John 17: 10-12, 20-23 (Jesus Speaking)
And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
I Corinthians 3: 1-4 (Paul Speaking)
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
While it can not be denied that God is bringing unity to His people, there is still much division in the church today. As flesh laden people, our natural tendency is to latch onto a certain set of pastors or teachers and believe that they speak the truth, and we dismiss and sometimes discredit others with opinions that do not agree with our own.
Often, though, both camps have a valid point in God, and by dismissing the teachings of one, we may be missing out on the fullness of what God says. We are all parts to one body – the body of Jesus walking out His life on the earth – through us. To criticize another is paramount to shooting oneself in the foot.
I Corinthians 12: 12-26 (Paul Speaking)
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
A verbose read if taken lightly. The gist is this. All of us in Christ have a purpose, and that purpose is as a member of one body. Just as the human body has eyes, a nose, ears, hands, feet, etc., and all those parts function together as one, so it is with Christ. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), and we are His body on earth – all of us, united as one to make one body for Christ on the earth. This is why Jesus said in his prayer above “that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
In discussing this with a pastoral team several years ago, and in praying for unity for the city I was living in, God gave me a vision. In the vision I saw a city with people going in and out of buildings, and the buildings which were churches looked like parts of a body. There was a foot building tucked away on one street and another foot building on another street. There were torso buildings, hand buildings, nose buildings, etc. Within the city, you didn’t notice the body parts here and there. They were the same size as all the regular buildings around them and did not stick out. No one thought anything of it, and the people just walked by, or went in and out. This, God showed me, is the church as it is often seen today: non-united body parts serving small groups of people. Then God showed me what would happen if His church truly became united, and in the vision I saw all the scattered body parts tucked away into various sections of the city come together. The resulting completed body was huge, towering far above the city – all the way towards heaven, where the body could then be seen from earth, tall and strong, and attached at the head to Jesus, who is the head of the church. All the people in the city could see the church, and in seeing the church, could see Jesus – mighty and strong and bigger than anything you could build or imagine. The unity made the difference. The unity could be seen by the people, and the unity showed the people Jesus.
Christ wants us to be “as one.” This does not mean that Jesus wants one gigantic church building somewhere in the world where all Christians gather on Sundays. The logistics of that should tell us that is not what Jesus meant. But spiritually, and in attitude, and in speech and action, we should truly be as one. And seeing that, the world will believe that we are sent by Jesus.
Remember, the many parts of our one human body are for different purposes. The same is true of the body of Jesus – His church. To negate one part is to negate a part of the body of Jesus, and in effect, to negate a part of ourselves. To see the fullness of Christ, we must consider the pieces of the puzzle each person offers.
I Corinthians 13: 9-10 says (Paul Speaking)
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
At this time “that which is perfect” has not come. We are in the same dispensation of time Paul was in when this scripture was penned. Until that time comes, we will only know in part, so we will need each other, in unity, to present the full picture of Christ to the world. One might have a good grasp on suffering. Another might have a good grasp on blessing. Combined, we will see the fuller message of God’s blessings which sustain us in the sufferings we may experience as we serve in Christ.
We are foolish to think that we already know all there is to know regarding the truths of God. As Paul says in I Corinthians 8: 1b-3:
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
Our knowledge now is like looking in a darkened mirror (I Corinthians 13:12). We do not fully know God, but as we are encouraged in verse 3 above, if we love God, then we are known by Him. The more we continue in Christ, the more we will realize we don’t know. And this is good, because it causes us to place our trust and dependence completely on Him, and it gives us a humility towards His Word and others. The position of Agur in Proverbs 30: 1-9 would be wise for all of us to consider:
2 Surely I am more stupid than any man, And do not have the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom Nor have knowledge of the Holy One. 4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know? 5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. 7 Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): 8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches— Feed me with the food allotted to me; 9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.
Few will argue that Paul had a great revelation of the knowledge of Christ. But consider his heart and humility on the subject. Ephesians 3:8 says “… who am the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”
I John 3:2 says
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
We know in part, and as different parts of one body, we need each other to see and show the world the fullness of Christ. And then, and only then, will the world know that He sent us.
So what then? What about those who speak falsehoods in Christ’s name? What of those who only show “one side” of the Gospel? How can we stay in unity as a church, but disagree at the same time? These are tough questions!
I Thessalonians 5: 12-21 gives us a good starting point.
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Even the best of us battle with the flesh. Paul speaks well of this in Romans 7. What he wanted to do, because of the flesh, he would not do. What he did not want to do, because of the flesh, he would do. We all share this struggle, and putting to death the deeds of the flesh will be a forever battle as long as we walk this earth. This is true for pastors, preachers, leaders, television evangelists, and everyone else. Because of this, people will fail to be perfect. We should pray for them, and pray for those who are under their care.
Where the fullness of the truth of the Gospel is missing… we should pray for increased revelation and wisdom.
Where an incorrect doctrine is being preached… we should pray for correction and a perfected revelation of God’s truths.
Where blatant lies are being proclaimed as if they are God’s truths… we should pray for the words spoken to be powerless to the hearers, and for God’s truth to break through to the one who is deceived.
And in keeping this attitude of prayer, and standing in the gap for those who are being mislead, we will see the truth of God revealed where it has been hidden, and we will see people saved by that revealed truth. If we stand behind pastors and preachers of God’s word, praying for their perfection in Christ, the people will see our unity, and will know that He has sent us.
If we simply judge those who are in the wrong, or even worse, judge those who are sincere in their love of God yet do not share our exact interpretation of what is right, the world will not see us as seeking unity, and will not see that He sent us (John 17:21, 23). They will simply see us as judgmental, and that is never our calling (Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:37, Romans 2:1-5; 14:10-14; James 4:11-12).