All One Body?
I read to you from the first chapter of Colossians, beginning to read at the 24th verse. These are words written by Paul, but they are, in fact, the Word of God. “Now, I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is the church of which I became a minister according to the Divine Office which was given to me for you to make the Word of God fully known. The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to His saints. To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this, I toil. Striving with all the energy which He mightily inspires within me.”
Soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, oh, God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
One my favorite hymns is “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” I love to sing that hymn. It stirs my spirit. But I want to confess to you that there is a part of that hymn that makes me a trifle uncomfortable. You see, there’s a line in that hymn which says something which is not true. You may know the line of which I speak. Singing of the church, we, in the words of that hymn, say, “We are not divided. All one body we. One in hope and doctrine. One in charity.”
That just is not true. Not yet. But one day, it will be. And that is what I wish to speak with you about for a few moments today, this destined unity of the church of Jesus Christ.
And the first point that I wish to make is this. Those words, “we are not divided, all one body we,” speak of a unity which shall surely come.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so. There are literally dozens and dozens of passages of Scripture which affirmed this promised unity of the church. I’ve selected just one of them, this verse that I read for you from first chapter of Colossians where Paul says, “We proclaim Christ, warning every man, teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man mature in Christ.” Three times in a single verse, he uses the words, every man. It’s obvious that he is stressing the unity of all people in Christ. Paul is saying, in essence, Christ is for everybody. And there will come a day when everybody will be for Christ. That unity has not come as yet, but it will come. It’s God’s will. And it is the promise of Jesus Christ.
Now, that leads me then to make a second point with you now. Those words, we are not divided, all one body we, speak of a unity which does not eliminate our differences.
It’s very important for us to understand that. We are different. Every single one of us here. No two people in the sound of my voice now are alike. Every single one of us is absolutely unique, made that way by God. Taste, temperament, language, culture, climate, thought patterns, lifestyles, all of these things move together by the power of God’s Spirit to make us unique as individuals. We are all different. And God made us that way. But so what?
I mean, you know, if you have a large group of people, all of whom are different, and they all proceed to begin singing a song, but all of them singing a different song, you know what the result is going to be? It’s going to be chaos and a most unpleasant noise. But if, on the other hand, you take a large crowd of people, all of whom are different – oh, some of them are sopranos and some basses and some tenors and some altos and then you throw in a few monotones like I am, but if you take that group of people with their differences, and let them begin to sing the same song, well, then, their differences are woven through harmony into great and beautiful music. That is a parable of the unity of the church. We are different. Christ, in His church, does not want a flat uniformity. He doesn’t want us all to look alike and think alike and act alike. No. We are different. He made us that way. But He does want us to respect one another’s differences. He wants us to use our differences to sing the same song.
And that leaves me to ask, why is it that churches and denominations and Christian groups all over the place spend so much time criticizing one another and downgrading one another and carping at one another and undercutting one another? Why? I mean, out there beyond us, there is a whole world of people who need the loving embrace and the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ. Why is it that the church and denominations and Christian groups spend their time criticizing one another, rather than supporting one another’s efforts to evangelize that world? Why can’t we just accept the fact that we’re different, that God made us that way? And because we are different, there’ll always going to be different churches and different denominations and different Christian groups. Because people are different, and therefore, they’re going to respond to different expressions of the faith. Some of them will respond to the Presbyterian perspective of the faith. Others will respond to the Baptist perspective. And others to the Pentecostal perspective. And others, the Roman Catholic perspective. And on and on, I could go. Why can’t we understand that we are all different and we will respond to different expressions of the faith?
But we can take those differences and begin to use them in harmony to produce glad and beautiful music. I want to tell you straight from the heart that I believe that there are so many people in our world who need Jesus Christ. And there is so little time left to get to them that I believe it is nothing less than a sin for churches and denominations and Christian groups to waste their spiritual and emotional and physical resources criticizing and attacking one another.
One of the earnest prayers that I hold for our television ministry of “The Certain Sound” is that, well, not necessarily that it will build up the Presbyterian Church, but rather, that that television ministry will share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in our world who do not know Him and claim Him as Lord. And not only that, but that that ministry will confront Christians of other denominations or persuasions and encourage them to make a deeper commitment of themselves to the churches of which they are a part, whatever those churches happen to be. And you know, wonder of wonders? The response that we get to “The Certain Sound” indicates that that just may be happening. You see, when Christians acknowledge their differences, but then, with those differences, begin to sing the same song, the song of Jesus Christ, the result is harmony and beautiful music.
But that then leads me to the third point that I wish to make. It’s this. When we sing, “we are not divided, all one body we.” We are speaking of a unity which is actually taking place this very day.
You see, there’s some people who say that this unity of the church is a pipe dream. It’ll never happen. That’s what they say. I disagree with that. I believe it will happen. And I believe it will happen because of what I see happening today, this very day. You see, this day is known as Worldwide Communion Sunday. It’s the one time when all Christians in all churches, in all the world, do the same thing at the same time. You’re aware of that. But that’s the truth. It began last night about the time that you and I were sitting down for our evening meal. Christians in Australia and New Zealand and China and Korea and Japan were just, at that moment, beginning to gather at the table to the Lord. And then, last night, about the time that you and I were about to retire for the evening, Christians in India, in Thailand, in Indonesia, and Bangladesh began to break the bread and drink the cup. And then after midnight, in the darkest hours of our night here, just at that time, Christians in places like Egypt and Ethiopia and Lebanon and Zaire were beginning to hear those matchless words, “This do in remembrance of Me.” And then not long before the dawn here in Florida, in Great Britain and France and Austria and Italy and Greece, people began to gather about the Lord’s table. So that today, in Scandinavia and in South America, and even in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, yes, in every nation on the face of the Earth, Christians have come to this table. Isn’t that remarkable to think that wherever you look in the world today, you find Christians doing precisely what we are doing here?
Now, there are differences. Oh, yes. There are differences about what we believe about what happens at that table, make no mistake about that. But yet in spite of those differences, today, we all partake of the same elements. We all hear the same words from the pages of Scripture. We all think the same thoughts. We’re all conscious of the same needs. We all look to the same Savior. And my friends, if, with our differences, we can all do the same thing on one day, then I ask you, why not every day?
So Jesus said to you and to me, “I,” He said, “If I be lifted up, I shall draw all people unto Myself.” That’s what He said. And in His name, I am calling us now to lift up this Jesus, not just here in church, but in our everyday lives, to lift up this Jesus. We can all do that no matter what our particular church preference may be. Be it Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Episcopalian or Lutheran or Free Church or Nazarene or Pentecostal or Roman Catholic, it doesn’t matter. All of us can do that one thing together. All Christians, whoever they may happen to be, all Christians can lift up Jesus Christ. And if we do that in our lives, you and I, every day that we live, well, then, we shall hasten the day when, “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.”
Let us pray. Almighty and most gracious God, let the great unity of Jesus Christ sweep into our lives and tie us tightly to one another, and then let that unity spread from our lives to all people. Christ is for everyone. Let us, in our daily living, hasten the day when everyone will be for Christ. Amen.