Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking
The Relationships of the Spiritual Man
No man can live unto himself. Every man has a corporate as well as an individual life. God has ordained that we live in families, neighborhoods, nations and races, nevertheless the whole human race is a unit and each person is a unit within a unit.
God intended that between the units in this vast organism there should be perfect adjustment. Godliness, holiness and righteousness were the fundamentals upon which God meant human society to be built.
But sin entered and as we have seen, cosmos became chaos. Maladjustment distorted every relationship; first, between God and man; second, within man's own being; third, between man and man. In God's original creation the divine order was God, others, oneself. Sin completely reversed this. Selfishness supplanted love. Today the whole fabric of human society is threatened. Family life is being rent in twain by divorce of parents and disobedience of children; communities are agog with frightful crimes and civic corruptions; nations and races are at war at heart, if not in fact. Family, civic, national and international life is shot through and through with division.
The only hope for readjustment within human society rests in a return to God's original order. In Christ and in Him alone can man come into a right relationship with God, with himself and with his fellow men. In Christ all dislocations in relationships may be set right and there may be a reproduction of moral order in which the processes of disintegration and degeneration may cease. Life on the highest plane both demands and provides for such readjustment.
The Christian life is a fellowship which is rooted in faith and nurtured by love. The soil out of which it springs is faith in God. The atmosphere in which it thrives is love for God, out of which is begotten love toward man. This divine order is irresible. It is impossible for one to have a love for his fellow man with sufficient power to conquer the innate selfishness of his own heart apart from faith in God. It is utter folly to preach "the brotherhood of man" to those who do not know "the Fatherhood of God" through a new birth based on faith in the cleansing blood of a Saviour.
Primacy is always given in Scripture to man's relationship to God; his relationship to man is secondary and dependent. Godliness is an essential precedent to righteousness. When men have become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ then they become brothers in the Lord. This is the only "fatherhood of God" and "brotherhood of man" which Scripture sanctions and which works out in practical experience. After Paul calls himself Christ's apostle then he calls himself Timothy's brother.
Colossians 1:4, "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus. and of the love which ye have to all the saints."
Philemon 5, "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints."
Colossians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother."
Let us then consider the Christian's corporate relationships in their divinely appointed order.
THE SPIRITUAL MAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO GOD
Life on the highest plane demands a radical reversal in man's affections. The natural man lives unto himself because he loves self supremely; the spiritual man lives unto God because he loves God supremely.
2 Timothy 3:2-4, "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, . . . traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God."
2 Corinthians 5:15, "And he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
God's love bridged the gulf between the natural and the spiritual man. "God so loved that he gave his only begotten Son." His gift was the measure of His love. He gave His best, His all. He gave the costliest gift in His treasure-house, the crown jewel of heaven. Such love comprehended by faith conquers the rebellion of the will and constrains the heart to love Him who first so loved us. Our love for Him is rooted in His love for us.
1 John 4:9-10, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us."
The spiritual man not only loves God more than he loves himself but also more than he loves any other one. His love for God is paramount. It is so far above the love he has even for his own kith and kin that it is in a class by itself.
Matthew 22:37-38, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
Matthew 10:37, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
When the Christian becomes a son in God's family thereafter his first filial obedience and love is to be given to his heavenly Father. This does not mean for one moment that God discounts the human love of parent for child or child for parent or friend for friend. On the contrary God commands both parental and filial love, and experience proves that when one loves God supremely all human love is both enhanced and enriched. To the heavenly Father His child not only owes the gift of physical life through creation but he owes the still more priceless gift of spiritual life through re-creation. This makes him far more of a debtor to God than he is even to his earthly parents, and parents and children alike should acknowledge with joy the primacy of their relationship to God.
But this is not always so and oftentimes the hardest place to live one's Christian life is in the home and one's greatest enemies are those of his own household. One knows many instances of heartbreaking experiences and well-nigh intolerable situations caused by the ridicule, opposition and persecution of Christians by members of their own family. Many a boy or girl has been disowned by parents for no other reason than that he became a Christian! Many a young person has had to go to the mission field over the wishes of parents or friends. To have chosen to do the will of God when it went counter to the will of loved ones has been the severest test in Christian experience. But God has never failed to honor love that expresses itself in sacrificial obedience to Himself. And Christ knows how to sympathize with and to succor all who are so tested. He met opposition in His own family and His mother and brothers tried to dissuade Him from the path that led to Calvary. This action called out from Him that remarkable statement that those children of God who were united in doing the will of their heavenly Father were more closely bound together than those who are put together by family ties. The blood of Christ unites His own by a tie that supersedes that made through human blood.
