PERFECTED INTO ONE
In John 17 the word one is used four times (vv. 11, 21, 22, 23). The last reference says not only “that they may be one” but adds two more words, “perfected into” one.
The Shortcomings of Other Saints
We all have our defects and shortcomings. Whenever we are together, even for a short period of time, these are exposed. The ways of others are annoying to us. Even if we are one with the saints, we are not perfected into one.
How do we handle these annoyances? Do we feel we must put up with them in order to keep the oneness? We keep the oneness while we gnash our teeth! Our oneness needs to be perfected. We need to be transformed, so that our shortcomings and defects are left behind. All of us need this perfecting.
I am a punctual person. When I travel with the brothers, however, they sometimes keep me waiting till the last minute. We have a plane to catch, but they do not show up until the time is too short and we must rush to the airport. For years the brothers have kept me waiting!
It may be almost time for the meeting to begin, yet I see that some are still outside talking. What shall I do? Shall I lose my temper with you? I must stay on the cross and be perfected. We all need this perfecting.
Yes, the church life is surely wonderful. But even while we declare how wonderful it is, we hold back our tears, acknowledging that we need to be perfected. John 17:23, the last of the four references in this chapter to the oneness, adds this last aspect, “…that they may be perfected into one.” Perfected!
No Way Out
There can be no divorce from the church life. It is as permanent as marriage. There is no back door and no fire escape. The church door is good only as an entrance. Once you step across the threshold, the door locks behind you. It will not unlock for you to leave. If there is any place where you may come and go as you please, that place is not the church. The church is the Body. Could your nose decide to stop being part of your body? No member of the Body can leave. If you feel at liberty to withdraw, you are probably only a denture, not a genuine member! Your thumb may be in a great deal of pain, but can it say, “That is all I can stand. I quit!”? Can the thumb leave the body? Because the church is the Body, your only way is to be perfected; there is no way out.
I have been in the church life almost fifty years. Do not think that every day has been happy. Yes, there may be a honeymoon at first, but a honeymoon is of short duration. Our whole marriage will not be like that; it is the “vinegar-moon” which is real! But there can be no divorce in the divine marriage. We have to be perfected. We cannot be separated.
There are only four things which the church will not tolerate. The first is idolatry. To worship idols is an insult to God; this the church cannot allow. The second is fornication. Because this damages the humanity God created for His purpose, the Bible strongly forbids it. The third is division. Because it damages the Body of Christ, the church cannot permit division. The last is the denial of Christ’s Person and redemptive work. The church cannot accept any teaching which denies that Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins: nor can the church receive anyone who holds such a teaching.
Apart from these four things—idol worship, immorality, division, and the denial of Christ’s Person and redemptive work—the church must be tolerant. If someone stands up in a meeting and speaks in tongues, what will you do? You cannot cast him out; to do so would be sectarian. If someone insists that believers should be sprinkled, will you reject him? If you insist that your way is right, or if you reject him, you are being sectarian.
Oneness Only in the Triune God
We are here for the proper church life, standing on the genuine oneness. We are not trying to be one in doctrine or in practices; a oneness in these areas is not genuine. Our oneness is in the Triune God, not in our beliefs or ways of doing things. As those who believe in the Lord Jesus and are the regenerated children of God, we are all members of the Body of Christ. Regardless of the differences we may have in practice or in doctrine, we have no way but to remain here in the genuine oneness. We can give no place to idol worship, immorality, division, or the denial of Christ’s divinity and redemptive work. But of other things we must be tolerant.
May the Lord preserve us in Himself that we may enjoy the real oneness.
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)