One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism–One Church?

By Paul Louis Metzger

The words “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” loom large behind the pulpit at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church in Portland, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke. I taught a class there last night on the doctrine of the church. During the class, we addressed the subject of church unity. We hearkened back to Dr. King’s sermon, “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” in which King claimed that,

 

There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and “Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind,” you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is. (Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956; see here.)

 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-6 that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

 

Do we really live as if there is one church? Paul writes his letter to “God’s holy people in Ephesus.” For Paul, there was only one church. Of course, we live in complex times, perhaps far more complex ecclesially than in Paul’s day. We have a multitude of Christian traditions and sects with all kinds of doctrinal variations, ecclesial practices, and views of church authority. But still, as I read Paul in his various letters, there is only one church in any given city: the church of Ephesus, the church of Philippi, the church of Colossae, etc. At the very least, we should long and pray for the unity of the church in our city. No doubt, many people do pray regularly for such unity to exist. No doubt, all of us need to pray far more for the unity of the church in the greater Portland area. We need to pray into what we are: the one body of Christ.

 

Dr. King was speaking about multi-ethnic church unity. How can we pursue such unity more? There are various individuals and groups working toward building unity in the church in the greater Portland area. Some of the things that need to be fostered for the long haul are a vast number of pulpit exchanges involving sister congregations, teaching excursions, prayer chains, and shared activities.

 

The John 17:23 Network that The Institute for the Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary is cultivating with area churches and other groups is one strategic piece in this mosaic. The purpose of the network is to encourage, equip and educate the multi-ethnic body of Christ in our region to live into who we are as Christ’s body, the church. We long to live into Jesus’ prayer in John 17:23: “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

 

There is so much richness in ecclesial tradition in the various ethnic Christian communities in the greater Portland area. There is so much vitality in the various forms of cultural witness through the distinctive worship and practices. We have so much to gain from coming together. We have so much to offer when we are together. Our witness to the surrounding community is so much more impactful when we come together through various endeavors. Not once a year, but in a variety of ways through every season of the year.

 

We have such a long way to go. This is no sprint. This is a marathon race, as we seek to live into what we are as the one body of Christ in the greater Portland area.

 

May our one Lord make us one: one faith, one baptism–one church.

4 Responses to “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism–One Church?”

  1. Paul Andrews Says:

    There are many character traits of people in the Bible. Stories of how we should act, or respond in any given situation. Character is defined throughout Jesus’ parables … without it we wouldn’t have defined attributes to strive for. For this discussion, we need to define Character. Character is – conduct that conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong, and overall quality as seen or judged by people in general.
    One, of the many parables in the bible, that defines several character traits is titled the Good Samaritan. Most people are familiar with this passage in Luke 10:30-37. This parable describes a man who went from Jerusalem to Jericho. On this voyage he come upon some thieves who robbed, beat, and left him for dead. A priest, then a Levite walked upon this man on the trail and without helping him, walked away. A Samaritan man came across this man but felt compassion and bandaged his wounds. He took him along to a innkeeper and gave money to this innkeeper to care for him. He also vowed to take care of any additional costs if more was needed to provide him care.
    From this story, it is simple to assess who’s character was an acceptable standard of right and wrong. The Priest and the Levite (who just walked by – a wrong standard = unacceptable standard of living), and the Samaritan whom had compassion on the man (a right standard = acceptable standard of living). This Character is easy to define … no strong message of conviction of conduct here (or is there)? When we look at our daily lives – what do we do that give us the character of any of the four people highlighted in this parable. Is our devotion to ourselves, our image, the world or is the devotion to God? How easy is it for us to look away from the plight of our fellow man/woman to insure our own comfort or perceived security? What does it say about our character (or acceptable standard of wrong and right)? Does our actions promote the love of others? Does our actions show the words of Jesus regarding the Samaritan man “Go and do likewise?”
    I write this valuable lesson of Character on the race situation in Portland and the African American community (http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/african-american-churches-north-portland-march-2012/1/ and http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/black-in-portland-march-2012/ . What has the Christian community done to offset the dislocation, redlining, unwritten sundowner laws, and gentrification directed toward a specific group of God’s creation?
    This parable was written in approximately AD 70 give or take ten years. This is way before the establishment of Seminaries whom self project themselves as Biblical. Why are they just addressing the issues toward equal advancement and treatment for everyone now (within the last ten years)? How would you label this character? Is it just as clear as the parable the Good Samaritan? Do we look toward our own slice of heaven here on earth while letting our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer? Why not give the opportunity of seminary to some of the people that need an occupation, need a job a resource, need to establish a safe haven?
    Why do we have so many Christians that are hurting today? Not hurting because of the world’s intention of separation but due solely to the church community and its unwillingness to include social and civil justice into their message of Love. This message of compassion and love should marinate our daily lives in ministry, dealing with family, dealing with believers, and non-believers alike.
    Is it our job as Christians to promote a right standard of acceptable conduct pertaining to others, YES! This means we are all models. Models of the Christian life within the world … this shinning light isn’t always white! It is our responsibility to insure the light is shinning through all of Gods creations in our Churches, our seminaries, and our communities … as a model of Christ’s community of believers. We are all Children of God … Children of Christ … we are called to model compassion for our fellow man by including them in the decision making, in our administration, as our instructors and as servants to each other. Without this true community … there is only a community of separation and self gratification which models the world far better then it models God’s.
    How do we project our Character? Can we show Christ’s messages within our work space, within our lives, within our interaction with others? I ask this again … how do we project our Character? We project our character by doing what Jesus taught and lived … Go and do likewise by showing mercy and compassion. This model means we may have to insure things are formed outside of the typical requirements normally addressed at the start of a church, a seminary, a council of leaders, etc. If there is a problem of diversity, our Character should prompt us to insure, at the start, this situation is addressed. This would require hiring, appointing, establishing, and insuring equal representation has been achieved. The character of Jesus did not talk about the situation only – he would do it, then explain why this was done. He modeled it … he DID NOT display a model.
    We can address this issue on a smaller scale. We can promote and sponsor organizations whom have gone through this extra step. Whom have modeled this in their being … not as a charity for reward but because they have love, compassion, and a character of conduct that projects positively toward our fellow man. Lets model this for the world … for the light is bright in those that live as Christ teaches, lets model this because it is right and it is a commandment of Jesus that we show our love of him by following His commandments. This is the Character of a Christian … this is the Character of Christ.