Matthew 10:36, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Matthew 12:50, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
Strength to suffer and to endure, to bear and to forbear will be given to the one who gives Christ the supreme place in his affections. God will cause him to triumph and to be a sweet savor of Christ unto Him in every place. Love to God, preeminent and paramount, is rewarded by victory and fruitage. His love in us manifested even in silence will be like a light shining in a dark place.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16, R.V., "But thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savour of his knowledge in every place. For we are a sweet savour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved and in them that perish; to the one a savour from death unto death; to the other a savour from life unto life."
The relationship of the spiritual man to God is marked also by loyalty. By virtue of sonship in God's family he has citizenship in God's Kingdom. Loyalty to his heavenly country and to the interests of his Father's Kingdom takes precedence over citizenship in his earthly domain and supersedes the nationalism which is earthborn.
While acknowledging that "the powers that be are ordained of God," while submitting obediently to the laws of the country in which he lives, while taking his full responsibility for support of that government during his sojourn on earth, yet the man who lives his life on the highest plane discerns clearly that his real home center is in the heavenlies and that his first allegiance must be to the Kingdom of God.
Titus 3:1, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work."
Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."
Philippians 3:20, R.V., "For our citizenship is in heaven."
The spiritual man must acknowledge the sovereignty of his Lord over all other rulers. To him Christ Jesus is already the King of kings and the Lord of lords and his prayer to the Father invariably breathes forth the intense desire to see God's sovereignty extend from sea to sea until His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
1 Timothy 1:17, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Matthew 6:9-10, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom came. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
The Christian serves his Master in an official capacity. Disloyalty is treason. He is a servant of the Lord of heaven and God requires uncompromising faithfulness in a servant. He is a soldier in the army of Christ and a soldier dare not be enmeshed in entangling alliances. He is an ambassador of the King at the court of a foreign country and an ambassador must maintain absolute loyalty to the statutes of his own country.
Romans 1:1, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God."
2 Timothy 2:3-4, "Thou therefore endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
2 Corinthians 5:20, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
An ambassador of Christ has definite instructions from his Sovereign and he cannot act independently of them. He has had committed unto him the Gospel of Christ as a sacred trust and loyalty to Christ requires loyalty to this Gospel.
1 Timothy 1:11, "According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."
Romans 15:16, "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God."
Some of the religious leaders in Paul's day had departed from the faith. They would not endure sound doctrine and resisted the truth to such an extent that Paul openly called them blasphemers. They had made shipwreck of their faith and were busily engaged in trying to steer the ship of other men's lives onto the same rocks.
2 Timothy 3:8, "Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."
1 Timothy 1:19-20, "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."
Paul wrote to the young minister who was his son in the faith urging him to loyalty to his Lord. He pointed out to Timothy the fallacy of the scholarship of that day, which was the cause of this departure from the true faith, and warned him to have nothing to do with it but to give himself afresh to a study of the Word.
1 Timothy 6:20-21, R.V., "0 Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith."
2 Timothy 2:16-18, R.V., "But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene; of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some."
2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Paul also warned the little flock at Ephesus and the whole Church under his care of the grievous wolves and the false hirelings who would enter in among them to draw the flock away from the Shepherd. He faithfully exposed these men and their seductive methods in his epistles to the churches.
Acts 20:29-30, "For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
2 Corinthians 11:13-15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
Paul declared that these men were guilty of bringing division into the Church. When they departed from the faith of the Gospel instead of separating also from the Church that had preached and taught this Gospel from its inception, and establishing an organization upon their new tenets, they did the very unethical thing of remaining within the Church and of attempting to gain control over it. Though teaching a doctrine contrary to that which the Christians had been taught yet they apparently used such a vocabulary that it would be difficult for their simple-hearted hearers to detect its falseness. They ensnared many through genial manners and fair words. Such was the beginning of apostasy.
Romans 16:17-18, R.V., "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them, For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent."
