By Eugene L. Garner

". . . I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they may all be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me, "(John 17:11, 20-23).

         In this prayer Jesus repeatedly stressed a thought, an ideal, that should arouse within our hearts a consciousness of the fact that we have not yet arrived -- that the Kingdom of God has not yet come. It may even raise the question of whether we are prepared for the Kingdom, or are indeed willing to meet the conditions that it requires.
         Though it might be more enjoyable to discuss some other subject, on this occasion, I find myself compelled to deal with the question of CHRISTIAN UNITY. In searching for something that I might contribute to this meeting, my mind has invariably returned to this subject. Nor has it been possible to consider, seriously, any other.
         Before hastily concluding that I have fallen prey to an incessant barrage of ecumenical propaganda, would you pause for a moment to consider a few important questions?
  1. In view of abounding iniquity, and the coldness among God's people, are we willing to admit that God has failed?
  2. Do we believe that He has left Himself without a witness in the earth?
  3.          Has He forsaken His purpose to "call out from among the Gentiles" a special, holy people for His name?
  4. Was He unjust, after the persistent rebellion of Israel, to sever that covenant nation from a position of special nearness to Himself?
  5. Is it impossible that a New Covenant people -- through an exclusivistic and high-minded unbelief like that of Israel -- should also be cut off from a similar position of unique relationship to God?
  6. Were Jesus and Paul mere "idealistic dreamers" in their concern that Christ's people might be ONE -- dwelling together in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace?
  7. If Jesus Christ is concerned for the unity of His blood-purchased church; may we expect His acquiescence while we (deliberately or ignorantly) antagonize brethren of a common spiritual heritage (brethren whose baptism we still recognize as authentic), simply because they will not "push" our programs or cannot conscientiously accept our private slant on some particular doctrine?
         Since entering the ministry (and discovering something of the extent to which my brethren were divided over personalities, programs, policies and practices) there has been within my heart a deepening concern to see the end of strife. . . such senseless folly. It is often difficult, under emotional tensions, for us to delineate clearly between Christian principle and one's own personal or political prejudice; but DELINEATE WE MUST!! The price of partisan triumph is too great in the light of eternity.
         To actively pursue a course of positive conciliation among estranged brethren is sometimes a thankless task. On the one hand the conciliator may be considered a compromiser, a turncoat or an appeaser; while, on the other hand, pious guardians of traditional platforms will consider him an enemy -- come in to "spy out" their liberties. Knowing that one's motives are often impugned in any attempt to alert a drowsy, careless or indifferent brotherhood, it is with reluctance that I undertake the task. But within there is a heart that yearns to see a blurred image changed into a single glorious reflection of the Son of God; it compels me to face the challenge.


         Only spiritual blindness could prevent us from recognizing that there is under way a concerted effort of infidelity, paganism and the forces of ecumenicism (represented by the adominable woman of Revelation 17) to crush whatever remains of New Testament Christianity. The plan is well-organized, liberally financed, directed by political experts -- and there is every indication that it will be executed speedily and with precision. Only Divine Providence can prevent its sweep from being thorough.
         Is it reasonable, in view of such consideration, that the fellowship of brethren with a common heritage, baptism and table should be disrupted by internal conflict? (By "common table", etc., I do not speak of a denominational table but of the "Lord's Table" -- available alike to every Scriptural assembly.) Are not envy, strife and division signs of carnality? And do they not generally spring from purely partisan considerations?
         If a brother hesitates to accept my particular "slant" on a practical or doctrinal matter, is it reasonable, is it Christian, that I should undertake to engineer his fall so as to vindicate "my position"? When a brother of divergent opinion stumbles, falls, or turns back from following Christ, is it reasonable that I should gloat over his spiritual decline, saying, "I told you so"? Or, when a brother turns aside in positive sin against God's Word (not merely against my "humble opinion", however long-held), IS IT REASONABLE that I consider him an enemy -- and attempt to wash my hands of any responsibility toward him? Must I not, to be genuinely Christian, lovingly "admonish him as a brother"?
         When it is possible for children to be reared in consecrated Christian homes; hear the Gospel of Christ; trust in Jesus as their Saviour; surrender to the call of the Gospel ministry; dedicate their lives to the study and preaching of the life-giving word; and then encounter abruptly (as I once did) a volcanic eruption of envy, jealousy, scorn and hatred among brethren for whom they have had deep respect; and, in discouragement, disgust and complete despondency, turn aside from a walk of faith to a position of questioning, doubting agnosticism -- IS IT REASONABLE that we shut our eyes, stop our ears and harden our hearts in order to continue the farce of "playing Christian"? "IS IT NOTHING TO YOU, ALL YE THAT PASS BY?"
         Is it reasonable that some of my brethren offer their fellowship only upon the contingency of my adherance to an extra-scriptural program? Is it any more reasonable that other brethren find their chief cohesive element in a MERE REACTION AGAINST SUCH PROGRAMIZING? Are not the antagonists actually partners in the promotion of disunity, discord, discouragement and degeneration within the brotherhood?
         Is it too difficult a lesson for us to learn that where envy and strife are there is confusion and every evil work? Is it reasonable that some -- while emphasizing the importance of baptism and church succession (and rightly so) far more strongly than their fathers thought necessary -- have reacted so violently as to be dangerously close to repudiating the only link that they have with John's "baptism unto repentance"?
         In case you may at this point be puzzled as to the direction in which this challenge may be heading, I sincerely hope that you will hear me prayerfully and patiently to the end -- and that you will wait another ten years before judging its appropriateness to the occasion.


Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," (Psalm 133:1). Most of us can quote many such passages -- for there is a particular "cell" in our thinking mechanism where we have carefully filed them away. But how exceedingly narrow may be our understanding and experience of such unity. The way we sometimes hedge ourselves "in" and others "out", it is difficult to determine whether we know the difference between unity and bigotry.
         I am thankful that some of my brethren have been freed from the exacting demands of demoninational servitude -- enabling them to devote their time and energies to a study of the word and prayer. In the free exercise of this liberty much fresh light has been shed on the field of Biblical Interpretation -- a field which might, more picturesquely, be described as a stagnant pond of exclusivistic, complacent conformity -- long undisturbed by the rousing cry of a contemporary John the Baptist saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".
         I am thankful that the Gospel of the Kingdom is once more being elevated to the position that it deserves in our thinking and preaching. However, we dare not assume the role of proud custodians -- even of the Kingdom Gospel. To imply, by word or deed, that we are "the kingdom people", the "true kingdom people", the "most righteous kingdom people", the "most deserving kingdom people", if not the "only kingdom people" will not only make us obnoxious and replusive in the eyes of others; it will exhibit an attitude that will fast disqualify us for any inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Such high-mindedness led to the fall of Israel as a covenant people -- and it will to ours if we follow in her steps. Such a position will not promote Christian unity; nor will it encourage brethren of lesser discernment to examine objectively the doctrines that have so greatly enriched our Christian experience.
         Now, lest we forget the question before us, let me state it again: "Is complete unity desirable"?
         Jesus Christ was so concerned about the unity of His disciples that He made it an object of prayer to the Heavenly Father. According to the Scriptures (which we claim to accept as a sufficient rule of faith and practice), those properly identified with Jesus Christ have "the mind of Christ." If we are truly His -- possessing His mind -- there are several reasons why we cannot condone, much less actively promote, a spirit of division.

1. We are Members of Christ's Body.

         This Biblical figure bespeaks a relationship of nearness, intimacy and blessedness. But it also involves a mutual responsibility on the part of each body-member. Not only is this true of each local New Testament assembly; it is also true on a much larger scale. The plurality of members composing various New Testament churches are each" members of Christ" and as such share a mutual responsibility toward Him and one another. If, in Christ, we have no relationship or responsibility beyond the bounds of the local assembly where we hold membership, then it is foolish for us to be meeting here and talking of "fellowship". Any breach of unity among the plurality of those sustaining a position of covenant fellowship with Jesus Christ can only defame His glorious name and dim the flame that is meant to lighten the path which leads to the Celestial City.

2. We are Brethren in the Family of God.

         If indeed "Jerusalem from above is the mother of us all", and God is truly our Father, through our identity with His preeminent Son, then we have a "family responsibility". Now, lest I be misunderstood and accused of advocating a cheap ecumenicism, permit me to say that I DO NOT ACCEPT the PROTESTANT THEORY that the family of God is composed of ALL THE SAVED. If I believed this to be true, I would be pressing for unity with "all the saved". I would be consistent about the matter. But, since I believe that only those properly identified with the Son are in God's family, I can advocate "family unity" without embracing those who despise the doctrine of a local New Testament church -- accountable for her actions ONLY TO HER LORD AND LAWGIVER by Whose blood she has been purchased.

