We’re often told about how fragmented the Christian Church is. But actually, the true, final and eternal basis on which people will be united is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Although we live in a fallen world, the reality of this unity can be experienced even now. And even though we are not unrealistic about our differences, every Christian at one time or another has known the joy of this unity in Christ.
On Tuesday 27 November 1739, George Whitefield visited Germantown, Philadelphia. What is inspiring here is that Whitfield’s visit drew together individuals, denominational leaders and people of varying ethnic backgrounds into a united experience of worship.
This kind of evangelistic moment prefigures the coming reality of Rev 7:9-10 (NIV) which says,
‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God!”’
Unity because of the Power of the Holy Spirit
Whitefield records the following:
‘Tuesday Nov 27 – According to appointment, I preached at German Town, seven miles from Philadelphia, from a balcony, to above six thousand people.
God strengthened me to speak nearly two hours, with such demonstration of the Spirit, that great numbers continued weeping for a considerable time.
I have not seen a more gracious melting for a considerable time. After I had done, people came to shake me by the hand, and invited me to their houses, and fresh places…
I had sweet converse, and felt a blessed union and communion with many souls, though of different nations and professions.
I think there are no less than fifteen denominations of Christians in German Town, and yet all agree in one thing, that is, to hold Jesus Christ as their Head, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
I talked with one who had been banished from Switzerland for preaching Christ. Numbers are scattered round about the town, who were driven out of their native countries for the sake of their holy religion.’ (George Whitefield, Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.358-9)
The gift of the Evangelist, as described in Ephesians 4, is a means of bringing the church to maturity and to unity. Our efforts to produce unity apart from the gifts listed in Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor/Teachers) will always fall short of our hopes.
The ascended Christ gives these specific gifts to cause the church to grow and to bring her to maturity and unity. Whitfield continues to serve as an inspiration to all who would seek such gospel unity.
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© 2009 Lex Loizides