Loops of Blue, Clasps of Gold - by Keith Petersen
Possibly one of the least realized – but, one of the most important and fundamental principles in Christianity – is that of unity as expressed in Scripture.
The Bible says, “Shall two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Christianity is an immense system set by God and into which “ye who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Christianity is, above all else, a system of relationships, and this is shown early in the Bible in the expression of the two great commandments. The first is a proper relationship with divine Persons – “Thou shalt love [the] Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding” – and then the second relationship, reflexively, is “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22).
It is plain that God desires a rich and eternal relationship with men – commencing in Genesis with “Come, let us make man in our image” and enlarged in Colossians 1 with “who has delivered us from the authority of darkness, and translated [us] into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”
It is vital to understand that God intends that the believer be enabled to move freely, fully and properly in relation to Himself as a divine and holy God, and thus we have been given “the unspeakable free gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15) of the Holy Spirit. This results in us having “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and, in respect of this fact, the apostle John writes in his 1st epistle “Beloved, now are we children of God” and, further “Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God.” This latter statement – “he cannot sin” –shows the immeasurable love and grace of God to provide through new birth and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit a state which alone could be suitable to an eternal relationship with God who Himself knows no sin. As well, it conveys to us the power of God in having effectuated a total and necessary change so that we can truly walk here (“in the spirit” – see Galatians 5:16) as His sons. In that power we can then be here in this world as overcomers and lights (see Philippians 2:15) – a necessity if we are to achieve the unity that God shows as being essential to proper Christian fellowship and testimony.
If we are indeed made capable by God to walk here in such power and in a moral character/state to the end that we can set out testimonially an evident likeness to Christ, it is shown that God then expects that we be found in such character. This is seen in what the apostle Jude writes, “ But to him that is able to keep you without stumbling, and to set [you] with exultation blameless before his glory” – showing distinctly that God considers that, in His power, we can walk “without stumbling” (a moral reference) while yet here; and Paul writes “So if any one [be] in Christ, [there is] a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new: and all things [are] of the God who has reconciled us to himself by [Jesus] Christ.” There is infinite power in this.
This great issue of Christian state underlies any reality as to Christian unity. Obviously, if Christians vary from understanding and entering into God’s consideration as to proper Christian state – a state as shown above; then, in result, a collective Christian testimony here becomes varied and fragmented. It is important to recognize this simple fact – i.e., that fragmentation and disunity bespeak the lack of – the opposite of, essentially – the unity that God has in view for His people. This, of course, is not to say that Christianity is a “cookie-cutter” system in which we become nameless parts of a homogenous whole – quite the contrary, the Bible shows that names and the individuality of the Christian are retained, per se. Moses is Moses and you are you, etc. What is important, however, is to recognize that divergence from the moral standard that God has set in the Man Christ Jesus is destructive of unity as considered in the Bible.
That this lack of unity is extensive today is immediately seen in the denominations, sub-denominations, groups and splinters seen in Christendom and referred to in the “great house” of 2 Timothy 2 verse 20. If an unbeliever from some remote area of the world was today exposed to Christianity as a yet unknown religion it would be virtually impossible for such to make proper sense according to scripture of such a confused medley of fellowships. This confusion, of course, also immediately and greatly weakens a proper Christian testimony to the world at large as well as reducing the practical enjoyment of right fellowship among Christians since Christians are divided into such varying fellowships and denominations.
Paul writes declaratively in Ephesians 4:3 to use “diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” This is a call to every Christian – and none could argue that this scripture is a distinct call by and through the Holy Spirit to unity for His people. Any lack of unity of necessity bespeaks the entrance of natural notions and predilections that then divide God’s house (1 Corinthians 1:11 – 13 – “For it has been shewn to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that there are strifes among you. But I speak of this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is the Christ divided? has Paul been crucified for you? or have ye been baptised unto the name of Paul?”). It is also of note that “peace” in the quote shown above in Ephesians 4 is related to the unity of the Spirit – the lack of this unity indicates why so many Christians are restless in their Christian links.
Thus, the great necessity for each Christian is to understand God’s principle of unity as shown above. If this foundational principle is not recognized; then the general confusion and disorganization in Christendom today might be (and so typically is) accepted as simply being the norm – the “status quo” for Christianity – instead of the acknowledgement that such disunity shows a basic failure of God’s people in not properly adhering to God’s principles as shown in Scripture.
