Introduction to this Issue
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3, NKJV).
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; 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" (John 17:20-21).
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1).
There is no truer foretaste of heaven's peaceful harmony than that of Christians whose unity in local congregations reflect the "mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). In local churches, as well as in the "general assembly" (Hebrews 12:23), the "brotherhood" (1 Peter 2:17), it is a wondrous thing to have hearts and mind that "speak the same thing," (1 Corinthians 1:10), being "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
There is no doubt that inspired men, like Paul, knew the difficulty that such unity presented for he noted that it required lowliness of mind, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another in love and diligence to maintain the unity brought to us by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4). Likewise, Satan must know how beneficial this sweet unity is to the saints of God for he does more to create havoc in lieu of unity than any other stumblingblock.
For every true, there is a false; for every genuine, there is a counterfeit. This is nowhere more evident than in the subject of this editorial: Unity of the Spirit versus unity in diversity. More people have been led into error, compromised the faith and derailed from New Testament Christianity by Satan's lies about unity than by most other temptations combined. Confusing a broadened fellowship with sectarianism as unity has led many a soul to embrace religious libertarianism.
Not surprisingly, those who advocate and contend for the "unity of the Spirit" are often painted with the broad brush of contention and factionalism because they will not participate in the "broad way that leadeth to destruction" (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus must have seemed to be exceedingly sectarian when he stood apart from the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other groups. He was marked, hated, hounded and crucified because he taught the truth about true unity with God: "Sanctify them in the truth; they word is truth" (John 17:17). Jesus' disciples can expect no better treatment: those who refuse to accept error, even if for a righteous love of the truth, will be branded as divisive and contentious.
Such is the masquerade of unity in diversity. It promises freedom, but enslaves; it offers a similar unity to the unity of the Spirit, only to poison the well spring of truth; it sings a sweet song of invitation, only to tear and rend those who refuse to harmonize; it offers to embrace in fellowship, only to enslave in bondage. Unmasked, unity in diversity is partisan, divisive, sectarian, factional and antithetical to the true unity of the Spirit. Every generation of saints must deal with this age-old enemy that enters surreptitiously into peaceful congregations only to leave behind shattered, torn and decimated saints who shake their heads and wonder what happened.
This issue of Watchman Magazine is dedicated to upholding, extolling, promoting and recommending the Biblical unity of the Spirit. We note that the Holy Spirit originates and establishes this unity as the inspired gospel of Christ is preached around the world. Unity of the Spirit is, in fact, the result of salvation and the ensuing fellowship of those who are saved and added to the body of Christ. It is a holy thing to participate in a unified fellowship with God and Christ through the Spirit and his work through the word. The Spirit creates this unity; it is our responsibility to maintain it (Ephesians 4:3). Very often, we fail. But God expects us to keep working at it, giving diligence, striving, endeavoring on its behalf. We must never faint in doing our part; God has done his so well.
A debt of gratitude is owed and hereby expressions of appreciation are offered to the Forest Hills church of Christ in Tampa, Florida, for their participation in an effort to teach the truth about the Unity of the Spirit and to combat Unity in Diversity. During the days of December 3-6, 1998, this congregation invited me to come and speak during six services about the modern threats to unity among brethren. Brother Charles Goodall contacted me and helped plan the effort after viewing the video tapes of a similar work (with 5 preachers) at the Pruett and Lobit church in Baytown, TX that was conducted in November of 1994. (Those tapes are still available by contacting the elders of that church.) Video and audio tapes of the Forest Hills lectures are available, though the material (outlines, charts and transcripts of the lessons) is contained in this issue of Watchman.
The lectures at Forest Hills were widely advertised and some were present every service who disagreed with portions of the lessons. In fact, the presence of those who disagreed was encouraged since the meeting was designed to be a means of opening doors of discussion. It was emphasized again and again that the meeting was an attempt to maintain unity, not disrupt it. No lines of fellowship were drawn nor attempted to be drawn. That was never the purpose in planning or execution. On the contrary, since many efforts to communicate and discuss the issue of fellowship have been denied and ignored, this served as a springboard for openness and brotherly consideration of a vital subject. It is hoped and prayed that other efforts will follow, that this issue of Watchman will encourage open discussion, that those who disagree will see in all this an invitation to dialogue.
This writer did not speak for Forest Hills, a segment of the brotherhood or for any paper, party or faction. Being provided with an opportunity, I spoke what I believe to be the truth on the Spirit's unity as opposed to unity in diversity. If anyone wishes to take issue with what I taught, feel free to contact me; I alone am responsible for the teaching that was done, however a few of the charts were "borrowed" from friends (the vast majority are mine). References were made to brethren with whom I disagree and quotations were used to identify their positions. Great care was exercised to avoid misrepresentations and the best way to avoid that is to give accurate quotes. In turn, I do not mind anyone quoting me if they will accurately represent what I believe and teach. Without a doubt, like Paul, I used "great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12). Fellowship with sinful doctrines and practices, as well as unity in diversity needs to be exposed. I feel that I did that, raising an alarm while praying for continued discussion with concerned brethren. Yet all of this was done without rancor, anger or animosity toward any living soul. That was true then and it remains so today. We are brethren and we need to unite against a common enemy. We have much to benefit from the unity of the Spirit, but much to suffer from unity in diversity. There can be no fellowship with sinful doctrines and practices.
Brother Stan Cox has done a significant work in preparing this material for internet consumption. He took the outlines and charts and single-handedly configured them for inclusion in the magazine. Only those who know about "html" and "uploading to the internet" can truly appreciate the massive hours of work that has gone into this presentation. However, it you find it useful, use it. Nothing is copyrighted, everything is for use in spreading the gospel. I do owe Stan a great debt for his many hours of labor to bring this issue to completion. It is a singular honor to be associated with him in such an endeavor. He doesn't mind burning the "midnight oil" if he believes something is worthwhile. You, the reader, however, will make the final determination as to the value of this material as you read, study and meditate. If Christ is honored and the unity of the Spirit is appreciated more, it has been worth every minute.
May God grant to each reader the wisdom, courage and determination to distinguish between the unity of the Spirit and unity and diversity. May you lend your voice and efforts to uphold and defend truth as it is in Christ and unity with every other child of God. Let us count no cost as too extreme to bring about the Spirit's unity, but let us not spend a cent to encourage unity in diversity. One is from the Holy Spirit, the other is from Satan. Is there really any question beyond that?
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