THE UNITY OF THE FAITH
THE UNITY OF THE FAITH Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE. Š Copyright, 960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
According to the Book of Ephesians the ministries and gifts of the Spirit are to labor until we all come to the unity of the faith. Does this mean we all will believe the same doctrine? Probably not. There is another unity of the faith that is not based in the human brain.
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THE UNITY OF THE FAITH
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 fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13—NASB)
The Apostle Paul informed us that the ministries and gifts of the Spirit will serve until we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man.
The expression "we all" may be interpreted in terms of his comments a few verses earlier:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6—NASB)
In terms of the way we speak today, attaining to the unity of the faith would mean we all will agree on all points of doctrine. Personally I do not believe this is possible or even necessary. What we think in our head may be helpful at times and a hindrance at other times.
It is our understanding that the unity of the faith has to do with our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, our grasp upon His Person, our abiding in Him.
How do we grow in the unity of the faith if this expression means our relationship with Jesus Christ? How do we come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity as measured by the fullness of Christ?
As we see it, the unity of the faith is a matter of decision making and of death and life.
Each day we make hundreds of decisions, beginning with what side of the bed we get up on. Most decisions are just about that simple and ordinary. Sometimes we are faced with major decisions, such as taking a new job, getting married, or moving to another location.
If we are a strong Christian we probably pray for guidance before making a major decision.
But do we pray over each step we take, each word we speak?
To walk in unceasing prayer may seem impossible to the beginner but it is a way of life we are to covet.
God is interested in the smallest details of our life. How do we know this?
He knows the number of hairs on our head.
He knows every time a sparrow falls to the ground.
He knows every idle word we speak. If God knows every idle word, how much more will He know the significant words we speak?
God is a God of detail. He created the ant that crawls on the ground, a mechanism of such marvels that by comparison the most sophisticated computer is a blundering mass of incompetence.
God knows every detail of your life. He knows what side of the bed you are going to get up on. He knows all about your shoelaces. He knows when and how you are going to bathe. He knows in advance what you are going to say to the first person you meet. He knows everything about you!
Most of us Christians do not submit the details of our life to God on a consistent basis. Yet these details make up most of our existence.
Whenever we approach a decision, like what we are going to eat for breakfast (if we have any food) we ordinarily do not address God over this issue. Herein lies our problem. Christ is left out of the decision. That marvelous opportunity to practice the Presence of Christ is gone forever while we plow ahead, perhaps grumbling because there is no marmalade left. Isn't it so?
To grow in the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ is to bring every decision of the day, great and small, to the Lord Jesus in order to gain His wisdom and His strength. Little by little we find He is more real to us. Why is this? Because we are looking to Him constantly.
But what does all of this have to do with unity, and what does it have to do with dying and living, as we mentioned earlier?
First of all, to hold every decision to Christ for His strength and wisdom is to die to our own desires. If you don't think so, just try it. We charge along, carried by the momentum of our desires, hopes, fears, ambitions, lusts, and worries. To present every decision to Christ means the passionate flames of our nature have to be cooled.
You want to get married so badly. Are you willing to submit the decision to Jesus or are you praying that He will help you get what you want?
I am not speaking of passivity where we accept passively whatever takes place. We ought always to present our desires before the Lord.
I am referring rather to spiritual poise where we are ready to accept Christ's answer to our fervent prayers and desires.
You want a certain job, to go to a certain place, to do certain things. You want them so badly you can hardly stand it. You know what? You are not poised spiritually. Furthermore you probably have a few idols you are worshiping.
Slow down. Give everything to Christ. You will save yourself oceans of pain if you do.
Do you see what I mean by dying and living? You die to your drives and passions and come alive in the Presence of Christ?
But what does all this have to do with unity?
The reason two people do not get along is that one or the other or both are not submitting their decisions to Christ.
When two people are walking in the Presence and knowledge of the Son of God there always is perfect unity. How could it be otherwise? If they are both hearing from the Lord how could they be in disagreement? Will God tell one person one thing and the other person something contradictory? Never!
One or the other or both are not hearing from the Lord in the matter at hand.
Why do we have wars, cults, divisions, party loyalties? Because of the lusts that rage and roar in our bodies and souls.
When two people are living in the Presence of Jesus Christ, submitting every decision to Him, there is unityheavenly unity.
