“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 17:21).
Life must be seen from more than one viewpoint if we want to gain a proper perspective of it such as it unfolds itself according to the laws God has laid down in nature and such as we have experienced it to be. It is unfortunate for the individual and for the group if we insist upon one single viewpoint. Then it is so easy to insist that all others shall be and do as we.
There are over two billion people on earth today, and no two of them are exactly alike. Not even two of the billions of leaves are exactly alike. Yet precisely because of this difference there is in all creation a harmonious interplay of life which has in it something so inexpressibly beautiful for our sight and artistic sense.
Creation is as a choir of many thousand voices; each one sings his part to produce a harmonious whole. The harmony is often broken today; but when life one day shall reach its goal we shall sing without a single discordant note.
Let this sublime thought have a prominent place in your mind. It is not a thought of man, but of God; it is a divine law that is operative.
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For many people it is embarrassing that not all Christians have exactly the same views. They look upon it as a tragedy that there are so many denominations and organizations. Such a view may be correct enough if we have in mind life as it shall be in heaven; but here on earth, where each one understands only in part, it is inadequate.
Before I discuss the reason for the many and varied denominations and the various views of God’s truth, I should like to underscore the truth that all Christians are united in Christ Jesus. God sees only a single denomination, a living and united body, a perfect organism, one building constructed of living stones, one family — the children of one Father. God does not ask to which church we belong; all that are born of God are one in Christ Jesus. Their theme-song is of the Lamb that was slain and of redemption in His blood. We can be certain that God will not inspect the sign over our church door; He is more interested in that “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.” (Rom. 12:5).
How fair the Church of Christ shall stand,
A beacon light in all the land,
When love and faith all hearts inspire,
And all unite in one desire
To be as brothers, and agree
To live in peace and unity.
It is a blessed truth, and heartening to learn from God’s Word, that all regenerated people appear to God as one family; thus united, we can meet at the throne of grace. From every land in the world we may meet here as one body in Christ. Not we on earth only; we have reason to believe that the saints in heaven are united with us. They praise and worship God while we fight the good fight and pray that we too may reach our goal.
Yet she on earth bath union,
With God, the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won.
Oh, happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace, that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee.
Be your denominational affiliation what it may; be it also that you cannot share all the views of other Christians; this is not of prime importance. The important thing is that you are born again and believe in Christ as your Savior. Let this truth loom ever larger in your heart and mind. Do not let denominational differences close your eyes to this larger view—which is more like God’s. Let us thus reduce the area of the devil’s activity among us.
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Still the question rises among many: Why are the Christians divided? Would it not be better if we had only one large church body and had but one point of view in all questions of faith and practice? Many are of the opinion that it has worked untold harm, and that it is outright sinful, for Christians to be divided. Can this really be so?
My opinion is that it would have been more damaging if all evangelical Christians had always held the same point of view. Take a look at the Roman Catholic Church. We can be certain that if there had been organizational unity in the Protestant church she would have drifted into the dead waters of formalism. Hierarchial powers and blind authoritarianism would have bound both heart and mind in a dark prison. Spiritual death would have been the result. If anyone is so naive as to think that this could not happen in the Protestant church if we had had organizational unity, time would soon teach him otherwise.
In spite of the inherent dangers of evangelical liberty, it is certainly better to have freedom than dead conformity. In the midst of these dangers there are certain advantages as long as we are here upon earth. As long as we have freedom we can help each other; we can prevent one another from falling asleep; we can help each other to see the truth more clearly. Most of all, we can pluck away from each other the arrogant thought that one group has a monopoly on truth.
On this point I feel constrained to discuss something that I have seen and experienced as a Christian and a worker in God’s Kingdom.
When a church or mission society has been used of God to bring an awakening among the people, and has in this way begun to feel the air under its wings, the members have given way to thoughts as these: There you can see; we have the right faith and ours is the Biblical form of organization. Pharisaic pride finds nourishment in such sentiments, and we are not even aware of the danger. When weeds like these strike root and are permitted to grow, it has been demonstrated time and again that God has laid aside the original group and has used another to carry the awakening through to conversion and new life.
I have in mind an evangelist who rigidly maintained that only he and his group was right. All others, groups and individuals, were in his opinion but Pharisees who opposed revival and spiritual life. Then God took one of these “Pharisees” and used him for a mighty awakening. Many souls were brought through to a living faith in God. This was a hard pill for the former evangelist to swallow, but it effected a very sound cure. Sometimes we all need to swallow pills like that.
God uses sometimes this one and sometimes that; at times He uses them all together. This fact has a greater value for us than most of us realize. It helps us against pride, Pharisaism, and spiritual lethargy. We are compelled to examine ourselves and to humble ourselves before God. When we do so we are renewed in our spirits and are made fit for greater service.
That such things take place among Protestants is reason for great gratitude. The various groups can be of assistance to each other, and the vision of all is broadened.
It might be well to remember the words of I Corinthians 11:19: “For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you.”
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Someone may misunderstand what I now have said; I shall therefore have to make a further statement.
There is one point on which all Christians must teach and believe alike. That point is our view of Jesus Christ, both what He is in Himself and what He has done for us. On this point there can be no division among Christians. Those who do not believe that Jesus was true God and true man, and deny that He died to atone for our sins and rose again for our justification, cannot be counted as Christians. We cannot be tolerant on this point because this is the heart of Christianity. One can lose a finger, a hand or a foot and still live, but no one can live without a heart. He is then but a corpse. Those who rob us of Christ as He is pictured to us in the Bible have no Christianity.
The Christ of the Bible existed before all things, and all things were made by Him. He is the Word that was with God and was God, and who became flesh and dwelt among us. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He gave Himself as an offering for our sins, was made sin for us, suffered and died for all, rose again for our justification and ascended into heaven where He now appears before the Father to intercede for us.
There is no room for difference of opinion on these points. They are not merely delightful variations in a harmonious whole, but the main theme of the gospel harmony here on earth and in heaven forever.
Christian people: Here we meet as one people and are united as drops in an ocean. On this foundation we build the church of Christ on earth, each from his scaffold. When the building has been completed all the scaffolds will be removed, and God will be all in all.
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