Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beard of Brotherly Unity

I dedicate this post to my beloved pastor, Nollie Malabuyo, and fellow elder, Albert Medina, with whom the bond of brotherly unity is both a pleasure and a privilege.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133)

A body in the process of disintegration is a grotesque sight. The order with which God has stamped nature impels us to recoil at disease, especially those of the kind that leaves the physical body disfigured. So it is in matters spiritual.

The church militant, that part of the body of Christ still embroiled in the warfare and struggles of this age, is at its comeliest when those that comprise it are integrated. The disease of disunity leaves it scarred and ugly. What is the foundation of this unity? Calvin writes in his commentary on the passage cited above:

All true union among brethren [is] to take its rise from God, and to have this for its legitimate object, that all may be brought to worship God in purity, and call upon his name with one consent. Would the similitude have been borrowed from holy ointment if it had not been to denote, that religion must always hold the first place? Any concord, it is thus insinuated, which may prevail amongst men, is insipid, if not pervaded by a sweet savor of God’s worship. We maintain, therefore, that men are to be united amongst themselves in mutual affection, with this as the great end, that they may be placed together under the government of God...We must hold, that when mention is made of the Priest, it is to intimate, that concord takes its rise in the true and pure worship of God, while by the beard and skirts of the garments, we are led to understand that the peace which springs from Christ as the head, is diffused through the whole length and breadth of the Church.

Unity is first and foremost founded on true religion, i.e., the pure and undefiled religion passed down from Christ, to the apostles, to the early church, and reclaimed by the Reformation. There may be unity in the basest essential doctrines shared by other professors, but the Christian religion permeates all of life, and all of life can only come under the righteous rule of Christ if true religion is the foundation. We do not aim for a "passing grade" in the school of Christ, we aim for excellence, to the glory of His name.

It must also be observed that unity promotes the fruitfulness of the church. As the sweet moisture of dew hastens the growth of vegetation, so does unity among the elders and constituency of the church provide the fertile soil upon which maturity in Christ is attained. Once more, Calvin observes:

David suggests, that the life of man would be sapless, unprofitable, and wretched, unless sustained by brotherly harmony. It is evident, that mount Hermon must have been rich and fruitful, being famed amongst places for pasture. Mountains depend principally for fertility upon the dews of heaven, and this was shown in the case of mount Zion. David adds in the close, that God commands his blessing where peace is cultivated; by which is meant, that he testifies how much tie is pleased with concord amongst men, by showering down blessings upon them. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in other words, (2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9,) 'Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you.' Let us then, as much as lies in us, study to walk in brotherly love, that we may secure the divine blessing.

For the glory of the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the health and growth of His body, the Church, let the elders of the local body be united in doctrinal purity and love, and as they are such, the members shall in turn be united with them, and so shall Christ be "all and in all" (Colossians 3:11).

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