If you did not read Part 1 and Part 2 of this four-part article, I strongly urge you to do so, because there the foundation was laid for this portion. Moreover, this portion cannot be properly understood or assessed apart from the backdrop laid out in those first three Parts.
In Part One, I said I believe in and covet unity among believers—wholeheartedly. I talked about my surpassing personal preference for unity over disunity, harmony over disharmony, accord over discord, concord over controversy, agreement over disagreement, amity over animus. I quoted Scripture passages indicating God’s affinity for unity among the Brethren as well. Moreover, I stated that I believe it is vital to the Body of Christ in order to accomplish the purposes and plans of God on Earth.
But, then I indicated that the unity I believe in and strongly desire is Biblical unity, juxtaposed to the many other ideas of unity that exist today in the world. Then, I narrowed our focus to the particular notion of unity that many Pentecostals and Neo-Pentecostals have been taught, the centerpiece of which is the premise of “covenant relationships.”
Here again I will state emphatically and unequivocally that I believe in the concept of “covenant relationships”—within its Biblical bounds.
I believe it is vital that relationships among believers be predicated on our covenant with God that we share, and that it is vital that our interrelations be rooted in the koinonia that the Early Church experienced for a time. But, again, the pivotal qualifier with respect to unity is the word—Biblical. Indeed, the point of this article and the book chapter from which it is adapted is that, unfortunately, the notion of unity that many in the Church today have been indoctrinated with is not true unity at all, but rather a convoluted counterfeit that is used by some either unscrupulous or unaware leaders as a subtle mechanism of manipulation aimed at predomination for self-aggrandizing purposes.
As I stated in Part One, the version of “covenant relationships” that has now permeated much of the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal church is a product of a spiritually toxic rue of Truth mixed with mysticism. Under the auspices of the fallacious and errant teachings of the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s that were woven into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal Church at large, the application of the Scripturally-valid principle of interdependency and fraternal responsibility among believers, i.e., koinonia, is extended far beyond its import and true intent, and is conveniently transformed into very unscriptural chains of spiritual bondage and psychological captivation. While believers are to value and validate fraternal relationships, as well as demonstrate a certain measure of unceasing and “unconditional” commitment to one another, those relationships in terms of their application in the natural realm in the here and now are not sacrosanct or inviolable, and they most definitely do have limits. Understanding and acknowledging those limits is imperative to avoid excess and error. In this Part of the article, we will examine the salient characteristics of Biblical unity juxtaposed to those of this fallacious unity to which I allude.
Good and Pleasant Unity
Firstly, let’s look briefly at the nature of Biblical unity. One dictionary offers the following definition and synonyms of the word “unity,” which supply us with some excellent concepts concerning the unity that God desires the Body of Christ to flow in:
- The state or quality of being one; singleness.
- The state or quality of being in accord; harmony.
- a. The combination or arrangement of parts into a whole; unification.
b. A combination or union thus formed.
- Singleness or constancy of purpose or action; continuity.
Synonyms: unity, union, solidarity. These nouns denote the condition of accord resulting from an identity or coincidence of interests, purposes, or sympathies among the members of a group. Unity implies agreement and collaboration among interdependent, usually varied components… Union connotes harmony, cohesiveness, and often unanimity among individuals united in a whole…. Solidarity refers to the community of objectives and responsibilities that enables a group of people to think and act as one.1
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133:1)
Separating the holy from the profane, we can see from the very first of the unity passages I cited in the first Part, above, that the unity being described by the Spirit, in that it speaks about “brothers,” is a unity that is mutual among all the brotherhood, not just certain ones. Indeed, the pivotal word in this passage is “brothers.” To understand properly the unity that God has designed for us to walk in, it is imperative to understand that all believers—laymen and leaders alike—are coequal brothers and part of the Brotherhood of Christ. In this Biblical unity there is an inherent mutuality, void of exclusivism and elitism—that “big me, little you” attitude—so overtly manifest and prevalent in so many churches, church groups, networks, and denominations today, leadership in particular. Nothing is more divisive and stifling of comm-unity and camaraderie than such attitudes of arrogance and ascendancy.
