Unity is called for in the Church:
1 Corinthians 1:10 ( ESV) "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."This appeal is to the brothers; that is the Church. Before we discuss the identity of the Church a little housekeeping is required: First off, you may notice that I quoted the English Standard Version. (ESV). Some denominations would take issue with that. Most notably some would insist that the only valid scripture is the King James Version. I prefer the KJV, but it is not the original language, so to insist on its usage is adding to the Law of God. Nowhere is it required that we use a certain version. We should, for pragmatic reasons, read scripture in our own language. King James English is not anyone's language, but it is poetic, and KJV is maybe the most reliable word for word translation.
Therefore, the version used is not an issue unless the thought and intent is lost. Some versions do lose the intent and thought, and must be avoided. Any version which paraphrases is suspect and should never be used. I cannot address them all, but I would avoid the New International Version. That's a personal issue with me because it seems have many conflicts with other reliable translations.
Also, if one attempts to memorize, it's almost a necessity to pick one translation and stick to it. I don't memorize scripture, but I do the ideas which is transmitted by the passages. Many preachers use memorization to show off their abilities, but it is a good idea anyhow to engrain God's Word in the mind. I was not given a great memorization ability, and using several versions compounded that inability. For those purists who fell in love with KJV, then Paul's appeal is repeated:
1 Corinthians 1:10 (KJV) "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."Let's add to that another like verse:
Philippians 1:27b (KJV) "...ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel..."One version says united, and the other joined together. It's pretty clear that Paul desires that it's best that Christians be united. Unity is a good thing because Paul tells us elsewhere that there is one Christ, one Spirit, and one baptism. Likewise, he criticizes contentions:
1 Corinthians 1:11 (KJV) " For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"The focus of the Church without regard to denomination - Paulists, Peterists, and Apollists; should be on Christ. Sure, each of those disciples understood Jesus from their own viewpoint, but they all had faith in Him! There is one gospel, but their understanding of it was each different, However, they all knew that Jesus was crucified for each of them, and they were unified on that one idea.
Unity was not a command. Paul appealed (ESV) to them or beseeched (KJV) them to be in unity. It is something desirable that we should do out of love, the atmosphere of the Church.
In Acts we always see they all were of one accord before the Holy Ghost made his presence. There are even divisions over the use of Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. Ironically, the KJV purists don't care for Ghost, but that term is used often in the KJV! However, it's pneuma in the Greek for both ghost and spirit; indicating that they are the same, but written in a different context. Therefore, unity is needed for the Holy Spirit/Ghost to be there and do his job - to Comfort.
Some ostracize others for believing that the Spirit comes and goes. As Christians receive the Spirit, it certainly comes unto them, but he doesn't come and go in the same person, unless from the Armenian viewpoint, he leaves because the Holy Spirit is rejected (blasphemy). However, this issue is divisive, and denominations are formed based on the understanding of the people. Note that scripture is right, but understanding is wrong. It's not my place to say who is right or wrong, but I have my own interpretation.
Unity is for the Church. Even that is contentious. Liberal Christians believe that all religions worship the same God just because they are someone's god. That raises the question: What is liberalism?
Liberals are those people in many denominations who reject the notion that Holy Scripture is the inspired Word of God, although Scripture self-identifies as such. (2 Timothy 3:16). As such, what is written in Scripture is in their opinions, not divine truth, but the mere commentary of men. Iin my viewpoint, based on Holy Scripture, these denominations are not part of the Church because their God is a liar god. However, within those apostate denominations may be great Christians who believe in spite of the Church, just as their was at the Corinthian church. Some of those are the mainstream protestant denominations. When liberal denominations accept evolution, same-ex marriage, and abortion; they deny God's Word - their god is a liar god, and know not that they are deceived.
The Church (capital C) are those people who are truly disciples of Christ. Even apostate churches believe in Christ because even the demons do, but the key word is trust in Jesus. As such, Jesus is not a liar, and when Scripture says that he died for our sins, he did just that! Therefore, the center of true faith is that Jesus propitiated his own blood for the sins (Roman 3:25) of everyone:
1 John 2:2 (KJV) "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."Like it or not, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world - Jews, Arabs, Indians and all the rest. He even died for those who don't believe in him at all, and even those who have a wrong believe in him. However, those who don't believe, or have wrong beliefs, must have right beliefs to be saved.
John 14:6 (KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.The criteria to be part of the true Church (trans-denominational), is that salvation must be through the shed blood of Jesus Christ; not a false Christ, but the one who spoke to mankind in the gospels, did miracles, cast out demons, died in our place, was resurrected, ascended to heaven, and still lives. Believing that Jesus existed is not enough. It takes faith that he did what he said he did as written by the words of the apostles.
