Topic Article #11: The Unity of the Body of Christ
by Dr. Eugene Clingman, Executive Administrator
Copyright 2006, International Church Council Project
(This article may be freely distributed so long as it is not altered
and the above information remains intact.)
There is a unity ordained by God in Christ. Not a unity of compromise and accommodation, but of the reality that all who are in Christ are one people.
When we consider this unity, we must recognize that in this respect, there are only two groups of people in the world – those who worship the Creator, and those who worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25; John 5:28-29; Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13). These two distinct groups have a certain unity within their own group which does not extend to the other group (John 15:18-19; 1John 5:19). Those who worship the Creator do so through Jesus Christ, and through him only (John 5:22-23). Those who do not worship Jesus, do not worship the Creator. They are of the other group.
To define this unity a bit further we must realize that Christ’s people are not one with those who have a pseudo-Christianity in which the essentials of Christianity are denied while retaining only the name, the language (words whose meanings have been changed to suite the new form of religious expression), and the form (retaining the outward or cultural trappings) of Christianity (2Timothy 3:5). The work of the International Church Council Project (ICCP) is not by any means a “unity movement.” In order to participate in the meetings or become a member, one must without reservation, sign three theological documents: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1978), and the Forty-Two Articles of the Essentials of a Christian Worldview. (These documents may be read or printed from www.churchcouncil.org, or we will mail them to you if requested.)
Among God’s people, there is a unity. That unity is founded upon faith in Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Son. It is he who is Creator of all things, and it is he for whom all things have been created (John 1:1:-3, 14; Hebrews 2:10; 1:8-12). It is this Second Person of the Trinity who entered the human race, setting aside his prerogatives as God, though remaining unchanged in his essential being as God. He was born of a virgin, thus becoming the God-man. This God-man died on the cross, was buried, rose again from the dead, and has ascended to the right-hand of God where he will wait until all his enemies have been made a footstool for his feet (Hebrews 10:12, 13; Psalm 110). All who hold this faith are one. These who are one may disagree about what form baptism should take, or whether infants ought to be baptized or adults only; they may disagree on what events precede the second-coming of Christ. But they agree on Christ, the Christ described above, who came to save sinners. These who are one, freely confess that they themselves are sinners, worthy of eternal death, yet in this Christ they have found mercy for their sins, inherited eternal life, and presently have new life through Christ’s righteousness that increasingly, in this life, lives more and more in conformity to the righteousness of Christ. This is the unity of which we speak in the International Church Council Project. With those who oppose these truths we have nothing in common. Nor do we seek to find some place of compromise so we might have common ground. Christ is what he is, and he cannot be altered. True unity can be found only in the True, not a compromised Christ.
There is an organic unity in the Body of Christ. That is, unity because of what God has made the Body of Christ to be. Humans have a physical body, and the members (parts) of that body are designed to work together. In similar fashion the Body of Christ has a unity built in. As the human body must learn to use its parts (members) to walk and to communicate with intelligible language, so also the Body of Christ must learn to live out the unity for which it was designed. The Body of Christ has not yet learned very well how to be the unity God intended. Jesus, in his “high-priestly” prayer, prayed to the Father, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:19-22). God has purposed that this unity is to be worked out and perfected here on earth, for it is an observable unity, a unity so evident that those who are not Christians will be able to see and appreciate it – “that the world may believe.”
ICCP doesn’t pretend to know the details of how unity ought to work in every situation. But we do declare what the Bible teaches, that the Body is one, and that we, the people of God are responsible before God to recognize our unity, and to seek to work out that unity in the local church, in the local community of believers, as churches in our nation, and in the worldwide Body of Christ.
Let us each ask God to show us our attitudes and beliefs, habits and actions that hinder, rather than build, unity in the Body of Christ, locally and widely. Let us work and also pray often that God would bring about the unity for which Christ prayed. As Jesus taught us, pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We know God in Heaven has willed unity in the Body. We know that he has purposed unity and that it should be attained here on earth to an extent so tangible and visible that the world will know of a certainty that the Father has sent the Son. May God use the International Church Council Project to help promote true and uncompromised unity in the Body of Christ locally and worldwide. Amen!