I will be posting excerpts from the writing of Iain Murray over the course of the next week or so. Tomorrow will be excerpts from his book "Evangelicalism Divided" which a very prominent pastor has recently pulled out of context and twisted.
From: A Senior Saint on Unity
By Iain H. Murray
Christians agree that unity is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3). It follows that when believers experience more of his grace and power, the bond between them will grow. Conversely, what William Hamilton once said is true, "The more carnal a Christian is, the more sectarian he will be." (Note: Sectarian, i.e. One characterized by bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint)
An outpouring of the Spirit always brings greater unity. What Daniel Baker reported as happening in the revival at Beaufort, South Carolina, was true in many parts of the States at the time of the Second Great Awakening:
"The effect no one can conceive who was not present. Politics were laid aside; business stood still ... The union of sects produced on the occasion was not the least striking feature of the event. Distinctions were laid aside. Christians of all denominations met and worshipped together; indiscriminately in either church, and the cordiality of their mutual attachment was a living commentary on the great precept of their Teacher, ‘Love one another.’
It was unity of this kind, then widely enjoyed, that gave rise to those great trans-denominational efforts of the nineteenth century which shaped the history of the world. I am thinking of missionary societies, Bible and Tract societies, in which there was wider co-operation than had been known before. Remembering this should restrain our controversies over issues which do not directly concern the gospel itself. George Whitefield would never have accomplished what he did had he not acted on the principle, "I despair of a greater union among the churches, till a greater measure of the Spirit be poured from on high. Hence, therefore, I am resolved simply to preach the gospel of Christ, and to leave others to quarrel by and with themselves."
What are the needs in the contemporary scene with regard to unity?
In an age of doctrinal indifference, we need to be awake to the difficulty of obeying the injunction to "follow peace with all men" while contending for the faith. In that regard, we should do our utmost to avoid derogatory terms in speaking of fellow Christians. All distinctive identity labels should be used very sparingly. Christians are to love and serve one another in all circumstances.
Practice, as well as faith, needs to conform to the simplicity of the New Testament. The fear of God and the comfort of the Holy Spirit belong together (Acts 9:31). True worshippers should know something of what is said of Jacob: ‘He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven’ (Gen 28:17)."
Instead of attempting to form new alliances and organizations, we need to discern what God is doing. His work will last for eternity. It is one of the brightest hopes in the United States at the present time that gospel preachers, from different denominational backgrounds, are being spontaneously drawn together in a common concern to advance the cause of Christ. This cause does not need new labels or structures; most of all it needs the anointing of the Spirit, more prayer, love, and humility.
Announcements of success, or satisfaction with numbers, are to be feared rather than sought. God’s work needs no publicity. A true advance and recovery will be marked by the sense of weakness and need which gives all glory to God. Let us not stop short of seeking a real spiritual awakening!