by C. Parker Thomas

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:20-23.

Legally we are already perfect in one. This is because God counts those things which be not as though they were. In the same sense he could say to Abraham, “I have made thee a father of many nations,” he has made us one in Christ. Romans 4:17. Ephesians 4:4-6 declares, “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 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.”

Song of Solomon 6:9-10 says, “My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bore her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”

Perfection, power, purity and oneness are all ascribed to the church, the bride of Christ. He sees perfection and glory in his beloved. Psalms 45:13-14. Revelation 19:7-8. God does not behold or see iniquity in Jacob. Numbers 23:21. In his mind we are now, present tense, perfected forever, Hebrews 11:14. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6.

God alone, who is sovereign, sees this as an accomplished fact. All things work together for good concerning these elect ones. These foreknown ones are predestinated, called, justified, and glorified. There is a time element with conditions involved so far as man is concerned. But with God, who is eternal and perfect, it is so now.

All this, of course, is legal standing before God as his chosen elect. Like the infant who is legal heir of a vast estate or earthly kingdom, that must grow up and become of legal age before he can take over his inheritance, so must the Church. Galatians 4:1-2.

Potentially we have received of his fullness and are complete in him. Ephesians 1:22. Colossians 2:9-10. The very seed life of Christ with all of its gifts and graces are in the Church. In embryo form, the very Christ of God lives in and indwells his many-membered body, the Church. This Church, as a human infant with all of its members and faculties, must grow up into him in all things. Ephesians 4:15. We must grow in grace as well as in knowledge. II Peter 3:18. Knowledge without grace puffs up. This is the condition of the novice who cannot be trusted with the things of God. I Timothy 3:6. This has also been the condition of the Church as a whole since shortly after Pentecost. Only now do we see signs of the Church coming out of this state of spiritual infancy. Christ must be formed in his body before it can be trusted with the keys of the kingdom. Galatians 4:19, Hebrews 5:11-14, I Corinthians 3:1-4.

The great barrier to the practical perfection of the Church is the spirit of the antichrist that causes men to stubbornly refuse to be subject to Christ in his body. The very thing our hearts cry out for can only come when we flow together as one body in Christ and become subject one to another.

Did you ever realize that Christ prayed for us as a body that we might be made perfect in one as He and the Father were one? The Greek word (teleioo) for perfect as used in John 17:23, means to complete, consummate, finish, fulfill, or accomplish. This oneness is the consummation that must take place before the Church, the bride, is ready for her heavenly bridegroom.

When this work of oneness is complete, all arms of rebellion will be laid down and the bride will indeed be without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Ephesians 5:27. Revelation 19:7-8.

From a study of the many scriptures, we find that in most cases the word “church” applies to a local assembly of saints.

Since it is impossible for us to do much about the church in a universal sense, we should confine our thinking to the local body. This alone is practical. After all, the one great church is made up of many local assemblies.

All instructions for church order, discipline, and teaching has the local assembly in mind. Practical Christianity begins and is perfected in the local church or body of Christ. This is where we learn to function as a body. This is where we learn subjection one to another. This is where we are disciplined and taught practical Christianity. We must see the local church as the body of Christ.

From the apostasy of the early Church until now every move of God’s Spirit has been strangled and stifled by the spirit of Babylon. Babylon, which means confusion, or many voices, is the result of divine judgment upon man’s effort to build apart from the will and purpose of God. It is simply God coming down and confusing the builders so they cannot agree and thus part from each other and go their separate ways; many of them try to build another Babylon.

During such times of frustration and disorganization brought about by divine judgment, God permits men to do that which is right in their own eyes. They are allowed to go their separate ways, being a law unto themselves as to what is right and wrong. Deut. 12:8; Judges 17:6.

But when God, by the Spirit, anoints a vessel to be a voice to those people to bring them together into a body for unity and cohesive action, they cannot continue to go their separate ways and be a law unto themselves. As the Spirit moves to bring a people together unto divine order, they must flow together or become rebels against God.

Only in a body thus brought together by the Holy Spirit with Christ the head do you have a true local church. Only such a church will have corporate life and be able to function as the body of Christ. Such a body thus formed and walking in the light of true revelation will contain or have access to all gifts and graces necessary to express Christ in the earth.

We have thought of our perfection from the standpoint of individuals. Our completeness and perfection will not be apart from His Body, the Church.

