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Pentecostalism and Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future (Part 1 of 5) by Amos Yong

This Paul confirms in no uncertain terms in his first letter to the Corinthians where factions had developed among those baptized by Paul, by Apollos, by Peter, and so on (1 Cor. 1:10-16; 3:4, 21-23). In response, Paul again emphasizes, among other things, the unity of the body of Christ (12:12 ff.). The intention of God is that ‘there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it’ (12:25-27). Some might respond that Paul is here speaking to the various individual persons who make up the one body of Christ at Corinth. They may therefore say that these words provide no justification for thinking about the unity of various churches as understood by the contemporary ecumenical movement. This ignores, however, both the plain understanding of Paul’s usage of the metaphor ‘body of Christ’ to describe the Church here and elsewhere in his writings, and the fact that in his salutation, he addresses not only the Corinthians but also ‘all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours’ (1:2). It is therefore arguable that the ‘various parts of the one body’ metaphor is meaningful at a number of levels, including various individual persons in one local congregation, various congregations in a city or geographic region, various groups of churches in the world, and so on.

To stop with Paul, however, would be to leave the discussion at a fairly abstract level. A much more concrete picture emerges when considering the gospel accounts. Specifically, ecumenists have frequently pointed to Jesus’ ‘high priestly prayer’ for the disciples and all believers in John 17. God’s heart for the church and the world is unmistakable as the following lengthy excerpt shows:

My prayer is not for them alone [the immediate disciples, in vv. 19 and before]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Winter 2001

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. Facebook

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