The Unity of the Church
Rev. Angus Stewart
The unity of the church is set forth in the
Apostles’ Creed: "I believe an holy, catholic church" (singular),
and taught, for example, in Ephesians 4:4-6: "There is one body, and one
Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, one God …"
The one church of Christ is a living organism ("one
body") with one head, Jesus Christ ("one Lord"), and one animating
principle, the Holy Ghost ("one Spirit"), which worships and serves the
one Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit ("one God").
The deepest ground of the church’s unity is that God
Himself is one ("one God"). Thus the church is, and can only be, one and
not two or more. The church’s unity was eternally decreed by God, for
"he hath chosen us in him [i.e. Christ] before the foundation of the
world" (Eph. 1:4). In the course of the world’s history, God effectually
calls all His elect out of the darkness of sin and the curse into the
"one body" of Jesus Christ. Thus all God’s chosen people are spiritually
baptized with "one baptism:" "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into
one body" (I Cor. 12:13).
The Holy Spirit dwells in Christ, the head, and thus
in believers as His members, for "if any man have not the Spirit of
Christ he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). The "one Spirit" in all believers
testifies to the truth of God’s Word, and so true Christians receive as
truth everything revealed in sacred Scripture ("one faith"). Similarly,
God’s people share "one hope," and so, by the "one Spirit," we look and
pray and long for "the glorious appearing of the great God and our
Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
Jesus Christ is the "one Lord" of the church who
possesses her and has complete authority over her, for the church is not
her own but belongs to her faithful Saviour who bought her with His own
precious blood. Christ, the only Lord of the church, redeemed her, calls
her, forms her into "one body," animates her with His "one Spirit," and
gives her "one faith," "one hope" and "one baptism."
This, and this alone, is the unity of the church. The
unity of the church is not to be found in churches which do not truly
acknowledge Christ’s lordship in all things but turn aside from the "one
faith" and the "one hope" of the Scriptures through compromise with sin
and the world and the false churches. Nor does the unity of a church
rest upon shared political opinions or common social status. The unity
of Christ’s church transcends and overcomes all earthly differences:
class, colour, gender, age, etc., for "there is neither Greek nor Jew,
circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but
Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).
This unity of the church is a fact. Thus the
Spirit declares, "There is one body;" not, "You must create one body."
The unity of the church is not to be created by us, for it is a gift of
God’s sovereign grace. Instead, the church is called to "keep" the
"unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). This is done by
believers loving, confessing and holding fast to the "one faith" and the
"one hope" of the "one Lord" by the "one Spirit;" and by believers
readily and cheerfully employing their gifts for the advantage and
salvation of the other members of the "one body" in "lowliness,"
"meekness" and "love" (Eph. 4:2).