The meaning of the word “Church,” ecclesia, signifies unity of action by a body brought together through a common interest. The best definition of the word is “called out assembly.” It was used to signify the meeting of the town council or other governing bodies. Of course, when applied to the Church of Jesus Christ, it meant the local body of believers such as at Corinth, or the collective or universal body of all true believers. On occasion the word Church was used in an institutional sense.

Paul said of the Corinthian church, though carnal and imperfect as it was, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ. That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 1:4-7. It is time we began to see what it means to be the body of Christ. Those desiring God’s best cannot continue an independent course apart from his body. Only as we become one with his body can we partake of the life and nature of God. If we cut ourselves off from the body thus formed, we cut ourselves off from the divine flow of power and blessing that indwells the body.

To be one with his body means to share its burden and vision. It means to accept its judgments and discipline. It means that we become members one of another with the body taking precedence over all. It means death on our part as individuals. We give up our lives that the functional or corporate life of the body might prosper and be made manifest.

We find our completeness and sufficiency not as individuals joined to a mystical Christ somewhere which cannot be defined nor found but as a member of a real flesh and bone body located in a certain place.

Only when we are joined together in a functional sense with his body are we complete. Since Christ, in his fullness, indwells the body which is made up of many members, we have to be in unity with the body to receive the benefits of this fullness or a complete Christ. Remember, the gifts of the Spirit are given to the various members of the one body with the Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will. I Corinthians 12:8-11. To avail yourself of any particular gift you have to be joined to and in fellowship with the whole.

Man in his carnal, proud, tradition-blinded condition has tried to build up great assemblies and make a show in the flesh. To do this he has resorted to unscriptural and fleshly methods that have brought in all kinds of rebellious and unregenerate spirits. Of course there is no possible way for Christ to manifest himself through Babylon which is indeed “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Revelation 18:2.

The true church is made up of true converts brought together by revelation of the Spirit. They are not interested in making a great outward show in the flesh, but in following Christ, their head. Such a church may never be very large; often beginning with only two or three. However, only two or three are necessary to have a local church with Christ in the midst.

Only as we are gathered together in his name (functioning as a body) can we indeed say he is in our midst. Power to loose and bind on earth belongs to the local, visible body of Christ. Matt. 18:15-20, I Cor. 5:4-5. Only as we recognize his body and begin to function as one will this power become a reality. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name,” (by the authority of) “there am I in the midst of them.”

Let me make hasten to say that Jesus did not mean that two or three could gather together at random and he would be in their midst. Many times I have heard people repeat this scripture at prayer meetings and general so-called church gatherings. But the sad results speak for themselves. The corporate presence of Christ to loose and bind has not been in our midst. May I ask the question, Why? To be gathered together in his name means to be joined together in unity by the Spirit and word, operating as one carrying out the teachings and commandments of Christ.

We must take the author’s own set of blueprints and go by them if we are to have him in our midst as our general overseer and superintendent. Too long we have substituted our set of plans and said, “Come now, Lord, and lead us and bless our work; you said you would be in our midst.” This, of course, is just another Babylon that must fall.

There are other reasons why we must become one with his body if we are to be perfected.

The full-orbed light of divine revelation must flow through his many-membered body, the church. No individual or ministry has all the light in himself. The manifold wisdom of God must be channeled through the church. Eph. 3:10. Only in corporate unity with the church do we have access to the mind of Christ. Paul said, “... we (plural) have the mind of Christ.” I Cor. 2:16. For this reason all important decisions affecting the church body or individual members must be brought before the church for final judgment. Matt. 18:17; I Cor. 6:1-2. It is also the duty of the body to judge prophecies, revelations and ministry gifts that come forth in the church.

Too long anything and anyone has been allowed to operate under the guise of Holy Ghost inspiration without fear of judgment or contradiction. If the mind of Christ is in the church, I think we are capable of judging what is right and what is wrong.

This collective judgment of the body is absolutely necessary if we are to be made “perfect in one.”

No doubt this is what John meant when he said, “Beloved believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God....” Haughty, proud, selfish and rebellious spirits will not accept the judgment of Christ’s body. They will say that Christ is not in the body (come in the flesh) directing in the judgment and thus justify their rebellion against Christ.

The fullness of Christ will not come apart from unity with the body. It is significant that Christ only, who was in perfect unity with the Father, “had the Spirit without measure.” “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” John 3:34. “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” Col. 1:19. Individually we have only a measure of this fullness. Eph. 4:7 and Romans 12:3-8.

