by C. Parker Thomas

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the March-April 1976 issue of the Midnight Cry Messenger.)

Unity of The Spirit
Spiritual unity is certainly one of the greatest aspects of truth, if not the greatest, relative to the mystery of Christ and the church. The whole purpose of the cross and the sufferings of Christ was to bring us together into one body. In ten thousand ways Satan has deviously divided the body of Christ. He knows far better than we do the power and glory of this unity, therefore he works unceasingly to confuse and divide.

Although the unity of the body of Christ is not seen nor understood by many, it is a literal fact in the mind and purpose of God that we cannot deny. Remember Eph. 4:4-6 says, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

I Corinthians 12:12-13 says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

Regardless of how far apart we are geographically or theologically, we are one if we have been born again and have God’s Spirit dwelling in us. I Cor. 6:17 says, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”

Vital Union
This union is so vital that our condition and state affects every other member of Christ’s body regardless of what they believe or where they are. In writing to the Church at Corinth, Paul said, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” I Cor. 5:4-5.

From this scripture it is evident that Paul fully understood the unity of the Spirit which would enable him to be present when the church officially judged this brother who was guilty of fornication.

If the members of Christ’s body ever realize that it is indeed a vital union of many members, it will make a great difference in their attitude toward each other. As members one of another (Eph. 4:25), we are not complete apart from our brother. We need every member of Christ’s body, including the weak ones and those we think to be less honorable. I Cor. 12:18-23.

Every member of Christ’s body has some gift, some grace, some measure of Christ that is needed by every other member. Some aspect of our spiritual life is enhanced and complimented by the life of Christ in our brother. Failure to recognize, honor and receive our brother is like trying to cut off our own hand or foot. I Cor. 12:15-26.

The life of God, in all his glorious attributes, dwelled in Christ, the Son. Col. 1:19, 2:9. On the day of Pentecost this glory and power was given to the church. Eph. 1:22-23. To avail ourselves of this glory and power we must recognize and receive the body that it resides in. This is really what Jesus is teaching in John 6:53 where he said, “...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

The very life of God is received as we receive the humanity this life dwells in. Despise and reject the humanity that God honors with his indwelling presence and you despise and reject God. Thus the scripture is fulfilled where Jesus said, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” The life of God cannot be received apart from this body.

Local and Visible
Although there is a perfect spiritual union between every believer from Adam to the last soul that God calls, the hub of New Testament Christianity is the local visible church. This is where believers assemble together to hear the Word of God. This is where the ordinances are observed. This is where the authority of Christ rests to judge and settle differences. This is where Christ said he would be in the midst. Matt. 18:15-20. Heb. 10:25.

We must see the local visible church as the body of Christ in a given place. Gal. 1:2. Phil. 1:1. I Thess. 1:11. To the church at Corinth, Paul said, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

It will be noticed that Paul said they (the Corinthian Church) were the body of Christ, not the foot, the leg, the arm or a part of the body. For a body to be a body it has to have particular members. It would be deformed if it had four hands and no feet.

As carnal and imperfect as the Corinthian church was, it was a complete church or body. Enriched in everything by Christ in all utterance and knowledge, they came behind in no gift. I Cor. 1:5-7. As such, the church at Corinth had as much authority to loose and bind on earth as any other church. Matt. 15:18-19, 18:15-19.

Although Paul’s ministry went beyond the confines of the local church, he recognized the church at Corinth as the body of Christ and sovereignly endowed with authority to act in matters of judgment. The sin of this particular member, that we have already referred to in I Cor. 5, was so great until Paul instructed the church to turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Though the church had this authority and should have exercised judgment, they were negligent in the matter until Paul wrote to them about it. From II Cor. 2:1-11, it seems the action of the church in judgment was used of the Lord to restore this erring member.

The action of the church in this case is a good example of the church using the keys of the kingdom to loose and bind on earth. Matt. 16:19. In this particular case God, himself, was withholding judgment, waiting for the church to act.

Although discipline and judgment are necessary in the church, the purpose should always be to deliver and restore. This is always the purpose of God’s judgment concerning a believer, and it should be ours also. Gal. 6:1. Heb. 12:5-11. Beyond doubt the widespread emphasis of the body of Christ as being universal and invisible has clouded the revelation of the local church as the body of Christ.

For all practical purposes the church is local and visible. Although there are ministries that go beyond the confines of any one locality, practical Christianity recognizes the church as an assembly of believers in a given locality, watched over by local elders. Titus 1:5. Acts 20:17-28.

Needless to say, you cannot ordain elders over a universal invisible church. And it is impossible to assemble together or tell your problems to a universal invisible church.

Discerning the Body
Beyond doubt, failure to discern the body of Christ is the cause of much of our problems. Not only does it result in physical sickness and death but it also results in spiritual sickness and death. I Cor. 11:30. When we fail to discern the body we do not see the importance of the unity of the Spirit.

