One Body In Christ – 1
Chapter 1: Our Present Dilemma
Europeans and Americans, having been under the divided conditions of the existing system of Christian churches for many centuries, find it almost impossible to grasp an idea quite different from what they have known. Especially is this true since the European civilization is dominated by the influence of the Greek and Roman civilizations. Western Christianity could not help being also strongly influenced by these cultures.
Under Roman man influence Christianity became very institutional, while Greek culture produced strong theological and philosophical tendencies. The result has been, on the one hand, splendid growth in missionary expansion on and theological expressions, but on the other hand, a. unfortunate spread of sectarianism and institutionalism. Our background in the Orient has been different; therefore, we may have something to contribute to the understanding of the Body of Christ.
What I shall say is written out of the measure of faith revealed to me through the Word of God by the Holy Spirit. However, it is not merely the product of speculation, but the result of my life-long experience with fellow believers. Far from being purely theory or speculation, this seemingly fantastic and abstract idea can be realized in actual experience as it has been for many years in Japan.
The Sin of Divisions among Christians
There are many foreign missionaries today in Japan who have come from different churches and groups as well as from different countries. The number of denominations and sects seems countless to the average Japanese, for there are over a hundred so-called “Christian” groups. Each have their own unique doctrine or organization by which they distinguish
and separate themselves from others. Though some of them are quite tolerant, and willing to cooperate with others, some are very intolerant.
Naturally the Japanese people as a whole are amazed and often disgusted by the divisions and squabblings of those who profess to know the love of God. This cannot be passed off simply as the Japanese ignorance of the church, for many Japanese have found from reading the Bible itself that this condition is contrary to the fundamental teaching of the Word of God.
The Ekklesia (translated “Church” in the English edition of the Holy Scriptures) is the Body of Christ1. As Head, Christ governs, commands and directs His Body, composed as it is of many members with different gifts or functions. Each member is connected to the Head directly, and thus all members enjoy fellowship with each other through their relationship to Him.
Just as faith in Christ is a new spiritual life in Him, so the Body is a spiritual organism. This makes the construction of the human body and its members very similar to the essential nature of the Ekklesia of Christ. Indeed, the Body of Christ, though not physical, is not less real and practical than our human bodies. Thus, the Ekklesia has real existence, and is one Body, and for no reason should be divided. As a human body cannot live when it is divided into parts, so the Body of Christ cannot live when it is sectionalized. A divided Church is no Church at all in the New Testament sense.
Yet today, to our deep grief, the Church is divided into hundreds of sects. Though most of them do not openly dare to boast themselves to be the only true Ekklesia, still each of them acts as if it were the only Body of Christ. Having lost sight of the true nature of the Ekklesia, the present day church is divided in spirit and tends to dissipate its strength in fruitless activity and worldly display. And still more to be feared is the fact that the church does not realize this dangerous condition, and division after division continues without end.
The serious practical consequences of this condition are more and more obvious. Since the end of the war the innumerable sects of the United States have each been sending missionaries to convert the Japanese to their particular sect–even to the extent of pulling members out of other churches into their own group.
The Japanese are at a loss to know which sect is right in its claim to represent the real Christianity. Those who are already Christians are often shaken in faith and hindered in their spiritual growth. Some are led into serious confusion by those missionaries who insist that all Christians who do not hold their particular doctrines are in error.
Even in Corinth where Paul evangelized for a year and a half, contentions broke out among the Christians, who were saying either, “I am in Paul’s group,” “I am in Apollo’s,” “I am a Cephian,” or “I am just a Christian.” Paul said they were carnal and pleaded that they “speak with one voice and not allow themselves to be split up into parties.” Rather, Paul said, they ought to agree perfectly in thought and judgment. He gave the same strong admonition in several other cases, e.g., I Cor. 1:10, 16; 15:5-6; Phil.1:27; 2:2; 4:2, etc.
Far from being of the same mind and judgment, the denominations and sects each have their own banners or trademarks, and boast of their superiority to others, even trying to pull the believers of other churches to themselves. They think that only in this way can they be loyal to the Lord, because they believe that Christianity is represented by their sect alone.
These sects and denominations, with no qualms over “stealing sheep” from other folds, seem more concerned with converting men to their own group than to Christ. Thus Paul’s admonitions are so utterly neglected that the Ekklesia of God is now divided into hundreds of sects and denominations and has fallen into fatal disorder.
What is at the heart of this–what is wrong? All this confusion and disaster is the result of mistaken and false ideas as to the essential nature of the Ekklesia. Each church or sect emphasizes its peculiarities as the principal elements of Christian faith, and condemns others who cannot agree. As a result, Christianity is heading down a path of endless division, and nobody knows what the end of this path will be.
To clear up present confusion, and to show how Christians may all live as one in Christ, it is necessary to rediscover the real center of Christianity. Let us learn what God has made the center of our relationship to Him so that we might make it the center of our faith. Only in this way will the present sin of a divided Christianity be brought to an end.
First, however, it will be helpful to look back and see what has been taken as the center of Christianity in history. In doing so, however, keep in mind that the word “center” is meant to be understood as “the most essential element” of the Christian faith. It might be better to use the word “nucleus” or “essence” instead of “center,” but trusting the reader will understand the word “center” as meaning the “essential element,” this word will be used hereafter.
1Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:15,16; 5:23-27, 32; Col. 1: 18; 2:19.