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Striving for Unity

August 1997

As long as the church of the living Christ is on this earth and composed of individual believers who are still in the flesh, it will never be perfect. This is the sad fact and is one of the reasons why the apostle Paul wrote his epistles to the Corinthian church. However, even Paul had his difference with Barnabas concerning John Mark, and with Peter over his ambiguous relationships with Jews and Gentiles.

What is sadly lacking in the church to-day, perhaps especially in evangelical circles, is the ability, or willingness, to recognise that we can differ from others on some points and yet have fellowship with them on the broader base of the true gospel. By the gospel we mean that salvation is a sovereign work of God for the redemption of His elect through the atoning work of Christ and the inward working of the Holy Spirit bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ. Sinners are saved by the sovereign grace of God in Christ alone. Sadly, even expressions such as “sovereign grace”, “Calvinist” and “Reformed” can themselves be the basis for contention and division.

How easy it is to categorise people, often by misrepresenting their beliefs and opinions, and grouping them together under some label with pejorative overtones. If we are true believers it is because God in sovereign grace has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and brought us to faith in Christ alone for salvation. This is what truly unites us and we should do all we can to manifest this unity (Eph.4:1-3).

We are surrounded with much error and ignorance of the true gospel. We should be willing to unite in our opposition to these. There is a battle to be fought against the world, the flesh and the devil. Why spend our time with soul-destroying in-fighting?

Our attitude is clearly summarised in an article written by Dennis E. Johnson (Westminster Theological Seminary, West): “To be a biblical peacemaker, you need to develop a bias toward compromise on unimportant points, rather then insisting on confrontation at every point of disagreement. Be willing to place a priority on the common ground which Christians share, rather than focusing exclusively on our differences. Be willing to place the best interpretation on the motives and actions of others, rather than approaching them suspiciously, assuming the worst about their hidden agenda.”