Of all the gifts and graces that might be present in the church, we have discovered that the most powerful and compelling witness is the unity of the Spirit. It truly takes the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost to bring about and maintain the unity of the Spirit. Where you have unity wrought in hearts by a work of God’s Spirit through the Word you have love. This, of course, is why the unity of the Spirit is such a powerful and compelling force.

The purpose of Jesus’ prayer, that we be made perfect in one even as he and the Father were one, was that the world might see and believe that the Father sent the son. John 17:21.

Although I certainly agree that we have room for improvement, I can personally testify that, time and again, people who have come in among us have been most amazed by the spirit of unity they observe. However I must add that it is no small task to achieve and maintain the unity of the Spirit. But it can be done by the grace of God. Paul gives us the key in Eph. 4:2-3. “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

And, of course, discerning the Lord’s body in the matter of wisdom and counsel and judgment is absolutely essential. This will also put a stop to the freelancing independent spirits that get such great revelations they don’t need to walk with the body of Christ. In many such cases these people have received an exalted spirit (demon) which deludes them into believing they are spiritually superior to the church.

There are many misconceptions about the freedom we have in Christ. Many quote the scripture which says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

“See,” they say, “we are free. We don’t need any church or preacher telling us what to do. We go as the spirit directs us and are in bondage to no man.” This is what the Jews said in rejecting Christ. John 8:33. Many so-called spirit-led individuals who spout this philosophy in the name of Christ are rebels against God, his Word and his body, the church.

Freedom, like all other principles, is a relative thing. If a poor horse was tethered to a hitching post day and night for weeks and was suddenly turned loose in a nice 10-acre pasture, he would kick up his heels and run wild with delight because of his newfound freedom.

However, if there were horses, cows and other farm animals in this pasture, his new found freedom wouldn’t give him the right to run, kick and bite the other animals. He would have to live in harmony with his new environment, under the watchful eye of Farmer Brown. Otherwise, he might be led back to the hitching post.

When we become a citizen of God’s kingdom, we are baptized into one body and made to drink into one Spirit. I Cor. 12:13. We don’t just become a part of the mystical church but a part of a local visible church in a given place. Frankly, I’m afraid of these so-called Christians that have been fathered by freelance ministers who claim to have been set free from all the religious systems of men.

Spiritual babies need mothers as much as physical babies do. They also need fathers who won’t desert them the first time an attractive harlot comes by.

Our God is a practical God. His true church gives birth to his children and they are fathered by the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Many bastards have come forth, but they are not God’s children. It is only when Zion travails that spiritual children are born into God’s kingdom. Heb. 10:8. Isa. 66:8-9. Only the seed of Christ, activated by the anointing of God’s Spirit, can produce children. And it is this seed that will endure forever. Psa. 89:29.

And though they are set free from the curse of the law and the penalty of sin, they are babes that need to be taken care of by a good mother (church). They need the sincere milk of the Word that they might grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The saying that “the world has yet to see what a man can do who is totally surrendered to Christ” is very misleading. It makes no difference how dedicated a person is; he can only minister according to the measure of faith that is given to him. Rom. 12:3.

In addition to our faith being governed by the type of ministry we have, faith grows and develops as we exercise ourselves in spiritual things. Heb. 5:14. Even as our body and mind grows and develops into greater strength and capacity, so should the spiritual man. Growth and development require a well balanced diet and proper exercise. Where the diet and exercise is lacking, growth and development is stunted.

Dedication in itself will not take the place of these things. This is also the reason the church is spiritually weak and anemic. How can we minister a deliverance we have not experienced? We cannot minister health and vitality that we do not have.

The development of the Church is dependent on the ministry that it has. Everything brings forth after its own kind. Not only must the ministry have a knowledge of truth that will set the body free from many traditional hangups, but it must also minister faith that will enable the church to exercise itself in spiritual things.

Under the one congregation and one pastor system, the rest of the body has had very little opportunity to exercise itself in spiritual matters. And, under this system, the preacher served only the denominational diet instead of the living bread which comes down from heaven by the Holy Ghost. The prophet saw this day and said, “For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.” Isaiah 28:8.

If the fullness of God in knowledge, wisdom and power dwells in Christ’s body, the church, there must be some means of manifesting that life. This is a question that must be answered. Somehow, some way, the body must be liberated to express this life.

Hitherto man has restrained such freedom in the church lest the wrong kind of spirit manifest itself. But this is not the answer. It is true that if God is free to manifest himself in our midst, demonic power is also free and is subject to take advantage of this freedom to manifest itself.

Whenever we seek to curb or hinder the liberty of the body from manifesting the wrong spirit, we also hinder the freedom of the body to manifest the life and power of Christ. The truth is that both should have liberty to come forth in manifestation.

I Thess. 5:19-20 says, “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.” If we quench not the Spirit and despise not prophesyings, it is evident that liberty is also given to the wrong kind of spirit to manifest itself. However with liberty there also comes responsibility. What comes forth should be judged by the body. This is why I Thess. 5:21 adds these words, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Without judgment you cannot give liberty to the body to freely express itself. Otherwise you will have confusion, contention and strife. This is the reason the one preacher or pastor system developed in the beginning. The church must first be taught and prepared for body ministry and the necessity of judgment.

