“One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”
“One Lord [there is], one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all.”—EPHESIANS 4:4-6.
1, 2. (a) Regarding Himself, what did Jehovah make very plain through Moses? (b) So was there room for different religious opinions in Israel?
“JEHOVAH our God is one Jehovah. You must not walk after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you, (for Jehovah your God in your midst is a God exacting exclusive devotion).” Moses left no doubt in the minds of the Israelites gathered on the plains of Moab, shortly before they were due to enter the Promised Land. He plainly stated that their God, Jehovah, is one God, and that Jehovah expects exclusive worship. In a previous discourse, Moses had said: “Jehovah is the true God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. There is no other. And you must keep his regulations and his commandments that I am commanding you today, that it may go well with you.”—Deuteronomy 6:4, 14, 15; 4:39, 40.
2 No room in those words for different religious opinions! Israel had one God. And Jehovah outlined plainly the one acceptable way in which he might be worshiped.
Jewish Sects Emerge
3. Because the majority of the Jews did not remain faithful to Jehovah, what eventually happened?
3 However, instead of practicing the pure worship of the one true God, Jehovah, most of the Israelites became apostates, worshipers of idol gods. (Jeremiah 17:13; 19:5) Because of this, it did not ‘go well with them.’ In 607 B.C.E. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and many Jews were deported to Babylonia. A faithful remnant returned to Jerusalem 70 years later and began building a second temple for Jehovah’s worship. But as time passed, the majority of the Jews apostatized and eventually split up into various sects.
4, 5. (a) Describe some of the Jewish sects that developed after the Babylonian captivity. (b) Did such divisive sects do the Jews any good? Explain.
4 In the fourth or the third century B.C.E. the sect of the Hasidim (“pious ones”) developed. They were overzealous in observing Judaic Law and are generally considered to be the forerunners of two other sects that originated in the second century B.C.E.—the Essenes and the Pharisees. Both the Essenes and the Pharisees adopted the Grecian doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Differing from them in not believing in an afterlife were the Sadducees. The Bible speaks of the dissensions that existed between the Sadducees and the Pharisees at the time of the apostles. (Acts 23:7-10) The Concise Jewish Encyclopedia states: “Tension between the two even led to massacres and civil war.”
5 The Zealots were another Jewish sect that existed in the first century C.E. They were militant nationalists who did much to foment the successful Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66 C.E. After this they sought to dominate other armed sects in Jerusalem, causing civil war and much suffering. Such armed strife between rival Jewish sects continued right up to and even during the final Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It is obvious that sectarian divisions and unfaithfulness to united, pure worship of the one God, Jehovah, did the Jews no good.
Early Christians Not a Sect
6. Why did the early Christians keep clear of Jewish sects?
6 Needless to say, the early Christians kept clear of Jewish sectarian strife. They knew that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were among Jesus’ bitterest enemies. Christ’s followers could share neither the Essenes’ belief in the immortality of the soul nor their taste for a monastic, ascetic life. And as neutrals they certainly had nothing in common with the nationalistic Zealots. (John 17:16; 18:36) Rather, the Christians practiced the united, pure worship of the one true God, in keeping with Jesus’ words to a non-Jewish woman: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
7. What did Jesus and Paul say, and what do their words imply regarding true Christian worship?
7 Speaking for true Christians, the apostle Paul stated: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) True Christianity means united worship of the one God, the Father, Jehovah, through the one Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples: “Your Leader is one, the Christ.”—Matthew 23:10.
8. Why could the early Christians not be properly called a sect?
8 True, members of the long-established Jewish sects disdainfully called the early Christians a sect (Greek: haiʹresis, denoting “a body of men separating themselves from others and following their own tenets”). (Acts 24:5; 28:22) But in his defense before Governor Felix, the apostle Paul rejected this misnomer, stating: “According to the way that they [his religious enemies] call a ‘sect,’ in this manner I am rendering sacred service to the God of my forefathers.” (Acts 24:14) In no way could Christians be called a sect, for they were following Jesus Christ, not any man. Further, they were certainly not an offshoot of one of the sects of Judaism that existed in the first century C.E.