Many words have been added to Scripture starting from day-one. Denominations continue to add words to scripture. Some of those are cults, but others are misled denominations. Any sect that declares that a person must be one of theirs is a cult. That is not scripture! In fact, as Paul indicated, it's best that we don't even belong to denominations, but since some have deviated from scripture, denominations are important. They can be a guide for truth, or a screen for deception. Each must be evaluated by their doctrine. Some of those declare that they have no doctrine, and are not denominational, but even that is a falsehood. Beware!
The true Church is Christ-centered, and shies away from self-centeredness. The self is the bitterest enemy of the Church. The social gospel is one of works, not grace, and is usually those of the liberal persuasion who take the death of Jesus too lightly, if at all. We cannot unite with them as Christians, but throughout the world many of those churches have united together to profess a false gospel. Beware of churches belonging to the International Council of Churches. They are DGW - denominations gone wild!
Believing in the Trinity is a key belief in Christianity. If any denomination does not believe that God has three aspects, they deny the Scriptural God. He is not three persons, as we say for ease, but has three natures. Persons applies to people. God is not a person - He IS God. For a time, one nature of God was the person Jesus Christ. He is the single person of the Holy Trinity. It is essential that Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate because that is what the Bible says.
Some people have exclusive doctrine which excludes true Christians. They most divisive are the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism. Both believe in the essentials: the way to salvation, the nature of God, grace, and so forth. It is how they operate in the kingdom of God which is at issue. Both factions are truly part of the Church, but one or the other is wrong because their doctrines differ. However, we can be unified because we have the same baptism, the same Christ, and the same spirit.
My personal belief is that Christians put God in a box. Scripture clearly shows that God works at times in Calvinistic ways, and at others by free will, to suit his purposes. A whole tier of scripture can be found where God works in different ways. Just as God could not be contained by walls in scripture, we can't contain Him in our feeble boxes. It is self-aggrandizement if we think we can!
I am personally Arminian in belief because that is how I interpret scripture, even some of the same passages Calvinists use to support their doctrine. Of great importance is: (1) What faith is, (2) how much faith, and (3) the duration of faith. My own belief is that faith is a gift (grace), we can never earn salvation, but are expected to show our love by works of faith; and that faith is for the duration of the life of the believer. I base that all on scripture. Regardless, the true Church must believe that salvation is a gift, not to be earned, and those denominations which profess works are in error.
We are to show grace ourselves as Jesus did for us. He said about those who crucified him: Forgive them Father for they know not what they do, to paraphrase what he said. As Jesus showed mercy to those who had yet to understand, we must be merciful to those who do not understand. Rather than criticizing those who are misled, they should be lovingly corrected as 2 Timothy 3:16 says. Of course if they adhere to false doctrine, they must be rebuked.
That part of ecumenicalism is what is not happening: Denominations are allowed to be part of the unity which are in extreme error. For instance Unitarian-Universalists always contaminate Christian gatherings although it is impossible for them to be part of the true Church. Even more horrendous is the inclusion of Muslims who don't even believe Jesus is the Son of God, and that he never even died on the cross! Then we have other mainstream denominations who are always at ecumenical gatherings who don't even believe the Holy Scripture is the Word, and condone sinful behaviors in their denominations!
Then there are other denominations who are at those functions which create chaos - demanding that the others in the Body of Christ, adhere to their dogmatism. They are modern-day Pharisees.
As a general rule, it's the denominations whose doctrines are liberal, and deny the inerrancy of Scripture, who take the lead in ecumenicalism. For that reason, I shy away from ecumenical events, but honor other denominations which are true to Scripture. Those are the few who worship in faith, but have different ideas about the nature of faith. Because liberal denominations don't bother with scriptural truth, it's easy for them to unite because they unite without principle. Avoid organizations which bring those of other faiths together, unless it's the same faith in Christ.
Catholicism is the foundation of the true Church, like it or not. Catholic is Latin for universal. However, because of the Roman bishop doing a power-grab years ago, Roman Catholicism has become a mere denomination. Much of their doctrine is true to scripture, but an extreme amount is not. Individual Catholics are part of the True Church, but based on scripture, the Roman Catholic Church is not! Usually they are well-represented at ecumenical functions, even the Pope, although at one time they believed that Roman Catholicism was the one true faith.
None of this commentary is meant to be hateful or even prejudiced. I just see it as truth, and is my thoughts on that subject. If we all seek truth according to scripture, God will forgive us for not knowing what we do!