The Goal of Unity – The Apocalypse

I know, the title is a little bit odd, but, I have been toying with this idea for a while and last Sunday morning, we were near the verse in 2nd Peter where it says that we can hasten the Day of the Lord. Now, I have long fought against the idea that we can hasten the Day of the Lord with physical violence, such as destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, I always thought we played no part in the hastening. I take Vincent’s part, in that we become instruments, not in speeding up the clock, but in completing the works for the Day of the Lord.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is without a doubt one of the single most important letters from the Apostle on the Nature and Unity of the Church. (1.22; 2.19-22; 3.9-10, 14-15; 21, 4.4-16; 5.22-32). In this we find that Paul gives us at once the mystery and the revelation of the New Man, the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, all which is the Church by Jesus Christ. He gives the doctrine of unity among Jew and Gentile, showing that God has bestowed the promises of Israel upon the Church. We may easily learn of the head of the Church and the immediate goal of the Church, but in a small phrase, I find that Paul gives us, at least seemingly a shadow of what the goal of doctrine is – the Unity, or oneness, of the Faith, and in doing so presents the idea of the final consummation of the Church.

It is implied that the offices of the Church will cease when all come into the unity of the Faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God. If these offices cease, then the instruction of doctrine will as well; if instruction cease, then perfection will exist. Perfect is the consummation of the Church at the marriage banquet of the Lord and His bride.

The Apostle Peter, in his second Epistle, tells us

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 2 Peter 3:11-12 NKJV)

Vincent, for this phrase, says,

I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer” (Trench, on “The Authorized Version of the New Testament”).

Let us examine Peter’s intentions in writing this letter.

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV)

‘These things’ does not refer to the attributes of the Christian in v5-7, but the knowledge of v8. By building those things upon our faith, we receive knowledge, and with this knowledge we are not cast into blindness and denied our entrance to heaven.

Doctrine in the Second Epistle from Peter is clearly on the writer’s mind as something that is important to the life of the Christian. In v16, Peter demands that we put away false doctrines, these cunningly devised fables of Man, and instead focuses on one thing –  the Son of God, and the words of not only prophecy, open and public, but the very words of confirmation which Peter, James, and John heard upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Return to Paul and notice that he too echoes Peter when he hearkens to the knowledge of the Son of God. Peter moves then against false prophets and heresies that bring about destruction and disunity. This is not new nor long dead, but something that the Church has experienced from the very first. We fool ourselves if we think that the Church is impervious to false doctrines today. Chapter 2 of 2nd Peter deals not only with these false prophets, but those that leave the Church to go after them. The Apostle tells us that he writes to stir up our minds to the words spoke by the Apostles and the Prophets, the doctrines that dripped from their mouths. He tells us of scoffers and of the reason for delay in the returning of Christ – that all should come to repentance.

Returning to Paul’s view, the offices of the Church are to guide the Church into the perfection of Unity. This is not the perfection of the individual Saint in holiness, but the perfection of Doctrine that we all believe the same thing.

John Chrysostom says,

“To the unity,” saith he, “of the faith.”That is, until we shall be shown to have all one faith: for this is unity of faith, when we all are one, when we shall all alike acknowledge the common bond. Till then thou must labor to this end.

Now when we shall all believe alike then shall there be unity; for that this is what he calls “a perfect man,” is plain. And yet he elsewhere calls us “babes” (1Co 13,11), even when we are of mature age; but he is there looking to another comparison, for there it is in comparison with our future knowledge that he there calls us babes. For having said, “We know in part” (1Co 13,9 13,12), he adds also the word “darkly,” and the like: whereas here he speaks with reference to another thing, with reference to changeableness, as he saith also elsewhere, “But solid food is for full-grown men.” (He 5,14). Do you see then also in what sense he there calls them full-grown? Observe also in what sense he calls men “perfect” here, by the words next added, where he says, “that we may be no longer children.” That we keep, he means to say, that little measure, which we may have received, with all diligence, with firmness and steadfastness. – (Chrysostom on Ephesians)

This does not give itself to the idea of doctrinal development by the Church, but the development of the Church by the Doctrine. Paul saw the life of the Church as maturing to the ‘new man’, not the new child, but an adult, and with Paul seeing that the Church is not the individual saint, but the corporate body of Christ, it becomes apparent that the Church – all the Saints – must believe the same thing. This calls for us to strip away those traditions that have become doctrine, and thereby strip away the walls of separation. We seek the doctrine of the Church, as true unity depends on corporate Faith in, and knowledge of, the Son of God. This is not a mere acknowledgment, but a knowledge through revelatory doctrine. It is not enough to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, or that He was virgin born, but to know Him and His Church by His Doctrine.

It is high time for those leaders in the Church to begin feeding meat, to push for unity, not by lowering standards and erasing essential doctrines, but by coming to the central doctrines of the Church. We must strip away those things, those traditions of men, that have become doctrines which take away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter says that we actually hasten the Day of the Lord; Paul says that these offices of the Church exist until we come to the unity of the Faith. To Hasten that Day, we must strive for a Doctrine common to all and have all common to the Doctrine. In Acts 2, we read that when the Apostles were in one place, in one mind, and in one accord, the Spirit of God descended upon them. We find the end of the Church as the beginning was, requiring that we are all in one place, in one mind, and in one accord.

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