No Sectarian Divisions
9, 10. (a) Why was Christianity not meant to break up into separate churches and sects? (b) What theories about the origins of Christianity are completely false?
9 Early Christianity was not a sect. Nor was it meant to break up into separate sects. In praying to his Father, Christ asked that his disciples might “all be one.” (John 17:21) His disciples were to ‘have love among themselves.’ (John 13:35) This excluded any divisive forming of sects.
10 That fact gives the lie to theories expounded by many historians and theologians concerning different types of Christianity. They speak of “Jewish Christianity” (supposedly defended by James, Peter and John) as opposed to “Gentile Christianity” (said to be defended by Paul). They refer to “Johannine [John’s] theology” and “Pauline [Paul’s] theology,” claiming that Christianity would never have spread worldwide if Paul had not completely transformed it. Such theories are set forth by men who either have no faith in Christianity or accept as normal Christendom’s being divided into hundreds of churches and sects.
11. (a) What scriptures prove that Paul did not invent the idea of Christianity’s spreading to the non-Jews? (b) Did Paul approve of divisive sects? (c) What incident illustrates the unity of Paul and his fellow workers?
11 The facts are quite different. Before Paul ever became a Christian, Jesus Christ commissioned His disciples to be His witnesses in all the nations. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Paul himself fought against any tendency to follow men, and stated: “There should not be divisions among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-15; 3:3-5) So it is quite futile to claim that Paul had a different conception of Christianity than did James, Peter and John. They were all united in the work of spreading the good news. On one occasion, probably at the time of the council on circumcision held in Jerusalem in 49 C.E., the four of them cooperated fully with regard to the dividing up of the preaching field.—Galatians 2:7-9.
Warnings Against Disunity
12. Was there any abiding hostility between Paul and Peter?
12 Naturally, being imperfect humans, the early Christians—even some shouldering weighty congregational responsibility—had their differences. In Syrian Antioch, Paul put Peter straight on a certain point. (Galatians 2:11-14) But did Peter go off and form a separate sect, as if he were not in agreement with so-called Pauline Christianity? Not at all, for years later, in about 64 C.E., he spoke of Paul in loving terms.—2 Peter 3:15, 16.
13, 14. (a) How did Paul classify “divisions” and “sects”? (b) According to Paul, what should be done with sect promoters?
13 Under divine inspiration Paul listed “divisions” and “sects” among “the works of the flesh.” He wrote: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects . . . Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
14 Since those who cause “divisions” and “sects” “will not inherit God’s kingdom,” they cannot be tolerated within the true Christian congregation. Therefore, Paul wrote to Titus: “Shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.”—Titus 3:9-11.
Unity of Belief
15, 16. (a) Why is there no room for different schools of thought within the Christian congregation, and what does Paul say on this? (b) Does this mean that a Christian should not use his thinking abilities? (c) What do Peter, Jude and Paul say about the danger of doubt and being misled from the truth?
15 From all the foregoing it is evident that true Christianity cannot be divided into denominations and sects. There cannot even be coexistent tendencies or schools of thought within the Christian congregation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”—1 Corinthians 1:10.
16 This does not mean that the true Christian witness of Jehovah cannot use his thinking abilities. The apostle Peter urged the use of “clear thinking faculties” in refuting “ridiculers” who would show up “in the last days” and deny the “presence” of Christ. (2 Peter 3:1-4) In his letter, Jude speaks of “some that have doubts.” (Jude 22) But neither Peter nor Jude says that a Christian can remain a ridiculer or a doubter. Peter tells us to ‘be on our guard’ against “unsteady” ones who ‘twist the Scriptures.’ (2 Peter 3:16, 17) And Jude states that the doubters are in danger and need to be ‘snatched out of the fire.’ (Jude 23) Those who have been misled from the truth need to be helped “with mildness,” in the hope that “they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil.”—2 Timothy 2:23-26.
