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The Unity Of The Saints
It is an amazing phenomenon (Psalm 118:22-23), yet a present reality (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3), that so many who claim to believe the Bible (and claim to love the truth) also conveniently find room for so much error (contrary to Psalm 119:104 & 128) and completely disregard the commands of Ephesians 4:3 ("keep the unity of the spirit"); 1 Corinthians 1:10 ("speak the same thing", "no divisions", "same mind", "same judgment"); 2 Corinthians 13:11 ("be of one mind"); Philippians 1:27 ("stand fast in one spirit, with one mind"); 2:2 (be "like-minded", "one accord, of one mind"); 3:16 ("be of the same mind"); and 1 Peter 3:8 ("be of one mind"). It is as if 1 John 4:6 was never penned:
We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Christianity is the one and only true religion (John 14:6). Any and every other religion is false and leads to hell (Psalm 9:17; Revelation 22:15). Anyone with at least somewhat of a Biblical understanding recognizes this. Yet, when it comes to the myriad of denominations within what is called "Christianity," people typically hail many, most, or all of these denominations as legitimate assemblies of the church of God. Yet, the very reason they exist, is because they cannot agree about doctrine (i.e. what the Bible teaches). They are not of the same mind (1 Peter 3:16). They are not like-minded (Philippians 2:2). They do not speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10). There are divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1:10). They do not hear one another (1 John 4:6).
For an example of the many "Christian" denominations, we have - American Baptist Churches, Apostolic Churches, Assemblies of God churches, Association of General Baptist churches, Association of Reformed Presbyterian churches, Baptist Bible Fellowship churches, Berean Fundamental Churches, Brethren in Christ churches, Brethren churches, Calvary Chapel churches, Christian Churches, Christian Reformed Churches, Church of Christ churches, Church of God churches, Church of the Brethren churches, Church of the Living God churches, Church of the Nazarene churches, Church on the Rock churches, Community Churches, Congregational Christian Churches, Congregational Methodist churches, Conservative Baptist Association churches, Conservative Congregational Churches, Evangelical Congregational Churches, Evangelical Covenant Churches, Evangelical Free Churches, Evangelical Methodist Churches, Faith Christian Fellowship churches, Fellowship of Grace Brethren churches, Free Methodist Church of North America churches, Free Will Baptist churches, Friends (Quakers) churches, Full Gospel Churches, Fundamental churches, General Association of Regular Baptists churches, General Association of Separate Baptists churches, Independent Baptist Churches, Independent Bible Churches, Independent Charismatic churches, Independent Fundamental Churches, International Foursquare Gospel churches, Maranatha Christian Churches, Mennonite Churches, Methodist churches, Missionary Churches, National Baptist churches, Open Bible Standard Churches, Pentecostal churches, Plymouth Brethren churches, Presbyterian churches, Presbyterian Church in America churches, Presbyterian Churches (USA), Primitive Baptists churches, Primitive Methodist Churches, Progressive National Baptists churches, Protestant Reformed Churches, Reformed Church in America churches, Southern Baptist Convention churches, Southwide Baptist Fellowship churches, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregation churches, United Baptists churches, United Brethren in Christ churches, Vineyard Churches, Wesleyan Churches, World Baptist Fellowship churches, . . . and on and on it goes, churches upon churches who are not of the same mind, who do not speak the same thing, and cannot "hear" one another (1 John 4:6). And, if and when they do "cooperate" (in some form), they set their differing doctrines off to the side, rather than come to any kind of a Biblical solution (see below). Such is the making of ecumenism with its varying degrees and manifestations.
Contrary to any ecumenical mindset, Jude writes in Jude 3,
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, 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.
What is to be contended (fought) over? Jude says "the faith". Paul gets more specific and says,
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
"Every thought" is to be fought over. Every thought, every doctrine, every teaching, all of it, is to be subjected to and taken captive to the "obedience of Christ" (i.e. obedient to the Word of God; Christ being the Word, John 1:1; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 19:13). This is what Jude exhorts every saint to do ("Beloved", Jude 3).
But how can this be done? There are so many differing views on what the Bible says! How could there be any unity in any assembly of believers, or any unity between assemblies (churches), if "every thought" is fought over? Left to the false Christian world, we could not have such a unity and therefore "know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6). But, those outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13) can and do, by the power of the Spirit of God.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 Paul writes,
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Ephesians 4:4 further states,
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.
