Since there is so much talk about unity this year, I felt the need to talk a little about the way to unity. That Jesus wants his people unified is no small matter. The Lord desired it enough to pray for it, and it behooves all of us to desire it as well.
The unity for which Jesus prayed however is not the postmodern kind. By that I mean that Jesus did not pray for unity which sells out the truth and tolerates humanly devised religion. Before Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-23, he prayed, "Sanctify (set them apart) them in Your truth; Your word is truth." Jesus believed that a relationship between himself and the Father came through the words that the Father had given Him and that He in turn gave to His apostles. That relationship of unity was held together by the disciples keeping the commandments and instructions that came from the Father (17:6-19).
There is unity within the Truth, but there can be no unity without it. How can men ever be unified with the Lord Jesus, if the words that the Lord Jesus are not given their proper place of prominence. I can never be one with Jesus if I hold that my opinion or my persuasion is as valid and as authoritative as the words of Jesus. Unity in Christ means that He is the Lord and the only Lord. No one can presume to step up into His place with their own religious teachings or practices.
In 1906 the Christian churches and the churches of Christ divided over several issues: 1) the missionary society, 2) the use of instruments of music in worship, 3) the fellowship of the denominations, and 4) the role of women in the worship of the church.
There were no Scriptures authorizing a missionary society in addition to the church, no Scriptures authorizing instrumental music in Christian worship, no Scriptures permitting denominationalism or the fellowship of humanly-devised religion, and no Scrputres endorsing a leadership role for women in worship.
The mindset of one group was to hold to the teaching of the Scriptures and not presume to act in the absence of any instruction from God. At one time, all the members of the churches of Chrsist and Christian church held this view. As time went by a second mindset developed, disrupting the unity of the church and causing division.
Those who objected to the missionary societies, to instrumental music, to the fellowship of denominations, and to the leadership of women could not conscientiously support those who were insisting on them.
With broken hearts, they loved their brethren. They love them still but love the Truth of God and His will even more--just as they should. If some ask for unity, the way to unity is not through continued rejection of God's will for an accommodation to worldliness; but the way to unity is through the rejection of the world's desires and a return to the teaching of the Scripture alone. We can have it no other way and please God.
We can have some form of union by setting aside the will of God and tolerating one another, but this is a union built upon sand. Sand theology is doing what we want and what looks good in the eyes of others. Rock theology is listening to God and doing the words of Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27).
Rather than seek for unity by compromising, let us return to God's way of singing without the use of instruments, of male leadership, of working through the church, and by remaining undenominational. This is God's way, God's will; and we can do no other.
One man recently criticized this mindset of churches of Christ, thinking that by insisting we stay with the Truth of the Word, we are making laws. He wittily said, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak,” referring to a cappella churches. “And where the Bible is silent, we have even more to say.”
We certainly see no value in making laws where God hasn't made any laws; but as far as the instrument of music in worship is concerned, it is not the churches of Christ who have spoken out of turn. Actually it is those who have presumptuously added the instrument who are speaking out of turn. They have added what was not there for centuries and now must find some way to justify an unauthorized, unwarranted, unscriptural form of worship.
The silence of the Scripture is prohibitive not permissive. God's silence is not some license for men to add whatever they please to the worship of the church. And why is it not permissive? It is not permissive because it is complete and final. The all-sufficient word is final. God spoke. He said all He intended to say; and when He finished, He purposefully hushed.
It is those who add to the word of God that have even more to say. Some indeed (as this speaker) have themselves already begun to divide the church once more by embracing the use of instruments of music in worship. He is calling for unity with the Christian church, while he divides himself from those in churches of Christ whom he knows will not follow him in his presumptuous pursuit of an unauthorized practice.
Unity can only come when all decide they will leave the human and embrace only the Divine. We are calling for all men to do just that. This is the true heart of restoration thinking. This is the true heart of real disciples--they want no creed but Christ.
with love for all and especially God.