The Unity of God 

 

There is no doubt that one of the major aims of Christianity is to develop a mind which is fixed upon the Lord Jesus. Yet because of the nature of God manifestation, this means that in some ways we have to consider both God, with whom Christ was and is one in spirit, and also the body of Christ; for we are also one with Christ, as He is one with God (Jn. 17:21). Thus the act of breaking bread is not just a statement of our relationship with the Lord Jesus (although of course it is that); it has meaning in terms of our relationship with God too. It is a re-affirmation of our covenant with Him, fulfilling the types of some of the Mosaic sacrifices, which spoke of a man's relationship and commitment to God the Father. So whilst we must ever grow in our appreciation of the unity between Christ and the Father, the supremacy of God's manifestation in Him, we must not let this drive out our awareness of both the Father and our brethren and sisters, the body of Christ.

I want to consider the teaching of Mark 12:28-31. Jesus was asked which was the first (i.e. the most important) commandment; we would expect Him to just recite one of them, and to say 'Well, there you are, that's my answer; that's the first one, either numerically, or in terms of importance'. But in reply to this request to name just one of the ten commandments, He actually quotes two of them. "Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Now notice this bit) There is none other commandment greater than these ". There is no greater command (singular) than these two . So Jesus saw those two commands as one, the greatest, most important principle of our life before God. Yet He begins by speaking of the unity of God as expressed in His memorial Name, Yahweh your elohim, and says that this is what will lead to us loving God with all we have, and also to our loving our neighbour as ourselves. The Lord is saying that if we really appreciate this idea of the unity of God, that Yahweh is our God, then we will therefore love God, and also our neighbour. So what does it mean, to love our neighbour as ourselves? In the context of the Decalogue, the neighbour of the Israelite would have been his fellow Israelite, not the Gentile who lived next door to him. The command to love our neighbour as ourselves is elsewhere given an equivalent under the new Covenant: to love our brother or sister in the ecclesia as ourselves. Gal. 5:14 and James 2:8 quote this command in the context of ecclesial life.

So to love God and Christ is to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is because of the intense unity of God's Name. Because our brethren and sisters share God's Name, as we do, we must love them as ourselves, who also bear that same Name. And if we love the Father, we must love the Son, who bears His Name, with a similar love. The letters of John state this explicitly. If we love God, we must love our brother; and if we love the Father, we must love the Son. This is why we must honour the Son as we honour the Father (Jn. 5:23); such is the unifying power of God's Name. So the Father, Son and church are inextricably connected. Baptism into the name of Christ is therefore baptism into the Name of the Father, and associates us with the "one Spirit" (Mt. 28:19; Eph. 4:4). In the same way as we cannot choose to live in isolation from the Father and Son, so we cannot separate ourselves from others who bear the same Name. The Scribe well understood all this: "There is one God...and to love him...and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mk. 12:32,33). Those whole offerings represented the whole body of Israel (Lev. 4:7-15). The Scribe understood that those offerings taught that all Israel were unified together on account of their bearing the same Name of Yahweh. We must love others who bear that Name "as ourselves", so intense is the unity between us. In some ways, we should lose the sense of our own human personality; we should somehow be able to have the same spiritual interest in others (for this is true love) as we do for ourselves. So this sense of true selflessness which we would dearly desire is connected with an appreciation of the doctrine of the intense unity of God and of His Name, and of the glorious principle of God manifestation.

By sharing the one Name, we are one together. 1 Jn. 3:23 associates believing on the Name with loving each other; and in Jn. 17:11 Christ prays that God will keep us all as one through His own Name. If you get hold of one of the Bible analysis programs on a computer, you can find all the places where God's Name is associated with unity. There are so many of them. Quite often God's Name is connected with His being "the Holy One " (Is. 29:23; 47:4; 54:5; 57:15; 60:9; Ez. 39:7). God being the Holy One is a further statement of His unity (1). Of course, we are speaking of ideal things. False doctrine and practice, the uncertainty of knowing exactly who carries God's Name, these and many other limitations of our humanity make it hard to achieve the unity which this theory speaks of. But the unity we do achieve is a foretaste of the Kingdom; unless we love this idea of unity, we will find ourselves out of place in the Kingdom. "In that day there shall be one Lord, and His Name one" (Zech. 14:9). It may well be that Eph. 4:4-6 is alluding back to this verse; this passage inspires us to keep the unity of the Spirit, because here and now "there is one body, and one Spirit...one Lord ...one baptism, one God"; in other words, Paul is saying that the unity of the Kingdom, as spoken of in Zech. 14:9, must be found in the ecclesia of today.

