Despite the fact that there are only seven assemblies in Costa Rica, this country has turned out to be yet another proving ground as to what divides and what (or Who) unites.
Christendom has been divided into sects and parties (hairesisand dichostasia), both of which are condemned in the New Testament as works of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20). If these dangers are not remedied they will result in division (schisma). W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, describes hairesis as “a predilection for a particular truth, or a perversion of one,” and suggests that the remedy is the uniting power of “the truth,” held in toto, that is, as a whole. This seems to be emphasized relative to the House of God in the Divine instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus 25:8, 9. “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I might dwell among them. According to ALL that I shew thee, after the pattern … even so shall ye make it.”
Again, relative to the Temple, we read in 1 Chronicles 28:12, 13: “And the pattern of ALL that he had by the Spirit … and for ALL the service of the House of the Lord.” These things, says the writer to the Hebrews, “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” In the church we have now come to the reality of the House of God. 1 Timothy 3:15 says “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” Surely if God was so particular as to the examples and shadows of heavenly things, how much more does He look for accuracy and wholeness as to the reality.
The unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3-6), includes, among other things, “one faith,” embracing ALL that the New Testament reveals relative to Christ and the Church. On the other hand, gathering according to any one principle or truth will divide from those who gather according to any other principle or truth; gathering according to ALL that is revealed relative to Christ and the Church will unite.
Secondly, much division has been fostered among brethren by a misconception of Matthew 18:18. “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” referring to the application or removal of assembly discipline. The implication is that an assembly’s disciplinary action on earth, no matter what it may be, will be vindicated by heaven, which is totally illogical. Here we are helped by Young’s Literal Translation: “Whatever things ye may bind upon the earth shall be HAVING BEEN BOUND in the heaven, and whatever things ye may loose on the earth shall be HAVING BEEN LOOSED in the heavens.” That is, church discipline on earth is first determined in heaven (and this need is communicated by the Word), and the need for removal of church discipline is first decided in heaven (and recognized on earth by repentance shown) and should then be removed. The carrying out of heaven-determined assembly discipline, and the removal of heaven-determined assembly discipline, will unite and not divide.
Finally we wish to consider Who unites. Sometimes we sing, “Our Lord is now rejected and by the world disowned”; but God has highly exalted Him (Phil 2:9). This exaltation, generally speaking, embraced three purposes. First, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince” (Acts 5:31a). In this capacity “He shall … put down all rule and all authority and power, till He hath put all enemies under His feet” (1Cor 15:24, 25). Second, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be … a Savior” (Acts 5:31) “to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” and “to take out of the nations a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14). We are thankful for every individual and for all congregations which harmonize with God in these Divine purposes.
The third is Headship. “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He (the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) might gather together in one (J. N. Darby, “head up”) all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on the earth; even in Him” (Eph 1:10). Meanwhile, in this the day of His rejection, the Father “hath put all things under His feet, and given Him to be Head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:22). He also desires that all should see what is the administration of the mystery (Christ and the Church), (Eph 3:9, 10). Although this cannot be seen relative to the Church (universal), God intends that it should be seen in the local church gathering, being an expression of the universal Church (Scripture emphasizes this as in expression and function, not composition).
This headship embraces all things, but especially involves the three offices of the Lord Jesus embraced by the title “Christ,” namely that of Prophet (revelation), High Priest (worship, praise, intercession) and Sovereign Lord (government). One may ask, what is Christ doing during these almost 2,000 years between His rejection and His coming again? God has given to Him a sphere in which He may be honored in this aspect of His exaltation and exercise these offices, and that sphere is the church, as expressed in the function of the local church. It should affect us that we can so gather and function in the “in assembly” gatherings (1Cor 11:18; 14:19, 35), for general teaching, breaking of bread, and prayers (Acts 2:42), and the open Bible reading (dialegomai Acts 20:7, 9, literally, dialogue) as to concede to the Lord Jesus a sphere that corresponds to the Father’s purpose in giving the church which is His body to His Son in this the day of His rejection. To so gather and function will unite the people of God and not divide, for Christ is not the head of a sect or party, but the Head of the Church.