“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, NKJV)
Disputes over personal liberties had strained relations between brethren in the church at Rome. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write a lengthy explanation of the Lord’s will so they would “receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The weakness of which he speaks describes personal scruples of conscience over matters indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3, 5). Such differences are not to become wedges of disruption among the saints. Since God receives Christians who hold different consciences in matters He treats as indifferent (like dietary choices), so must we (Rom. 14:2-6, 7-13). Far from endorsing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (as many assert by misusing this passage), the apostle advocates unity of diverse consciences over liberties approved by God. (Morality and doctrine are not issues of indifference to God; therefore, they do not fit here, Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9.) The critical condemnation of personal liberties must cease (Rom. 14:13)! We avoid being stumbling blocks and we exemplify Christ’s acceptance of us by receiving (welcoming) one another with our different conscientious scruples over (non-sinful) liberties. Christ’s unselfish sacrifice and God’s “patience and comfort” toward us are landmarks to imitate so we may be “like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:1-3, 5). This glorifies God.
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NKJV)
Jesus prayed for the unity of those who believe on Him through the words of His apostles in John 17:20. In fact, He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jno. 17:21). The plans for unity men have devised are a far cry from this. Many Protestant denominations advocate some form of ecumenism (or in today’s vernacular, “acceptance” and “inclusion”), both doctrinal and moral. This is unity in diversity, which essentially means we will “agree on the core issues of the gospel and agree to disagree on everything else.” The Father and the Son do not agree to disagree (see John 17:21). Our question is: Who decides what are the core issues of the gospel? You? Me? A church? A council of churches? Someone else? Very problematic. The lowest common denominator prevails in these quasi-unity movements. The apostle Paul said Christians must endeavor to keep (watch, guard) the unity that proceeds from the Spirit of God, and to do so with the uniting principle or bond of peace (v. 3). The Holy Spirit has revealed the gospel of Christ that calls us all to partake of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:4-6). We will find our answers to what Bible unity looks like in the Bible, not in the creeds of churches and the philosophies of men (Col. 2:8).
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19–22, NKJV)
Zealously justifying division into hundreds and hundreds of different churches with opposing doctrines, worship practices and polity, Protestant denominationalism says the church is comprised of many churches (denominations). Today’s passage shows the Scriptural futility and error of this rationale. The household of God (the church) is the “whole building” that is “fitted together” to form “a holy temple of the Lord” (v. 19-21). God has one temple, one church. God’s temple is not a collection of many temples (different denominations), it is built of “living stones” (Christians, 1 Peter 2:5). Christians, not denominations, constitute the temple in which God dwells. Instead of defending unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (which is the essence of denominationalism), we urge our religious friends to choose the divine wisdom of unity in truth (John 17:20-21). Just as God has one temple, even so there is one church that belongs to Christ to which the saved are added (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). Additional churches are of men, not of God.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
Of this passage, David Whitehead, Senior Pastor, GraceNYC.org, wrote, “even though there may be variations of Christian belief, they are all tethered to one hope, Jesus Christ. This means that the church should be a place of unity with diversity” (theDailyBibleVerse.org). Faith, he says, is expressed in different ways, even as that faith comes from one source. Surely, he must know that one source of faith does not produce different expressions of faith, any more than one source of water yields both fresh and bitter water (James 3:11). Whitehead continues, “the day will come when that source will call us together” (Ibid.). The apostle Paul is not describing an aspirational anticipation of future events. He is describing the present reality. Far from this being an endorsement of ecumenical “unity with diversity,” it is a bold declaration of the platform of truth upon which we are “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Unity in Christ has one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. Without this platform of truth in place, unity in Christ does not, and will not, exist – even when diversity is excused, and even celebrated.
By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. (1 Peter 5:12, NKJV)
Peter’s first epistle identifies and testifies of the true grace of God in which Christians stand. We take it as axiomatic, that since there is “the true grace of God,” there is also false grace that is not of God. False teachers, by their false gospels, turn people away from the true grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). For instance, the doctrine of irresistible grace offers false grace, since it is evident the grace of God can indeed be resisted through unbelief (Acts 7:51). The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (the impossibility of apostasy) offers false grace, since Scripture says Christians can fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). The doctrine of unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (ecumenism) offers false grace, by allowing one to continue in his sin, while assuring him of grace despite his sins (Romans 6:1-2; 2 John 9-11). On the other hand, the true grace of God provides salvation to all people through the gospel (Titus 2:11-12). It teaches us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The “word of His grace” has power to save (Acts 20:32). But, only when we access God’s grace through an obedient faith in Christ (read Romans 5:1-2; 6:17-18).