God is in every true believer, and every true believer has "been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). His Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17), resides within every single follower of Christ. Because of this, those who have the Spirit of God (the Spirit of truth) are taught by God and they know the truth. As John says,
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, (1 John 2:20-21)
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)
This "anointing" (the Holy Spirit who teaches us "all things" - 1 John 2:27/John 14:26) is in every true believer. And, it is because of this, that there can be, and is, a unity of the saints in doctrine (i.e. what the Bible teaches), even unto "every thought" (2 Corinthians 10:3 5).
Jesus, speaking of Himself and those who follow Him, said,
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:4-5)
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)
Jesus says that His sheep (i.e. true believers) will follow Him (i.e. will follow the truth, John 14:6), and they will not follow a stranger (i.e. someone speaking contrary to the truth). When the truth is present and a lie also, the sheep will follow the truth. Why is this? Because they know His voice (they know the one they are following), and they have His Spirit residing in them teaching them "all things" ("every thought", 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
This does not mean that perfect knowledge is ever attained (1 Corinthians 13:9), nor does it mean that believers will never be "tossed to and fro" by the winds of doctrine that abound (Ephesians 4:14). But, what it does mean, is that those who know their God, those who have the Spirit of truth in them, will be taught by God, and will take heed (as a pattern of their life, 2 John 9; 1 John 2:3-4) to the truth. They may struggle with issues. They may grope and cry out for wisdom (Proverbs 2). But, the Lord will hear (James 1:5). The Lord will direct them into all truth (John 14:26/1 John 2:27 - "all things"). As Proverbs 3:5-6 states,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.
So, why all these denominations then? Why all the confusion within "Christianity" about doctrine and what the Bible teaches? Why does it appear that "Christians" cannot agree on what the Bible says? Because not all are "of God" (1 John 4:6).
Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and he is fast at work within the camp of "Christianity" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Divisions do not come from those with the Spirit of truth in them. Divisions come from those who are devoid of the Spirit, as Jude exemplifies. Speaking of ungodly men, he writes,
These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (Jude 19).
If all people who claimed to be Christians (1 Peter 4:16) were truly Christians (and therefore had the Spirit of God within them, Romans 8:9/Ephesians 1:13 14), there would be no divisions. There would be no denominations. There would be no sustained differing doctrines. But such is not the case.
The world is filled with false brethren (2 Corinthians 11:26) and false teachers (2 Peter 2:1). In fact, the Lord told us beforehand that this would be the case. That is, that "Christians" would prefer false teachers. As He says in 2 Timothy 4:3,
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
Because of this, and because of the "heap" of teachers that scratch the ears, Peter wrote that "the way of truth will be blasphemed" (i.e. spoken evil of). In other words, the way of truth will be looked at NOT as the way of truth, but as the way of error (or evil). As Paul wrote in his own day, "as deceivers, and yet true" (2 Corinthians 6:8; Such is the perception of most who view us).
Yet, for those who are in the way of truth (who have the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth in them), for them 1 John 4:6 is very much alive. Why is this? Because they live in and walk in the truth of God's Word. For them, they live, trust, and depend upon "every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Their authority and trust is in the revealed Word of God, and they follow it, and live it, and speak it. Those who also have the Spirit of God in them and live likewise, "hear" (1 John 4:6). Those devoid of the Spirit and who do not have their trust in "every word" (Matthew 4:4) don't hear (i.e. they don't agree). Therefore, those who are in the truth can know "the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
The crux of the issue on any controversy is always this: Who is speaking the truth? Who is Biblical, and who is not? On any controversy, either one person (or position) is in the truth and the other is not. Or, they are both in error.
No doubt, anyone could be temporarily wrong (in error) on a subject. But, who do they listen to when such is the case? Those in error (or their own understanding, their own self-made deceit), or those in the truth (1 John 4:6). The one who does not consent to "wholesome words" (1 Timothy 6:3) is the one who is proud and destitute of the truth (1 Timothy 6:4-5).
Furthermore, there may also be a controversy that is based upon something the Bible does not even give information on. Thus Paul told Timothy to "avoid foolish and ignorant disputes" (2 Timothy 2:23). To argue (contend) over issues that the Bible does not even give the answer to is foolish and ignorant. Such men who insist on contending over such issues are to be warned twice, and if they don't take heed they are to be rejected (Titus 3:9-11).
