Here I share more insights gained since Holy Week, citing an example to prove this post’s title and looking at early church history. First, listen to Jesus in prayer:
“Father, I pray for those who will believe in Me..that they may all be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NKJV – emphasis added)
Is Jesus’ prayer about to be fully answered at long, long last? Especially for the sake of saving lost souls?
Sixty years ago many Christian denominations had scant tolerance for one another, even though a large percentage of Britons attended church regularly or, if not, would at least go for Easter and Christmas. Those who didn’t were religiously well-informed – unlike today’s spiritually unwashed masses who are religious illiterates! As a youngster I was subject to some most unexpected personal animosity between Protestants and Catholics – despite their claiming to believe in the same God!
Thus, disunity was one reason for my rejecting Churchianity and seeking truth beyond science and religion in metaphysics and mysticism (the Eastern and New Age variety).
As well as ignoring Jesus’ expressed desire for unity and command to love one another, believers weren’t doing what Jesus did – and more – as He foretold:
“Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12 NKJV)
History demonstrates churches across the East and West hadn’t complied with Jesus’ desire. Moreover, it seems God didn’t answer His Son’s deep prayer request! Mankind’s free-will and Satan’s steering were determined to prevent its fulfillment at all costs.
Heavenly Father can ensure Jesus’ prayer gets met. No doubt He’s waiting for the right time and conditions for inspiring believers who are responsive to His Spirit; rather than to make them comply. He didn’t create robotic automatons. First, however, we need to want and allow Holy Spirit into our lives rather than deny, quench or grieve His gracious ways.
Re-born Into Christ
Consequently, it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find after being born again in 1989-90 those antagonisms had disappeared. When I was baptised in Holy Spirit in 1992 I saw Jesus healing people and so I wanted to associate with the group who’d organised that day’s event. That Circle of Prayer for Healing in the mid-Thames Valley was a mixture of Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and independents – and all charismatics!
Thus, spiritual unity of that small group enabled Holy Spirit to flow in power and manifest the presence of the Kingdom of God – praise You Lord. Hopefully we may expect a much larger manifestation now we’re 25 years further down the road…
An increasing emphasis from those with prophetical voices and gifting is indicating Holy Spirit wants to inspire, infuse and direct our hearts and minds with Jesus’ love for fellow Christians, and to express that as a Unity of spirit and action – so the world no longer sees believers as squabbling hypocrites and realise who Jesus is and that we really do have the answers they’re desperately needing and seeking spiritually.
Hence my enthusiasm towards unity in belief and action (with the caveat of obedience to Jesus’ instructions) throughout Christendom – no doubt the intensification of secular and terrorist persecution is drawing us out of our shells and making us stand up!
So, let’s remind ourselves of recent ‘God-incidents’ focusing on Unity (as here and here).:
- Extraordinary vision: “I watched as these fiery, burning and anointed ones moved together in PERFECT UNITY”.
- Revelation from the Lord about angels of Revival being released and that “The body of Christ is coming alive in Jesus, in purity, in life, in love, in UNITY”.
- Obedient response to: “The Rhema Word God has had for me the past few months is UNITY”.
- Writing a new book for which “The major outcome theme…is Unity”.
- Three years’ preparation for church-wide act of unity across the UK.
The details of the last from Malcolm Duncan warrant brief re-iteration:
“I lead Spring Harvest and for three years I have been working on an act of unity across the United Kingdom that will see all…evangelical bible conventions and celebrations declaring that, whatever our theological differences are, we are one in Christ Jesus. It is going to involve 130,000 Christians from March (Spring Harvest) through to October next year with the Festival of Life…perhaps the biggest demonstration of Christian unity that we have seen in the evangelical church in the United Kingdom for almost two hundred years – and they’ve all said “Yes” – there’s the miracle! They’re all on board, and I am sure the Bible says,
“Where the brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands a blessing.”
Seventeen months ago Heidi Baker brought a word about ‘A New Move of God in the UK’ which prophesied about Unity as follows (underlining added):
“…There’s going to be a movement of unity in the UK that’s going to shake the world, says the Lord. I hear the prophetic word of the Lord. It’s going to flow through the universities and the colleges of the universities. It’s going to flow through denomination and the non-denominations. There’s going to be a move of unity within the Body of Christ.
“You’re going to fill Wembley Stadium. You’re going to fill stadiums, stadiums, with worshippers of the living God. And there’s going to be this holy affection where people come before the Lord. They’re not going to even know who’s speaking in the stadium, they’re not going to even know the name of the preachers, because they’re coming fixing their eyes on Jesus. It’s going to shake the nation, says the Lord.
“There’s going to be a unity even between Scotland and Ireland and the UK, that’s going to SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE. There’s going to be a shaking that’s going to bring a unity, says the Lord. There’s going to be something that the people of other faiths are going to see in this nation, as believers come together in radical love…”
Amen to all the above.