Colossians 2:4, 8, "And this I say, lest any man beguile you with enticing words. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Under the inspiration of the divine Spirit Paul foretold the apostasy that would sweep the entire professing Church and would eat at its very vitals. Into a veritable whirlpool of doubt, disbelief and disloyalty multitudes would be drawn.
1 Timothy 4:1-2, R.V., "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in the later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron."
2 Timothy 4:3-4, R.V., "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables."
No Spirit-taught student of the Word of God and of the universal condition of Christendom doubts that the day of this prophesied apostasy is already upon us. In the churches of the mission field as well as in those of the homelands this declension from the true faith and this disloyalty to Him who is the Truth is in everyday evidence (In China about twenty-five hundred missionaries, representing all denominations and nationalities, united in a Bible Union as a testimony before the native Christians of their loyalty to Jesus Christ and to His Word, and as a protest to the inroads of Modernism, into a field where for more than one hundred years the pure Gospel seed had been sown and nurtured by thousands of missionaries loyal to Christ and to His truth.)
Today many religious leaders in all parts of Christendom have departed from the faith and are openly in revolt against the truth. They will not endure sound doctrine but are actively declaring war upon the foundational truths of Christianity. Just last week a minister, still occupying an evangelical pulpit, was assisting in the ordination of a Unitarian minister. On that occasion he made this pronouncement, "The Church is in revolt against Fundamentalism and Puritanism," which means that he is openly in favor of liberalism and license. Such men are at heart unitarian because they deny every truth of the Word which makes the Lord Jesus Christ the unique Son of God. Their place is entirely outside the evangelical Church and, if they practiced even the most elementary principles of the ethical gospel which they preach, they would pack up their ecclesiastical belongings, depart from the evangelical pulpit, and establish themselves either with their unitarian brethren or seek virgin soil in which to plant their tares.
But they have no intention whatever of leaving the evangelical pulpit, rather they purpose deliberately to stretch forth their hands and stealthily lay hold upon the entire machinery of the Church both at home and upon the mission field and secure its control. They usually are such adepts in the manipulation of language that through the use of "good words and fair speeches" (Romans 16:18) they deceive even the true people of God. They preach sermons filled with the rankest poison but sugarcoated with sweet words and eloquent phrases, patronizing the Jesus of history. Only those who have the discernment which the Holy Spirit alone gives detect the deception. And, when the men and women who love their Lord better than they love their own lives cry out in protest against such high-handed dishonesty, they have the blatant effrontery to charge them with bringing division into the Church and to accuse them with lack of love.
The conflict between Fundamentalism and Modernism is dividing organized Christianity in twain. There are some who live near the border line of both camps who earnestly desire neutrality between these opposing forces. They plead for unity; they plan for union; they pray for unanimity. But those who live at the headquarters of both camps know that this can never be. The only unity which the Bible enjoins is "the unity of the Spirit" which is based on "one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God."
Such unity is not something which we attempt to "make" but rather is something already created by the Holy Spirit which we "keep." Such unity does not "become" for it "is" wherever there is oneness in Christ Jesus. This and only this is the unity for which our Lord prayed and which He expects of His children.
Ephesians 4:3-6, "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
Such unity can never exist between Fundamentalism arid Modernism for they are as far apart as darkness and light, as death and life. Let me quote from an editorial of The Christian Century: "The God of the Fundamentalist is one God; the God of the Modernist is another. The Christ of the Fundamentalist is one Christ; the Christ of the Modernist is another. The Bible of Fundamentalism is one Bible; the Bible of Modernism is another. The Church, the kingdom, the salvation, the consummation of all things these are one thing to the Fundamentalist and another thing to the Modernist. Which God is the Christian God, which Christ is the Christian Christ, which Bible is the Christian Bible, which church, which kingdom, which salvation, which consummation are the Christian Church, the Christian kingdom, the Christian salvation, the Christian consummation? The future will tell. You may sing 'Blest be the tie' till doomsday, but it cannot bind these worlds together."
Thus according to the testimony of Modernism itself we see that between Fundamentalism and Modernism a great gulf is fixed which nothing or no one can bridge. The issue admits of no neutrality. Loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ demands that every Christian study to know and declare himself either for or against the Christ of the Fundamentalist or the Christ of the Modernist. In such a conflict as this silence is cowardice it may even be construed to be desertion and treachery. Loyalty to God in these difficult days of deepening apostasy calls every Christian to three things; discernment, devotion and division.
