There is One Body in Christ

Jim Burns
In our day there are many faith groups, denominations, and religious sects that call
themselves part of the body of Christ, and they may very well be. I would never
say they are not part of the body. On the other hand, there are some in those
groups that have the idea that only those in their church is right and everyone else
is wrong. That way of thinking is ludicrous, unreasonable, and downright foolish.
I have been praying for several years to see a closer unity in the body of Christ. I
know there are some who claim to be in the body, that seems to be otherwise. I am
not one to judge, only God has that right, but John in his little book gives us a
glimpse of how to tell if one is part of the body of Christ. “This is how you can
recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has
come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is
not from God.” 1
It is not just people like me who are praying for closer unity in the body of Christ.
This has been going on for a long time, one of the most recognized movement was
as far back as 1517.
Martin Luther said, “Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, Glory
of God alone.” On October 31, 1517, Luther released 95 powerful statements
defending the authority of the Christian faith against misleading religious practices,
and inspired countless believers to pursue a biblical foundation of their faith.
Luther believed in the common core of faith in Christ as the important tenant of
Christianity (one body in Christ).
John Wesley believed strongly in his theological convictions, he never lost sight
of the fact that the Body of Christ is much bigger than any one tradition or
theological perspective. He acknowledged important theological divisions that
existed but never allowed those differences to cloud the larger reality that what we
hold in common through the creeds is of primary importance. Yet, Wesley had a
commitment to a common core of faith in Christ, that there is one body in Christ.
I like, Luther and Wesley, am committed to a common core of faith in Christ and
praying for a unity in the body of Christ.
1 1 John 4:1-3
It is apparently highly evident that we have some cracks in our shield of the unified
Spirit of God; we have some flaws in our armor in the body of Christ. At the birth
of the church (at Pentecost giving power to the church), one group of disciples (the
body of Christ) went out and preached Jesus and Him crucified, and in two
thousand years we have become divided in so many ways.
Our division is illustrated by the number of denominations and faith groups that are
in our country today. According to the Handbook of Denominations in the United
States2 by Frank S. Mead in his Tenth Edition, we have more Christian
denominations than you can shake a stick at. There are 32 groups of Baptists, 24
Church of God groups, 14 Methodist groups, 12 Pentecostal groups, 23
Reformed groups, 9 Presbyterian groups, 6 Old Catholic groups, 10 Eastern
Orthodox groups, 12 Lutheran groups, 13 Mennonite groups, 7 Friends
(Quaker) groups, 11 Brethren groups, 8 Christian groups, 13 Adventist groups
and on it goes, and everyone has a distinctive stance on the Scriptures, on how to
worship, on special doctrines that are different from all the others. In fact, within
all those almost 200 denominational groups have further divided themselves into
fourteen major emphasis or differences that further divide the body of Christ.
These fourteen Evangelicalism groups in the United States indicate major
emphases or differences which describes themselves – Fundamentalists (personal
and ecclesiastical separationism); Dispensationalists (pretribulation and
premillennialism); Conservatives (inclusive of all evangelical groups who are
fundamentally conservatives); Reformed (Calvinism and Puritan flavors);
Anabaptist (peace movement, pacificism); Wesleyan (Arminianism); Holiness
(second work of grace); Pentecostal (gifts of tongues); Charismatic (gifts of the
Holy Spirit); Black (black consciousness); Progressive (openness toward most
everything); Radical (moral, social and political consciousness); Mainline (historic
consciousness at least back to the Reformation); and Nondenominational (unity of
Christ). Thirteen of the fourteen have a particular emphasis which divides
themselves from each other in the Body of Christ.
Only one, the Nondenominational group, has a distinctive emphasis majoring on
the unity of the church, and the restoration of New Testament Christianity.3

