Tragic Irony

Part of the beauty of the sacraments is that they are given for the unity of the one Body of Christ, the Church. There is one baptism” (Eph. 4) by which we are baptized into the body into Christ in the Triune Name. We all break “one bread” and drink one cup (1 Cor. 10). Through baptism we are born into the Church, and around our Lord’s table our unity is expressed and the Body nourished.

However, looking at the Church’s current situation, we get a very different picture. Sacramental division characterizes the Church on all fronts: re-baptism for those baptized in other (orthodox) traditions, the table fenced from believers who have been baptized in the Triune Name and not under church discipline. That which was given to unity the Church is and has historically been one of the deepest demonstrations of division in the body. It’s a tragic irony.

If the Church catholic is to be reunited (and I believe it will), sacramental unity must be one of the first steps. This is why we practice open communion (anyone who has received Trinitarian baptism and is not under church discipline is welcome at the Lord’s Table) in the CREC. Of course, the Eucharist was the issue that the Reformers could not come to an agreement on, but that was not okay with many of them. Calvin and Cranmer, especially, earnestly sought unity around the Supper and pursued agreement among the Reformed and Lutherans so that one Protestant church would share the Lord’s Supper together. Unfortunately, that was not achieved in their life time, and their successors failed to further the cause. But I pray (as does Jesus- Jn. 17) that the Protestant Church, and eventually the entire Church, would come together to the Lord’s Table as one body to feed on our one Lord. 

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Murray on Unity

But while spurious unity is to be condemned, the lack of unity among churches of Christ which profess the faith in its purity is a patent violation of the unity of the body of Christ, and of that unity which the prayer of our Lord requires us to promote. We cannot escape from the implications for us by resorting to the notion of the invisible church. The body of Christ is not an invisible entity, and the prayer of Jesus was directed to the end that the world might believe. The unity prayed for was one that would bear witness to the world, and therefore belonged to the realm of the observable. The implications for visible confession and witness are unavoidable.

– John Murray, “The Nature and Unity of the Church”

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