“The Unity of the Brethren in the Local Church”
REVIEWER: Evang. Lawrence Hart, PhD
AUTHORS: Apostle G.D Numbere & Pastor (Dr). Nonyem Numbere
1.0 Introduction: “Unity of the Brethren in the Local Church” was first published in 1998. It is one of the rare text that was carefully written with the intent to provide an in-depth appreciation of the dynamics of the local church, with real life demonstration of the lessons imbedded in it. It challenges the believer on his unique role in the church building process. The authors demonstrated concise understanding of the concept of the church and its building process. They brought to the fore eternal biblical truths complimented with practical perspective. This book is a faith builder that will help to guide you into greater depths of God’s plans and purposes for your life. It emphasises kingdom principles and truths that will enable you to live a fruitful life through the simplicity of the understanding of who you (as a lively stone) are in Christ, your role in the church building process and the gifts that God has blessed you with.
Arc. Azike Diribe aptly captioned the obvious in his foreward for this book as “In this book, Apostle Numbere and his wife, Nonyem, outline clearly and graphically biblical principles on church nurture and growth. They rightly teach that church growth is a building process, which calls for maturity, care, diligence and much prayer”.The outline of this book was categorized into eight chapters besides the introduction with distinct subject yet interrelated with the central theme of the book. They are; The Church, How the Blocks are Made: How the House is Built, The Growth or Growing of the Church, In the Presence of my Brethren, No Freelancing Permitted, Inspection and Habitation, Jesus in the Local Church and the Role of the Minister in Building the Church. It is a 63-page book. It is simply a blessing to read.
2.0 Overview of the Book Chapters
- The Introduction: This section highlighted the origin of the development of this book. It stems from the talk given in an Inaugural Workshop by Apostle G.D. Numbere of the Covenant Keepers Movement in Jos Nigeria. The need to put down this talk in print to provide research literature on the concept of the Church for scholars in theology and divinity was a product of this great piece.
- Chapter 1; The Church. This chapter provides light on the meaning and the foundation of the church. The declaration of the Lord Jesus that “I will build My Church…..”Matthew 16:18 underscore the foundation. The authors emphasised that the church is actually the personal property of the Lord Jesus Christ. It further highlights biblical description of the church and its attendant attributes. The church was described as the functioning Body of Christ on earth. It is intrinsically connected to HIM and cannot exist without Him, Ephesians 1:22-23. Christ as the Head, Colossians 1:18 and also as the body vs 24; 1Corithians 12:27. Secondly, the church was showcased as a living organism, which depicts a spiritual house made up of lively stones, 1 Peter 2:5. Thirdly, the church was viewed as a great house consisting of many people with diverse characters and beliefs, however, some may be honourable and others dishonourable, 2 Timothy 2: 20-21. Despite the uniqueness of the church the Lord chose to build it rather than speak it into existence. The emphasis of the church building process underpins the time, patience, long suffering required to build as the Lord Jesus provided the example through acts of disciplining.
- Chapter 2; How the Blocks are Made: How the House is Built. The authors x-rayed the making of the main components of the spiritual building (the church) which are the lively stones. It emphasised the need for the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a man to qualify him/her as an acceptable stone prepared for the building. The need for every man to be born again as a prerequisite for being part of the church was established. It reiterates the importance of being certain that you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, thereby qualifying you to be His own, John 1:12. This new birth experience for the believer commands a heavenly citizenship and member of the household of God on that man. He is now ready to be built in His church. As every building is built on a foundation, so also the church is built on the foundation of the Holy Scripture and Jesus Christ as the Chief Corner Stone. Hence, well-chosen materials are brought upon this foundation in building, 1 Corinthians 3:10. The other critical process in the building of the church is that of bonding. The individual stones lying alone cannot make the church until one block is laid on another with the cementing of each other. This process create the necessary link through one another by the interplay of each member supplying and producing according to our several abilities and accepting one another in love, Ephesians 4:16. This bonding process is further enhanced by the bond of peace and/or unity of Spirit. Peace was described as the mortar that brings about the unity of the Spirit of the individual Christians joined together, Ephesians 4:3. The highpoint of the building of the Temple of Solomon was that it was built with stones that are made ready and there was no hammer or any tool of iron heard in the building. It further underscores the place of the Spirit of unity in the building process. The stones for the building aptly fit in to their position and grow into an Holy Temple. The cohesion and unity of command of the singers and priest 120 in number in their quest to make a one sound in praising God for demonstrate the beauty of the Spirit of Unity among God’s people. The Glory of the Lord was expressed in His Temple when a united voice praised His name, 2 Chronicles 5:11-14. “When you follow God’s plan in your individual life, your family and church life, you will find unity, openness, cooperation, fellowship and spiritual joy in living together. There will be no strife, pride, schism or acrimony”. When men and women that are not made ready before coming into the building they form a breaking point in the building process as not too long they will bring to bare their canal tendencies which promotes strife and unhealthy rivalry. This has impacted on the progress of the church of Jesus Christ.
