“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
– Psalm 133:1 (NASB)


For most professing Christians in America, the religion we practice is such a relatively comfortable and unthreatening experience that we often are oblivious to two fundamental realities: 1) Christians exist outside our geographic boundaries, and 2) the experience of those believers is not as safe or protected as ours.

Sunday mornings have become so rote and quotidian to us that we assume such is the case for all believers everywhere. The irony, however, is that for many Christians in America, “everywhere” is limited primarily to our personal ecclesial footprint. That is, the silo, if you will, that is our local church experience (if we belong to a local church at all).

The New Testament describes believers in Christ as a body.

This metaphor is first used by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

The noun “body”, sōma in the Greek, denotes a number, regardless of size, of individuals who are closely united into one society, or family, as it were. We see this oneness exemplified in the early church in such texts as Acts 4:32a, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The oneness that is spoken of in the book of Acts is not man-induced or man-centered, but is the supernatural fruit of God’s monergistic work of spiritual regeneration in the hearts of His elect (Jn. 1:12-13).

But that was the early church.

Where is that oneness to be found, if at all, today?

“Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.” – C.H. Spurgeon

Scan the landscape of the evangelical church in 2018 America and one would be hard-pressed to believe that we are in fact a unified body. Yes, by definition, believers are a “body” by virtue of what Christ’s atoning and propitiatory work accomplished on the cross (Eph. 2:14-15). That much is an immutable fact (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27). Nevertheless, the question remains: are we unified in His body?

One could argue – perhaps without much difficulty – that we are not.

Socio-political schisms continue to foster an ever-widening chasm that is dividing the body of Christ along ethnic and ideological lines. Conversely, ongoing debates over the role of women in the church are partitioning believers across various denominations and credal persuasions. It’s as if the prayer Jesus offered to His Father in Jn. 17:21a was in fact never uttered, “…that they may all be one…” I need not remind you that the words ‘they’ and ‘all’ are referring to those who have been adopted into the body of Christ and that without regard to any aesthetic or temporal qualifier such as ethnicity, gender, or socio-political ideology or philosophy.

“There is but one God, and they that serve Him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love.” – Thomas Watson

Let us heed the words of Spurgeon and Watson.

None of us is a body of one.

God created us not only to need Him but to need each other as well (Gen. 2:18a; Eccl. 4:12Gal. 6:2; 1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 10:24-25).

It is one thing for believers in Christ to view themselves as a body in terms of orthodoxy, yet quite another in terms of orthopraxy. To put it differently, if you and I who profess to belong to Christ’s body are not loving one another in ways that serve to unify His body, of what good is it to belong – or claim to belong – to His body at all (1 Jn. 3:18)?

This unity of which I am speaking is of such importance to Christ, that the same sense of oneness He shares eternally with His Father is what He desires for us, His body, the church (Jn. 17:20-22). That you and I belong to Christ and not to ourselves (1 Cor. 6:19-20), likewise means that we belong to those who are of Christ’s body and not to ourselves (Gal. 5:13).

How it must grieve the heart of God to see those for whom His Son died to rescue from a world that is perishing, behaving toward one another in ways that make us indistinguishable from a world that is perishing (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Jn. 2:17).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

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Written by Darrell B. Harrison

Darrell Harrison is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He currently resides in Covington, Georgia (about 45 miles east of Atlanta). Darrell attends Rockdale Community Church, a Reformed Baptist congregation located in the Atlanta suburb of Conyers, Georgia. Darrell is a 2013 Fellow of the Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) of Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a 2015 graduate of the Theology and Ministry program at Princeton Theological Seminary. Darrell studied at the undergraduate level at Liberty University, where he majored in Psychology with a concentration in Christian Counseling. Darrell was the first African-American to be ordained as a Deacon in the 200-year history of First Baptist Church of Covington (Georgia) where he attended from 2009 to 2015. He is an ardent student of theology and apologetics, and enjoys reading theologians such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, and B.B. Warfield. Darrell is an advocate of expository teaching and preaching, and has a particular passion for seeing expository preaching become the standard within the Black Church.

8 comments

  1. Darrell,
    I love your thoughtful posts. This one provoked me to think deeply about what you’ve posited here. These are some of my musings…
    Will there not always be division, even within the one body, until Christ returns? How is the church to remain pure if error is not addressed?
    The same scriptures that promote unity in the body also recognize that there will be tares among the wheat. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:18, 19
    For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
    So, striving for unity while upholding God’s holy word, we see all manner of heresy addressed from the early days of the church, including the role of women in the church. (I can’t help but think that Paul might have ruffled more than a few feathers with, “I do not permit a woman to teach.) The correction of error in the early church is pretty much the bulk of the New Testament, is it not?
    Now, if you are only saying that when we address error in the body we must remain humble, I’m down with that! I have to say, though, that most of the vitriol spewed over women’s roles in the church seems to come from those who promote a position not supported by scripture.
    Again, we love you blog. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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