  2. Paul Louis Metzger Says:

    Hello Paul,

    Indeed, we have a long way to go in terms of being the models to which your exhortation calls us. Whether it has been ten years or twenty or forty years since we have begun to take seriously these matters in the evangelical Christian community, we need to make sure that today we are taking steps to make this vision reality. Keep connecting with us and helping us move forward at New Wine, New Wineskins in seeking to live into this reality more and more. We need your help! Let’s see how others respond to your exhortation. Thanks for getting the conversation moving forward.

  3. chris laird Says:

    Hey Paul A.,

    “We are all Children of God … we are called to model compassion for our fellow man by including them in the decision making, in our administration, as our instructors and as servants to each other. Without this true community … there is only a community of separation and self gratification which models the world far better then it models God’s.”

    You and I are seminary students and I’m personally grateful for this experience but the vision you describe above where all are invited and encouraged to make a meaningful contribution to the life of the community well, that’s something that I have struggled with since I’ve been here. Some days I wonder if such values can ever take root in this cultural soil (one that is competitive, professional, and individualistic. Some days I think that I hear Jesus saying, “The ‘professors’ and ‘administrators’ sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.” But then I engage Dr. Redman or Dr. Robertson and I discover that they have a personal commitment to the “Character” that we’re talking about; they even share our desire to see it shape our community.

    So I think it’s good to challenge one another as well as challenge our institutions and if you’re like me, sometimes its easy to feel like Elijah, like we are the only ones who care any more. But then the Lord reminds us that we’re not alone. Will our vision become a reality, “Can these dead bones live?” I don’t know the answer to this but I suspect that our shared dream will involve the linking of arms and hearts with those who share our vision. That said, my concern for the New Wine Community is that we often talk a good deal about making room for “the other” but are we making room for each other? If it doesn’t work “in here,” why do we think it’s going to work “out there?”

  4. Gordon Davis Says:

    3 years ago this past September my beloved Father in law in Taipei suffered a disastrous stroke, with substantial brain damage a total certainty. Since that time he has been in a vegetative state, unable to speak or move on his own. Knowing the person he was, this is all the more tragic, since he was a loving father to me, and I am just devastated to see him like that. In his working life, he was known as a prominent Banker as a Senior Officer in the National Bank of Taiwan, so his professional and personal circles involved hundreds of prominent and successful people all over Asia. For them to see him like that has also brought them sorrow.
    My prayer request is that JESUS WOULD TOUCH HIM, give him a sudden and complete healing, restore him to his life and to his family, and that this would be a stunning testimony to the LOVE OF GOD in front of a family where there are total non-believers and Buddhists – he was a guy who dealt with the American Service men who were there, so he had contacts with a lot of Western ideas that others around him did not, and I think that a book that I saw in his bookcase is actually a Chinese printed Bible .. I know while we did talk that he and I had long conversations about God and about what it was that we call heaven .. was he a believer, who knew Jesus ? I cannot say that with any certainty, but it is a decent chance that he had his faith ..
    so if Daddy woke up and was given his life back, then that would be a total shock and jubilation for the family, a huge testimony and trophy for the LORD, and of his business and social friends, a huge testimony for THE LORD…
    as things are, his prognosis in merely human medical terms is pretty grim, but I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS as the last word, and I could tell you a story about a personal miracle of deliverance from certain death for myself, a miracle intervention for me that meant I missed a fatal head on collision by mere inches by moving to the next lane, and that VIOLENT DEATH went whizzing past me… so now I ask, I claim, I receive on his behalf , that SAME MIRACLE DELIVERANCE for Daddy. Please agree with me in prayer for dear Luis, if you could meet him, you would have been deeply moved by knowing him just like I was.
    Thank you for being here
    Sincerely yours
    Gordon Davis
    Portland, Oregon

Leave a Reply