It's so easy to write these words, to read of these things. But do we really believe that we, and our brethren, do really bear this glorious and fearful Name? If we do, we will be meeting with them as far as possible, travelling to meetings, thinking of them in our daily work, writing to them, fervently praying for them, doing all we can to mend breaches between us, overcoming the selfishness of indifference, loving our brethren as we do ourselves. Now here is something to rise up to, to shake us out of the polemics, the academics, the spiritual indifference, which can come to fill much of our spiritual lives. All the fullness of God dwelt in Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9); "and of his fullness have all we received" (Jn. 1:16). God's fullness, the full extent of His character, dwelt in Christ, and through His Name which speaks fully of that character, that fullness of Christ is reckoned to us. And so, in line with all this, Eph. 3:19 makes the amazing statement. And it is amazing. We can now "be filled with all the fullness of God". Let's underline that, really underline it, in our hearts. We can be filled with all the fullness of God. Filled with all the fullness of God's character. Our poor, small, limited minds try to rise out of their spiritual squalor to get a handle on this.

There is a clear connection between this idea of the fullness of God, and Ex. 34:6, where God proclaims His Name to be "Yahweh, a God full of compassion", grace and His other characteristics (see R.V.). So by bearing God's Name, we have His fullness counted to us. As Christ had the fullness of God dwelling in Him in a bodily form (Col. 2:9), so the church, as the body of Christ, "is (Christ's) body, the fullness of him (God) that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). So you see the intensity of our unity; we are the very body of Christ, He exists in and through us (although of course He still has a separate personality). Likewise, the fullness of God is in Christ and thereby in us. We are not just one part of God's interest, our salvation is not just one of His many hobbies, as it were. He only has one beloved Son; He was sent to this earth for our salvation. The fullness of God, even though we scarcely begin to comprehend it, dwelt fully in Christ, and is counted to us. We really should have a sense of wonder, real wonder, at the greatness of our calling. How can we be so indifferent to it? How can we be prepared to enter so little into the depths of these things, when God's word is so full of His self-revelation, that we might know His Name. Ps. 91:14 implies that our love of God is expressed in seeking to appreciate His name:

"Because he hath set his love upon me therefore will I deliver him:

because he hath known my name I will set him on high".

To know Him is to love Him, and to want to be like Him; there is something compulsive and magnetic about who He is. The knowledge of God elicits quite naturally a merciful spirit (Hos. 6:6). To “learn righteousness” is the result of beholding [after the pattern of Moses] the majesty of the Name (Is. 26:10). And so Is. 46:5-9 appeals for Israel to repent simply because God really is God; they were to “remember this” that they already knew, and “bring it again to mind” that God is really the great eternal, and His Name is as it is. And they that know His Name will put their trust in Him, day by day, as we cough and hack our way through these few years towards His eternal Kingdom. Then God will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28), through the full expression of His Name. But Eph. 1:23 says that right now, all the fullness of God fills "all in all" in the church; in other words we should now be experiencing something of that total unity which will then be physically manifest throughout all creation.

The intense degree to which God's Name really is called upon us is brought out in Is. 64:4. There we are told that no man has perceived "O God, beside Thee" what has been prepared for the saints. These words are quoted in 1 Cor. 2:9,10 concerning us, with the wondrous statement that God has revealed these things to us by His Spirit. Yet Is. 64:4 says that only God alone knows these things. But Paul says that they are also known by us, through God's Spirit. So through our association with the one Spirit, the one Name of Yahweh, what is true of God Himself on a personal level becomes true of us. Such is the wonder of the way in which His fullness dwells in us. God's Name alone is Yahweh (Ps. 83:18), yet this Name is now called upon us.

Such was the Lord's unity with us then that He personally carried our sins, He was so deeply connected with us and our sinfulness that He had to offer for His own salvation "that it might be for us". Bro. Roberts goes on (in The Blood of Christ) to make the point that it is impossible to separate Christ from the work He came to do; there was no effective division between the work He did for Himself, and that which He did for us. The same spirit is found in the encouragement to the Christian husband to sacrifice himself in every way for the wife's salvation. It was shown by the good Samaritan (cp. Jesus) risking his own safety to save the wounded man of humanity; the shepherd stumbling about in the dark mountains looking for the lost sheep of the church; and also by Moses, when he was willing to risk his own salvation for that of others (Ex. 33:32). He really understood the spirit of unity which we are speaking about. He wanted to see God's glory, whether it was manifest in him or others was to some degree irrelevant. This is a great challenge for us. Our attitude to rejection at the judgment should be that if we personally cannot glorify God's Name, then we hope for rejection and destruction, as quickly as possible. We should wish to see our brother saved every bit as much as we wish for our own salvation; this is loving our neighbour as ourselves.

We have spoken of theory. We have looked to the heights of idealism. After reading this you will, in a few hours, at most, be back in the real world of sin and failure, of apparent inability to attain even the smallest ideals. But the very height of these things should itself be like a great crane, to lift us up from our lowness. We can capture some sense of this "all in all" presence of God in our lives, we can grapple with our own self-centredness, the Truth really can permeate our thinking- if we let it, if we do our part to saturate our thinking with His word, to fill our lives with behaviour patterns and habits which allow us to live out this unity of which we have been speaking.


Notes

(1) Perhaps Jesus was referring to this in Jn. 17:11: "Holy Father, keep through thine own Name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one ". In this case, Jesus is implying: 'Help them to be one, so that they might all come together with me as well in the Name of the Holy One of Israel'.