By Gynnath Ford
There is a very popular idea that religious people cannot agree. This idea is untrue in the light of present practice and Bible teaching. There are certain things in God’s Word and present-day practice that lead me to believe you and I can agree in religion.
In the days that the New Testament was being written, there was harmony and agreement among God’s people. The Bible clearly teaches this. It was the plan of God, Christ, and the Holy spirit that it should be this way.
PRAYER OF CHRIST
Among the last words spoken by Christ before he went to Calvary were these:
Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me” (John 17:11-21).
When we examine these words we find that there were two groups of people for whom Christ prayed. First, he prayed for his chosen apostles, that they may be one as he and the Father were one. Secondly, he prayed for them also which shall believe on him through the word of the apostles that they may be one as he and the Father were one. He prayed for his apostles; he prayed for you and me. We are the ones who believe on him through the word of the apostles. Certainly we agree on this. If not, how did you believe on the Lord? Certainly it was through the words written in the Bible. He prayed that we may be one! His prupose was the highest that could be had. We read, “…that the world may believe that thou has sent me” (John 17:21). A oneness of Christ’s followers leads the world to believe that God sent his Son to die for sinful man. Many are the heathen who failed to believe because a missionary came from one church and preached on thing: another came from another church and preached something contrary and different to the first. How can God be the author of such confusion? He is not! It is a reflection upon man and not upon God. The message is pure, the messenger is faulty. Will we believe that Christ prayed for something that is impossible? Never! We really can be one, we can agree.
HOW ARE WE TO BE ONE?
Christ said that we are to be one as he and the Father are one. Hence the question arises, how are He and the Father one? Christ and the Father are one in will and word. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). Christ was perfect. He never sinned, hence he never lied. He really did the will of the Father. He and the Father were one in will! This is clearly shown when Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). We can be assured that when Jesus spoke we heard the word of the Father. They were one in word! Christ’s words were the Father’s words. We understand then how we are to be one. We are to be one in the will and words of the Father and the Son.
THE APOSTLES WERE ONE
Christ prayed that they may be one as He and the Father were one. (John 17:11). He gave them the Holy Spirit to guide them into that oneness.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
They had a guide that was perfect. He would bring to their remembrance everything Jesus had spoken unto them. He would teach them all things.
When they began to speak they spoke the words of Christ as they were guided by the holy Ghost. Peter, Paul, James, and John all preached the same gospel. They were all guided by the same Holy Spirit. Read as Paul speaks of unity and oneness.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). “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 and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
This is the oneness that prevailed at the time of the Apostle Paul. The body is the church and there was one at that time. In that same letter we read: “…And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
We learn that God gave Christ to be the head of the church, which is his body. “And He is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18).
The Bible teaches that the body is the church. There is one body, hence there is one church. Paul also says: “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (I Corinthians 4:17).
In the days of Paul the same thing was taught in every church and there was but one. This is what Christ prayed for.
CAN WE AGREE TODAY?
We can. There are many reasons why we say this.
1. Christ prayed that we may be one in will and word (John 17:20-21). Christ never prayed for an impossibility.
2. Paul cast a curse upon those who preached another gospel (Galatians 1:8-9). If it is impossible to preach the same gospel, then God is condemning us for doing something we cannot help doing.
3. Paul called upon the Corinthians to speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them (I Corinthians 1:10). He would not have asked them to do the impossible.
4. There was one church and one gospel in Paul’s day (Ephesians 4:4-6). If we were guided by the same Holy Spirit, there would be one today. Is this not reasonable?
5. Human experience and preaching today show that we can agree through the Word of God.
How can we be agreed when there are so many churches teaching so many different things? Let us notice something about the preaching in most churches. We are speaking to those who believe that the Bible, all of it, is God’s Word.
1. Most of the preachers and churches agree on the facts of the gospel.
2. Most of the preachers and churches agree on the promises of the gospel.
3. The primary source of division is in reference of the commands of the gospel. If we can agree on the facts and promises of the gospel, why not the commands?
FACTS OF THE GOSPEL
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:1-8).
The people with whom I have been associated agree that the facts of the gospel are the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the proper witnesses testifying to the same.
