There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
If there be any truth in revelation, any efficacy to follow the Saviour's prayer, any power in the Word of God accompanied by the Divine Spirit, an age must come when the Church will both be and appear to be one.
I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL UNITY IN THE CHURCH, INDEPENDENT OF THE PURPOSE, WILL, SCHEMES, AND DEVICES OF MAN. Sincere and intelligent faith brings souls, without the medium of an ecclesiastical organization, into union with Christ, and therefore with all the members of His spiritual Body which is the Church. There can no more be two Churches than there can be two suns in the solar system. All believers are one, but their unity ought to be visible.
II. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ESSENTIAL UNITY, DIVISIONS EXIST IN THE CHURCH. To turn from the ideal Church to that which appears to view is like looking off from a peaceful and tranquil lake to an ocean tossed with tempest. These divisions are in themselves injurious, for by splitting up the forces they take away that combined strength which the Church ought to present to the world; and they also show that bitterness of feeling exists. The clouds that are exhaled from the waters of strife hang, like a thick veil, over the bright orb of religion; religion is seen through them, no doubt, but like the sun seen through a mist — shorn of its beams, diminished in its effulgence. Religion suffers in consequence. "Divide and destroy" is the watchword of Satan, net of God.
III. WHAT KIND OF MANIFESTATION OF THIS UNITY SHOULD WE SEEK? Our differences of opinion are not trifles; they are serious matters. If one body of believers is right, then the others must be wrong. If all are wrong in some particulars, they should renounce their errors, and unite on the ground of the common truth. How is such a unity to be brought about?
1. By cultivating personal godliness to a much greater extent. Errors of judgment arise, in great measure, out of the corruption of the heart, and soul, and mind, not yet brought into subjection to the mind of Jesus.
2. Unity of affection. External union will never be brought about until men's hearts are knit together as thread is interwoven with thread.
3. Unity of persons. Every Christian grace must be seen. Not sectarian love.
4. Unity of action. Working together as labourers in the same vineyard. The oxen must be yoked quietly together (to use a familiar illustration) before they san draw together; the horses must be harnessed, and stand quiet without kicking each other, before they can draw together; we must be harnessed and yoked in love before we can unite externally.
IV. THE MEANS TO BE USED TO BRING ABOUT THIS DESIRABLE UNION.
1. We shall never obtain it unless we really do desire it. All must long and pray together for the healing of our unhappy divisions.
2. There must be a conviction abroad, that it is everybody's business to do what they can towards accomplishing it. Not ministers only, but lay people as well. The Church is made up of units; let all help.
3. The cultivation of personal religion. The olive branch can never flourish but in the rich soil of personal piety; let that soil be impaired, and the bitter aloe of contention, the thorn, the bramble, the briar, and the nettle of angry controversy will flourish luxuriantly. Man departs from his brother by departing from God; closeness to God will bring each one closer to his brother man. Only the constraining love of Christ can compress and concentrate the Church into a closer union.
4. Let each do what he can in his own narrow circle. Not necessary to wait for the working out of a huge scheme of general union. Heal up the little sores.
5. Be careful about controversy. Don't elevate secondary matters into primary. Study the unity of heaven, and try to realize it on earth. Pray for the Spirit's guidance.
(J. Angell James.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.