In Ephesians 4:1-6 the Apostle Paul declared biblically, apostolically and prophetically that the church is one,
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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. (NKJV)
There are many local churches. We read in the New Testament that the church was separated by cities. We read that each local church was assigned Elders and Deacons. However, the church was and is one.
The Moravian Church, one, if not the oldest Protestant Denomination, has it roots 100 years before Martin Luther’s protestation. A Philosophy Professor and rector of the University of Prague by the name of John Huss (1369-1415) was declaring then the things that Martin Luther declared 100 years later. John Huss was burned alive for his believes, however, his spirit remained alive and well.
“The reformation spirit did not die with Hus. The Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), as it has been officially known since 1457, arose as followers of Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church. By 1467 the Moravian Church had established its own ministry, and in the years that followed three orders of the ministry were defined: deacon, presbyter and bishop.” (http://www.moravian.org/the-moravian-church/the-moravian-church/history.html)
The religious history of the United States cannot be written without the central participation of this amazing group of brothers and sisters.
The Moravians first came to America during the colonial period. In 1735 they were part of General Oglethorpe’s philanthropic venture in Georgia. Their attempt to establish a community in Savannah did not succeed, but they did have a profound impact on the young John Wesley who had gone to Georgia during a personal spiritual crisis. Wesley was impressed that the Moravians remained calm during a storm that was panicking experienced sailors. He was amazed at people who did not fear death, and back in London he worshiped with Moravians in the Fetter Lane Chapel. There his “heart was strangely warmed.” (http://www.moravian.org/the-moravian-church/the-moravian-church/history.html)
The Moravians lived by a very powerful way of thinking. The thunderous echo of their mission statement continues to penetrate the hearts of men and women of God today who know that these words are true,
“In Essentials, Unity; In Nonessentials, Liberty; In All Things, Love.”
I don’t think you have to be a prophet or a doctor in theology to realize that the Body of Christ is painfully divided. We should also quickly add that this issue of unity is not to be taken lightly. In John chapter 17 we see Jesus earnestly praying for us, as God’s children, to be one. The issue of unity in the Body of Christ is not a recommendation; it is indeed an obligation. Our disunity is a direct disrespect to God’s Word.
Many people have spoken about the importance of unity in the church for hundreds of years. It seems like these voices are growing more and more fatigue. The unity of the Body of Christ looks like an impossible task to say the least.
The church was united during the times of the Apostles, but that unity was challenged from the beginning with the introduction of false teachers, false prophets and false doctrines. As you read the Epistles of the Apostles you can clearly see that the fight for the unity of the Body was intense from the beginning.
For the first three hundred years after Christ, the Church suffered a brutal persecution; but the church was growing and its power was clear. Things changed after Constantine declared Christianity, the official religion of the Roman Empire 312 years after Christ. This was the beginning of a very sophisticated plan of the enemy to seduce the church to mix in with the world.
This takes me to another important note on these series, the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church claimed to be the one and only True Church. Catholic tradition makes the grandiose claim that the Apostle Peter was their first Pope. For historical reasons we can arguably see the official beginning of the Catholic church at the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed from 325 C.E. which states, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”
I can humbly say that the Catholic Church was the first man-made religion to present herself as the direct false representation of the Church of Christ on this earth. Their crimes against humanity are no secret, there Biblical atrocities and their own history is available for everybody to see and study if they care for the truth.
This is not, however, a series about the history of the Catholic Church, but I must point out, as an amazing fact, that the Catholic Church has remained united even through many turbulent periods. They had divisions, some denominations that have come out of the Catholic Church are almost a photocopy of the way Catholics conduct their services. I am also aware that there is a strong element of the Charismatic Catholic Church. But, for the most part, still today, they enjoy great unity.
Is the Catholic Church’s unity a sign that they are indeed the true church? Absolutely not. Martin Luther protest against the Catholic Church was as valid on October 31, 1517 as it is today. I do not recognize them as the mother church because Biblically they went astray and they are still astray today. The problem is that we, as Protestants, have also gone astray with our shameful divisions.
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:13-18 (NKJV)
These passages of Scripture give us the initial words used to describe the story of the Church. The true church can be found on the proper, sincere and heartfelt answer to Jesus’ one question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” John 16:13 (NKJV)
The foundation of the church is not based on us answering this question in any kind of selfish and unaccountable way. This was not a question impossible to be answered; it was not a trick question. In Matthew 16:14 they answered the wrong way by saying,
“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (NKJV)
What does John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets had in common? They were all men. They were Godly men, powerful Biblical personalities; nevertheless, they were just like you and me, mere men.
Neither John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets claimed to be the Jesus or intended to start a movement; they were indeed, Godly men. However, we have seen through the history of the church, that charismatic men have come up with their own ideas of who Jesus is. They have also taken Jesus and the Word out of the center and positioned themselves and their own constitutions and bylaws in place of it. Peter, on the other hand, answer Jesus’ question correctly,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 (NKJV)
Peter clearly established who the Christ or Anointed One is and His relationship as Son of the Living God. That seemingly simple revelation is the foundation of what we call the church. To this revelation Jesus answered,
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:17-18 (NKJV)
On these two verses we can see that the church is blessed by God, that revelation comes from God and that the church can’t be overcome by the devil, by the world or by whatever hell throw at it. An appropriate question to ask at this point is… Where is that church today?