- Chapter 3; The Growth or Growing of the Church: Like any living organism, growth is a basic characteristics. The bonding process is continuous through the laying of one block on another. The growth of the church is premised on the addition of born again believers, Acts 2:41. The church does not grow until sinners are converted and made saints (fellow citizens with the saints). The manifestation of the church growth which is premised first by an inward growth of the individual shows up in the prayer life, study of the Word of God, true fellowship with the brethren, witnessing and discipleship, Acts 2:46-47. When you change church or Ministry by relocation or seeming dissatisfaction of one issue or the other, the church had not experienced any growth by your action. Further to this, the church growth process must of a necessity experience second level of bonding, Colossians 3:14 aptly captures it “And above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfectness”. Love is the plastering experience that the building must go through to bring out the beauty and glamour. The plastering process covers up the patches, rough surfaces, holes, cracks found in the building. Love as akin to plastering covers inadequacies, weakness, faults, rough edges and all the things that make for imperfectness, 1Peter 4:8. God is Holy and demands holiness both from us and for His habitation (the Church). The bond of perfectness (Love) which eliminates every tendencies of cracks, leakages or even fading of the building to the effect that the church will remain not only glorious, but Holy unto the Lord, Psalm 93:5, Colossians 1:28-29. Howbeit, as the building grows relationships may strain, communication may breakdown, etc. The attitude that will be required is an immediate intervention through the application of the bond of peace, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The quick response to restore peace which is a type of mending and repairs of cracks in the building will forestall deterioration or collapse of the building. With the bond of love applied in all the situations, ofcourse, all pains, unforgiveness, reproach, disappointments will not only be covered, but will no more exist among the lively component stones of the building which is the church. This process engenders Christian nurturing and maturity as the issues of malice, rivalry, unhealthy competition among brethren, men pleasers are seen as issues of immaturity and Christian childishness, 1Corinthians 14:20. The complimentary roles of the bonding through peace/unity of purpose and Love underscores their importance in the growing church. Love in perspective is demonstrated and not in words, it gives effect of our regenerated life in our relationship with one another 1 John 3:11-18. It showcases the true nature of God, 1John 4:7-8; 11-12; hence, the church (which is His building) exemplifies that nature through our relationship one to another in his body, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
- Chapter 4; In the Presence of My Brethren: “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). We are God’s building by reason of our new life in Christ JESUS. To this end, every Christian carries God and the full complement of his privileges wherever we go. This understanding compels each and every one of us to be mindful of how we treat, relate, communicate and handle one another especially those of the household of faith, Ephesians 2:4-6. We must see God in the life of every believer and so respect their feelings, opinions and treat one and all as unto the Lord. We must realise that the blood of atonement has no respect of persons, this understanding will foster brotherly love and harmony among His people.
- Chapter 5; No Freelancing Permitted: Freelancing is a state of not having a permanent contract or commitment with any person or organization. This situation is not permitted in our relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ. As lively stone, we must be built upon and not stand alone, Ephesians 2:22. Every lively stone is a part component of the building of the Local Church, which the Lord Himself declared “I will build my church…..”. The essence of the office gifts is to engage in the building process of the local church, Ephesians 4:11-14 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith……”. No lively stone is permitted to operate solo without being bonded with other stones in the building process. That lively stone no matter how important he or she is, will be working as an enemy of the Lord and/or a hater of God. It demonstrates rebellion against the clear instruction and command of the Lord. Any stone that isolates itself breaches the building process thereby undermining the purpose of God, Ephesians 4:16. The church is compared as an army which cannot succeed on individual basis rather on the premised of the bond of unity and common purpose. They do not thrust one another neither do they break their ranks in the pursuit of their common goal. It eliminates any feeling of superiority or inferiority rather unity, love and oneness as it was with the Trinity, John 17:21. Anyone that undermines the building process of the Lord for His Church cannot be His own and will not see the Kingdom of God.
