The True Basis of Christian Unity

“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5). One of the living and most vital issues before the church of the present day is the subject of Christian unity or likemindedness. It is discussed on every hand. The air is full of it. And it is no wonder, for some of the great religious bodies are just about to be rent asunder. Of course, we are not so much concerned about organic union or disunion. There is something vastly more important than organic union—it is likemindedness or the unity of the faith.

Now what should be the attitude of the true child of God amidst all this chaos of conflicting opinions? Briefly speaking, and on this point there must be no misunderstanding, the views of this man and that man should have no weight whatsoever in determining one’s course, only so far as those views are supported by the Word of God.

Well, let us make a homiletical analysis of the words of the apostle that stand at the head of this article, and in this way we may find some suggestions on the subject of Christian unity.

  1. Christian unity or likemindedness recommended. “Be likeminded one toward another.” Unity is God’s will for His people. Of this there can be no doubt. The Lord does not want His people to believe anything and everything or nothing at all.
  2. The basis or underlying principle of Christian unity. “According to Christ Jesus.” Unity that in any sense clashes with either the person or work of Christ is not worthy of the name and is worse than open discord. Psalm 2:3 speaks of a unity, a coming “together,” but it is the unity of the kings of the earth setting themselves, and the rulers taking counsel together, “against the Lord and His Anointed.” And, unhappily, much of the cry of the present day for unity and federation savors of this same Christ-destroying spirit.
  3. The source of Christian unity or likemindedness. It is a grant from God. “The God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded.” There can be no Christian unity where God is ruled out, and where, instead, the flesh has full sway.

A year or so since the writer attended a great religious gathering at which a high official of one of the religious bodies that is having more or less trouble with the modernists spoke. He declared himself on the fundamentals, but did it in such a way that the thing seemed to stick in his throat. Somehow it did not want to go down. The hesitancy was so apparent to the writer that he could not help but be reminded of his wife’s attempts on several occasions in taking castor oil. She gagged and gagged and made a wry face, and in spite of her repeated desperate attempts the thing refused to “stay put.” Then the speaker went on to say, that he expected, as well as felt it his duty, to use his good office to reconcile or bring together the two warring factions of his church. The message was delivered at an evening service. The next morning a dear and true man of God, whose name is well known all over the world, met the writer and said, “Brother Reitzel, did you hear Doctor — last evening?” Yes,” said we; “did you hear him?” “No,” said he, “but they told me about it. Wasn’t that fierce?” Said we, “Doctor, if we had a farm and had a flock of sheep on that farm and there were several wolves on that farm, do you think that we sould use our good office as a farmer to try and get the sheep and wolves together?” “I think not,” said he, “you would get a gun and shoot the wolves.” And so we would.

Let us now by way of illustration suggest three pictures touching Christian unity.

  1. The first picture is the ideal. It is this: On the day of Pentecost the disciples “were all with one accord in one place.” And where was that “place”? Just where the Lord wanted them to be—in Jerusalem, for said He, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Now while such a condition would seem to be possible, yet in the light of the prophecies concerning the last days, it does not seem to be probable. It is not likely that we will ever see the day when “all” the members of the nominal church will be of “one accord,” so we might just as well pass this phase of the matter up as a hopeless proposition.
  2. Let me suggest another picture. The Lord said, as already stated, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem.” This is “according to Christ Jesus.” But if you will allow us to make a wild supposition and yet a supposition in full harmony with present day conditions, some of the number of the disciples who rob the Word of Christ of its final and absolute authority, might have said, “Why insist on interpreting the word of the Lord literally? Let us come together, but let it be in Jericho instead of Jerusalem.” And then, if we may suppose again, the rest of the disciples—a bunch of jelly fish, backboneless fellows—say, “Well, we know that Jesus says, ‘In Jerusalem,’ but these men will not yield and meet with us in Jerusalem, and we abhor contentions and must have peace at any price, hence let us go to Jericho and there meet with them.” And they all went and met in Jericho, and were there “with one accord and in one place,” but it was not God’s “place.” It was unity, but not on God’s basis. They were “likeminded,” it is true, but not “according to Christ Jesus.”
  3. Let me now suggest the third picture, or what seems to be the only alternative position for the true child of God to assume. As to the first picture, the ideal, there seems to be no possibility under present existing circumstances of ever attaining to it. The modernist is stubborn and unyielding in his position. He will never consent to unity “according to Christ Jesus.” It is not a part of his program. Now what shall be done? Shall the fundamentalist go with the modernist and have peace at any cost? No, no, a thousand times, No. In doing so all would be wrong. There is but one course left for the fundamentalists. Let them stand by their guns. If the modernists persist in getting together at Jericho, the place of a curse, let them go, but let the true and tried fundamentalists stay at Jerusalem, the place of God’s peace and unity or the divine location of getting together. As to compromise, the fundamentalist has no such a word in his vocabulary. As to conceding to the enemy some of the principles of his faith, he knows nothing of that sort of a thing.

My father was a captain during the Civil War. One night in company with a few of his men he went out from camp into the wilds of Virginia and captured a desperate guerrilla. He took him back to camp where afterwards he was shot. On the way back to camp the guerrilla asked father to name the sum of money for a rod or two of a chance for his life, and that the money would be forthcoming. Father told his captive that he was in the employ of Uncle Sam and so could entertain none of his offers. The believer belongs to the Lord and is employed by Him in His service, and so is in no position to sell out to the devil and his cohorts. If some will refuse to meet on a basis “according to Christ Jesus,” that in no sense constitutes a license for the rest of us to compromise for the sake of peace and meet at Jericho, and thus cause all to be out of the way. If we can not have all where God wants them to be, then in His name and for His sake, let us have some right, rather than for the sake of peace to have all wrong.

—By Charles F. Reitzel. Reproduced from The King's Business, September 1925.