In The Midst
Another reason the Spirit of unity is so vital is because it is when we are walking together as a body that Christ takes his place over us as head. Matt. 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

To be gathered together in his name is not a random gathering together of professing Christians. It is a body that has been spiritually and scripturally formed together into one. They have been baptized into his name and become one flesh with him. They have his name. A spiritual and legal transaction has taken place. They are actually married to Christ and have a legal right to use his name in loosing and binding on earth.

Independent spirits, claiming to be Christians within or without some church systems, have no part nor lot in what we are talking about. This is why Christ is not in the midst of so many groups claiming to be his church.

Though claiming to be Christians, this lack of spiritual union prevents the church from having the covering of safety and protection that Christ’s body has when he is indeed in their midst. Only when we are moving together as a body, do we have the glory and protection of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. After the sin of Miriam and Aaron, God removed the protective cloud covering from over Israel, and Miriam was smitten with leprosy. Num. 12:10.

It is this presence of Christ in our midst that Satan hates. Surrounded by this divine presence the church becomes an impregnable fortress that Satan’s forces cannot enter. When Christ is present in this manner, the church moves forward. The works of darkness are exposed and Satan’s kingdom is destroyed. With the unity of the Spirit, the church is invincible.

Spirit of Division
This is also why Satan ever seeks to divide the body of Christ. The Satanic motive behind most conflicts in the church is to divide. It is amazing how clever and adept Satan is in creating divisions through one means or another.

One real tragedy about division is that good and innocent people are often involved. They are made to suffer along with the guilty. Division causes roots of bitterness to come forth and defile others. Worst of all, the Holy Spirit is grieved and the testimony of Christ is hurt in the earth.

The spirit of division often starts through people who have joined themselves to the body without being truly converted. In fact, Satan actually plants such people among God’s people to create division. This is one of the tactics he uses to strangle and stop the forward progress of the church. When unconverted people become the ruling majority in a local church or movement, that church or movement dies. It may continue the outward form but it ceases to minister the life of Christ to men.

Although Satan would much rather cause division among the leadership in Christ’s body, he will take whatever he can get. If he can’t get a mile he will take a yard, if he can’t get a yard, he will take an inch. If he can’t get to a strong influential member, he will defile a weak one.

The reason he desires to divide the leadership is because that is where he can do the most damage to the body. Leaders are your most respected and influential members. People follow leaders. When leaders are led astray by the spirit of division, the people are led astray. When leaders begin to feud with one another, the people begin to feud with one another.

It is through the ministry of Christ to the church that Christ, the head, leads his people. So division is not just brother being separated from brother; it is separation from Christ and God. This is what Satan is after.

Another reason Satan works so hard to divide the church is because he cannot get in without division. Division opens the door for all kinds of evil spirits to enter the church. In the very last days before the coming of Christ, Babylon, which epitomizes division and confusion, will become the habitation of devils and the hold of every foul spirit. Rev. 18:2.

The key to the blessings of Christ and our protection from Satan and his evil host is the unity of the Spirit in walking with our brother. This will require subjection to one another in the church such as most of us have never experienced before.

Hidden Treasure
This is indeed a great mystery; called by Jesus in Matt. 13:44, the “treasure hid in a field.” The field is a type of the earth from whence God fashioned the body of Adam in the beginning. This is why Paul says, “...we have this treasure in earthen vessels....” II Cor. 4:7.

The field is not the whole earth but a very small and particular portion that has been chosen and prepared to bring forth fruit. John 15:16. Heb. 6:7-8. This field is that very small remnant of humanity whose earthen vessels hold the treasure that is Christ.

It is very difficult for man to find this treasure because of where it is hid. When man thinks of God he looks to past religious history, the prophetic future or the mystical God of heaven. He looks in every direction but the right one. He knows too many negative things about the flesh of man to look in that direction. It is beyond human conception to think that God would clothe himself in sinful human flesh.

This is the great mystery that has to be revealed by God himself. This is also why Satan constantly works to make the church look bad. He knows that the natural, sense-governed man cannot see Christ come in the flesh because of the flesh itself.

It makes no difference how good or righteous a man might be, the natural man is prone to place all flesh in the same category. Unbelief sees only evil and human infirmity. This is why the masses of humanity could not see God in Christ. This is also why unbelieving man, controlled by the spirit of antichrist, will never find this treasure nor understand this great mystery.

Until the church regains a knowledge of the truth hidden in the “great mystery” of Eph. 5:30-32, it will remain weak and anemic. This truth, walked in, will set us free. John 8:31-32. God alone can reveal this great mystery to us.

Thank God for Psa. 25:14 which says, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.”

Like the healing waters of Ezekiel 47:1-12, as the tide of truth rises higher and higher it will bring healing to everything it touches. Beyond doubt, one of our greatest problems is failure to discern the body of Christ.

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