SGBC Modesto

United By Christ

April 13, 2024 by

William Heinrich

Is the church really divided? And if so, why? Didn’t Jesus pray for us to be one (John 17:21)? Doesn’t the Father answer the prayers of His Son and our High Priest?

First, let me say that as bad as it is to have all these different denominations and splinter groups, the alternative would have been much worse. History shows us when a group (any group) left its roots and became liberal, people left and started churches, usually going back to their roots. Therefore, churches have been formed in reaction to liberalism, such as: the denial of Christ’s deity; inspiration of the Bible; virgin birth; and biblical miracles. If division had not happened, truth would have been lost.

Second, let me comment on conscience. There was a day when the church told people what to believe and much of what they said was wrong. Today, everyone has an education and a Bible. Today, each person can—and should—read their Bible and choose their place of worship by what they find. All churches are not the same, but all have the same Bible. It is obvious we will interpret it differently based on our preconceived thoughts. Though our search for truth should be persistent, each step must be with a clear conscience. “All that is not of faith is sin.”

Last, let me mention our High Priest. To infer that the divisions we see today mean that Christ’s prayer was unanswered is illogical and impossible. After Christ’s prayer, He ascended to the Father to a position of great authority. From that position, He sent the third person of the one Godhead, the Holy Spirit. It was His ministry, among other things, to baptize all believers into one body. When Paul writes to the church at Corinth, he speaks of this as already accomplished, as seen in I Corinthians 12:12-14: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.”

This, of course, is what the baptizer John was referring to in Luke 3:16: “John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” This work erases all so-called divisions and finds us in Christ, even as Christ is in the Father and the Father in Christ.

A physically divided church does not mean that true believers who, by the Holy Spirit, have all been immersed into Christ, are spiritually divided. For time we will go to different churches and may even worship in slightly different ways, but we know we are one because God the Spirit has made us one.