As my church (the United Methodist Church) heads toward an almost certain separation of differing factions, I am led to return to my roots. For 25 years I was a part of and involved in the ministry of the Church of God (Anderson, IN). I worked with them and worshiped with them. Their doctrines and theology still form the basis of my Wesleyan orthodox faith. And key to my understanding of Christian doctrines as set forth in the Word of God is the theology that has shaped and molded the Church of God to this day. As the UMC divides itself, I find assurance in reflecting upon the original pattern of God's Church as revealed in Scripture.
God's Church was purchased and established by Christ Jesus. (Acts 20:28) His Church was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit filled those gathered in the Upper Room. (Acts 2:4a) It was from this original community of faith that God gave the pattern for His people for all time. This I know, because the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Word of God, the Word which endures forever. (1 Peter 1:25) The same sure Word that fills my heart with the truth as it is in Jesus to this day.
While the Word of God stands sure, various interpretations of that Word have not been as trustworthy. There have been heresies since the early days of the Church, which have developed and led many of God's people off into strange thinking and wayward discipleship. Various states of apostasy have settled down upon those claiming the name of Jesus. But through it all God has always preserved a sacred remnant who have remained true to His Word as revealed through the Spirit of Truth. The faithfulness of such followers of Jesus through the centuries serves as a spiritual catalyst for us today. Their faithfulness cause us to reflect upon the original pattern of God's Church. We measure ourselves by the Church as revealed in Scripture.
It has always been such a quest for scriptural truth that has moved upon the hearts of reformers to call Christians to holiness and oneness. Being lead by the Holy Spirit into an understanding of scriptural holiness, reformers through out the centuries have known this as the key to Christian unity. They believed that the experience of holiness would eventuate in the unity of God's people. It was a unity that went beyond sectarian spirits and denominational doctrine. So persuaded, reformers declared themselves free from humanly instituted religion and fellowshiped with all who had experienced the Lordship of Christ.
Out of such movements of the Spirit, other Christians are being led into a similar understating of true unity. With a spirit of humility they seek only to follow Jesus rather than the organized religious orders of the day. Being committed to this truth and drawn together by the Holy Spirit, such movements still continue. Recognizing the Lordship of Jesus, they seek only God's plan for the Church. They avoid creedalism and doctrinal disciplines, seeking only to have the Bible as their rule of faith. While this allows for some diversity within their fellowships, it also makes possible a unity that is divinely originated rather than humanly instituted. The beauty of God's Church is the unity which comes only from a common experience of scriptural holiness, producing lives which are obedient of Christ Jesus.