Determination: Basis for Unity
Protestant Denominationalism has little or no consistency to it. For instance if "it doesn’t make any difference what you believe, just as long as you’re honest and sincere," why can’t we join all the denominations at once? What’s wrong with it? But they wouldn’t allow that. And if I am encouraged to "join the church of your choice," why can’t I join them all?
Human creeds divide. They take the original message of God and adapt it to what its composers want it to say. In doing so, they divide instead of unifying. It takes the Bible plus a creed to make a Presbyterian. It takes the Bible plus a creed to make a Methodist. But the Bible plus nothing at all will never make anything but a simple New Testament Christian. Actually, it is ludicrous to say that they Bible makes all these different religious denominations, because that makes the Bible, which makes numerous pleas for unity, the cause of division (see II Timothy 3:16-17; I Corinthians 1:10-f; II John 9, etc.).
People must want unity or there will be no unity. In all cases, unity is predicated on the desire to have it. For example, Paul says, "For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like men?" (I Corinthians 3:3-4). These people were divided because they wanted to be. Most people who are in religious denominations are there because they have decided that’s the way they want to go. They chose to be "of Paul," or "of Apollos," or "of Peter," because they saw in them what they wanted. It is the same today. Division is a deliberate decision.
Just as a certain mind-set produces division, there is a certain mind-set which produces unity. Paul, in Philippians 2:2, says, "fulfill ye my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." All these attitudes speak of sameness of mind, unity of motive, common determination, harmony in aim. Likewise, the attitude which produces unity in Ephesians 4:3, calls for "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," indicating that no unity is possible apart from the determination to achieve and maintain it. Determinate like-mindedness is the predicate for unity.
Unity must be maintained as well. One of the most effective devices used by the forces of the devil is fragmentation. It has ever been one of the strategies of war to divide the enemy, cut them off from one another, or "divide and conquer." Such division started with Adam and Eve and remains until this day.
Unity is a problem even among our own brethren. We are separated from one another–not so much from error–but in many instances, by personalities. In the first case, it must be; in the latter, it should not be. While the Bible recommends the stalwart defense of the purity of the doctrine of Christ (II John 9; Jude 3, etc.), it never approves of haughtiness of spirit, extreme egoism, or power struggles among domineering personalities, all of which have at times produced divisions among brethren.
As far as I can tell, the Lord’s people have never been defeated by external forces. Contrariwise, our demise has often come from organic decay. And, while there may be "brotherhood issues" (whatever that is) that require separations, decay is more often produced by internal bickering, jockeying for positions of power, or the desire on the part of some to "rule or ruin." The people in the pew (for want of a better way to express it) don’t generally cause much trouble. It is the men of repute and stance that line up their forces and foment divisions. In most instances, it is absolutely unthinkable that a preacher, or any other leader, would not be willing to sacrifice his own ego in order to save the rupturing of the Lord’s body.
Someone said to me that only family problems are worse than problems among the Lord’s people. I respectfully disagree. Problems among brethren are worse–they cut deeper, the hurt stays longer. I know places where there will be no peace for yet a generation or two because some brethren refuse to turn loose of their own bitterness.
Protection from division is a necessary part of the work of the local church. We can prevent divisions by first, making sure that our doctrinal distinctiveness is maintained, but also by making sure that our attitudes toward one another are kept pure. When we all learn to assign the highest motives to our brethren until we know for a certainty that such is not the case, we will preclude much of our internal squabbles. But as long as we persist in having our own way, even if it means drawing away disciples after us, we just as well get used to divisions, for they will come.
I write these things, not because we have these problems among us, but so that we won’t.