A Proposal For Unity Part 1: One Body

August 6, 2007

Christians should be united because we are part of the same body.

In Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the first proposition affirms that there is but one church. According to Campbell, that church is made up of those who believe in Christ, commit to obey Him, and demonstrate that commitment with their lives. Campbell chose a great place to start his proposal for unity. When the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explained the compelling reason for unity among Christians (Eph 4:3-6), he began by saying “There is one body…” Paul was saying that because we are all part of the same body, we should be united.

At this point we need to pause for a biblical definition of terms. The global church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18). Jesus built the church (Matt 16:18), and he built only one church. So there is one body; there is one church; and they are the same thing.

So according to Eph 4, we should seek unity with everyone in the church. But how can we know who is in the church? The scriptures show us the answer:

Act 2:36-41 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

On the day the Christian church began, Peter preached the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Everyone who accepted the gospel message, responding in baptism, was “added to their number.” Because we are told that this promise is to “all whom the Lord our God will call,” we know that all who respond in like manner today are also added to the church.

Today, there are many distinct parts of the Restoration Movement, where new converts respond to the gospel message in exactly this way. Those people may become members of very different “churches” or congregations, with deeply differing convictions on various topics. But regardless of which part of the Restoration Movement they attend, and regardless of where their congregation aligns on those different convictions, because those people responded to the gospel message in the same way as those in Acts 2, they were added by God to the church, the body of Christ.

Someone might protest that people who hold erroneous beliefs on these disputed topics are not truly part of the church, because they do not manifest the required obedience to their Lord. Romans 14:1-15:13 gives us the divine answer to this concern. We are not to pass judgment over one another regarding such matters. If a correct position on the matter is not a requirement for conversion, then it cannot be a requirement for continued membership in the church. As Paul wrote:

Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

It may be uncomfortable to embrace someone as a brother, when he does not agree on some doctrines we hold dear. We should remember that Jesus is not ashamed to call him brother (Heb 2:11). Who are we to be more exclusive than Jesus? Our clear instruction from the Holy Spirit is not to pass judgment over such things.

So, with that background, here is the first proposal for unity:

Proposal #1: There is one body of Christ, which is the global church of Jesus Christ. All who have responded to the gospel message according to the example of the 3000 in Acts 2 are Christians, and have been added to that church. All of these Christians should accept one another as parts of the same body.


  1. Alan, Great Proposal! I look forward to Part 2. Thanks for your faithful heart concerning unity. Sincerely, Phil

  2. Alan, I like the series, but I’ve got to admit that I’m having trouble with the “according to the example of the 3000 in Acts 2” bit. It’s not that I don’t believe that the pattern for salvation is there or that baptism isn’t to mode and point of salvation. It’s just that I’ve seen a lot of folks that clearly are disciples of Jesus yet haven’t been converted “according to the example of the 3000 in Acts 2”.The issue for me is that I’ve begun ot believe that it isn’t merely intellectual, it’s cultural. They’ve been brought up in a christian culture that understands there to be many beliefs on conversion and they are all OK. Under that belief system, believing that baptism is necessary is OK and so is believing that a prayer is all you need. They are fervent believers and Christ followers, but convincing them of their need to be baptized is going to be difficult. Their belief system doesn’t allow for this to be a distinction.If we can accept the one who was converted according Acts 2 but perhaps isn’t as “committed” as we might think they ought to be or has doctrine that we ind distasteful, why can’t we accept the obviously committed believer who has not been converted according to the way of Acts 2?Frankly, I can’t predict what God will do with either individual, but being honest, I can’t then predict what he’ll do with me. I’ve certainly got as much messed up as anyone.I guess I’m casting a wider net when I say ‘brother’. The cool thing is that we can differ on this point and still find ourselves in each other’s nets anyway.

  3. Hi Doug,I’m not far from you on this. God can certainly forgive anyone he wishes. But at a minimum, the RM folks should accept people who were converted the same way they were. That’s what I’m going after right now.

  4. “But at a minimum, the RM folks should accept people who were converted the same way they were.”You’d think that wouldn’t be so hard, but unfortunately it is. Actually, if we got that far it would be an enormous step toward unity in the body.The broader christian community accepts anyone who says they are a Christian at face value. I think that’s too liberal, however in the RM we seem to look at everyone with suspicion and doubt until they pass all our tests. That’s too conservative.Frankly, I think the more liberal approach is closer to the heart of the gospel. It allows fellowship and the building of trust and relationship. It’s then that we can be in a position to teach and challenge those who’s convictions aren’t what we see in the scriptures.

  5. […] John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB) « A Proposal For Unity Part 1: One Body A Proposal For Unity Part 3: The Bible » A Proposal For Unity Part 2: […]

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