Assembly Truth (8): Unanimity in a Local Assembly (1)

The Desirability of Unanimity

Unanimity is a word that we do not often use. It simply means being unanimous, of the same mind. The NT teaches that the overseers have the most to do with assembly decisions, but how good it is when the overseers themselves are unanimous! The unanimity of the overseers in every important decision inspires unanimity among the saints. Every believer in the assembly should be considered in the desirability of unanimity.

The late G. H. Lang wrote an excellent book, The Churches of God. In that book he has a very important article entitled, “Unanimity: A Divine Rule of Church Order and Christian Cooperation.”

He wrote, “A question of the highest importance is whether the Word of God sanctions the deciding of matters by a majority vote of the believers concerned, or whether the Lord does not rather teach us to defer judgment until one undivided judgment is reached. Is it not among other reasons, to guard against the mistakes inevitably arising from haste that the Lord wishes His people to defer decision until unanimity is reached? A method which is as likely to lead to a wrong as it is to guide to a right decision cannot be a divine method, and ought not to be followed by those possessing the divine nature, and therefore capable of having the mind of Christ (2Peter 1:4; 1Cor 2:16), in Whose working mistakes are unknown.”

Every book of the NT has something to encourage unanimity, or at least something to help us get along with one another, which is essential to being of the same mind.

Matthew: “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (or “the Gehenna of fire” Matt 5:22, KJV).” Since our relationship with others is so important, the next verse says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (5:23, 24, KJV). God’s Word clearly teaches that worship comes before service. Here, the Lord Jesus tells us something that comes before worship: A right relationship with our brother.

Probably most in assembly fellowship appreciate the words, “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20, KJV) but we should be reminded of their context among verses that deal with our getting along with each other. This is part of the truth of God and is essential for assembly testimony.

Mark presents the Lord Jesus as God’s perfect Servant. He emphasizes His love, patience, and compassion with individuals (1:40, 41; 5:35b, 36; 10:21). Surely, the more we are like the Lord Jesus, the better our relationship with others will be.

Luke wrote, “Take heed to yourselves; if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent forgive him” (Luke 17:3, KJV). Rebuke him alone (without others being present) as Matthew 18:15 commands. “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, ‘I repent’; thou shalt forgive him” (KJV). What was the Lord teaching here? When it comes to personal trespass we should not question the genuineness of the repentance. No matter how genuine the man’s repentance is, the other person could think and/or say, “He is just saying that.” We should notice that the Lord does not say that he actually did repent seven times. He only said that he repented!

In John 17:20-23, the Lord Jesus (in speaking to the Father) says, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me”( KJV).

G. H. Lang wrote: “It is sufficient to notice three things: The Lord’s desire for all His people to be perfected into one; the pattern of that oneness, to be oneness of the Father and the Son; and the object of this oneness, to be the testimony thereby given unto the world.

“The prayer of the Lord was in effect that the Holy Spirit might be sent into every one who should believe on His Name, so that by the Spirit of God indwelling each, all might be united into one in God; so that the pattern of our unity should be the oneness of the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit … the Father, the Son and the Spirit are not only one in person, but also one in action – in all Their doings there is the most perfect harmonious unity. It would be sheer blasphemy, in fact logically the most absolute atheism, to suppose that the doings of the Godhead to be regulated by the decision of any two Persons thereof, the other being either opposed to the view of the two, or merely submissive to being outvoted.

“But this being utterly incompatible with the oneness of the Father and the Son in the unity of the Spirit, how can it be any more in order on the part of those who, being indwelt by the same Spirit, are to be so united as to conform to the pattern of the oneness of God, even as our Lord prayed, ‘That they may be one even as We are one.’

“As to our last point, believers are to manifest a corporate union publicly, for the world is to see it. The object of the Lord is that the world may know and believe that He was sent by the Father, and that the believer is a sharer in the love of the Father to the Son. The deliberate departing from oneness of action by adopting the practice of the majority voting is undeniably not even attempting to attain such unified working, and cannot therefore, result in the testimony which He taught oneness alone could give.”