We all are members of the one Body of Christ. The Body of Christ has only one Head, the Lord Jesus.
The Head does not send conflicting signals to the Body. The problem arises when a member of the Body is not hearing from the Head, which is the case most of the time with most Christians. We have some dying to do!
Christ prayed that we would be one in Him in the Father. This is possible only as we learn to bring every decision great and small to the Lord Jesus.
Spiritual maturity occurs as we are thinking, speaking, and acting in the Presence of Jesus Christ, keeping our adamic nature in complete subjection. Our standard of maturity is the Fullness of Jesus Christ.
The ministries and gifts of the Spirit will continue to operate until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity. This tells me that ministry will continue beyond the grave, for it is certain there are few Christians of our day who are thus submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Toward the end of his life the Apostle Paul was still seeking to gain Christ, to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul was seeking exactly that of which we have been speaking. Paul was laying aside all of his personality in order that all might die and be resurrected in Jesus Christ.
Here is our goalto come to the unity of the faith, to maturity. We can attain our goal if we will lay aside all else and press forward in the Lord. In so doing we arrive at the early resurrection from the dead. This means when the Lord returns we will be ready to put on our house from Heaven and rise to meet the Lord in the air.
The resurrection that will take place when the Lord Jesus returns is for those who have attained the unity of the faith, the knowledge of Him. Not a mental knowledge about Him or about details of theology but the personal knowledge that comes as we keep on presenting to Him the details of our life.
The first decision may be what side of the bed we get up on. Give it to the Lord and increase in the personal knowledge of Jesus. Base the decision on habit and lose that little chance to gain more of Jesus Christ.
If you make a practice of giving the small things to Jesus you will most likely give the big decisions to Him when they come along.
The first thing you know you will be walking along the highway of life, free from all strife, walking with Jesus your Lord (from a chorus Elmer Fullerton use to sing to us Bible students many years ago).
It is difficult to grasp the concept that the Church is the Body of Christ. Some have gone overboard with this idea, stating Jesus is only one member of a many-membered Christ. The New Testament does not support this idea. The New Testament does not cease to lift up Jesus Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is absolutely true that we are brothers of Jesus Christ. But He is chief among the brothers, being different from us in significant ways. The illustration of the Vine and the branches is useful because it shows that Jesus Christ is the Center from which all else flows. It is the will of God that Jesus Christ become the Center and Circumference of every thing, every creature, and every situation to be found in the entire universe of God.
No, Christ is not a many-membered entity in which Jesus is just one part.
Keeping this safeguard, let us proceed to stress that which the New Testament indeed does stress, that each member of the Church is an integral part of Christ, of the Christ.
The Vine and the branches is a good place to begin and useful in our day. This metaphor is useful because so many ministers are seeking for powernot Jesus, but power. They want to use the Holy Spirit to accomplish their own religious ends.
Let me say that God is not interested in many christs. There is but one Jesus Christ and we part of Him.
To want to be like Christ but not part of Christ is another expression of Satan.
What is most important, the Vine or the branches? The Vine, of course. But the Vine is useless without the branches when it comes to bearing fruit. So it is that God in His love for us has made us an integral, inseparable part of Christ.
The marriage of the Lamb is another useful expression of our relationship to Jesus Christ. The two become one. We are being made an eternal part of Jesus Christ. Again, this is God's love in action, not another way we cook up so we can have power in prayer.
If we American Christians ever get rid of our self-centeredness it will be the miracle of the twentieth century.
The reason our coming to the unity of the faith is so important is that Christ, Head and Body, is only as righteous as the least righteous member, just as your body is only as healthy as the least healthy member. Isn't that the truth?
Some have stumbled over the concept of the Church being made one in Christ in God, saying we are trying to make gods out of ourselves. This is not what we are doing. We are preaching and teaching what the Scriptures state. A false humility that draws back from the promises of God has its place in the Lake of Fire. We are God's sons, the future rulers and judges of the creation, and God wants us to press forward and lay hold on the marvels He has designed concerning us. This is not pride or self-seeking, it is faith in God's Word!
When you read the Word of God, don't draw back. Believe what it says and stick with it. If you listen to other people and compare yourself with others you probably will become confused. Base your faith on the Word, not on tradition.