When the Apostle Paul was facing people who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, what was his attitude? In that same letter Paul said, “..yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16). In Athens he said, “…He (God) hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance of all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Their reaction to this preaching was, “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked…” (Acts 17:32). This did not keep Paul from preaching the gospel. Those who believe the Bible today will not refrain from preaching the gospel because others mock and persecute them. We must not “shun to declare all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
PROMISES OF THE GOSPEL
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Among those who believe the Bible it is generally agreed that Christ promises everlasting life.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” (Acts 3:19).
It is likewise agreed that the Lord promises to blot out your sins.
“And we are His witnesses of these things: and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:32).
It is agreed that Christ promises the Holy Ghost to all them that obey Him. We understand that this is not the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the miraculous outpouring that the apostles received. If so, we could do the things that this Holy Ghost baptism enabled them to do. It guided them into all truth (John 16:13). It does not give us that miraculous power to know all truth today; but we depend upon the Spirit’s sword, the Word of God, for our truth (Ephesians 6:17). If men were baptized with the Holy Ghost as were the apostles, they would need no Bible. They could write one. That is what those inspired men did. We agree upon the promises of the gospel.
COMMANDS OF THE GOSPEL
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
Religious people in general are agreed that faith is a command of the gospel. It must also be a faith that is coupled with repentance.
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
There are very few religious people that I have met who believe that man is saved before he repents. They may say he repents before he believes, but it is a rare case that says he is saved before he repents. Repentance is a command of the gospel. It is essential to salvation. My friend, we have agreed thus far; at least, those who believe the Bible are agreed on these points.
WHY HAVE WE AGREED?
Is it not because we can understand the facts and the promises of the gospel? We understand that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead, according to reliable witnesses. We understand that he promises us remission of sins, the Holy Ghost, and everlasting life. Who says we cannot understand the Bible? We do on these points. God is just. He asks us to obey Him and receive salvation (Matthew 7:21, Hebrews 5:8). He would not make His will impossible to understand. That would make Him responsible for our damnation. Who will believe it? Certainly it is not God’s fault if we be lost. The reason why we preach the same facts and promises of the gospel is because we preach just what the Bible says, no more and no less. How do we know or how can we preach that Christ was buried? The Bible tells us this hundreds of times. How can we know our buried body will arise? The Bible tells us this many times.
We can preach the same commands also by following the same plan. We preach the same facts because we preach what the Bible says. We preach the same promises because we preach what the Bible says. We can preach the same commands if we preach what the Bible says.
WHAT MOST CHURCHES PREACH
Most churches preach that faith and repentance are essential to salvation. What would happen if the pulpits of our land would ring with all the commands of the gospel? For example, what a revolution it would cause if preachers would stand and quote these scriptures without addition, subtraction, or substitution?
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost…” (Acts 2:38). “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Would not the reaction be the same as that of the eunuch in Acts 8:36 who said “…see, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Why is it that the pulpits are as silent as the tomb on this subject? Why do the large revival campaigns leave these great scriptures out of their preaching? Did Peter and Paul and Philip fail to speak on this great command of the Bible? Who is shunning to declare the whole counsel of God?
WE CAN AGREE
You can see how easy it would be to speak the same thing. It can be done only by telling the people what Jesus, Peter, and Paul told the people in New Testament days. What if one failed to tell that Christ arose from the dead? That would be a failure to preach the whole gospel. The same is true when one fails to tell people that baptism is essential to man’s salvation. What would happen if all the facts, commands, and promises of the gospel were preached by all men? We would be one as Christ and the Father were one, one in will and word. What would this lead to? It would lead to the salvation of souls. This is the only thing that preaching the whole gospel can lead to. It would lead to a destruction of denominationalism and division. We can agree if we tell people what the Bible says. We can agree on what the Bible calls followers of God. “And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:27). We can never agree upon the names, Methodist, Baptist, or Adventist. We can agree on the Bible name in the same manner as we agree on the facts of the gospel. The Bible gives us those. We now agree that Christ was buried. The Bible tells us so. We now agree that the buried body will arise. The Bible tells us so. We can in like manner agree that we are to be buried with the Lord in baptism. Why? The Bible tells us so. “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death…” (Romans 6:4). This is the way in which religious people can all speak the same thing. In New Testament times when men obeyed the gospel, the Lord added them to His church (Acts 2:47). If we did the same things today, we would be added to the same church. Then we could say as Paul said, “There is one body…” (Ephesians 4:4). May that be your desire.