Christians should be able to discern between false and true teaching even when the former is given in its most subtle form, so that there shall not be the slightest deviation from the truth of God's Word. It is not enough to believe God's truth, we are to "walk" in it.
2 John 1-4, "The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. . . . I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father."
3 John 3-4, "For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Discernment requires watchfulness; it required a continuous prayerful study under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit of God's Word and a careful comparison of what one hears and reads with what one studies. Paul told the Ephesian elders that from among themselves men would arise speaking perverse things to draw men away after them and cautioned them to watch and to remember his warnings.
Acts 20:31-32, "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
He warned Timothy to be on his guard continuously against false teaching and unsound doctrine.
2 Timothy 4:3, 5, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
He warned the Christians against deception and urged them to become adults in the faith that they might always be able to discern the false and the true.
Ephesians 5:6, "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."
Ephesians 4:14, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
Loyalty to the Lord Jesus demands devotion to the truth at any cost as the Holy Spirit has taught us. When men and women everywhere are departing from the faith, possibly even members of our own family and our friends, God asks of us a faithfulness to the faith of our fathers that beats no retreat.
2 Timothy 3:14, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them."
2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
1 Corinthians 16:13, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
2 Timothy 1:13, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
Devotion to Jesus Christ calls us to a loyalty to truth that brooks no neutrality. It even challenges us to take our place in the front ranks and "to fight the good fight of faith."
1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."
Jude 3-4, "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
There is pseudounion in Christendom today that is tantamount to dishonoring disloyalty. Its slogan is "For the sake of peace we must have union even at the cost of truth." It bids the Fundamentalist sit silently while the Modernist seeks and secures control of the machinery of the Church both at home and abroad. If he protests he is accused of being divisive.
As one studies the gospel of Matthew he will find a place where the us Christ made a definite, deliberate break with the men who had willfully rejected Him. There was a clean-cut cleavage between Him and the religious leaders of that day and He withdrew from them and from that time on devoted Himself exclusively to those who were His own.
We have not only His example but we have the clear teaching of Scripture to guide us in this very delicate and difficult matter. God calls His children into complete separation from all those who are traitors to the truth. He commands His loyal ones to have no fellowship with them and not to be partakers of their sins.
1 Timothy 6:3-5, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; . . . He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, . . . Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness, from such withdraw thyself."
2 John 9-11, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. . . . If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Such loyalty to the Lord Jesus is bound to mean suffering to the man or woman of sensitive spirit. It will incur a persecution as real as anything endured by the Christians of the first century, even though of a different nature. The intellectuals of the twentieth century consign the conservative to the slums of scholarship and the worldlings regard him as an antique. But for the joy that is set before him the Fundamentalist endures the ignominy and reproach of the cross.
2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 1:8, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God."
THE SPIRITUAL MAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO FELLOW CHRISTIANS
A right adjustment to God necessitates a right adjustment with all to whom God is related. Coming into God's family brings one into relationship with other members of that family as brothers and sisters. God is love so love is the atmosphere of the home in the heavenlies.
1 John 4:8, 12, "God is love . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."
The love of the children for one another is rooted in the love of God. His heart of love is reflected in the heart of each because His very nature, which is love, is imparted to each one at the new birth. The proof of God's indwelling in the believer is his love for the brethren. Unlove or hatred toward a brother or sister in the family of God is incontrovertible proof that the love of God does not dwell in one. The love-nature is shown in a love-life.
1 John 4:7, "Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God."
1 John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
1 John 4:20, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"
Obedience in the family life of God requires love for one another. The law of Christ is love upon the very highest plane the plane of the cross. There on Calvary in laying down His life in death for those who were not only sinners but rebels the Lord Jesus manifested love at its highest and purest. It is love of this same nature and extent that Christ commands Christians to have. The cross of Christ is to be both the birthplace and the pattern of the love which brethren are to bear one to another. Rooted in a love that has its lifeblood flowing from the cross the spiritual man's life becomes adjusted to that of every other member of God's family.
John 13:34, "A new commandment, I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I hove loved you, that ye also love one another."
John 15:12, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Then love for one another in the family of God is not optional but obligatory. To love one another as Christ hath loved us rests upon a divine "ought." There is no escape and no excuse.
1 John 4:11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
1 John 3:16, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
This spiritual adjustment between fellow Christians is revealed in the inner circle of fellowship by unity and in touch with the outer world by solidarity.