Let's take a look at what God has said.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28,29NIV)
Abraham's Seed is singularone seed. Who is Abraham's Seed? You've got it. Jesus Christ is Abraham's Seed.
Is that all? No. You also are Abraham's Seed if you belong to Christ, for God considers you to be one with Jesus Christ. You are one Person with Him.
Well, are you or aren't you? What does the Word say? Stick with the Word.
We cannot understand the Kingdom of God or why we must come to the full stature of Christ until we understand clearly we are an integral, inseparable part of Christ.
Let's go on.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12NIV)
"So it is with Christ." What is "with Christ"? The fact that Christ is made up of many parts, the whole composing one Body.
Remember, "Christ" is not Jesus' last name. The term means "the One Anointed With Oil," in other words, the One who has the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
So we understand Christ, the One anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, comprises the exalted Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and also a Body, the members of the Church.
When Christ came the first time He was One, the Lord Jesus. When Christ comes the second time He will be many, the Lord Jesus and the members of His Body.
Right so far?
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:27NIV)
Each one of us is a part of the Christ who is to come, for whom the Jews are waiting. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with Him. Here is where the vision of the pre-tribulation rapture is so destructive. God wants us to have the vision of returning with Jesus Christ and bringing justice to the nations, not a vision of flying away to Heaven to sit in a mansion and do nothing of significance.
"Oh, Brother Thompson, we will fly up to Heaven and then come down later and do all this stuff." Horsefeathers! Those who teach the pre-tribulation rapture seldom mention our returning even though our returning with Jesus Christ is the central emphasis of the Scriptures. The returning with Christ does not seem to be real to them. All they are emphasizing is that we will get out of trouble and have no more bills to pay.
The teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture is an unscriptural, self-seeking, self-centered vision pitched toward today's pleasure-loving "believers" who are living in the soul rather than the Spirit of God. They are eternal babies and would be about as useful in installing the Kingdom of God on the earth as a baby would addressing both houses of Congress on the subject of immigration.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22,23NIV)
The Church is the Body of Christ. The Church is the Fullness of Christ. It is through the Church that Christ will fill "everything in every way."
Now we see why it is so terribly important that we come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to maturity as measured by the full stature of Christ.
If our goal were to sit in Heaven and worry about the weather, it would not be important for us to come to such maturity. But because our goal is to be a perfectly functioning member of the Body of Christ, then such maturity is absolutely required.
God never changes. The Word of God never changes. The Lord Jesus will return with a Body made up of members who have come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. This is going to happen. The only question is whether you and I will be part of the returning Christ. We will be part of Christ when He returns if we are willing to put all else aside and lay hold on that for which we have been grasped. But if we persist in the unscriptural grace-rapture teaching, maintaining that Jesus did it all for us and all we have to do is "believe," and never get past the baby stage, we simply will disqualify ourselves from participation in establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.
It will be our own fault. It is up to each one of us to search the Scriptures for ourselves. We cannot blame our Pastor or the evangelist if we miss God. It is our responsibility to establish our own relationship with Jesus Christ. If we give our spiritual proxy to another person, and he or she is wrong and we miss God's will for our life, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Test the apostles!
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations." (Isaiah 42:1NIV)
The Prophets tell us there is a Prophet, a Christ, a Servant who will come and restore Israel. He also will bring justice to the nations. He will bless the righteous and cause the meek to inherit the earth. The Hebrew Prophets are clear on this point.
Probably all Christians understand Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Servant who is to come and restore Paradise to the earth.
Probably very few Christians understand the Servant of the Lord, the Christ, consists of the great exalted Head and also a Body.
We capitalize body not because of any sense of self-aggrandizement but because the Body is the fullness of Christ in that He has re-created the personalities of the members of the Body and is dwelling in and controlling each one. The members of the Body of Christ are the Fullness of Christ, and so we capitalize the word.
Christ is not controlling them as though they are puppets. Rather He causes them to know His will and they have chosen in this present life to learn stern obedience to Him. The Body responds instantly and perfectly to the Head just as in a healthy physical body.
We, the members of His Church, will return with Him and establish justice on the earth. If you ask me, this is a far better destiny than sitting in a mansion in the spirit realm among the angels and wondering what to do with so much time on our hands.
Would you rather fly up to Heaven to the spirit realm and live among creatures with six wings and full of eyes? Or would you prefer to be on the earth in a glorified body and work with Jesus as He ministers to the needs of people? Maybe God will hear you and grant your desire.
