Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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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).