17. In what way will the true Christian use his thinking faculties, and what will he earnestly endeavor to do?
17 The true Christian uses his “clear thinking faculties” in a humble way. Paul writes: “I . . . entreat you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.”—Ephesians 4:1-6.
How Unity Is Attained and Maintained
18. What is meant by the expressions (a) “one God”? (b) “one Lord”? (c) “one spirit”? (d) What is Christianity’s one written guide?
18 Paul spoke of “one God . . . who is over all.” Or, as Moses put it: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) That fundamental truth has never changed. It is the key factor of Christian unity. There is one God and one acceptable way of worshiping him, “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) The “one Lord” is Jesus Christ, “the head of the body, the congregation.” (Colossians 1:18) “One spirit” denotes the unifying active force of Jehovah. Jesus told his disciples: “The helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you. I leave you peace, I give you my peace.” (John 14:26, 27) The ‘things brought back to their minds’ were written down in the Christian Greek Scriptures. These, together with the Hebrew Scriptures, make up the Bible, true Christianity’s one written guide.
19. What is the “one body,” and who has been appointed to provide the same spiritual food for all its members?
19 “One body” is the Christian congregation, of which Jesus is the “head.” (Ephesians 1:22, 23) The individual anointed members of this united congregation would all receive the same spiritual food. To that end, their “master” appointed a collective “faithful steward” class, the body of anointed Christians on the earth since Pentecost 33 C.E. Since the “master” found the remaining ones of this body faithfully and discreetly giving out “food supplies” when he arrived for inspection in 1919, he appointed them “over all his belongings.” (Luke 12:42-44) The facts show that since 1919 this “steward” has faithfully cared for these “belongings.”
20. (a) At Isaiah 65:11, 13, what contrast is made between God’s people and religious apostates? (b) What has contributed greatly to the unity of Jehovah’s people?
20 The clergy of the numerous churches and sects of Christendom were not found to be distributing proper spiritual “food supplies” to Christ’s “body of attendants.” Therefore, these clerics and their flocks are spiritually “hungry.” (Isaiah 65:11, 13) On the other hand, the “faithful steward” has kept up an abundance of “food supplies at the proper time” for individual anointed Christians, and, since 1935, for a growing “great crowd” of “other sheep.” (Revelation 7:9, 10; John 10:16) Regardless of language or geographical location, all these witnesses of Jehovah follow the same worldwide study program based on God’s Word. This has done much to promote unity among them and to maintain it.
The Wonderful Unity of Jehovah’s People
21. How is unity maintained among Jehovah’s Witnesses today, and how does this compare with the organizational arrangement in the days of the apostles?
21 The unity of some 45,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in over 200 lands is also maintained through their Scriptural organizational methods. “The apostles and older men [elders] in Jerusalem” formed a governing body for the first-century Christian congregation. (Acts 15:2) They and their representatives appointed “overseers” and “ministerial servants” in the congregations and made other supervisory decisions. (Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23; 16:4) Likewise today, a group of anointed Christian elders make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And just as the decisions of the first-century governing body were communicated to the congregations, so today the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses receive instructions from the Governing Body and visits from traveling overseers. (Acts 15:22, 23, 30) Now, as then, ‘the congregations continue to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.’—Acts 16:5.
22. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly appreciate, and what will they unitedly keep on doing?
22 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been delivered from the sectarian divisions of Christendom. Under the direction of their “one Lord,” Jesus Christ, and his “steward,” they press on unitedly in proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) They will continue “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” Indeed, they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news.”—Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 1:27.
Do You Remember These Points?
□ What kind of worship first existed in ancient Israel?
□ From the fourth century B.C.E. onward, what happened among apostate Jews?
□ What scriptures show that Christianity was never meant to be sectarian?
□ How does the Bible indicate that there is no room for different schools of thought within the Christian congregation?
□ What factors contribute to unity of understanding and work among Jehovah’s Witnesses?
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Jehovah’s Witnesses are united in their worship worldwide