“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16)
The Church is a Body. The Bible says so right there. That means that the Church is a living organism. If our mortal bodies are living organisms, we can expect that the Church is much more so.
That is why the Church has to be built on a strong foundation, the strong foundation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). The strongest foundation that God could find for the thing He loves most – the Church – was the cross: not just the cross where Jesus was crucified; but where the believer, too, can crucify self. It is only by crucifying the flesh that the Church can become one!
There is no other foundation that can be laid for the unity of the Church. It is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul writes:
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11)
The cross is the beginning and the end of the story of the Church. And the Church, as we just read in Ephesians, a living organism that caters to itself in love.
What does all this portend? What does the cross mean? What is the connection between the cross and the unity of the Church?
The cross, as we saw, is where we crucify self. Crucifying self simply means we are not seeking to gain in the natural. We do not seek to keep our lives; but to “gladly spend and be spent” for the Church as Paul boldly states in 2 Cor. 12:15.
In crucifying self we become one with Christ, and with His Body, the Church.
Recall the words of Jesus when someone asked Him what the first commandment was.
“22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.22:38 This is the first and great commandment.22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat. 22:37-38)
“22:38 This is the first and great commandment.22:39 And the second is like unto it”.
This scripture proves that God has priorities. And God’s first priority is that we love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The two go together.
Who is your “neighbor” in this case?
It is your brother and sister in Christ. God’s true desire is that the Church may be one.
You cannot do either of these two things – loving God and loving your neighbor – without crucifying self. You must crucify self in order to fulfill God’s first commandment. The Bible both in Romans and Galatians tells us that the flesh (self) is God’s relentless enemy. You cannot be a Christian who panders to the flesh and at the same time claim you are one with Christ, nor with the Church.
There can be no oneness under such circumstances. But the Church that has been crucified with Christ is one. For this reason the Bible talks of the Church in this manner:
“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:11)
The Church is indeed one! There is no place for divisions based on skin color, educated and uneducated, rich or poor.
There are many foundations being laid today: but none has any place in the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul already stated the singular foundation that – thank God! – has already been laid for the Church: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.
The reason the Church today is not one is because of a lack of the revelation of the cross. Any other gospel apart from Christ crucified cannot bring lasting peace and unity among believers. Self is so destructive! And all these other foundations seek to minister to the flesh, or self.
The cross revealed is the foundation for the Church. Under this foundation no one is looking to gain in the natural. On the contrary, everyone is seeking to lose! They are seeking to put self to death and to allow the life of Christ to flow through them.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is about the denial of self. Any believer who does not deny themselves and take up their cross cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said,
“14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke
Notice the word “cannot”. Pentecostals believe all things are possible. But you cannot be a disciple of Jesus if you are not willing to deny yourself. The entirety of the gospel is based on the ability for one to deny self through the power of the Holy Spirit.