Unity in the inner circle of the Father's family life is the very heart of the Son's high-priestly prayer. In church circles today there is much emphasis laid upon union. All kinds of associations and federations are being formed. There is an attempt on a vast scale to bring about a universal consolidation of denominations, and even a federation of the two bodies into which the visible church is divided Protestant and Roman Catholic.
But there is a vast and crucial difference between union and unity. According to Webster's dictionary union means "junction; coalition; combination," while unity means "a state of being one, oneness, agreement, harmony." Union is junction; unity is conjunction. Union is coalition; unity is concord.
The unity for which our Lord prayed was not a forced union, worked up and organized by man, based on common ideas and ideals, but it was a spontaneous oneness which grew inevitably out of the sharing of a common life the life of Christ Himself. Christ prayed that the disciples might be one even as He and the Father were one. The significance of that "even as" is tremendous; it is descriptive and explanatory. It describes a unity that is based not on organization but on organism; it is not a union of denominations or of communions but it is a welding into essential oneness of those who are drawn together magnetically as it were, by the power of the supernatural life indwelling each. "Father, thou in me and I in them that they may be made perfect in one." It is the unity of spirit with spirit through oneness in Christ Jesus.
John 17:21, 23, "That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me . . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."
Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Such unity is based on a common, clearly defined relationship to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and it is "kept" through a mutual, right adjustment to the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:4-6, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
Such unity comprehends a universal brotherhood of men on the ground of a blood tie. They who are separated as far as the east is from the west by racial antagonisms and prejudices, by national division and friction, by personal suspicion and hatred, are made one by the blood of Christ. Enmities are put away at the cross and those who were far apart are made nigh by the blood of a common Redeemer.
The synchronizing into one of people from the two great divisions of the human race Jew and Gentile through faith in Jesus Christ, as recorded in the book of Acts, is one of the great supernatural achievements of the ascended Lord. Through the shed blood of their common Saviour, Jew and Gentile were made fellow heirs and fellow members of the Body of Christ. Typifying the racial divisions and international antipathies of the present day they show us the only possible way to world peace.
Ephesians 2:14-16, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby."
Such unity comprehends far more than just "the Fatherhood of God" and "the brotherhood of man." It goes infinitely deeper. Trusting in the blood of Christ for salvation Christians are baptized into the Body of Christ, and each member is united to every other member in an organic bond as real and as close as that which exists between the members of the physical body. Brought into oneness through the death of Christ Christians are welded together into unity through the life of Christ. The life of the Head flows through the whole Body uniting it in an inevitable oneness of faith, love and service. Every Christian is not only a member of Christ but Christians are members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 27, "For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For the body is not one member, but many. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
Romans 12:5, "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
Ephesians 4:25, "For we are members one of another."
The members of Christ's Body are fitly framed together and compacted into one. Each member is complementary and supplementary to every other member of the Body.
Ephesians 4:16, "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Colossians 2:19, "And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."
Unity between members of the Body of Christ was very marvelously manifested in several ways in the first-century Church. It was first of all a unity in faith. The apostles and disciples believed alike concerning their Lord. Their oneness centered in their crucified, risen, ascended Lord. Around Him they gathered as one heart and one soul because of one mind. They loved each other in the truth and so were one.
Acts 2:42, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers."
3 John 1, "The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth."
It was a unity in love. They shared mutually with one another as fellow members of one Body their material possessions and spiritual blessings in Christ. The need of one was the need of all and each one considered that what he had was for the benefit of all.
Acts 2:44-46, "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."
It was a unity in purpose. Repeatedly it says in the Acts that they were "of one accord." They were single-eyed and so were single-hearted. It was a society of kindred spirits with a consuming passion to know Jesus Christ and the consuming purpose to make Him known.
Acts 2:1, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."
Acts 5:12, "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch)."
It was a unity in fellowship. Difficulties and problems were shared mutually as well as joys and blessings. What affected one member of the Body affected all the members. That first-century Church knew in experience the meaning of "the communion of saints."
Acts 4:23, "And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them."
Acts 20:36, "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all."
Members of the Body of Christ were united also in solidarity in service. Believers who were "added unto the Lord" were also "added unto the church."
Acts 5:14, "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and of women."
