THE ONENESS OF THE FAITH
This oneness is also the oneness of the faith, the oneness of that in which we all believe. It is the oneness of the faith by which we are saved. As in the Spirit we are one, so in the faith we are also one.
In Ephesians 4:13-14 we see two terms: the oneness of the faith and wind of teaching, which refers to doctrine. What is the difference between the faith and doctrine? The faith is composed of the things that save us if we believe in them, such as the person and the redemptive work of Christ. If we believe in these, we are saved. The faith is composed of these. These things are the faith, not the doctrine. Doctrines have nothing to do with our salvation.
Some say that their faith is in immersion. Others say that their faith is in sprinkling. But are immersion or sprinkling part of the faith? The faith is absolutely necessary for our salvation, but neither sprinkling nor immersion are so necessary. Some may be immersed who are saved, while others may be sprinkled who also are saved. So neither immersion nor sprinkling has anything to do with our salvation. This proves that neither immersion nor sprinkling is part of the faith. Neither immersion nor sprinkling are heresy; both are doctrines, but neither are a part of the faith.
The faith has something to do with our salvation. If we have it, we are saved; if we do not have it, we are lost. This is the faith. But what is doctrine? Doctrine may benefit us, but it has nothing to do with our salvation.
In today’s Christianity there are many doctrines such as head covering, foot-washing, baptism by immersion, or sprinkling. There are many doctrines which are all from the Bible but not part of the faith. They are just doctrines, having nothing to do with our salvation. Whether we have our heads covered or not, whether we practice foot-washing or not, whether we are baptized by immersion or by sprinkling, as long as we keep the faith, we are saved.
I have heard many in the past quoting Jude 3: “Contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Therefore, they say, we must contend for the faith. Some take baptism by immersion as a part of their faith; so they contend for it. But baptism by immersion and so many other doctrines are not part of the faith; they are just doctrines. The Bible tells us to contend for “the faith,” not for any doctrine. We must contend for “the faith,” the saving faith, not for any doctrine that has nothing to do with our salvation.
Suppose a brother in the faith insists upon sprinkling. What should our attitude be? We may feel that it is better to be immersed; but if he insists on sprinkling, we must let him do it. As long as we all have the faith in the Lord, it is sufficient. If you insist upon sprinkling, I am still one with you. Though I am not for sprinkling, I am still one with you in the faith and in the Body. I would not be divided from you in the faith and in the church by any doctrine.
We should not make any doctrine a part of the faith. If we do, we make ourselves a “church” of a certain doctrine and become a sect of that doctrine. If we insist on sprinkling or immersion and make it a part of our faith, we become a sprinkling “church” or an immersion “church.” These are not genuine churches, but divisions. Whether we practice immersion or sprinkling has nothing to do with the faith. As long as we simply keep the faith and do not make any doctrine a part of our faith, we are one. In the faith we are one; by the doctrines we are divided.
WIND OF TEACHING OR DOCTRINE
We must be exceedingly clear regarding the difference between the faith and doctrine. The faith is uniquely one, but doctrine may vary. Thus, the faith unites, but doctrine may divide. With the faith there is surely oneness, but with doctrine there is the possibility of division. Any doctrine, regardless of how good it is, can be divisive. We should be alert not to allow any doctrine to divide us. “Be no longer little children...carried about by every wind of teaching.” Any doctrine other than the faith, even the best doctrine, can be a “wind” carrying us away from taking Christ as our center and from the proper church life. If we are careless regarding the Lord’s unique purpose concerning the church and do not give it our full attention, we may be carried away from the Lord’s central purpose by the “wind” of some doctrine. We must hold Christ, cleave to His Body, and keep the oneness of the faith in the oneness of the Spirit. Never be carried away from the oneness of the faith by the wind of any doctrine. The oneness of the faith is first. We must stand for the oneness of the faith forever, not for any doctrine. Let no doctrine be a “wind” to us! We really need the Lord’s deliverance and the Lord’s protection.
(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)