In the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus gives the most extensive prayer that is recorded for us in the New Testament. It is a prayer of intercession in which He prayed for His disciples and for all who would believe through the testimony of the disciples. That prayer is called Jesus’ High Priestly prayer.
One of the central themes of that prayer is Christ’s request to the Father that His people might be one. It was a prayer for Christian unity. Yet here we are, in the twenty-first century , and the church is probably more fragmented than at any time in church history. We’ve seen a crisis with the question, “What is the church after all?”
Historically, via the ancient church council of Nicea, the church has been defined by four key words. It is, 1) one, 2) holy, 3) catholic, and 4) apostolic. As we study the nature of the church, I want to look at these four descriptive categories as they define the nature of the church.
First of all, the church is one. Really? If we surveyed the landscape of modern-day Christianity, the last word we might use to describe it would be one or unified. How are we to understand and respond to Christ’s prayer for the unity of the church and for the ancient church’s declaration that the church is one? There have been different approaches to this throughout history. In the twentieth century there was what has been labeled “the ecumenical movement.” This was an attempt through the World Council of Churches and other bodies to move in the direction of forming or reforming denominational splinter groups….
If you are a part of a church , why do you belong there? For quite some time now, I have noticed that people have a tendency to flip between denominations. The tendency is to go where they like the pastor, the preaching, the music, or aparticular program. Oftentimes, people feel comfortable moving from denomination to denomination or from church home to church home .
Sadly, we rarely find people paying attention to what the church believes. When the church was called to unity in the New Testament, however, we must remember that the Apostle Paul spoke of unity in these terms: one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. This unity is not something that is merely superficial in terms of being a unified organization or a unified methodology, but first and foremost, it is a unified confession of faith in the person and work of Christ. And second, the content of that confession is to be agreed upon.
Sadly , the church’s unity has been broken precisely where unity is supposed to be found, namely, unity in the Apostolic gospel.