Attempts to Unite the Church

Every true Christian surely desires to see a united church, where Christ, the Head of the body, directs and controls; where the Holy Spirit is the power for worship, ministry and testimony; where the Holy Scriptures are accepted as God's standard of truth; and where the saints walk in holy separation from the world that knows not God, and crucified their Saviour, God's well-beloved Son.

But the instructed Christian knows that the church, so far as its responsibility in testimony is concerned, is divided, broken and ruined. What Christ speaks of as "My church," can never be marred or ruined; the new creation work of God can never be touched by the hand of the enemy; but everything put into the hand of man in responsibility has been marked by failure.

The great religious systems of Christendom, whether catholic, national or independent, cannot be acknowledged as God's church, for they are not a living organism as is the body of Christ. Whatever their claims, they are not divine in origin; they are great human organisations, largely governed by the principles of the world.

For some time there have been strenuous efforts to unite the different religious systems of Christendom, and although there has as yet been little success to record, the day is quickly drawing near when they shall merge into a vast system which Scripture calls "Great Babylon," a system whose character and judgment are clearly revealed in the Book of Revelation.

But the movements of Christendom are apt to find an echo amongst the true saints of God. True Christians rightly bemoan the divisions that have come in among them, and many are exercised as to the possibility of healing and uniting. If this exercise proceeds from the Spirit of God, with the marks that indicate the Spirit's working, then nothing but good could come from such exercise.

At the beginning of last century there was undoubtedly a movement of the Spirit of God, calling saints from the great human systems of Christendom to walk according to the truth of Scripture, acknowledging Christ alone as Head of the church. The spiritual power that marked the movement was manifested in the unworldly manner of life of those who in simplicity gathered to the Name of the Lord, and on the ground of the church being the "one body."

It might be well to ask, are the movements to unite the broken fragments of brethren today the fruit of deep exercise of soul on the part of saints who desire to walk in separation from all that is of the world, for the pleasure and will of God? If it is so, then God will prosper them. If the exercise proceeds from motives other than the carrying out of God's will, the Lord may allow union to take place, but if He tarry, it may be the prelude to greater decline, and further loss of spiritual power and of the great truths they profess to hold.

We must never overlook that the primal cause of all divisions has been spiritual weakness, and the Lord has so often allowed separation to ensue because of the lowering of the moral tone, and because we have not walked in the power of the truth that He has so graciously given to us. Peculiar doctrines, and allegations of inconsistency with the truth, have been ostensible reasons for divisions; and sometimes excuses have hidden the real reasons for dividing; but even where there has been truth in the allegations, division might often have been averted if there had been spiritual power to meet the crises.

Nor can we overlook that so many attempts at uniting have grievously failed, bringing increased sorrow and further division in many cases. This being so, we might well wonder if the Lord has been showing His disapproval in such cases.

When the ten tribes revolted, and Israel was divided, Rehoboam sought to unite them by force, but the Lord sent him a message saying, "This thing is from me." The ostensible and immediate cause of the division was the foolishness of the king in rejecting the counsel of the elders; but the fundamental cause was Solomon's idolatry, for we read, "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel … Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant … I will rend it out of the hand of thy son" (1 Kings 11:9-12). The kingdom was never re-united, and will not be until the Lord comes.

It may well be that the government of God towards the brethren in their failure is on the same line as towards the kingdom of Israel. If this is so, surely our wisdom and self-judgment would be manifested in bowing our heads under God's righteous government, and in waiting for the coming of the Lord to unite all His saints.