Collectively or as a body we have the very same fullness of Christ. Eph. 1:22-23. We are “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2:19-22. To avail ourselves of this fullness, we must flow together and become one with his body. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee.” I Cor. 12:21. Even those feeble members are necessary (v.22). Though made up of many members, the body is one. None are complete in themselves. We are members one of another.

Let me repeat, I am not speaking of a universal, mystical body but the local, visible church. As long as we continue to think only of an invisible, mystical body, the rebels and independents will continue to justify their walk apart from the body.

The fullness of God is in the body awaiting the day it begins to function as one man under Christ, the head, in expressing the manifold wisdom, power and love of God in the earth. This is the perfect man Paul referred to in Eph. 4:13, even the measure of the stature of the fullness in Christ.

Like a pent-up river waiting for the locks to be opened so it can flow out into the dry and parched land giving life and health to everything it reaches, the Spirit of God awaits the day of divine order (perfect in one) when it shall flow forth in the earth bringing healing and deliverance to a groaning creation. Ezek. 47:8-12; Zech. 14:8; Rev. 22:1-2.

Though God in grace has suffered us to walk apart from his body in times past due to the chaotic disorganized condition in general, we are now seeing the absolute necessity of thinking and moving as a body. Since the very life and light of Christ is in and with the body, we must walk in union and fellowship with it if we walk in the light.

Those that continue an independent course after receiving this revelation will certainly walk in darkness. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7.

Have we ever really understood this scripture? Walking in the light means “fellowship one with another” and daily cleansing from all sin by the “blood of Jesus Christ his Son.” It is impossible to walk in fellowship with his body without being subject to it. As we are subject to his body we are subject to him.

While great darkness prevailed over the land of Egypt there was light in the dwellings of Israel. Exodus 10:22-23. Only those who were in fellowship and belonged to Israel (the true church) had light in their dwellings (the local body). Later on when the death angel smote the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt, only those under the sheltering blood in the dwellings of Israel were spared. Exodus 12:12-13.

While great darkness gathers upon the world (religious world included), the light of God is beginning to shine upon the true church and glorious things are in prospect. Is. 60:1-22. May I again repeat that it is the local, visible assembly that must assume its responsibility to judge, discipline and use the keys of the kingdom. Here is where the battle for divine order (perfect in one) must be fought and won. We need not think of a general flowing together of the universal body until it begins to work in the local body. If we don’t have practical Christianity at home, we need not put on a pious front and try to have it abroad.

The cooperative life of Christ will not be restored until the body becomes subject to one another. Cooperative life is Christ in our midst. Matt. 18:20. It is simply the Holy Spirit having full sway over a body of believers who recognize the truth of Christ’s body and become, indeed, subject one to another. They cease to act or think apart from the rest of the body but recognize that Christ is in the whole and that the least member is vital and necessary.

This in no wise means to imply that every member is just another digit and all are equal in the sense of leadership and ministry. Each is anointed according to his own call and gift of God. Being subject to the body means to bow at its feet according as God has tempered it together.

When this is accomplished, we can expect the body to begin to function as one man, having the mind and power of Christ. Individual and independent action will cease. Christ will begin to move in his body, the church. As it was right after Pentecost, the uncircumcised and the unclean will not be allowed to come in and disturb the tranquility of his beloved. Acts 5:1-16: Isaiah 52:1.

The awesome power and presence of God will be so great until fear will once again come upon every soul and we won’t have to worry about carnality taking over. Even now we are beginning to experience the power and presence of God in a new and almost strange way. Sunday morning, two weeks ago, we had no preaching or regular service. The Holy Spirit came with such a rush into our midst until various individuals began weeping and coming to the front of their own accord. Yesterday morning, (Sunday, May 12, 1963) we once again were overwhelmed by an even greater manifestation of the presence and power of God. The atmosphere was so charged with the presence of God until we couldn’t minister but simply stood in awed, fearful reverence to see what our Lord would do. The divine presence was so great until none doubted God was in our midst.

And yet, I am sure this is merely a foretaste of what is coming to the body of Christ that will be made perfect in one.

Between here and there are many painful and grievous experiences. Death to self is the number one problem that we all face. We must lose our life (pride, ambitions and carnal desires) if we are to gain it. Judgment has begun in his body. Rebellion and selfishness must be purged out. Those that insist on having their way and will not accept the judgment of his body must go. Ezek. 20:37-38. They have no part nor lot in the future glory of his church.

God help us to humble ourselves that we might enter in.

Return to Library of Articles