If we have lived as a victorious saint we will have a body like the body of Jesus. It will be all-powerful, being able to go anywhere with the speed of thought. Sickness and death will not be able even to approach it. It will be at home on the earth and in Heaven. Our body will be visible or invisible as we choose.
We will be just like Jesus when He rose from the dead in His flesh and bones. We even will be able to eat regular food just as Jesus did.
Although we will have as much time as we want to enjoy the creation in our new body, there is a job to be done.
There are millions of believers, such as the devout Catholic peasants of history, who have been faithful with what they have been given. God has more for them and will assist them by sending more advanced saints to them, we believe.
There are hundreds of millions of earth's peoples who know little or nothing of Israel or Christianity but whom God has found worthy of salvation. Numerous teachers and pastors will guide them in the ways of the Lord.
There will be nations to govern. There will be little children whose days on earth were extremely short who must be taught the arts and sciences of civilization.
There will be people to love, bless, teach, govern, judge, and heal.
Where do you want to be when all this is taking place?
More to the point, do you realize as long as you yourself are not coming to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God you still are part of the problem, not of the solution?
After some years of indecision, we have come to believe only the victorious saints will be raised when the Lord returns. The believers who, for whatever reason, are still living in the adamic nature will not be prepared to appear with Christ in that day.
The Christian churches of our time are giving a deplorable testimony to the unsaved. While they talk about "making a decision for Christ" they themselves are living in worldliness, lust, and self-will. There are, of course, notable exceptionsbut not enough to give moral guidance to the government of the United States, for instance.
Can't you just imagine the silly, lustful, worldly, self-seeking believers of our day being given a body like that of the Lord Jesus! They would wreck God's universe in short order as they strove for preeminence.
Fortunately for all of us, God will not clothe an immature believer with an all-powerful body. He will endow only those who have come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. Otherwise we are in big trouble.
Those who are greatest in the Kingdom are those who have the greatest love. They are servants of all. They have the heart of a child, always looking in loving trust to their Father in Heaven.
They walk continually in the Presence of the Lord Jesus. They look to Him for every detail. Jesus gives them love for an individual. They go to that person and bring the body and blood of Jesus, healing, comfort, wisdom, eternal life. They are the light of the world.
Unlike Peter, they are not wondering who will be the greatest in the Kingdom. They have been converted. They can ride in the front chariot with Jesus or clean up behind the horses in the royal parade.
They can approach their Father in Heaven because there is no guile in them. Also they are not "married" to any thing, circumstance, or person other than Jesus. This is to say, they have no idols. They worship God through Jesus Christ, and their heart is pure and childlike.
These are the sons of God, the mountains of fire and Divine Glory, who will judge mankind and the angels. They are so one with the Father and the Son that whoever has them has also the Father and the Son, and whoever has the Father and the Son has them also.
Because Jesus is living in them their very presence brings righteousness, peace, and joy. Nature is set free and begins to sing. Through them the glory of the Lord will fill the earth. The waters of life will cover the dead sea of mankind and the sea and its creatures will live.
The Glory of the Lord will rise on them in the darkest of all nights, and the nations will come skipping and dancing to them, bringing sons and daughters for them to love and bless. All nations will go up to Zion to learn of love, joy, peace, righteousness, and the praise of God.
This is the Christ, Head and Body. This is the glorified Church, the new Jerusalem. These are the sons of God for whom the material creation is waiting.
All the ministries and gifts of the Body of Christ will labor until every member of God's elect knows the Lord, from the least to the greatest. Every member must come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, to maturity as measured by the full stature of Christ.
Here is the royal priesthood. Here is the precious fruit of the earth for which the heavenly farmer is waiting.
Many who are last in time will be first in the Kingdom. There is a throne waiting for you. But you cannot be trusted with such glory until you are willing to let the Holy One of Israel have His unhindered way in your life. You must be brought down by Divine judgment until every molecule of your personality has been baptized with fire, has died in Christ and then been raised in Christ.
With such a glorious salvation being held out to us, how can we do other than turn away from this present wicked, malicious world and embrace the Lord God who has called us, given His Son for us, filled us with His Spirit, and now is preparing us for His Kingdom which soon is to come to the earth?
I have made my choice.
How about you?