Acts 2:47, "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
Confession of cleansing from sin and separation from life in the old sphere and of entrance into new life through a new birth was made through the act of baptism. Induction into the new order of which Christ is the Head was made public, through this divinely appointed rite.
Acts 2:41, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Through the unity and solidarity of the Body of Christ in its corporate life God revealed Himself to the world and worked to accomplish its evangelization. Christ, the Head, worked through the members of His Body with mighty power to carry the Gospel out into the enemy's territory and to deliver thousands upon thousands of men and women from his power.
Against this unity and solidarity in passion and purpose the archenemy of Christ aimed his deadliest darts. The most harmful thing Satan could do to that Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered Church was to work to diminish its power through disunion. This he succeeded to a certain extent in doing. There are recorded divisions between individuals because of a difference in personal viewpoint (Acts 15:37-40); between groups because of a difference in doctrinal conviction (Acts 15:1, 5, 24). Then there arose factions within certain churches and each faction sought to gain control of affairs (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). Again one man in the Church who loved preeminence and power was the cause of great dissension (3 John 9-10).
All down through the centuries the devil has continued to use this method of opposing Christ. A most serious condition exists within the Church today which calls for very deep heart searching. In view of the need of the unsaved millions and of the growing apostasy in Christendom the dissensions that exist between individuals, and between groups within the Body of Christ, are deplorable. It calls for a careful diagnosis of causes and for a scriptural prescription of a cure.
The first cause is temperamental differences. Perhaps the majority of dislocations within the Body of Christ could be traced ultimately to this source. Earnest Christians are often diametrically opposite in temperment and even the grace of God has not made them congenial companions. They grate on each other. One is mystical and the other is practical; one is militant and the other is gentle; one is refined and the other is rough; one is social and the other is seclusive; one is scholarly and the other is scatterbrained; one is intense and the other is sluggish; one is Mary and the other is Martha. These people have to live under the same roof and work at the same tasks. By nature and possibly by training their way of looking at things is antipodal and their methods are as different as day and night. Such temperamental differences with their resultant dissensions are the cause of quarrels in the churches at home and of physical breakdowns and enforced furloughs in the Christian ranks upon the mission field.
A second cause is doctrinal differences. Reference is not made here to the disagreement upon fundamentals mentioned above, which is inevitable, but to that which could and should be avoided. I refer especially to the overemphasis upon some particular truth which separates a section of the Body of Christ and segregates it to an exclusive corner of the fold. Many sects have been started in this way and today even some of the larger denominations are divided into several different branches, differing possibly in but one or two matters of belief. The difficulty arises in studying the Bible from the limited angle of one segment of truth rather than studying that segment of truth from the lofty viewpoint of the whole Bible. Thus this particular truth is dislocated from its proper setting and given a preeminence which the Bible never gives it. To those whose lives have been enriched and blessed by it, it becomes all-important. Sometimes deeply spiritual Christians are excluded from fellowship with such groups simply because they do not put the same interpretation or the same emphasis upon this one particular truth.
Another phase of this same thing is one-sidedness in viewpoint caused by some particular experience passed through which makes one critical of others who have not walked in precisely the same footprints. It is such a natural thing to interpret and to judge others' spiritual experiences by one's own yet it is a very dangerous thing to do. One man may feel just as deeply as another yet it may be impossible for him to shout "Hallelujah." He may love his Lord devotedly and yet not be able to use the vocabulary of highly emotional souls. The language with which he testifies of his life of victory and sanctification may not be cast into the mold of any particular school of thought along these deeper lines yet the experience of it may be none the less real. As God has made no two persons alike so He has no stereotyped mold into which He casts the spiritual experience of His children. The truth of His Word is the same for all but the manner of its appropriation and assimilation varies according to the Spirit's dealing with each separate personality. The divine One knows each life through and through and He takes into account the temperament and training, the opportunities and advantages, as He works with infinite patience to bring each one into full maturity of life in Christ. But unsympathetic judgment and censorious criticism of others who have not yet attained to the same degree of experience or who have not come to it by the same road is one of the commonest sins of earnest Christians and the cause of no little trouble within the Body of Christ.
