After re-reading yesterday’s post I realized that all the stuff I was trying to say I’ve said before on this blog, and said better. Check out the post entitled Is Christ Divided? and judge for yourself. The opening quote from that article is worth re-posting here for the sake of our present conversation:
“The denominational divisions which accentuate the problem are perpetrating an image of a divided Christ to the community in which we live. Such an image is at variance with the unity of the body into which we were all baptized. The same arguments that Paul used to deal with the factions and personality cults of the Corinthian church are applicable [here and now]. We can not hide behind some concept of ‘spiritual unity’ which has little or no embodiment in structure or institution; for, not only does it drive an unnatural and unbiblical wedge between the physical and the spiritual, it is also nonsense to the world to which we are called to be in mission, and thereby denies the very basis of the unity for which Christ prayed.”-Ian Cundy
As we looked at the Old Testament foreshadowing of the ground of the church (taking the temple in Jerusalem to be a type of the church), we saw that the ground had a unique significance in the plan of God. For there God chose to place His name. But what does that mean? Well, when I think of a person’s name I think of everything that makes that person who they are. Their personality, their character-everything about them is bound up in their name. So when God says “I will place my name there,” He is saying, “Here is where people can go to find out who I am. Out from this place I will express myself in all my glory.”
This was the testimony of Israel when the people gathered together each year at Jerusalem. By their unity and through their fellowship they were meant to show the world who God was.
In the above quote Ian Cundy mentions the prayer of Jesus in John 17. “Make them one, Father, even as you and I are one, that the world may believe You have sent me.” Here Jesus basically implies that the salvation of the world depends upon the express unity of His followers. Why? Because the purpose of God is to re-unite all things in His Son. Through Christ God is raising out of the ashes of fallen humanity a new creation over whom He is Head. He is raising a testimony to Himself. He is building a House not made with human hands that forms His answer to the confusion and division of Babylon. In the words of T. Austin Sparks, “God is concerned with the accomplishment of something worthy of Himself,” and the world will acknowledge His reality when they see in operation something which they in themselves know is humanly impossible to create.
All this may sound very wonderful and heavenly, but it is intensely practical. It must be practical. If the church is all heavenly with no expression in the earth than I dare say she counts for nothing against principalities and powers. The whole purpose of God is to make visible something in the earth that is conforming to the image of His Son, so the rulers of the darkness of this age might be overthrown by a vessel who is taking back the dominion the first Adam forfeited to the snake.
All this and more is bound up with this matter of the ground of the church.
In Corinth the saints were ready to forsake the ground. They were ready to give up the unity of the local assembly for something less than Christ. And had they done it, what would have been the result? Paul’s question-“is Christ divided?”-gives us the answer. Paul’s point of reference for everything relating to the life of the church was Christ, for the church is to be the expression of Christ. Therefore whatever is not the image of Christ cannot be the practice of the church. Were the saints to forsake the ground of the church there would have been no true expression of Christ left to give to the city of Corinth, even though there were members of the Body of Christ still meeting together, evangelizing, teaching, and so forth. Without the ground there can be no temple, no house. If there is no practical unity, then what is there for the world to believe in? A Christ who is just as divided as the whore of Babylon? When you go into a city and you see five different kinds of grocery stores, seven different banks, and three competing gas stations, you may not think anything of it, for such is the way of the world system. But when you go into a city and you search out the believers in Christ you should see something different. Something other-worldly. Something that actually looks like a new society-a new humanity reunited in the Son as Head over all things. Yet what do you so often see? You see First Baptist, Second Presbyterian, and the third church of whatever. You see a divided Christ.
In the words of Jeremiah, “the holy stones lie scattered” (Lamentations 4:1). There are Christians, yes, and even many of them are congregating together in a certain kind of way. But as for the House of God built upon His chosen ground, out from which God intends to show forth a true, undivided expression of His Christ-the walls are broken down. Chances are this is the case in your city, dear reader. There is a church in your city, but the walls of her testimony have been thrown down. The vessels of the Lord have all been carried off to Babylon, and the ground has been forsaken. Do you see the significance of that ground in the plan of God? Do you realize the importance of His House? Scholars tell us it was a very small remnant of Jews who responded to Cyrus’ decree to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Those who remained in Babylon were no less the people of God, no less loved, no less blessed, and no less favored. But for the few whose spirits were stirred it was not enough to go on enjoying religious life in the synagogues while the house and city of God lay in ruins. No matter what it cost they would go back to rebuild. Back to God’s chosen ground.
“You who have escaped the sword, go, do not stand still! Remember the Lord from far away, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.” (Jeremiah 51:50)
“Take the vessels of the Lord, return them to the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site!” (Ezra 5:15)