"IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY”
Here is a slogan which seems to have been hanging around the church for more than a few centuries. It has been attributed to various and prominent figures in church history from Augustine to Wesley, and is even found in the first papal encyclical of John XXXIII. Recent scholarship attributes it to Rupertus Meldinius, a 16th century Lutheran theologian.
Regardless of who actually coined this phrase, the fact remains that at it's premise, it is pure poppycock. In order for it to work, there must be at least two opposing points of view which would seem to pretty much ruin any prospects of unity. The main questions being; what things are essential and/or non-essential in any given debate? Who decides what is or is not essential?
In order for the church to discern what is or is not essential, there must be unity in the interpretation of scripture. This alone blows the "unity" of the visible church out of the water, as the visible church goes to great length to show that there is no unified interpretation of the scripture. This "unity" is a self defeating proposition.
The visible church seeks to portray unity in the same way the world does, i.e. agree to disagree., celebrate diversity, etc. The reality is that neither of these noble and lofty concepts can be found in scripture. They are not even hinted at. As a matter of fact, where do we find support for the argument that there are ANY doctrines and/or teachings found in scripture which are non-essential?
2Timothy 3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Gal 3: 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Col 3: 10 and (you) have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
We are told to have the mind of Christ, to be of one mind, to be of the same mind. How is that accomplished? First of all we are united with Christ, and with each other through Him. This is the work of the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. We are incapable of creating such a unity.
Eph 2: 18 For through him we both (jew and gentile) have access in one Spirit to the Father.
1 Cor 12:
13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1Cor 6: 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
From all of the scripture cited above, it should be apparent that the Body of Christ is the place where diversity no longer exists. It is HIS body, therefore the unity that is shown is manifested only in the person of Jesus Christ. When looked upon, the entirety of Christ is seen, not His Lutheran hands and Baptist legs demonstrating "unity in diversity", When we attempt to "do" unity and tout our brotherhood, we are glorifying man and not God.
The story of Babel in Genesis 11, is the story of a "unified" human race desiring to exalt itself by making a name for itself. Men had one language and one purpose. Diversity was the consequence of God's judgment, which He accomplished by confusing of their common language into many tongues. This confusion of language has forever thwarted man's efforts to come together peaceably, as true peace is found only in the Prince of Peace. The attempts by men today to unite in that confusion, and "celebrate their differences" is a deliberate spitting in the face of God. In the world we have the United Nations. In the church we have ecumenism, and slogans like the one which I quoted at the beginning of this post.
We see that all true unity comes from God and is found only in His Son. This unity is a reconciling in Christ of creator to creation, and of creation to creation. We become sons of God, and brothers to one another. This found only in the new creation.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Romans8: 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
The Body of Christ grows up, and matures in, the unity into which it has been placed:
1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
9( In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
There is only one Body, one Spirit, one hope ,one Lord, one faith one baptism, one God and one Father of all, who is over and through all. This is in perfect agreement with the scriptures which were brought out at the beginning of this post, that is, we are baptized into His Body by one Spirit, through whom we also have access to the one Father, thus joining us in and to Christ, as one Spirit.
The apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers are members of the Body, empowered in their respective calling to ministry and given as gifts to the Body to build it up to a full maturing into the one man. The mature body is seen in the manifestation of the one man, Jesus Christ. The believer's maturity is a corporate maturity which exists in the individual, Jesus.
In this corporate maturing the individual saints also reach maturity with this result:
14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
How is this put into practice? By SPEAKING THE TRUTH in love. Jesus is the Truth and His Word is Truth. Therefore we speak Christ, teach His word and doctrine, exhort, correct, rebuke. Is this not what Paul said to Timothy about ALL scripture? When this is happening, then the Body grows into the head and all the joints and parts began working properly and in love.
The current ecumenical move stresses speaking in love at the cost of speaking the Truth. How we need the five-fold ministries today especially the prophets. The church is sorely lacking those who will take the sword of the Spirit and wield it. I am not referring to what is commonly called prophecy by most of Christianity, which is more akin to an esp/mind reader “Vegas” act.
If we cannot be unified in the understanding of God's Word, then none of these "five-fold" gifts can function as they should, and the Body would never grow together.
John 5: 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us................................
Jesus is the living Word made flesh, revealed in the living spoken/written Word.
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,
5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
This speaks even louder today. Sadly the ones accused of craving controversy are the ones desiring to see that the Truth is preached and that the strongholds of the post-modern church be torn down. It is the bringing in of false teaching which creates friction. It is those who refuse to read scripture literally who quarrel about words, cultural/historical context, etc.
1Peter 3: 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
Also sad to say that this is interpreted agree to disagree. There cannot be a unity of mind unless all agree on doctrinal Truth. The apostles, even the Lord, spoke dogmatically and literally. Therefore our unity is found in agreement with them.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Again there is no "agree to disagree" found here. Paul is asking for unity in all things. Jude puts it another way:
1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The phrase to "contend for" in the Greek is; epagōnizomai.
You might notice the word from which we get "agony" set right in the middle of the word. We are to struggle, that is agonize for the faith. We contend for the Truth in unity. This hardly portrays the watered-down Christianity that is being presented today. The church of the first 3 centuries should be insulted. They struggled and died for the faith. We hardly whimper whenever the latest abomination rolls in.
13Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
36And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." 37Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
This type of contention would never be "tolerated" in today's visible, non-confrontational church. The work of the Kingdom did not suffer loss because of this division. The sovereign, omnipotent, and omniscient God worked His will through it. The church thrived.
We must have unity in orthodoxy. The scriptures are more than a history book, and more than a story book. They transcend time and culture.
They come from God Himself, and were not meant to be limited by a particular place and cultural setting. Conversely they do not have a different meaning something different in each ensuing era. They are written by divine fiat (not arbitrary fiat), and are understood through divine interpretation.
Sola Scriptura; Soli Deo Gloria!