- Chapter 6; Inspection and Habitation: After building, the owner must make inspection of the structure before taking possession. This stage is very critical as he seeks to confirm that his building has met the required specification and standard. In this case, the owner of the building (the church) is the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 5:27 reveals the expectation of the owner of the building viz a glorious church, holy, not having spot, or wrinkle, without blemish, or any such thing. The challenge before us is that any building work will surely be inspected and appraised. The Lord can only take possession of the building if it is built as the Lord Commanded. There is the Heavenly pattern and order of things if it is in relation to the building of the church, Galatians 6:4 summed the disposition of the individual builder “But let every man prove his own work…..”. Until the Lord makes His habitation in the building His presence cannot be seen. King Solomon understood the import of this assessment, hence, he looked forward to the inspection of the Lord as the Temple is empty except the Lord fills it with His Glory (….for an habitation of God through the Spirit). It produces great joy because of His presence. The Lord must make His habitation in that building otherwise that building will be ineffectual and barren. It will always experience shame, reproach and defeat by the enemy, 1Samuel 4:10 “And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten…..”Acts 19:15-16 “And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?…” Looking at the severity of this matter, the authors reiterated their commitment and covenant with the Lord among other things, to seek the true conversion of individuals, being patient in the building process of the church, etc.
- Chapter 7; Jesus in the Local Church: The evidence of His Power and Presence is displayed only in His church. Nobody can be bigger than the church of Jesus Christ and it will be a great delusion for any individual not to be subject to the authority of the church or feel more important than the church. The Lord Jesus demonstrated how highly esteemed the Church is to Him in that His fullness and glory can only be seen in and through the church (the body), 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, Revelation 1:12-13. Further to this is that the fullness of God’s blessings is commanded to be deposited where the lively stones being built up are bonded in the unity of spirit. Psalm 133 highlighted the import of dwell together (builded together, joined together) as typified by the bonded lively stones, to these, the blessings of the Lord is commanded even life forevermore. The church underscores the criteria for God’s blessing. Except you are a member of a local church (built up together), you deny yourself the opportunity of partaking in the blessings of the Lord. Also, the dimension of the blessing of the Holy Ghost Baptism and its attendant empowerment for the believers can only be contained and evident in the Local church. The authors again aptly showed the preference of God in the outpouring of the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost. It is only to His church, Acts 2:1-2. The people were with one accord in one place and it filled all the house where they were sitting. You must be part of the church, contribute to its growth and then you will also get your nourishment and blessing.
- Chapter 8: The Role of the Minister in Building the Church: The Minister must realize that he has been given as gift to the Church. He is a gift due to the fact that God deposited diverse abilities and skills in him “…..for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the Ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”(Ephesians 4:8-12). This must be well understood and thereby appreciate the dimension of the scope of his duties, Acts 20:28. The Minister’s role include building the individual Christian to maturity, the proper location and specific assignments for all situation to facilitate the completion of the building and ensure personal and corporate sanctification and holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:4-8. It requires forthrightness and courage as exemplified by Azariah who stood and ensured that the right thing is done and orderly in his priestly office. He was fearless, he maintained the standard of holiness and was not ready to compromise or corrupt the doctrine of Jesus Christ no matter who was involved. He stood for God and God stood with him in the face of opposition. The Minister must continue to build the church until the owner is satisfied with the quality of the house to which He will make His habitation and express the fullness of His Glory and Holiness.
3.0 Conclusion: Having reviewed this book, it is clear that every born again Christian must assume his role as a lively stone not only to be built upon but contribute to the growth of the building. The style and persuasion of the authors in their quest to bring to the people of God the vivid description of the church, the building process and the benefits associated with all the members of the local church demands the urgency of action. Consequently, the truths x-rayed in this book based on deep meditation and exceptional analytical prowess reinforces the conviction on the benefits outlined in this book. Finally, the Lord is building His church and has made us Co-builders. Build his church according to his will and expectation.