The Unity of the Church in the World: Does It Matter?

The spirit of this blog is ecumenical in the best sense, I believe.  “Ecumenical” is defined by Webster’s as “1.:  worldwide or general in extent, influence, or application. 2a :  of, relating to, or representing the whole of a body of churches, 2b: promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.”  I realize “ecumenical” is a dirty word for many Christians; the thought being that ecumenism goes hand-in-hand with weakening of the understanding of the gospel.  Thus, the more you team up with other Christian groups, the more compromises you will have to make to work together.  And no one should want to compromise the gospel.  I agree.  Nonetheless, I don’t see how you can be a Christian (a person who follows the one Christ) and not pray and labor for the maintaining of the unity of the Church in the world (the Church being understood as the one Christ’s one people).

It must be admitted, though, that there are understandable barriers to unity, divergent views of the gospel being among the most serious.  Moreover, one would expect that with historic geographic dispersion, the church would manifest herself in many various forms and administrations.  So, organizational unity would seem difficult to maintain over time.

I would like to take a couple of posts this week and address the following questions:

1. What does Scripture mean by “unity”?  In what sense should we expect to experience it as God’s people?

2. What are legitimate reasons for organizational separation among churches?  Is organizational unity of churches something that should be desired to some extent?  Is the reputation of the gospel advanced when there is a functional unity among Christians, or is it of no consequence?

3. I would like to apply the issue of unity to a hard case: the practice of water baptism.

So, for you, what does the Bible mean when it talks about unity among Christians?


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