One revelation concerning which much of the Body of Christ needs a fresh and added awareness is that regardless of our God-assigned function and responsibilities, status, or station in life, all believers—leaders and laymen like—are on par as brothers. Jesus explicitly stated that in Matthew 23:8: “all of you are on the same level, as BROTHERS“ (L.B.). Spiritually, i.e., in our spirit-being, all believers, male and female, leader and layman, are coequal brothers. Though there is diversity in function, there is yet coequality or parity in our spiritual status or standing in Christ. In a word, we are “peers” or “fellows.” Understanding that we are fellows is the fundamental ingredient in experiencing blessed “fellowship.” Indeed, the overriding point this passage expresses is that unless believers relate and interact with one another as coequal “brothers,” there will be no true unity, and their relationships and interactivity, rather than being good and pleasant will be bad and unpleasant—yea miserable!
Having become spiritual sons of God through the New Birth, believers are even (cherish the unfathomable thought!) on the same level with Jesus in terms of our heritage and inheritance. Jesus is even our Elder Brother!
the FIRST-BORN of many BRETHREN (Rom. 8:29);
For both He who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (believers) are all from one Father, He is not ashamed to call them BRETHREN, saying, “I will proclaim Thy name to My BRETHREN“ (Heb. 2:11,12).
Merely by virtue of the New Birth, every believer is baptized into the family of God, the Brotherhood of Christ (also known as the Church). Moreover, God has Himself elevated the entire entity of the Brotherhood of Christ to as sublime a height as possible short of infringement on the God-Head itself! Truly, if we ever fathomed the profound depths of this glorious Truth, all perceived need for preeminence and predominance over fellows among the Brethren would be instantaneously and eternally eradicated! Would to God it would be!
Part of what we can draw from this unity passage is that the unity that is being spoken of is mutually beneficial in many ways and produces “good” results. In Part One I talked about the anointed ambience, or supernatural atmosphere, that was manifest in the Early Church as a result of the apostolic dimension that was present among them. What it generated was works of supernatural power in the form of healing, deliverance, and miracles as well as supernatural working in the lives and relationships of the believers. The result of it all was that the Jerusalem Church was “having favor with all the people,” and “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Certainly that would qualify as “good” results of the “brothers dwell(ing) together in unity!”
The unity passage also described this kind of unity that occurs when the Brethren live in harmony and oneness of purpose, or koinonia, as “pleasant.” Pleasant is defined as giving or affording pleasure or enjoyment; agreeable; pleasing in manner, behavior, or appearance; amiable, fair and comfortable (as in pleasant weather); merry; lively. When Brethren gather and live their lives in comm-unity, all of those elements are manifest. And when they are, that certainly is pleasant! Where that kind of comm-unity exists, it always exists because of the Presence of God, and the Presence of God is manifest there because there is a core group of true worshipers who are worshiping Him in Spirit and Truth, which causes God to inhabit the praises of His people. And wherever the Presence of the Lord is, the atmosphere is to say the least—pleasant! It is pleasant because where the Spirit of the Lord truly is present and truly is Lord rather than humans, there is always discernible liberty, liberality, and liberation from the influences of demons (2 Cor. 3:17).
However, there is nothing whatsoever pleasant about the obverse of that—the atmosphere in which human predomination is manifest. In groups where it prevails—where the leadership is wittingly or unwittingly employing witchcraft to dominate, control, and subjugate the followers—there is a distinctive foul, foreboding, fiendish sense of demonic captivation tangibly present and readily discernible to those not bewitched by its spell. Indeed, when the interrelations among the members of a group are not a “good and pleasant” experience, chances are the “unity” being promoted and pursued is not a bona fide unity emanating from the Spirit of the Lord, but rather a bogus man-centered “unity” characterized by bondage, restriction, constriction, and demonic activity and attack.
All of these conditions are indicative of the spirit of divination or witchcraft, which some expositors posit is symbolized in Scripture as the Python Spirit. A python is a huge specie of snake often 20 feet or more in length that kills its prey by wrapping itself around its victim and squeezing or “constricting” it until it crushes or asphyxiates it. Constriction is the primary modus operandi of witchcraft. Its ultimate goal is to squeeze the life right out of its prey. That’s precisely what happens to followers of spiritual leaders who are exercising witchcraft over them—eventually they become spiritually crushed, the Pneuma (Breath) of God, the Holy Spirit, spiritual life, is squeezed right out of them, and they die of spiritual asphyxiation.
>> Read Part 4 >>
[Original Post Date on Real Truth Digest E-zine: 11/08/2003]
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Dr. Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to “Discipleship” or “Shepherding” (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to the pertinences associated with that movement.