How lovely it is, then, to see God’s language as to unity set out early on in the Bible – as is seen in Exodus 25 and 26. Prior to this God had been essentially moving in relation to individuals; however, once God began moving in respect of a people, the side of unity becomes pronounced. Here in Exodus we see God defining the nature of the tabernacle as it is to be set up under the hand of Moses in relation to God’s earthly people Israel – He says “And they shall make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shall shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the utensils thereof, even so shall ye make [it].”
Two things of interest are to be noted – first, God intends to dwell among them and, second, “according to all that I shall shew thee …. even so shall ye make it.” Our relationship with God is to be according to His mind; not, a casual relationship in which various, natural notions can be acceptably deployed. The Bible never shows that God envisions an admixture in which the natural, fallen mind of man can add to a spiritual realm – indeed, to the contrary, the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2 that we may “know the things … taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]. But [the] natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned.” If Christians attempt to incorporate the realm of the natural into what is the realm of the Holy Spirit there can only be failure as a result – and, it is this reality that shows why Christianity today is in such confusion.
So, God continues in Exodus 26 that “And thou shalt make the tabernacle [with] ten curtains of twined byssus, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of artistic work shalt thou make them.” This is lovely language – twined byssus involves the use of long, strong, silky threads (living threads, really, from the mollusk) which suggest the strength and the living, appealing nature in what is represented of God in His people; the blue represents the heavenly side (1 Corinthians 15:49); the purple is suggestive of royalty (Revelation 5:10); and the scarlet is the saving blood of Christ. The artistic work shows that Christianity is – while not a realm governed by the natural mind (the artistic work is of cherubim which is the heavenly side) - to be attractive.
This section in Exodus 26 continues that there shall be “one measure for all the curtains. Five of the curtains shall be coupled one to another, and [the other] five curtains coupled one to another. And thou shalt make loops of blue on the edge of the one curtain at the end of the coupling; and likewise shalt thou make [them] in the edge of the outermost curtain in the other coupling. Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make at the end of the curtain in the other coupling: the loops shall be opposite to one another. And thou shalt make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, that the tabernacle may be one [whole].”
This language is so very lovely – showing as it does that our Christian links are bound in relation to our being a heavenly people (represented in the loops of blue). Furthermore, there are fifty loops in each curtain – our links to each other are to be full and complete (i.e., it is not five or ten loops; but, rather, fifty). Next, the curtains (each curtain suggestive of a local fellowship yet all being of one measure – Christians should universally be the same morally everywhere) are joined by clasps of gold. In relation to the tabernacle setting in the Bible the use of gold always depicts the divine side. What is, then, the joining power in these clasps of gold? None other, certainly, than the power of God as seen in the “the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” God’s principles as set out in the Old Testament always agree with the principles set out in the New Testament – this must be so as “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages [to come]” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, when the apostle concludes his teaching as to unity in Ephesians 4 he says, “[There is] one body and one Spirit, as ye have been also called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all”, and thus the unity displayed in Exodus 25 and 26 is beautifully enlarged upon in our Christian day. The language in this one sentence emphasizes the unity of the word “one” seven times!
In the Lord's most elevating language in speaking to the Father in John 17 He says, "And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one; I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one [and] that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and [that] thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me."
May the sense of this unity grip our hearts and minds to the end that we reject the disunity in Christendom today in view of proper conditions of fellowship in “the unity of the Spirit.” The simple process for this is seen in 2 Timothy 2 in which the apostle Paul writes, first, “the firm foundation of God stands,” and continues by saying, “[The] Lord knows those that are his; and, Let every one who names the name of [the] Lord withdraw from iniquity. But in a great house [i.e., Christendom – Editor.] there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If therefore one shall have purified himself from these, [in separating himself from them], he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
This divine mandate gives us our charter as to how to remain faithful to the Lord in a day of breakdown and disunity by separating from what is wrong. The next step, in reflex, is shown in the following verse – “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.” The process is simple in practice – i.e., leave what is wrong and pursue what is right with any others like-minded who are pursuing righteousness in a scripturally approved fashion. In the execution of the process it can be painful as Christians loved and dear may have to be separated from as refusing to leave unscriptural conditions. The Lord, however, said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, and this is always our great and final test.