Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 28, 1952

The One Church

James A. Warren, Chicago, Illinois

(Editor's Note: This article is taken from the "Northwester" July 13, 1952. This is the weekly bulletin of the church in Chicago where brother Warren preaches. This article is filled with modernistic indications, and shows quite conclusively that its author still has a long way to go in finally overcoming the influence of brother Ralph Wilburn and his other liberalistic teachers. See editorial, this issue.)

"There is one body" (Ephesians 4:4); "They are many members, but one body" (1 Cor. 12:20); God "gave him

(Christ) to be head over all things to the church, which is his body" (Ephesians 1:22,23); "He is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18); "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18); "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one, even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee." (John 17:21)

These are familiar passages. We hear them quoted over and over again to show that Jesus founded only one church and that he prayed that there would never be any divisions in that church. And surely the community of God's people is one and not many, and surely it is God's will that all God's people live in unity and in fellowship with one another. A divided church is not the will of God but indicates the presence and work of sin. A Christian is obligated to desire and work for the unity of all God's people.

How shall he do this? Such is not an easy question to answer, if one really takes it seriously. Of course, it is always very simple to say, "Let everyone else give up his church and become a member of mine, and we will have unity." A more subtle way of saying the same thing is to urge "Just become a member of the church that the Bible talks about, and we can all be united." Which church is this? The Bible talks about the church at Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus, etc., but where does the Bible mention a church which exists in the twentieth century? Someone answers, "The New Testament church today is the one that has restored the name, worship and organization of the New Testament church." Do not all Protestant churches claim to be followers of the Bible teaching regarding the church? Is it not obvious that each body has both its strong scriptural points and also its weak ones?

Is it possible that there is one group of our nearly three hundred which has managed to restore New Testament Christianity without any weaknesses whatsoever? No one openly wishes to confess such bigotry, nor do they wish to be cornered into saying that their weaknesses are forgivable while the shortcomings of other groups are not.

There are only a few who have managed to amass sufficient pride to boast of intellectual ability and moral integrity above all others in the world and to presume to know where the grace of God's forgiveness applies and where it does not. These are those who openly state that we alone are THE church of Christ, and that everyone else is going to hell. By our superior intelligence and moral honesty we have exclusive inroads on God's grace. Of course, such people deny that their notions have anything to do with it. They coat every one of their presumptions in the transparent coating of "This is not my idea, but what the Bible says," either unaware of or deliberately hiding the fact that their applications of a first century book to a twentieth century situation automatically involved their own opinions of interpretations, which opinions are just as fallible if not more unreliable — due to their arrogance — than any other man's.

Much of the talk about the one church among us today is unrealistic if not basically dishonest. It is unrealistic because we are no more united than Protestantism as a whole. It is dishonest because it is usually content to cite the Christian ideal of unity in one church, tell people to become a member of the Bible church to achieve this unity, and then leave it right there without openly and honestly facing the truly crucial issue of which church or churches, if any, is the one and only, true church of Christ today. We shirk from the embarrassment which comes by an arrogant claim to be the only church Christ loves today, and instead, we merely seek to shield our arrogance by merely hinting at the fact. If we are ashamed to claim that we are the only people in the world with intellectual insight and moral character to interpret the Bible aright, then let us stop all this double-talk about the one church as an accomplished fact in our time and set ourselves to the task of working in a more honest and meaningful way toward understanding our religious neighbors and their problems that we might better work for the cause of unity.