The church, the visible organization, is described in the Bible as one church. God has given only one covenant of love (Deut. 7:6-12) and has only one people of the covenant.
This unity includes those people of God in past ages and also looks to the future and includes the people of God who will believe on his name (Jn. 17:20-21).
The gospel proclaimed by the apostles as the foundation of the church resulted in establishing churches as covenant communities in various locations, churches which were ruled by elders. These churches and these elders were not independent, but were one body united by Christ their head, by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and by the covenant promise of God. The elders at Antioch and Jerusalem resolve a problem, under God, and their decision is binding on the churches (Acts 15, 16:4).
The unity of the church is attained unto by growing in spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:13). Unity and maturity are the result of mutual, loving admonition and joint submission to Scripture. Such maturity is manifested by speaking and acting the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
Each member is essential to the body, and the growth of the body depends on the active participation of each part (Eph. 4:13, 16). The work of the officers of the church is to prepare the members for, and assist them in this work (Eph. 4:11-12).
The Universalism of the Apostolic Church
The church of the apostolic days embraces all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues. There is no evidence in the New Testament for the diversification of distinct denominations and anything tending to such diversification was condemned (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-13). The emphasis falls upon the oneness of faith (cf. Eph. 4:5) and the oneness of the fellowship of the saints (cf. Eph. 4:2-4; 11-16; Phil. 2:2, 3; 4:2).
The church is the body of Christ and there is no schism in the body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:25). As in the human body, there is diversity in unity and unity in diversity (cf. 1 Cor. 12). The point to be stressed, however, is the unity. If there is unity it follows that this unity must express itself in all the functions which belong to the church. Since government in
The church is an institution of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 1 Pet 5:1, 2), this unity must be expressed in government. The necessary inference to be drawn is that the government should manifest the unity and be as embracive in respect of its functioning as the unity of which it is an expression.
A concrete illustration of this principle is the decree of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:28, 29; 16:4).
Christ also instituted the apostolate with authority delegated from him (Matt. 16:18, 19; cf. Jn 20:21, 23; Eph. 2:19-22). This apostolic authority is exercised now only through the inscripturated Word. But in the sphere of delegated authority the apostolate is supreme and will continue to be so to the end of time. This is the way the Holy Spirit, as the vicar of Christ, abiding in and with the church, exercises his function in accordance with Christ's promise. He seals the apostolic witness by his own testimony and illumines the people of God in the interpretation and application of the same.
Subordinately, however, in terms of Matt. 16:19, the hegemony of the apostolate is undeniable and it exemplifies the descending hierarchy which Christ has established.
There is also in the New Testament institution the delegated authority of the presbyterate, always subject to the apostolic institution, to the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles (Jn. 16:13; 20:22), and ultimately to Christ as King and Head of the church, but nevertheless supreme in this sphere of government.
The unity of the church is unity in Christ, unity in the gospel of Christ, "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:13). This Christ, this gospel, this faith and knowledge, the church must confess. It is summarized for us in our Confession of Faith.
The offering of each church to the other for examination; willingness to give, receive and respond to reproof (2 Tim 3:16-17); speaking and acting the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
Agreement on the same ecclesiology and government of the church.
Maintaining the peace, purity, and unity of the churches.
There would then be the actual uniting into one organization.
There is also responsibility to call all churches, including our own, to faithfulness in order to seek the unity of the whole church.
The Lord governs his church also through the application of his Word to the people by the Spirit as the Word is expounded and applied by the officers of the church (Eph. 4:11-16).
The church finds its unifying principle in the covenant promise "my dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Ezek. 37:27, Lev. 26:12). This finds fulfillment in Jesus as Emmanuel ("God with us," Matt. 1:23, Jn. 1:14), who came as the mediator of the covenant of grace to redeem and purchase this people for his dwelling by his blood. The ultimate consummation of the promise is the new Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:3).
Unity In The Body Of Christ
Ambassadors Of Christ joining together
in "Unity" as Guest Ministers are Praying
on a recent Rock Of Ages Ministries' Telecast