Still another phase is that of a legal attitude that makes for intolerance in matters not clearly revealed in Scripture. An earnest Christian may have convictions not only on essentials but on secondary matters as well. One's belief in the truth should affect one's conduct. God has a clearly defined standard of conduct for those living on the highest plane. There are some things which by the precepts of Scripture God shows us to be wholly outside His will for the new man in Christ; but in other things He guides by principles. Within this realm there will inevitably be a wide difference in interpretation and in understanding. The conduct of every Christian should be undergirded with deep conviction by which he himself abides unswervingly but he should be very careful to give to his equally devout and spiritual fellow Christian the same right to follow his conviction. At least he should not indulge in backbiting and evil speaking and self-righteous judgment of his brother, but if he feels his fellow Christian is dishonoring God through something he permits in his life, he should give himself to prayer that fuller light and greater apprehension in this particular matter may be given.
A third cause of division is jealousy and envy owing partly to the diversity of gifts. We are distinctly told that this diversity of gifts is intentional on God's part and that He has "divided to every man severally as He will" making one an apostle, another a prophet, another a pastor, another an evangelist and still another a teacher for the express purpose of "perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12). In order to bring the whole Body of Christ "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" the gifts of all these varied types of workers are needed.
And yet behold what takes place! The teacher looks with something akin to contempt upon the evangelist or the preacher. The development and enrichment of the mind seem to him to be all-inclusive of a person's need. He argues that if one is educated he is fully equipped to become what he ought to be. Any work that deals more directly with the heart and the will he dubs "emotionalism" which is to be studiously avoided. The teacher is in great danger of having that obnoxious thing, "a superiority complex." On the other hand the evangelist and preacher may look with suspicion and doubt upon the teacher; they may misjudge him and, because of his apparent absorption in educational pursuits, charge him with no interest in spiritual matters. Such an attitude often produces a censorious spirit that results in bitter backbiting.
Oftentimes church quarrels start among the laymen. Petty jealousies, trivial enmities between individuals produce factions; people take sides; the trouble is broadcasted by gossiping tongues, and God's name is disgraced before unbelievers by a full-fledged church quarrel.
1 Corinthians 1:11-13, "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
We have given at least a partial diagnosis of the serious malady from which the Body of Christ suffers today and its resultant weakness. But is there no cure? Is Christ the Head nonplussed before these awful maladjustments within His own Body? Does He stand impotent before these hindering dislocations? A thousand times no!
Let us remind ourselves again and again that the true Church, the Body of Christ, is of divine construction. God is the Architect; the Church is His wondrous workmanship; God Himself "fitly framed together" the parts that make up His holy temple; He "knits together" the living members of the Body of Christ. Then He is amply able to readjust any dislocated part of this wondrous organism.
May we suggest what seems to be the scriptural cure for these manifold dissensions within the Body of Christ? It reaches to the very seat of the trouble and effects a double cure, one both of mind and of heart. If Christians were thinking rightly and loving purely every dislocation would be corrected. The whole Church needs a fresh immersion into the very mind of Christ and a new baptism of His love. This double cure was the apostle Paul's unfailing prescription for the disease of division.
Over and over again he beseeches the Christians under his care to be of one mind. It is possible for differences in opinion, judgment and conviction to be adjusted without compromise if Christians truly seek to be of one mind. If there is an honest, selfless yielding to know the mind of the Lord, there will surely be like-mindedness as a result.
Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
1 Corinthians 1:10, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
The second part of the cure for division is a baptism of love. The whole Body of Christ needs to eat, digest, and assimilate 1 Corinthians 13 as its daily food. It needs to be filled and to be refilled with the Holy Spirit whose first fruit is love. It needs a deluging and a saturating with the purifying, perfecting love of God until love increases and abounds in the hearts of God's children.
1 Thessalonians 3:12, "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you."
Philippians 1:9, "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment."
1 Peter 1:22, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."
Twice in Colossians Paul speaks of the members of the Body being "knit together." The Greek means "compacted," implying firm consolidation. What can so unite members of the Body differing so greatly in temperament, taste, thought and training? Only one thing, a divinely imparted, supernaturally sustained love, can do it. Such unity comes when all things are done in love.
Colossians 2:2, "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love."
Ephesians 4:15, "But speaking the truth in love."
Ephesians 4:2, "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."
Ephesians 4:16, R.V., "From whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."
