the Los Angles riots of the early ' 90s, Rodney King made an impassioned media
appeal in an attempt to quell the violence when he said, " Why can' t we all just
get along?" A similar sentiment has become an evangelical mantra in the late
1990s. We are frequently told today that unity will bring a much needed
revival to the American church, but only if we' ll all " just get along." What
does the Bible have to say about unity and ecumenicalism?
last few years have witnessed a shift in aggressive ecumenicalism from Liberals
to Charismatics and now to Evangelicalism. We are told that we must unite with
any and everyone (including Catholics and even Mormons) so that our evangelism
efforts will bear fruit. Sure we can maintain our doctrinal distinctives, but
those should not be a barrier to this new spirit of group participation. For
example, Joe Stowell, President of Moody Bible Institute participated in The
National Consultation on Evangelism on May 1, 1996 near Washington, D.C. It is
reported that he " reminded participants that God historically moves only when
His body is unified."  Joe Aldrich, then president of
Multnomah School of the Bible, argues that unity is the universal cure for all
presence would silence the critic and attract the unconvinced. Its presence
would release large amounts of spiritual energy. Remember, where it exists,
God commands his blessing (see Psalm 33). When Present, unity scatters hope in
return would be a miracle.
we' re talking about UNITY. Not uniformity, not even union, but unity.
recently recall hearing a charismatic espouse the following formula for
effective evangelism in any community: " If a city has 10% unity, then there
will be 10% response to the gospel. If 30%, then 30% response. If 80% unity,
then an 80% response to the gospel." The implication was that if you or your
church don' t participate in city-wide events, then your non-participation would
prevent people from getting saved. Such Evangelical superstition is
increasingly common in our day. However, no such thing is taught in the Bible.
New Testament does teach us about the unity of Christ' s Body- the Church.
However, I believe that it is very different than many popular notions that are
even penetrating some IFCA churches through such recent movements like the
" March for Jesus" and " Promise Keepers." Both organizations were conceived
within the Vineyard movement of the late John Wimber and have as goals a unity
that is in conflict with the New Testament faith.
are two unity passages in the New Testament that we should consider in order to
understand this issue (John 17:11, 21-22; Ephesians 4:3, 13). Correspondingly,
I see two aspects to biblical unity. John 17 speaks of positional unity, while Ephesians 4 instructs Believers
about experiential unity.
Confusion of these two aspects of unity are at the core of the error of
17:21 says, " 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." This passage in
Christ' s High Priestly prayer is a seed-plot statement about Church Age
Believers being placed into the Body of Christ and thus union with the Triune
God. This is a forensic work done by God in the bookkeeping room in heaven at
the moment of salvation on behalf of all believers. It is not an experience,
even though this act will be the basis for experience with our Lord. The unity
spoken of in this verse is not the result of any human act. It is a sovereign
work of God when an individual believes the gospel. Every Believer in Christ
is in unity with the Triune God and every other Believer in the history of the
Church because God has never failed to fulfill what He said He would do.
Nothing in this passage speaks of any human activity. At this point, the
Believer is passive. It is a statement of what God will do on our behalf. I
am confident that God The Father answered His Son' s prayer.
increasingly popular teaching that experiential unity is the basis for greater
results in evangelism or will bring revival cannot be supported from this
passage. Further, the phrase, " that they may all be one" refers to the union
of Jew and Gentile into one body, the Body of Christ. This was accomplished,
as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2- 3, with the birth of the church as Jewish and
Gentile Believers are co-equal in the Body of Christ. They are made
one- positionally- enabling the world (i.e., the Gentiles who were previously
" without God in the world" [Ephesians 2:12]) to now have access to God through
Christ. It is instructive at this point to read Ephesians 2:11- 22 paying
attention to the phrases of unity that Gentiles now enjoy with saved Jews on
the basis of Christ' s work for the Body of Christ. Jesus prayed for it in John
17 before the cross and Paul reports on the fact that Christ' s work is an answer
to the prayer.
recall our church history professor in seminary noting that the basic of
theological error of holiness and Pentecostal/charismatic theology is their
confusion of positional and experiential truth. For example, the idea of
sinless perfection was erroneously developed by teaching that we could
experience what Christ has done for us (usually related to justification) with
what He has enabled us to experience in our Christian walk (usually related to
sanctification). This same error is at the heart of those who think that
Believers will ever experience the type of union that Christ has provided for
us positionally. However, Paul does teach in Ephesians 4 that there is a basis
for experiential union. Simply put, doctrine is the basis for experiential
union. Strangely, this is the very item that current ecumenicists insist must
be set aside if we are to have their kind of unity and its fruits. The context
of Ephesians 4 is that of doctrine.
until we all attain to the unity
of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the
measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result,
we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried
about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in
deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all
aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being
fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the
proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the
building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:13- 16)
basis for Christians getting together to do things for Christ is to be based
upon what we believe and not on the liberal counterfeit of setting aside our
beliefs to accomplish some greater good. Starting at Babel, apostates have
always wanted to get together to accomplish some great feat, to " make for
ourselves a name" (Genesis 11:4) through the power of numbers. Yet, God
Himself judged them by scattering them. Today we see the same spirit telling
us that we should lay aside God' s Word, come together with any willing soul in
order to accomplish some great task- evangelism. History has shown that Satan
still uses the same basic lie of Babel, but he has refined it by attempting to
blend it with some degree of the truth.
IFCA and similar organizations were formed earlier this century as a response
to liberalism. Their basis for fellowship was a doctrinal one based upon a
faithful adherence to God' s Word. Our forefathers fought the battles of their
day and stood strong regardless of the circumstances. Years later the issues
have changed (at least their packaging), yet the basic issue remains the same:
Are we going to express our loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ in the way He has
prescribed devotion- doctrinally? Or, will our hearts be stolen away by the
promise of pseudo-success if we will all just get along?