Editor’s Introduction -- By: Jonathan Armstrong
RAR 8:3 (Summer 1999) p. 7
The church of Christ is truly one! We do not confess in vain when we profess to believe “in the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints....” There really should be no question about this. It is a matter of divine revelation. Period. The very words of our Lord’s prayer to the Father express this reality plainly:
Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me; and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:24–26).
The unity of the family of believers is the very purpose of our Lord’s prayer in John 17. It is His desire, not that of some man-made organization, that believers—past, present and future—be united in love (cf John 13:35). And the apostle openly declares: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). The body of Jesus Christ is not Baptist, Methodist, Reformed, Lutheran, Roman, Greek, or otherwise. It is one, and it is His!
But when evangelicals, properly taught allegiance to the written Scriptures, think of the church, the first thing that usually comes to their minds is a local congregation, as emphasized by our Lord in Matthew 18:15–20. Or, if they think of the church beyond this understanding, they see it as universal, invisible (to everyone but God of course)
RAR 8:3 (Summer 1999) p. 8
and consisting of all the elect throughout all the centuries. The last thing that comes to evangelical minds is the idea of some kind of organizational expression of Christian unity; e.g., the National Council of Churches (NCC), the World Council of Churches (WCC), or the recently revived efforts of the Consultations on Church Unity (COCU).
Although the Christian church was not tightly organized in its early centuries, it was, at least to most who would have viewed her from the outside, an organization with a great degree of visible unity. In 1054 this was shattered. The Roman Pontiff of the West and the Orthodox Patriarch of the East formally excommunicated each other. Things have not been the same ever since. The disunity which resulte...
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