How Can Unity Be Bad?
Our Lord's parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-
30) forms an excellent basis with which to begin a consideration
of church union. This parable predicts the history of Christianity
for nearly two thousand years. The parable explains that Jesus
would sow the Gospel message followed by Satan's sowing a counterfeit
the true Church was founded, but the apostate church also grew
very quickly. The Lord's servants inquired about the wisdom
of separating the two groups, but the Lord cautioned that such
separation would do more harm than good until it was the proper
time for separation. The fact that the gathering out of the
tares would have rooted up the wheat also shows prophetically
that the false church (tares) would probably outnumber the true
Church (wheat). This is in harmony with Jesus' statements that
"many are called but few are chosen," and with His
naming His true Church a "little flock." Just so it
has been. The message of the Lord and the Apostles was soon
corrupted. The ambition of early churchmen placed power above
truth, and the great Roman Church ruled the world. Some did
attempt reforms, but the spirit of Satan infiltrated these reform
movements so that they too became tare- infested and formed
their own denominational tare collections -- each, however,
containing some wheat. The parable ends with a very important
message for us. It says that the day would come when it would
be proper to separate the wheat from the tares. This would be
in the time of the "harvest," which our Lord elsewhere
explains is the end of the age -- the end of the call of the
Church -- the time of His return.
are now living in the harvest of the age. Therefore the Lord
looks over his field to see what fruit it has borne. He considers
the tares (false church) worthless for his purpose (which is
to bless the world), and so he determines their destruction
-- as institutions, not as people! Remember that the Lord did
very much the same thing at his first advent. He looked over
the Jewish church to see if it had borne the proper fruit. When
he saw it had not, he determined their destruction -- again,
as a nation, not as individuals. But those Jews who were faithful
-- those who were "wheat" -- he separated and gave
them the opportunity of being the first members of the Church.
(Compare Matt. 23:37-39 with John 1:11,12.) Matthew 13:30, therefore,
becomes a touchstone for our study of what is happening in the
ecclesiastical world. Note just what it says: "Gather .
. . the tares and bind them in bundles." Here it is! The
ecumenical drive for unity is here stated with such simplicity!
The Lord is here predicting that prevailing forces which he
would maneuver would actually cause the "bundling"
together. Of course, the denominations think that unity is for
their benefit and strength; but the parable states otherwise.
It points out that they are being bundled to be burned (destroyed
as institutions). The wheat, however, which is the true Church,
is being gathered out from denominationalism to be gathered
together with Jesus to reign with him to bless all the families
of the earth. (And, by the way, those who were the tares will
be among those who will be blessed!) It becomes clear, then,
that those who would be faithfully following the Lord at this
time (the wheat) could never participate in the church union
(tare) movement. Instead, the true wheat will recognize the
ecumenical movement as a sign of the nearness of the kingdom.
They will be content to lean on the Lord and his wisdom rather
than on the organizational stratagems of the so-called churches.
The true Church will stand separate (and informed), neither
joining nor fighting the ecumenical movement.
Scriptures state the same lesson. A brief consideration of an
Old Testament prophecy will be a help. It is found in Isaiah
8. For brevity we shall consider only verses 9- 13: "Associate
yourselves, O people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and
give ear all of ye far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall
be broken in pieces; gird yourselves and ye shall be broken
in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought;
speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed
me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not a confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall
say, A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let Him be your fear,
and let Him be your dread." In verse 9 we find the forecast
that the people will want to associate themselves. It also states
that they would "gird" themselves. Gird means bind.
It is clearly the same binding in bundles to which our Lord
refers in the parable. But the Lord declares through the prophet
that all their attempts would ultimately meet with destruction.
Ultimately they would be "broken in pieces," and their
counseling would not produce the ends they desired. And why
not? Because God would not be with them! He would be with "us"
(vs. 10) -- the true Church. In verses 12 and 13 the Lord counsels
the true Church as to what its position should be: "Say
ye not a confederacy" -- don't participate in the union.
"Neither fear ye their fear or be afraid."
is the fear of denominationalism? Their fear is that their influence
is waning; their fear is that they are losing the support of
the people; their fear is that society is collapsing. Indeed,
their fears are well founded! But they know not that the Lord
has decreed the destruction of the denominations and even the
social order itself so that He can establish His righteous kingdom
on earth in the place of the present corrupt order of things.
The true Church, understanding what the Lord is doing, does
not fear. It rejoices to see the evidences of the nearness of
the kingdom. (Psalm 97:8)
Can Unity Be Bad?
Very often the advocates of church union quote from our Lord's
prayer as recorded in John 17. Here Jesus prays for his Church
and asks the Father that "they all may be one." (vs.
21) Jesus' desire for the unity of the Church, however, could
only refer to the true Church, the wheat. If he desired unity
for all now, why would he have said that he would separate the
wheat from the tares? Jesus' prayer does have an answer, however.
The true Church is united -- and it is united in the way which
Jesus wanted: by the Truth. That is what he requested in John
17:17. Notice that Jesus asks that they be "sanctified"
by the truth. Sanctified means separated! The true Church (wheat)
is to be separated (sanctified) from the false church (tares)
by the truth. It is not to be united to the false church just
for an outward show of unity! The desire for unity in the ecumenical
movement is a desire based on error -- on misinformation. The
so-called churches, not understanding the true and whole Gospel,
want everyone in harmony now, thinking this to be God's way
to improve the world. But God's way to improve the world is
the kingdom on earth which will do away with all error. This
kingdom cannot function fully until the true Church (Abraham's
seed) have all been separated and glorified. Then they will
bless all the nations of earth even as God himself promised
to Abraham so many years ago. God never breaks a promise.