Is unity in the church possible? The answer is yes, but what kind of unity? Is it unity in error or unity in truth? Denominations have unity in error but is this the kind of unity God desires? If it is unity in truth we desire, then the Holy Word of God must be what unites us. Let us take a look at what unity in truth looks like.
The Bible usage of the term “body” as it applies to the church always carries the idea of singularity. In fact, it is even emphasized that there is “one body” and “only one body” (Rom. 12:4-5 f; 1 Cor 12:20). This “one body” is the church of Christ (Eph 1:22-23 f; Col 1:18). This is the body which Christ has saved (Eph 5:23). It is the body over which He is head (Eph 1:22-23 f; Col 1:18). Is there more than one head of the body? Catholics say “yes” for they believe that both Christ and the Pope are the heads of the church. Protestant denominationalism is just as wrong, for they contend for one head and about three hundred bodies. It is just as wrong to preach “many bodies” as to preach “many heads.” Both of them deny the Word of God. Paul declared plainly that there is only one body, which is the church (Eph 4:4).
In Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church to the physical body. He tells us that just as the physical body has many members and yet there is but one body, so the church is made up of many members but there is “but one body.” These members that constitute the body of Christ are not different denominations or churches! It would mean that each member of the physical body would have to be a distinct and separate unit organically with its own organization and government. This is contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. Paul points out that the “members” are so “tempered together” that there should be “no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor 12:12-27). These members do not speak a different language, have a separate organization, a different kind of worship, and serve the head separately, but they are correlated under one head and authority, each with its own capacity and function, but each obligated to function for the good of the body as a whole. The members of the physical body are representative of the individual members of the body (the church) of Christ. Christians are the members and not churches.
In Romans 12, Paul tells us that some members are “prophets,” some “ministers,” some “preachers,” some “exhorters,” some “rulers.” These “ruling” members are the elders of the church (1 Tim 5:17). But elders in the Lord’s church are not 11 ruling members” over the church universal. The Jurisdiction of elders is over the local church and its membership only (Acts 20:17-28 f; 1 Peter 5:2). If the elders, or “ruling members” in this passage, refer to local elders, then the body of which they are “ruling members” must be the local church.
There is not a picture of the church in the New Testament Scriptures that will allow the denominational concept of the church. When the church is compared to a bride, with Christ as bridegroom, there is but one bride! Denominationalism would picture Christ as the brideoroom with many brides and each wearing a different name (Eph 5:25-27 f; John 3:29). Then the church is described figuratively as the “household of God” or God’s family (1 Tim 3:15 f; Ephesians 2:19). God is the father of the whole family (Eph 3:14-15). All of God’s children are in this family. God does not have any children outside of His family, and God does not have many families, each of them with a different family name. Denominationalism does not fit into the scriptural description of the church at any point.
Wherever we look for the body (the Church) of Christ, the church of the New Testament is found. It does not have one name one time and another the next. It does not have a variety of organizations but always the same divine arrangement in organization. The only organization that can be found in the Scriptures is Christ the universal head, His word the divine law, and each local church with its elders, deacons and members (Philip 1:1 f; Acts 14:23). There is no difference in matters of faith, for the “one faith” of the Gospel must characterize all, or they are not the body of Christ. They must worship by the same pattern (Jn 4:23,24), for they are guided by the same Spirit (Jn 16:13 cf; 14:26). We are only one with Christ when we obey the One Gospel of Christ (Eph 4:5) and continue in the One Doctrine of Christ (2 Jn 9). Christ has but one body and the body of Christ is one. Thus, unity is achieved in truth only when we are One with Christ and His Word!