Book Report (chapter report, really)

I’m slowly making my way through the book The Church: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic by Richard Phillips, Philip Ryken and Mark Dever. I’m on Chapter 2, One Church, by Richard Phillips. The verses considered by Rev. Phillips in this chapter are from Ephesians 4:1-6:

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekess, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Here are a few interesting and thought-provoking excerpts from the chapter:

We hear today a constant cry against the “problem” of Christian division. Roman Catholic apologists use this as one of their main arguments against the Reformation and its doctrine of Scripture alone. One group argues, “Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians.” Catholics and Protestants who bemoan this problem point to Jesus’ prayer as proof that visible unity should be our top priority. Jesus prayed, asking “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).

What are we to make of this matter? I think the best answer, and the one Paul gives in our passage, is not to solve the problem of Christian unity but to deny its existence. Let me state that again: according to Paul the church is already united. He says, “There is one body and one Spirit” (Eph. 4:4). Not that there ought to be one body, but that there is one body, one unified church. We are not exhorted to “create”unity among Christians, but to maintain it, that is, to serve and promote the unity that is already a fact (Eph. 4:3). Likewise, Jesus prayed to the Father, not to us, for church unity, and we can be sure that his prayer was answered. This was the assertion of the Nicene Creed, the formula of which shapes our treatment of the church in this book. There is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” There is no problem of unity in Christ’s church, for it is already one. (page 26)

On page 29, Rev. Phillips continues:

The true church is not divided, Paul insists, for there is one church, one body. We have unity, but are now called to maintain and serve it, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). If we are to do this, we must rightly discern the boundaries of Christian unity and truth. If there is one church with one faith, then we must be prepared to discern what is the content that defines the boundary between brother Christians and false professors. With whom do we have unity? This is what we must discern.

To discover the author’s answer, you will have to read this excellent little book for yourself.

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