I exhort you therefore...to walk in a manner worthy of the calling wherewith ye were called; with all lowliness of mind and meekness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love, giving diligence to keep the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace: one body [church] and one spirit [aim-- mind] according as ye were also called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Immersion, one God and Father of all he who is over all, and through all, and in all....
"And he gave some indeed [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] shepherds and teachers; with a view to the fitting of the saints for work of ministry, for an up-building of the body of Christ; until we all advance into the ONENESS of the faith, and of the full knowledge of the Son of God; into a man of full growth, into a measure of stature of the fullness of the Christ; that we may no longer be infants, billow-tossed and shifted around with every wind of teaching, in the craft of men, in knavery, suited to the artifice of error; but pursuing truth in love, may grow into Him in all things who is the head, Christ; out of whom all the body fitly framing itself together and connecting itself through means of every joint of supply, according to an inward working in measure of each single part, is securing the growth of the body unto an up-building of itself in love. Eph. 4:1-16. Rotherham's Trans.
Christian Union is an end greatly to be desired and sought for among God's children, yet it is of great importance that we have union on the true and Scriptural basis. Union on any other is as detrimental, as true union is advantageous.
In the above exhortation of the apostle, we have christian union presented as a possibility, as a thing to be desired, and as a necessity to the healthy growth and development of the body of Christ. He presents also the conditions under which it may be attained, and by which it may be perpetuated.
Let us notice first the character of that union of which Paul speaks. He says it is a union in which all so united acknowledge the one Lord, are inspired by the one faith, are baptized with the one baptism, begotten of the same Father, filled with the same spirit, and discerning and striving to attain the same high calling, recognizing one another as fellow members of the same body, and fellow-heirs of the exceeding great and precious promises. Being in the world yet not of it, walking separate from it, misunderstood and despised by it, how natural it would seem for those of such common hopes and experiences, to feel bound together by an almost indissoluble tie of love and sympathy.
To a very great extent this union is felt and is strengthening among the consecrated ones; yet we apprehend that its necessity and advantage are not fully appreciated by all the body. Frequently we hear such expressions as the following among christians:--"Of course we cannot all see alike; the Lord permits you to see some things which he will not show to me and vice versa." "Of course our minds being differently constituted, some portions of truth you or I must fail to comprehend, while others may enjoy them." And so they think it impossible to be in fullest accord and sympathy; and if any two or three do agree perfectly, it is counted by them as an evidence of weakness on the part of some of the number; for surely say they, "Independent thought and study must develop differences." And with this belief pride often steps in and suggests the desirability of a little difference, lest too close an agreement be understood by others as an evidence of weakness. We doubt not that this very suggestion is the prime cause of much of the division which arises among saints; and that it is the special danger of those who having escaped from the confusion of Babylon, are seeking independently to prove what is truth. Let us beware of this little root of bitterness, so small at first as scarcely to be discerned in our hearts; yet if not plucked up, it will soon grow and crowd out the truth, as well as the love of it.
Christian Union is a possibility. The same Spirit is promised for the guidance of the entire church--every member of it, and it is impossible to conceive that the Spirit would lead some into truth, and others into the exact contradiction of it. One member is not set to building up the body, and another to tearing it down; and where such work is being done, it behooves each one to see to it that he is not of the latter class, nor in the slightest sympathy with it. With such opposing sentiments we find the various denominations of the great Nominal Church attempting to form a certain kind of union, and then calling it "Christian Union." This union is effected not in the manner Paul indicates --through a common faith, hope, and experience; but by ignoring doctrine, agreeing to disagree and that each one shall speak well of and advance his own denominational interests without opposing what he believes to be error in the other, and so each one tells the world that the other is all right, that somehow, in some way, (inconceivable) these different roads are all so many different pathways to heaven, and they may please themselves as to which one they take; and though the most extreme discord exists among them, they claim that it is of utmost importance to be identified with some one of them. But this is not the kind of union of which Paul speaks.
If as Paul teaches true christian unity is a possibility, let us note the conditions under which it may be attained:--First, he suggests that in all so united there must be lowliness of mind, meekness, a mutual bearing with one another's weaknesses and frailties covering all such things with the mantle of love; and then a constant watchfulness lest we grow weary in so doing. But the one Lord, one faith, one immersion, and one hope must be there as the primal basis of union.
The plan which the Lord has adopted for building up and cementing the body of Christ, is by the appointment of various members to various offices for the general good of all: He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, not that the other members should receive their teaching without investigation, but in order to aid them in that work. Every thought suggested and every exposition of Scripture advanced by these must be brought to the test of the Word; and the testing may be of great service, if the assemblings of the saints be largely devoted to this important work, not in the spirit which so often marks controversy, each more anxious to maintain and establish his own opinions than to discover truth, but in the spirit of meekness which totally ignores such base considerations, in an all-absorbing desire to discover the Lord's will and plan.
Controversy, and the closest scrutiny and criticism, under such circumstances and in such a frame of mind on the part of each cannot fail, under the promised guidance, to bring all such into a blessed unity, into oneness of faith; and to strongly cement the uniting bond of love and peace. He whose privilege it is to teach, will not be offended by such criticism if filled with this meekness and lowliness of mind, but will desire and encourage it so long as it will be satisfied by a Thus saith the Lord, as proof. But vain babblings and strife about matters of no importance should be avoided. A realization of the importance of truth, and a hungering for it, will find no time for "babbling."
Those so united and harmoniously working together for the upbuilding of the body, must of necessity advance, and that rapidly in knowledge and fitness for the work of ministry. We should not forget that every member of the anointed body is anointed to preach (Isa. 61:1), called to the ministry [to the service of Christ, head and body,] and all our assemblings together, either personally or by means of the press and mails, are so many ministerial conferences [R769 : page 8] for the purpose of enabling each to do more efficient service for the upbuilding of the body itself, fortifying the various members against the attacks of error and strengthening in each the comprehension and love of the truth.
Thus all the members of the anointed body in communion with the Lord, filled with the same spirit, and being baptized with the same baptism [See article "Baptism" in TOWER of October, 1884,] may together advance into the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God," being firmly bound together by the uniting bond of peace--love.
Let us then no longer hinder our oneness of faith by the vain and sinful idea that we must not see things exactly as others do, but must be "independent." He that is independent of the body is independent of its head also, and is not a member of the body, for in it each member is made dependent on others. So surely as we are living in the "Day of the Lord," so surely as the bringing back of Zion is in progress, so surely we are living in the time when the "watchmen shall see eye to eye," with clearness and harmony of vision; all should be of one faith and enabled to point out the waymarks and bulwarks so clearly that every earnest member of the body may see light in God's light.