One God, One People, One Mission
...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
The Apostolic Fellowship
THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF UNITY
By Bishop Jonathan B. Franklin
Psalms 133:1-3 Verse one says, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Ephesians 4:1-6 Verse Three says, ...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:11-16 Verse Thirteen says, ...till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
The three passages cited above are the only places in the Bible where the word ‘unity’ is found. I have cited from each place more scriptures than I have printed here. For the sake of context you may wish to read the entire reference.
Unity is the expectation of God for His people. The passages above tell us everything we need to know to attain and maintain unity, as well as what we can look for as the result of achieving unity. Notice if you please, that I have used the word ‘attain’ rather than ‘obtain’ where it comes to achieving unity. Unity is not something that we can get as though it were some commodity, but rather it is something that we come to, a state of being or existence, and that, only through much prayer and sacrifice. This is why it is such an elusive thing. Unity must be created, and then it must be cultivated. It can never be taken for granted, or in any way neglected.
God would not expect unity if it were not within our capacity to achieve. Unity is only possible in an atmosphere of absolute yieldedness to the proposition of holiness. James 3:16 says, where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. Envy and strife are the opposite of unity. Envy and strife come from selfish interests which can never glorify God. And yet we see in the church more of envy and strife than we do of unity. Like holiness, like unity. You either have it or you don’t. It is either full, or non existent. Ninety nine and a half won’t do.
Unity is defined as the state of being one. It is the condition of accord or agreement; The combination or arrangement of parts into a whole; Singleness or constancy of purpose or action.
Aristotle describes this phenomenon as the ‘principle of identity’. He speaks of an identity based upon the unity of time, action, and place. Surely he must have read where it says, And when the day of Pentecost was fully come (the time), they were all with one accord (the action) in one place (the place was the upper room) Acts 2:1. You know the rest of that story. From that time forward, those present in that upper room shared a common identity, because of a common experience. … they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4). This common experience gave them the basis of a common unity. Compounded, it made them a ‘community’. A unique and distinct community, unlike any community that had ever existed before. On that same Day of Pentecost, at that same upper room, three thousand more souls were identified with that community through the same common experience.
Wherever you find people sharing a common experience they tend to bind themselves together into what Aristotle calls groupoids. Sociology calls them people groups. Others just call them communities. These communities will select a name, and everyone with the experience that is common to that group identifies themselves by the name which the group selected.
Today, those of us who have the same experience as the original one hundred an twenty disciples in that upper room are identified with that community. That community is called ‘The Apostolic Church. There is no more appropriate name for it, because we, like they, …continue stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42). With good reason we are very leary of those who are reluctant to be identified by that name.
Peter and Paul had a unity problem. God had made gentiles a part of the apostolic community by virtue of the common experience, repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them (gentile converts) witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us (Jewish believers); (see Acts 15:7-9). Peter was willing to fellowship with the saints …who were in time past gentiles… as long as it was just gentiles there. When the other Jews showed up Peter acted as though he was not in it, and so the unity was broken. Peter made a choice of who he wanted to be identified with. Sadly enough, he made his choice based on natural or carnal considerations and not on spiritual ones. He could not bear to be called an ‘Uncle Tom’. Other, more insidious reasons have caused fellowship to be lost down through the history of the Church until this day.
Synonymous with the word unity are union, solidarity, and homogeneity. These nouns all refer to the condition of oneness. Which thing we claim to be as Oneness Pentecostals. What tells on us is the fact that we claim ‘oneness' based on our understanding of who God is, and yet we fail to cultivate solidarity with one another for reasons which we feel justified in offering as to why we do not walk together as people of a common experience.
The light seems to have come on in Peter’s head at some point. Perhaps at Paul’s rebuke of his hypocritical actions (See Galatians 2:11-14). He even seems to acknowledge this In 2 Peter 3:14-16 where he writes,
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Our claim to be ‘oneness Pentecostals’ is further challenged by John the apostle when he asks this question, If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20). As my Pastor says, "Love is, what Love does".
What amazes me most, is that we have lost sight of the fact that it was unity that facilitated our common experience in the first place. The 'Day of Pentecost' saw a critical mass of divine synergy at work in the hearts of a chosen people. But somehow, We seem to feel that if we can produce the experience, the unity will take care of itself. History has proven this to be a gross miscalculation. The apostolic Church of these last days, is like the proverbial “…man who once flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions”. Peter's words in Galatians 3:3 are very telling of this matter: Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
This is because we, like Peter, on that occasion, far too often base our identity on carnal considerations and not on the spiritual experience of knowing God. We break fellowship with one another over racial and cultural differences, and over such things as what we hold to be essential 'standards', and even styles of worship. As Peter told Paul, we ...are to be blamed. Every 'apostolic' group has played a role in the failure to achieve the condition of unity that God requires to produce revival. God would not release the power of the Holy Ghost into the earth until a people came together and waited on Him together in prayer and worship. And when God was satisfied that this people could be entrusted with such an awesome responsibility, the power fell. Unity requires a concerted effort. But I wonder do we consider it to be worth the effort. The text tells us that it most certainly is. “…for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore (Psalm 133).
The Church has changed, but God has not. It is imperative that we return to …endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As elusive as it may be, unity is just as essential to the success of the church. It is only through a unified church that the true work of God can be done. The artificial methods and synthesized atmosphere of today’s prosperous Church cannot possibly accomplish the monumental task that God has assigned to His Church. We are called by God to make a difference in this world. Saving souls, healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead will in no wise be accomplished with sugary substitutes to the unadulterated preaching and living out, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years of church existence has yielded minimal results.
We now find ourselves facing the end of the age of grace with its attendant anti-Christ system. We find ourselves (the apostolic movement) like Samson when, after he had squandered his anointing on carnal pleasure, thought to shake himself as before only to realize that the power which once served him so well was no longer at his disposal. When we look at the horrific condition of our nation, how can we not realize that it is the failure of the Church to bring the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear upon society that has produced this condition. Homosexual marriage, homicide in out streets, but no homogeneity in the Church. We nned a move of God. And as eighteenth century preacher Charles Finney wrote, "Revival is no more an accident than is a crop of wheat". The seed is in the hand, the ground is ready to receive it, and God is ready to send the rain upon it.
Samson was able to prevail upon God for one more demonstration of the power. With it He bought down the Philistine Temple. Time is of the essence. We must make unity the reality that God intends for it to be. As we continue to come together, and stand together, we can make a difference! The earth has yet to see what God produce through His people if they would only set our eyes on things which are above, instead of looking at the things of this world. As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 We must fight to overcome our differences, we must produce the God ordained ...unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Every demon of division must be put from among us. This not at all to suggest that we must cease to be who we are as organizational entities. Indeed, each organization brings to the table something that constitutes an essential ingredient in God's recipe for world evangelism. As individual organizations, we are very limited in our capability to effect the spiritual reality. But, if we stand together, "One God, One People, One Mission" Then God will be glorified in us. of God.