3. We are Citizens of the Kingdom of God.

         It is not enough to preach that God is now "calling out" a people for His Kingdom. It is important that we "make our calling and election sure." Has the Kingdom of God taken control of our lives? If so, there is no possible way for us to perpetuate a spirit of division among brethren. Is not the Kingdom characterized by "love, joy and in the Holy Ghost"? If these things characterize our hearts and lives, division and strife are completely out of the question. They are impossible!
         Paul, the bondservant of Jesus Christ, considered "envy, strife and division" sure evidences of carnality. . . nor has the implication of their presence changed with the twentieth century. The apostle felt that brethren should be able to settle their differences as brothers -- as Christian brothers. He was absolutely horrified that one brother should "go to law" with another brother -- and that before a judge who was NOT EVEN A BROTHER!
         Of the carnal Corinthians, divided over men, Paul inquired: "Is Christ divided"? And though some in that church looked to him as their favorite preacher, and determined to stand by him "come-what-may", he announced in no uncertain terms that he wanted no part of their divisive practices. He majored, rather, on the "preaching of the cross" which was foolishness to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews -- but to those whom God had called, whether Jew or Greek, He was "the power of God, and the wisdom of God".
         To the Ephesians Paul issued a call to maintain the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". He gave a strong argument and firm basis for unity in showing them how GOD HAD PROMOTED IT. He mentioned the one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and "one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all". All this they HAD IN COMMON -- and unity of brethren, in any age, is largely dependent upon the evaluation that they place upon what they commonly share. How much does Jesus mean to us?
         The spiritual gifts were measured out to promote this unity "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro... But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."
         "But", someone may object, "All this speaks of what God wants in the LOCAL CHURCH: and these passages all speak of a LOCAL CHURCH." I am quite cognizant of the fact that this is true. Yet, let me boldly suggest that THIS IS NOT ALL THE TRUTH! The basic principles stated, and the inherent responsibilities involved in our intimacy of relationship with Jesus Christ reach far beyond the bounds of our "particular" local assemblies. Of one thing we may be certain: According to His own good pleasure, God has made known the mystery of His will, of His purpose " That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ.. that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ," (Eph. 1:9-12). If our present experiences are designed to "train us for the Kingdom", we certainly have nothing to gain by resisting or being indifferent toward our brethren for whom Christ died: And so long as carnal division raises its hoary head among us there will be such distraction that we cannot exhibit Christ in a proper light before men. We will not BE "the fulness of him that filleth all in all".


         Let me say with all candor, and with full confidence, that I do believe unity to be possible for those who desire to reverence, love and serve God. I do not propose a complicated formula or program for attaining this desirable goal. I have no program to submit. I do not believe that programs can attain it. But there are two simple experiences that will promote and encourage it.
  1. Unity will be promoted by a common affliction that is inevitable.
         That such trials and tribulations await us at the end of this age is so abundantly taught in the scriptures that I need but remind my brethren of God's faithfulness in fore-warning us that we might prepare our hearts against that hour. In trouble, brethren will unite against a common enemy -- and, with one heart, will cry out to God. But THERE IS A BETTER WAY to effect true unity.
  1. It is better that we be united through Christian love and forebearance.
         "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not LOVE, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not LOVE, it profiteth me nothing," (I Cor. 13:1-3).

         According to Jesus, brotherly love has ever been the distinguishing badge of Christian discipleship. By it all men may know that we are His disciples. Without it they will not believe us though we shout it until the mountains fall.
         The important question is whether this love controls our hearts. Do we love as Christ loved? Or do we love as the Pharisees loved? There is no virtue in loving those who love us and are in agreement with our philosophy of religion and life. The vital question is whether, for Jesus' sake, we can love those who show no special love for us and who are, in fact, sometimes quite unlovable. Do we, in fact, know what it is to love? Let me submit for your consideration what appears to be four basic elements without which love does not exist.
  1. Love is ROOTED IN KNOWLEDGE. . . mutual understanding. Sentimental emotionalism is not a sufficient foundation for genuine love.
  2. Love first EXHIBITS ITSELF IN RESPECT. Do we show respect for our brethren? When they disagree with us?
  3. As love develops it manifests an ACTIVE CONCERN (care) for the WELFARE AND NAME of the one loved. Though he obeyed God in preaching to Nineveh, it is evident that Jonah had no love for Nineveh. He called upon her to repent -- and when she did, and God spared her, it made Jonah mad. He wanted to see Nineveh destroyed. He did not CARE for Her.
         Divine love recognized the hopelessness of our bondage to sin, and voluntarily assumed the responsibility for our redemption. One of the basic principles governing the inter-relationship of those "in Christ" is "that as God has so loved us, we ought also to love one another". The reciprocation of divine love will forever prohibit factionalism, the party spirit, or any other kind of antagonism between brethren who mutually share the blessing of covenant fellowship with Jesus Christ.


         Genuine Christian unity CANNOT be achieved through the efforts of human wisdom. Nor can brethren who share a common baptism and table attain unto the "oneness" to which we are called in Christ BY ATTEMPTING TO DO SO. However tenaciously we may adhere to good rules or regulations, legalistic devices are powerless in any effort to attain spiritual ends. Spiritual unity cannot be planned or programmed; it must be spontaneous. It comes -- not through the outward efforts of the flesh, but through the inward workings of the Holy Spirit -- as our eyes, hearts and affections are turned upon Jesus Christ.
        Through looking to Jesus (in admiration, adoration and worship), we begin to reflect His image (2 Cor. 3:18). There is, even in the material realm, a tendency for men to take on the characteristics of those whom they love and admire. As we "behold" Jesus, our lives are gradually transformed into His likeness. Stedfastness in "looking" will produce a life of complete harmony with the Divine will -- and will culminate in conformity to Jesus Christ, "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).
        If, though looking to Jesus, we learn to love as He loves, and are changed "from glory to glory", (reflecting His image), then we will automatically be drawn toward one another eventually being brought into perfect unity "in Christ". No longer will men be hindered, confused, or disgusted by a "blurred" image. They will, rather, behold a clear and glorious "reflection" of the Son of God in all of His beauty. And, beholding, they will fall at His feet and worship! AMEN!