Now, there are those who desire to give the impression that the truth cannot be known on what the Bible teaches on what some call "secondary issues" (e.g. limited atonement, election, eternal security, etc.). In other words, issues that the Bible does address, but there are many varying opinions from scholarly "godly" men. Many contend that such subject matters should not be a distinguishing mark between true and false brethren. In fact, to do so is "dangerous" in most "Christians" eyes.
This was exemplified in an email (8-16-96) received from David Newell (Jerubaal@aol.com) in which David stated in response to this very issue stating, "It is this line of thinking which is so very dangerous and unscriptural." (i.e. to distinguish between true and false brethren over "secondary issues"). What this man is saying is this: It is dangerous and unscriptural to apply 1 John 4:6 ("He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."). And, he is saying that it is dangerous and unscriptural to apply 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, . . . destitute of the truth . . . from such withdraw yourself.
If it is "dangerous and unscriptural" to contend (fight, Jude 3) over "secondary issues" ("every thought" 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), and thus distinguish between "the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6), then the war is over (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18). And, for men like David Newell, it is. He cannot distinguish between "the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6). He exemplified this by stating in this same letter,
You [Al Soto] and your Pastor Darwin Fish have developed what seems to be a ministry where you search out and expose the errors of teachings of self professing Christian writers, speakers and TV personalities. In your zeal you have handled topics of a controversial nature (not a big problem) but also in which good men have valid, scriptural, dissenting view.
In this statement, David reveals that he does not know the truth, and is unable to distinguish between the "spirit of truth and the spirit of error". Just because a subject matter is "controversial" does not mean it can't be rightly Biblically known and understood. David calls these men "good men". The only "good men" we have exposed are rank false teachers. Men who damn souls (see documentation). David cannot distinguish between a "good" man and an impostor (2 Timothy 3:13). Who is really "dangerous and unscriptural"?
The kind of mentality that David Newell portrays is the kind of damning mentality that diverts people away from a zealous pursuit and love for the truth (Christ, John 14:6). You cannot be saved, if you do not love the truth. See 2 Thessalonians 2:10. The Lord condemns those who do "not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved."
Therefore, "every thought" IS important (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)! Not because we are saved because we have all of our theology perfected, but, we are saved because our trust is in God (in His Word, in Christ). Thus, we speak the truth, and we cannot only know the truth, but "know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" by whether they "hear us" or not (1 John 4:6). And, by the grace of God, we are hereby also protected from being led away into the "error of the wicked" (2 Peter 3:17) via a zealous love for God and His Word ("every word", Matthew 4:4).
By the way, if someone is led into the "error of the wicked", which is simply being led away from the truth (note 2 Peter 3:16-17), which is simply being lead away from Christ (Christ being the Truth), then such a one would be found to be among those who do not remain in Him (2 John 9). Those who do not remain in Christ will be burned (John 15:6). Knowing and loving the truth (all that can be known and loved) is important (Isaiah 66:1-2; Philippians 2:12)!
Now, Scripture does indeed depict some matters are more important than other matters. Jesus made this clear to the Pharisees when He said,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:23-24)
Here Jesus speaks of "weighter matters." He compares the gnat to paying "tithe of mint and anise and cummin" with the camel of neglecting "justice and mercy and faith." Though the gnat is light weight, and the camel is quite heavy, Jesus does not discard the gnat (paying tithe of mint and anise and cummin) as unimportant. No, He actually says the justice and mercy and faith ought to have been done, "without leaving the others undone." In other words, the paying "tithe of mint and anise and cummin," the gnat, the much lighter matter, was to be done as well.
Man is to live "by every word of God" (Matthew 4:4). It is all to be believed and obeyed. The Pharisees error was not that they strained out the gnat, but that they swallowed the camel.
With the above in mind, it should be seen that those who love God, those who love His people, do (and will) consider it a serious matter to contend for the faith and bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ". Because they love His Word (Psalm 119:97), and they love His people (1 John 3:14), those who are the saints of God Most High (Genesis 14:20; Daniel 7:27) will not only have a true and blessed unity (doctrinal indeed), but will endeavor to keep this unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
The unity is there, because the Spirit is there. Without the Spirit, doctrinal unity would be impossible. But since He does reside in every true believer, there is unity. What muddies these waters are the false brethren who are devoid of the Spirit. But, nonetheless, the reality is there, just as Jesus prayed it would be.
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21).
a true church, P. O. Box 130, Moodys, OK 74444