it reports to the head. The hand doesn’t report to the arm it reports to the head also.
We must all realize the importance of this structure. If a denomination can be defined as two or more assemblies of Christ sharing a common earthly administration then at what point do we as individual assemblies come together in unity? First, our administrative unity; our home office; our church headquarters is not in this world. It exists in the throne room of heaven where Christ now sits and makes intercession for us. He is the head and so where He is quartered or resides becomes our headquarters.
Second unity is not a matter of administration but of desire for companionship. At creation God said it is not good for man to be alone. In the same way God created His spiritual body, the church, not to be alone. The true church is hungry for fellowship with others of God’s family. This hunger comes out of maturity. It lays aside fear to reach out in love to others. It opens its heart and its spiritual eyes so that it may recognize others in the family by their fruit. It opens its spiritual ears to new revelations of truth carried by other brethren. Truth confirmed in God’s word. It says, “Teach me, share with me, I would know more of God.” Before it says, “Let me teach you, it says let me learn from you; teach me.”
How can the individual assembly assume this position? By thinking of others as being better than themselves.
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (KJV)
By considering the feelings of others before their own; by laying aside their pride. Could there be the faintest possibility that God has revealed things to them yet unknown to you or perhaps the opposite? Maybe we could learn from each other. Do you suppose that it might be God’s plan to increase our understanding by using our relationship with the brethren to do so? Wow! There’s a revolutionary idea.
What keeps us from fellowshipping with others? Fear! Yes, fear, not among the flock but a fear growing out of suspicion among the leaders. They fear that members of their flock might be drawn toward another assembly. The fear that members might be overtaken with false doctrine. They fear that other more popular, better known, more gifted leaders might attempt to undermine their authority and seize the oversight of their flock making them subordinate. They fear loosing control and the respect that comes with leadership. All of these fears come from the same source, God’s enemy and ours.
It would be easy at this point to assume that any leader feeling this way is immature and not qualified to lead. Which one of us who leads is above human temptation? Which one of us does not appreciate the love and respect of the flock we serve? Who is he that would enjoy loosing a close brother or sister to another assembly? Even the Apostle Paul confessed his jealousy over the preserving of his flock at Corinth.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (KJV)
Leadership is an enormous privilege, who is he that places no value on it? Whatever we treasure, whatever we love becomes a potential weapon in the hand of the enemy. If we allow the church to be twisted into a political system we will most likely be caught trying to achieve some sort of status within. One of the most damaging doctrines we can buy into is the doctrine of accountability. True, as leaders we need to be accountable, but to whom? In the system, the priest is accountable to the bishop, the bishop to the Arch bishop, the Arch bishop to the Cardinals, the Cardinals to the Pope and the Pope to God. Or, if you’re a member of a Protestant organization, it may go minister to area minister or bishop to area council, to general council or council president to God. If the lowest deacon has not the integrity of the highest member, he shouldn’t be in office. The head of the body has complete control over all the body parts and all parts report to the head and it’s the same way with the body of Christ. We, small and great, are accountable to the head of the body; our Lord Jesus Christ. We are also accountable to each other; we to our leaders and our leaders to us.
Every assembly of the early church was accountable to Christ but assemblies were not legislated together in political unity. Each was free to develop relations with other assemblies or not. Fifty years ago, business relationships were established with a handshake; today it takes lawyers, accountants and contracts to complete an agreement for services bought or rendered. Why the change? Fear. Fear of being dealt with dishonestly.
Remove the fear and possibilities for true fellowship increase. How do we remove fear? First, learn to love one another; every Christian owes his back to his brother. We must be prepared to be vulnerable to take the risk. Second, we must not expect other assemblies to conform to ours in practice or in doctrine. We can expect others within our assembly to conform but not those belonging to other fellowships. If, like the early church we adopt a one Eldership for one flock understanding then others will not fear being taken over. No two assemblies should ever be tied together with any form of earthly administration. Love should be the main motivating factor and a strong desire to serve one another.
Elders must first share this love and trust. When they do, the assemblies will follow their example. The first major doctrine that these fellowships need to address is this one; unity. As relationship grows so will trust. Suspicion must be the first victim of this relationship. Teachers and leaders with open hearts will soon find little problem in searching for truth together, making pride the next victim of this relationship. With each truly dedicated to finding and obeying God’s truth, His blueprint, the last casualty will be error and each assembly will be made richer by the spiritual gifts given them by the other. Remember, unity is not you being called by the same legislated label as another. It’s you loving them and them loving you.
When an assembly of disciples gets too big for one house, throw a baby shower (party) and send off the new offspring with its own leadership and don’t try to hold onto the oversight of it. Christianity is a family. In a family, a child is raised to maturity then, becoming joined to a partner, moves away and a new family is born. If the father of the older family tries to assume control of the other, a break in relationship is almost certain. A wise leader, like wise fathers, know when it’s time to let go and let God. In this way relationship is unbroken and these spiritual families will often find opportunities to get together. When one flock gives birth to another they share a common genetic program; they will bear the same family characteristic; unity and love between them will never be broken as each prepares, like the cells of the body, to center on their nucleus, Jesus Christ, to grow and multiply again.
The secret of power is found in this wondrous equation; when we are together in one accord, speaking the same thing, having the same mind and opinion with no division among us, the power of the Spirit will fall upon us as it did upon the early church (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
The Lord doesn’t want us unified by brand names or by contract or some other silly man made device. He wants our hearts knit together; He wants us to be one with each other and with Him. The same unity that He shares with our Heavenly Father.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 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.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (KJV)
The enemy of God is not divided, his desire is for the destruction of the church and he never ceases to sow the seeds of discord among God's children. If his desire is division, then shouldn’t our desire be unity?
25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: (KJV)
What better way to defeat the enemy than together. Like coal miners separated in darkness by a cave-in, so we as a Christian body have been separated by walls of pride and ignorance. Isn’t it time we began to breakdown the dividing wall and dig toward each other? We’ll only find our way out of darkness and into light when we all work together. Let’s begin to get some dirt under our nails today.