Ephesians 3:17-19, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being routed and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
The spiritual man is big enough to recognize that it takes all the millions upon millions of believers in the past, present and future, until the coming of Christ completes it, to make up that wondrous Body. He grasps the truth of that incomparable passage, Ephesians 3:17-19, where words fail even the apostle Paul as he tries to show that it will take all the saints of all the ages to know the love of God that passeth knowledge. In the apprehension of this transcendent truth the spiritual man sees the terrible sin of jealousy, envy, unlove, strife, enmity, hatred, intolerance, selfishness, quarreling between members of the Body of Christ. He gladly acknowledges that in the Church of God there are both room and need for the mystical, the practical, the philosophical, the scientific, the meditative, the active temperament. He acknowledges the greatness of truth and the absolute inability of any one person or sect to comprehend all truth or to embody its teachings perfectly. He joyfully acquiesces in God's plan of sharing His ministry gifts with all His children, dividing to each according to His divine will that His purpose for the world may be accomplished.
There is a clearly defined attitude which every Christian must take toward his fellow Christians if he means to live his life on the highest plane. It is an attitude of forbearance, humility, unselfishness, sympathy, frankness, helpfulness, peace and cooperation.
Colossians 3:13, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
1 Corinthians 12:25-26, "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
Romans 12:9, R.V., "Let love be without hypocrisy."
Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."
Galatians 5:13, "By love serve one another."
Such unity in the Body of Christ is the most convincing of all arguments to an unbelieving, maladjusted world of the power of the living Christ. Christ prayed that this oneness of mind and heart manifested in His disciples would bring many to believe in Him as the God-sent One. God would glorify Himself through solidarity in the Body of Christ Jesus.
John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 17:21, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
Dear fellow member of the Body of Christ, are you living in harmonious and pejustment to every other member of that Body? Is there something between you and a fellow Christian for which you are responsible? If so, are you satisfied to have such a condition continue or are you ready to let the great Physician heal the breach? He is able to do it if you will cooperate with Him. Your part is threefold.
First, will you lay aside by confession all sin of your heart toward another?
1 Peter 2:1, "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings."
Second, will you live by 1 Corinthians 13 every day of your life? Will you let the love-truth of that chapter become your code of conduct? Will you take your spiritual pulse by this infallible thermometer? Will you judge yourself, rather than your fellows, by this divine standard of love? Will you let the Holy Spirit clothe you with love?
Colossians 3:14, R.V., "And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness."
Third, will you unite your prayer with that of your Lord that you may be "made perfect in one" with every other member of His Body? And will you allow nothing to remain in your mind or ior in your heart that separates you even a hair's breadth from any other child of God?
John 17:23, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."
THE SPIRITUAL MAN'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD
A right adjustment with God necessitates a readjustment of relationship to the world. The boundary line between the spiritual man and the worldling is clearly marked and a wall of separation is built by God. The spiritual man is a nonconformist in his relationship to the world.
Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
2 Corinthians 6:14-15, 17, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."
The Christian is taken out of the world yet he is sent back into it. For what purpose?
John 17:18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
John 20:21, "Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Christ came into the world as the Father's Ambassador. Into a world alienated from God He brought "the good tidings of great joy" that a way was opened through Himself back to the Father's heart and home.
The Christian now goes forth as an ambassador of the Kingdom of heaven into the enemy's territory to carry the message of reconciliation to those who are alienated from God. Having experienced the joy of restoration to God through faith in Christ he cannot rest satisfied until he has brought others into the same joy. So he gladly accepts the responsibilities and obligations resting upon him through this ministry of reconciliation and gives himself to the winning of souls.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Christ came into a world enveloped in densest darkness to be its light. Into that same world every Christian is sent to be a light. In the beauty of the Christian's character and in the blessing of the Christian's service Christ would radiate the sweetness and strength of His own life and draw sinners unto Himself.
Matthew 5:14, "Ye are the light of the world."
Philippians 2:15, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."
THE HOLY SPIRIT THE DIVINE AGENT IN THIS THREEFOLD ADJUSTMENT
The adjustment which brings the Christian into a right relationship with God, with his fellow Christians and with the world, is made by the Holy Spirit who indwells and infills the spiritual man. It is He who takes of the love of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ and sheds it abroad in the heart of the Christian until each one loves the Father as the Son loves Him, and loves the fellow members of the Body of Christ as the Head loves them, and loves the unsaved in the world as the Saviour loves them.
Romans 5:5, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
1 Thessalonians 2:8, "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us."
Are you rightly related to God? To your fellow Christians? To the world? If not,
"Be filled with the Spirit."