The Shame of Division
NOT I BUT CHRIST
Our Lord's High Priestly Prayer
In John 17, we have written Jesus' High Priestly Prayer for our learning and edification. On the way to Gethsemene, Jesus interceded for His disciples and all who would thereafter believe in Him. On the day of atonement, Israel's High Priest interceded on behalf of the people.
From many perspectives, every phrase of Jesus' prayer contains the idea of unity. First between Him and the Father, second Him and His people, third the Father and His people, and lastly, the Father, Son, and His people. Consider the following verses as an example.
In verse 1, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You." Verse 2, "And now You, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed." In verses 9 & 10, "I ask on their behalf; ...on the behalf of those whom You have given Me, because they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them."
E. M. Bounds Concern
With the unity of our Lord's prayer in view, minutes before His agony in Gethsemene, and His substitutionary death on a Roman cross, let us consider the insights of E. M. Bounds from John 17. "Notice how intently His heart was set on this unity. What shameful history, and what bloody annals has this lack of unity written for God's Church! These walls of separations, these alienations, these riven circles of God's family, these warring tribes of men, and these internecine (destructive to both sides) fratricidal (conflict within a family) wars! He looks ahead and sees how Christ is torn, how He bleeds and suffers afresh in all these sad future things. The unity of God's people was to be the heritage of God's glory promised to them. Division and strife are the devil's bequest (heritage) to the Church, a heritage of failure, weakness, shame, and woe.
The oneness of God's people was to be the one credential to the world of the divinity of Christ's mission on earth. Let us ask, in all candor, are we praying for this unity as Christ prayed for it? Are we seeking the peace, the welfare, the glory, the might, and the divinity of God's cause as it is found in the unity of God's people?"
It is easy to see the divisions/denominations within the Church-worldwide and feel helpless to do anything about it. However, with our voice, we can cry out to God, first with confession for not being more concerned about this disobedience. Second, we can ask God for a new heart of concern for unity so that it might begin to spread to our brothers and sisters within our local assemblies and beyond. Third, we can stop making excuses for our blatant and persistent disobedience when we buy in that some divisions are acceptable. It is not true that we must agree about core doctrines, but secondary teachings are permissible. All error is unacceptable, and in every disagreement about God's Word, there is right and wrong. The truth is just that narrow!
Oh Lord, forgive us for our callous indifference to the divisions within Your Church. Open our eyes so that we may see what You see and feel about a divisive spirit and how it grieves the Holy Spirit of God. Pour out Your Spirit so that Your Church might value the unity of Your people the way You do. Amen!
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