Then there are the four major traditions of Evangelicalism – the Baptist tradition
(Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ, Plymouth Brethren, Independent
Frank S. Mead, revised by Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 1951, 1996
3 Handbook of Denominations, Appendix A: Subcultural evangelical groups major emphasis
Fundamental Churches, Bible churches, Seventh Adventist, World Wide Church of
God, Church of God International); the Holiness-Pentecostal tradition (Holiness,
Church of God, Church of God Anderson, IN, Wesleyan Church, Church of the
Nazarene, Church of Christ, Church of God Cleveland TN, Church of God of
Prophesy, Full Gospel Church, Assemblies of God Church; Reformed –
Confessional tradition (Christian Reformed, Orthodox Presbyterian, Lutheran,
Missouri Synod, Evangelical Luteran); and the Anabaptist tradition (Mennonite
Church, Mennonite USA, Brethren in Christ, Evangelical Mennonite church,
Evangelical Friends Alliance of churches).
As one looks at several other divisions and subdivisions and differences within the
body of Christ (as seen in other appendixes of the Handbook of Denominations)
one suddenly gets a terrific headache. Why are there so many variations within the
body of Christ. Jesus had one little group that followed him, and now we have
hundreds who seem to be divided while following Jesus.
In the church world today there seems to be many flaws; placing special emphasis,
or doing things in so many very different ways, but if they are following Christ,
they are of the body of Christ. Jesus addressed this with his disciples when his
disciples came to him saying, “Master”, said John, “we saw a man driving out
demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do
not stop him” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”5
John says “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This
is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is
already in the world.”6
There are a few churches and even denominations that are declaring themselves to
be “welcoming churches” a part of the progressive Christianity movement being
all inclusive, tolerant, accepting and affirming of sinfulness that Scripture teaches
against. Those groups who have declared themselves in such a way, indicates they
have declared themselves to be outside the body of Christ – or antichrists. That is
not to say that there are no believers in those groups. I believe that in every church
there is a nucleus of God fearing, Christ believing people, in most of those
churches. God always has a remnant; God will someway, somehow show Himself
to the world, regardless of how dark and how misguided His people are.
4 Handbook of Denominations, Appendix B – Four traditions of Evangelicalism
Luke 9:49-50
6 1 John 4:3
God is putting together a body of Christ, fit vessels for His service, in most of
these diverse groups. The cross of Christ, the shed blood of Jesus takes away our
impurities, often one by one, and makes us vessels of honor to Him. We are not
there yet, in fact we seem to be farther away than in Westley’s time, and during the
reformer’s times. Yet, God is working toward sweeping away our bad attitudes that
spoils the unity of the body of Christ. Because we are imperfect vessels, God must
work on us as a potter works with a marred piece of clay until all the imperfections
disappear and we become a fitting vessel in the body of Christ. Jeremiah says it
like this: “But the vessel that he was shaping from the clay became flawed in his
hand; so he formed it into another vessel, as it seemed best for him to do.”
I believe that God wants the body of Christ to be in complete harmony and unity,
but it will take time to see that happen. Finite man has so many ideas of what is
right and what is wrong, and what is best. Many just are not there yet. It seems that
we are like infants in Christ. Paul speaking to the Corinthian church, he could not
address them as spiritual because they were so worldly, mere infants in Christ. He
said to them they were not ready for the meat of the Word, so he would give them
milk because they were just not ready.
I believe today we are a lot like the
Corinthian church Paul was talking about. We are too worldly to fully comprehend
the spiritual heritage Jesus purchased for us.
The Corinthian church was like our church today. They were developing
divisional groups (like our denominations today); they were quarreling and jealous.
One says I follow Paul another says I follow Apollos (I’m Baptist, I’m Methodist,
I’m Church of God, I’m Mennonite, and on and on). Paul said he laid a foundation,
and someone else is building upon that foundation he built. Paul also says that we
should be careful how we build. We should build only on the foundation laid by
Jesus Christ.
I believe most of those denominations we cited above started building upon the
foundation of Jesus Christ. However, with man’s additions (mostly to make the
group better, for the examples of Luther and Wesley) became more man’s views
than God’s views. Man is so different in his thinking, many of these denominations
or faith groups were formed because of man’s thinking. I believe that’s why Paul
is warning the Corinthians why they should be careful in our building. We need to
be careful what we build, it must be built upon the solid rock – Jesus Christ and
follow his teachings. Many denominations were started to do just that, but over
Jeremiah 18:4
8 1 Corinthians 3:1-16
time man-made ideas, rules, customs, and ways of doing things, the body has
become divided.
The welcoming churches and progressive Christianity ideas apart from the solid
foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word is nothing but hay and straw which will
be burned in the fire. It will not stand. Only the church built on the solid
foundation of Jesus Christ prevails against the strongholds of the devil.
Paul also says to the Ephesian Christians of his day, “As a prisoner of the Lord,
then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be
completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make
ever effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one
body and one Spirit – just as you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each
one of us grace has been given as Christ has apportioned it.”9
We have a lot of differences, traditions, interpretations of Scripture, beliefs about
the tribulation and the millennia, and a thousand and one other things. However,
we have been encouraged by Paul to the Philippians by saying, “If you have any
encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any
fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy
complete by being like-minded, having the same love being one in spirit and
purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility
consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your
own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus.”10
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, says we are not to lose heart. “We have treasure in jars of
clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us. We are
hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry
around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed
in our body.”11
Again Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though we are
outwardly wasting away, ye inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
I will never lose heart. I will never stop working toward the unity of the faith in the
body of Christ for as long as I live on this earth – I will advocate majoring on the
9 Ephesians 4:1-7
10 Philippians 2:1-5
11 2 Corinthians 4:1, 7-10
unity of the church; a restoration of New Testament Christianity, but I know I will
never receive that unity until Jesus comes to make us one in Him. The one thing I
can do is follow the advice of Paul – by loving the Lord in humility, not of my own
selfish ambition or vain conceit, to try as best I can to show the same attitude as
Christ. I can keep on hoping for the unity of the faith; to see the body of Christ
whole and powerful as God has it intended to be. I am only one person. I have no
illusional ideas that I can change the segmented and fragmentary body of Christ,
but this one thing I can do, I can follow Jesus as best I can and keep praying for
that unity in the body of Christ, for there is only One body in Christ. I am looking
forward to that day when we all can realize that we in Christ are one!
No more Baptist, no more Methodist, no more Presbyterians, no more Lutherans,
no more Pentecostals, no more Holiness, no more Catholics, but sharing our love
of Christ with true brother and sisters in Christ. I am looking for that day!
Praise the Lord!
JB103122 (505 years after the Prostestant Reformation

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