Union and Unity

Union and Unity

J. Boyd Nicholson

Uniformity and Unanimity

In these days of alliances, compacts, councils, and affiliations, there would seem to be much confusion of thought and resultant apprehension in the minds of many believers.

There is the fear among some of unwittingly contracting an “unholy alliance” with its inevitable judgment. On the part of others, the fear is that of an “isolationism” that would grieve God.

These two fears lead many to extremes on both sides. Forceful personalities vigorously propounding convictions in this realm have wrought much havoc in the Church.

Much of this heart-rending condition could have been avoided to the glory of God and the comfort of His people. A mightier testimony in the world would have resulted and local churches would be delivered today from much weakness, dissension and its stigma.

This confusion would seem to stem, in a large measure, from a failure to discern the difference between two sets of principles. One, that Union is not synonymous with Unity, and another, that Uniformity is not a prerequisite for Unanimity.

Union does not assure unity. Unity is not the child of union. Union may be oneness of purpose and at the same time diversity of principle. Union can be joined in name while divorced in nature. I nail a piece of lumber to a cement wall, this is union; but, strictly speaking, not unity. A saved woman may marry an unsaved man. This is union but it is not unity. The much publicised ecumenical movement for world union of “churches,” can never be the producer or the possessor of unity. Unity is oneness in nature. Unity is oneness in the principles of existence, continuance, and culmination.

The compounding of the holy anointing oil in Exodus 30 is the scriptural picture of unity among brethren, as painted for us in the 133rd Psalm. There, the dwelling of brethren together in unity is “like the precious ointment …”

The myrrh, the cinnamon, cassia, and calamus may be put together, stirred and thoroughly mixed. This is union, but not yet unity. The apothecary may still pick out a fragment of myrrh, or a piece of cassia for they have retained their identity. Now he adds the cohesive factor, the oil. The blending of the components together with the oil, makes of one, many particles. Now there is unity; oneness. Every part is characteristic of the whole, and the separate nature of the spices indistinguishable.

Union has to do with position while unity, with condition. Though there cannot be unity without union, it is obvious to all that union without unity is prevalent. It is a sad state of affairs to suppose that union presumes unity and that spiritual position presupposes spiritual condition.

The unity of brethren in the picture of the holy anointing oil has some striking features. It was a Costly thing compounded of the principle spices, pure, sweet, and fragrant. What did it cost the God of Heaven to make it possible for me to shake your hand and call you “brother”? What did it cost the Son of God to produce in this world a fellowship which surpasses every organization and society in its character? It cost the cross! It cost the sacred currency of the precious blood that flowed from Immanuel’s veins! It cost the blackness of those three terrifying hours, the orphan cry, the utter abandonment of the soul of the Man of Sorrows, our Beloved Lord!

It is little wonder then, that this costly ointment was also a Holy ointment. Little wonder, too, that this costly unity is a holy thing. Holy, because of its cost to God and His blessed Son. Woe betide that man who puts forth his hand to disturb this unity; whether through dullness of discernment, the wretchedness of evil intent, or the fires of zeal for “the truth”. Let us all beware lest we be thus guilty of the iniquity of the holy things.

The ointment was particular. It was not put on the stranger. Work as we may, plan as we can, organize, and burn the midnight oil dry, we can never produce unity between the saint of God and the stranger to His grace. Union; yes, this is possible, but unity, no! It just cannot be.

Just as the cohesive element in the holy ointment was the oil, so the uniting force that blends saint with saint in strange and holy compounding is the Holy Spirit of God. Only those sealed and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ can know the fragrance and fruitfulness of this unity.

However, it is sadly possible to be a partaker of this unity and not live in the spirit of it. It is not alone the fact of unity that is so blessed, but the enjoyment of it. Thus the holy anointing oil was compounded “… after the art of the perfumer …” The grace to Dwell in this unity is an “art”.

The confusion of mind that causes so many of God’s people to suppose that unanimity can be produced by uniformity has been the sad cause of not a few good and useful saints reeling from one extreme to another.

It is tragic, in these days when unity and unanimity between the saints of God is so badly needed among other things to indicate to the world our relationship to the divine centre, that uniformity should ever become the “shibboleth” for acceptance. What a sad mistake it is, and with what painful product and many a broken heart, have we come to believe that unanimity and uniformity are, if not exactly synonymous, inseparable.

Unanimity has to do with principles; it is a matter of spirit and feeling. Uniformity has to do with practices, a matter of “things” and “doing”.

In the Godhead, there is unvarying and eternal unity and unanimity, yet it is not by uniformity, for the Father is not the Son, and neither is the Spirit; yet, They are One of another, indivisible Unity.

If uniformity of practice is to be an absolute necessity for unanimity of spirit, then where shall it begin and where shall it end? Would it be a provincial uniformity or a national one?

Let Union be the fruit of the Unity of the Spirit, and Unanimity be the flower of Conformity to Christ, till that day when there shall be one fold and one Shepherd. Then we shall wonder perhaps at all the effort, energy, and time expended in seeking uniformity of conditions instead of conformity to Christ.