The Early Church on Jesus and Unity
My meditations have been based upon Apostle John’s understanding and revelations of the glory and nature of His dearly beloved rabbi, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This meant musing upon, seeking the Lord and researching into what the disciples may have learned after the Resurrection; ‘To whom’, the physician and chronicler Dr Luke records that Jesus, ‘also presented Himself alive after His sufferings by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and (His) speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.’ (Acts 1:3 NKJV)
[THUS, after that privileged private teaching they logically concluded the Kingdom was going to be restored to Israel. That’s clearly the Lord’s action plan – they just wanted to know when to expect its execution. Had that not been a legitimate request they’d have been rebuked. But Jesus told them that’s not their – OR His – concern because it’s The Father’s prerogative! Jesus had another plan for them: transmitting the Gospel with all the consequential signs and wonders: ie. fulfillment of John 14:12 – see Acts1:6-8.]
Scriptural meditations encouraged me to re-read The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God – an exceptionally informative book by the Methodist Bible scholar Margaret Barker, whose Doctorate in Divinity was conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy’. (It is designated, ‘Temple Theology’.)
Dr Barker’s significant new contribution to the understanding of the New Testament opened up important fields for research.
In checking out her website I found the paper ‘Jesus the Nazorean’ most illuminating and confirming my thoughts on Paul’s many references to the ‘mysteries’ of God. On page 9 therein lies a useful insight into our consideration of Unity in the Lord (emphases mine):
“Theodotus, the second century teacher whose work survives only as quotations in Clement of Alexandria, was condemned by later generations as a Gnostic. He taught about Jesus’ role in restoring the unity, just as John’s Jesus did in his final prayer after the last supper. This is what Theodotus said:
They say that our angels were put forth as a unity and are One in that they came out from the One.
Now since we existed in separation, Jesus was baptised that the undivided should be divided until he should unite us with them in the Fullness, that we, the many, having become one, might be mingled with the One which was divided for our sakes.’
“And this is what John’s Jesus said:
”[I pray] that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”. (John 17.21)
Restoring the unity was a sign of divinity. But John’s Jesus also brought judgement: ‘[The Father] has given all judgement to the Son’ (John 5.22).
“Theodotus is not telling us anything different from what Paul said in his message to the
’For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth’ (Eph.1.9-10).
“So too in his letter to the Colossians, Paul said that Christ holds all things together (Col.1.17).
“The secret of the kingdom was the secret of unity, restoring all things to their unity with God, and so Paul saw the future as the Son of God bringing all things into the kingdom – he called it subduing all things, the judgement – ‘that God may be all in all’ (1 Cor.15.28).”
Therefore, in my humble opinion, this information is well-worth mulling over. I’m especially pleased Dr Barker refers to and stresses Ephesians 1:9 (see my covering intro to God’s Eternal Purpose – and reference to Unity therein). This reinforces my interest in what Paul knew by personal revelation from Jesus Himself, as well as gained when he was caught up into heaven.
Thank you Lord that Your Spirit of Wisdom and of Revelation brings knowledge of You (Eph 1:17).
In discussion with a leader at a local church we visited recently I queried his opinion upon the source of Paul’s knowledge of the Last Supper and the Resurrection. He was keenly recommending a new devotional book, 40 Days With Jesus by Dave Smith of New Frontiers church. In considering the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, the leader echoed Smith’s citing ‘compelling evidence from 1 Corinthians 15 (as) important because not only was it…written early [in 55AD] but (also) Paul’s evidence would have come from meetings with the other apostles that took place only a few years after the resurrection itself’.
This book’s a useful adjunct to my meditations, but the above remark may be playing fast and loose with scriptural data!!
Paul’s letter to the Galatians may be dated 6 years earlier, depending upon which of two groups he was addressing, or else contemporary with that sent to the church in Corinth. In stating how he changed from being a severe persecutor of believers to becoming an on-fire believer and preacher, Paul writes (Gal 1:15-16 NKJV):
“When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went to Arabia and returned again to Damascus.”
In about 62 AD, Dr Luke completed his careful investigations of early church history. He wrote, ‘In his account to King Agrippa Paul states, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision but declared first to those in Damascus…(to) repent, turn to God and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-20). Earlier, in recording post-conversion events of Paul in that city, where Paul regained his sight through Ananias, Luke states ‘Then Saul spent some days with the disciples in Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in synagogues…’ (Acts 9:19-20).
Therefore, if Saul didn’t receive full revelation personally about the Last Supper and the Resurrection whilst blind, then wouldn’t he have got the basics from Ananias’ group?
[Credit: ‘Puzzle Globe and Book’ by Thanunkorn, courtesy Freedigitalphotos.net ]