Unity in the Pauline Epistles

It is however in the Epistles of the apostle to the Gentiles that we find fuller light, where unity rises (beyond the union of God's children however sure, sweet, and blessed, as seen in John's testimony), into the truths of God's habitation, and Christ's body. To be built together is close indeed; to be constituted an organic body, the one body of Christ, is yet more, the closest unity possible. Let us trace this new thing to His praise.

In the Epistle to the Romans unity is applied practically, after the gospel of God has been elaborately set forth in chaps. i. - viii., and God's sovereign grace to all is in chaps. ix.- xi. conciliated with His special promises to Israel. The saints are exhorted to present their bodies a living sacrifice, not conformed to this age, nor with high thoughts but sobriety. "For as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function" (thus communion is taught, each fulfilling his own place in the one body, but not exceeding his measure), " so we the many are one body in Christ and severally members one of another."

Thus, in this Epistle as in all the N.T. and in the nature of things, God does not fail to make it evident that it is for the individual to repent and believe. We are reconciled to God and justified individually. Before the body of Christ was formed or revealed, the believer had through His blood the remission of sins, and was a son of God by faith in Christ Jesus. The work of redemption was now accomplished; Christ had taken His seat at God's right hand; and the Holy Spirit came down to baptise all who received the gospel into one body, and to dwell in them as God's house. Then and there was the church of God formed. "The Lord was adding day by day such as should be saved together " (Acts ii. 47); and this united body was in due time called " the church " (chap. v. 11).

The saints who believed through grace were no longer left as of old among their brethren after the flesh (Mal. iii. 16), however slowly they gave up habits and prejudices. They had now " their own company " (Acts iv. 23), outside Israel and of course the Gentiles. Their hearts, their prayers, their praises, rose up to God and His Anointed, Whose bondmen they were bought with a price, and therefore to glorify God in their body. They were taken out of Israel and brought into the body of Christ by the uniting power of the Holy Spirit before they could explain its nature and character. But His descent they knew well, and that they had received Him. It was for Paul in due time to interpret the result and even to reveal it as bound up with Christ, given to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The presence of the Spirit sent from heaven was their bond that made them one body, not their faith nor yet life which they had antecedently as individuals. They were no longer children of God scattered abroad, but gathered together in one; no longer invisible as units in the midst of the outwardly chosen people, but a corporate body on earth one with their Head in heaven, and as distinct from Jew as from Gentile (1 Cor. x. 32).

In 1 Cor. xii. the apostle, before writing to the Roman saints, had discussed the constitutive principle on the side of the Holy Spirit's presence and action in the church, in the course of which the truth is stated as much above the Reformed systems or those who dissented from them, as above the ancient and so called catholic claims of Greece, Rome, or any others. His was the power that wrought in all the gifts varied as they were, some of which the Corinthians were singling out for ostentation, all of them given to exalt the Lord Jesus. That love, a way still more excellent, must animate and direct each in order to a right exercise of any gift is clearly shown in chap. xiii; and that power is to be subject to the Lord's authority in the regulation of all is the aim of chap. xiv.

In these distinct manifestations then the same Spirit distributes, the same Lord is served, the same God effectuates, by each for common profit. For as the one body has many members, and the many members are one body: so also, he boldly says, is " the Christ," the body and Head. How truly then is it " one body in Christ! " Of this unity the Holy Spirit now given and present is the power. "For also [besides working in each] in virtue of one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and we were all given to drink of one Spirit" (13). It is not new birth, still less water baptism, but the effect of the Spirit given when Jesus was glorified.