Question: “I am concerned about religious division. Surely the Lord isn’t pleased with so many religious groups teaching different doctrines, wearing different names, and worshipping in different ways. What can we all do to become one in Christ?”
Answer: You are correct. Jesus is not pleased with religious diversity. In fact, nearly two thousand years ago He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one…” (John 17:20, 21a). To produce true unity we must:
1. Sow the SAME seed. In the parable of the soils, Jesus said the “seed” was the word of God (Luke 8:11). That being so, preachers must plant the same seed/word into the hearts of men in order to reap unity. “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). As long as different seeds are sown, we can expect to reap a bumper crop of denominationalism and division.
2. Sow the RIGHT seed. Since the seed is the word, and the word of Christ is truth (John 17:17), preachers must plant the right seed (John 1:17; 14:6) into the hearts of men in order to enjoy oneness in Christ. Sowing the seeds of human opinion will never produce the kind of crop for which Jesus petitioned His Father. Only the seed of truth (John 8:32) will yield unity (Ephesians 4:3).
3. Harvest the SAME crop. If I plant “Big Boy” tomato seeds in my garden in the Spring, I should expect to reap Big Boy tomatoes in the Summer, right (cf. Galatians 6:7)? Tomato seeds will not produce cucumbers, cantaloupes, okra, corn, beans, onions, spinach, or potatoes; they will only produce after their own kind (Genesis 1:11). This same principle is true in religion.
“The seed of the kingdom will produce the kingdom; it will not produce anything different from the kingdom… It has never been known to produce anything other than the kingdom of God, the church of the Lord. The Word of God preached in this community always produced exactly what is produced in another community when preached there. But we see several hundred different religious denominations in the world today, differing from each other in name, doctrine and practice.
Why are all of these different bodies in existence? They have been produced by the sowing of the seed, the preaching of religious doctrines. Just as sure as there are bodies differing from each other, seeds differing from each other have been sown. If the same kind of seed had been sown in every community, the same results would have been produced… So the Gospel preached in Jerusalem which produced the kingdom of God, the church of Christ, will not when preached in America produce a hundred different denominations. The fact that the many denominations are in existence is positive proof that something different from the Gospel, the Word of God, has been preached.”/1
When the apostles planted the seed of God into the fertile hearts of men (1 Corinthians 3:5), what kind of crop did they harvest (1 Peter 1:23; Acts 11:26)? Did Paul and Peter sow the same seed and yet reap radically different crops? Did they reap religious diversity (Philippians 2:2)? Did they reap different religious groups, who wore different names, and who worshiped God in different ways? Did they reap corn, beans, and potatoes (1 Corinthians 1:13)?
I appreciate this thoughtful question. May we all strive for the unity which Christ desires.
1/Roy H. Lanier, Sr., “Why We Preach the Word,” Gospel Advocate, June 1991, 17-18.