The New Testament writers use the word faith in broader terms than simple belief in Jesus. Following Paul’s conversion, the brethren observed, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches THE FAITH which he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:23) Felix, “sent for Paul and heard him concerning THE FAITH in Christ.” (Ax. 24:24) As the word of God spread and the church multiplied in Jerusalem, “a great many of the priests were OBEDIENT to THE FAITH.” (Acts 6:7) Conclusive proof comes when Jude exhorted his readers to, “contend earnestly for THE FAITH which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) THE FAITH can be preached, heard, obeyed, and defended against those who would destroy it. THE FAITH was, “once for all delivered to the saints”. Is this merely belief? No indeed, “the faith” must refer to the content of belief – not simply THAT you believe, but rather WHAT you believe.
Furthermore, the phrase, “one faith” or, “the faith” represents far more than a shared belief in Jesus as Lord. Returning to Acts 24:24, we are told that Felix, “sent for Paul and heard him concerning THE FAITH in Christ.” Now some might say, “Paul was talking to Felix about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; he was preaching this message hoping to encourage Felix’s belief in Jesus as the Son of God.” Undoubtedly, this was major part of Paul’s message; however, notice verse 25, “Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come…”. When Paul spoke of, “the faith” to Felix, there was much more to his message than belief in Jesus: he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. While the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the gospel’s focal point, there is far more to, “the faith” than these core elements.
The faith, or the, “one faith” must be represent the comprehensive doctrine of Jesus Christ as taught by the first century apostles and prophets which is recorded in what we call the New Testament. Jesus delivered to the apostles the Father’s foreordained doctrine; Jesus says to the Father in John 17:7-8, “Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them…” Prior to His ascension, Jesus commissioned the apostles to take the doctrine taught by Him and, “…make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”(Matthew 28:19-20) The Father’s doctrine, taught by Jesus to His apostles was then taught to the early church who, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). We know the apostles accurately conveyed Jesus’s teaching to the church thanks to the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the apostles, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”(John 14:26) This is the, “one faith”, the, “doctrine of Christ”, the, “apostles’ doctrine,”, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets…”(Ephesians 3:5) Thus the, “one faith” taught by Jesus along with His inspired apostles and prophets, forms the church’s foundation: “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…”(Ephesians 2:20)
Unity is achieved — in part — by building on this foundation, through adhering to this, “one faith”: as Paul says in Ephesians 2:21, the building is, “fitted together” or, “fitly framed together” on this foundation. It was Jesus’s prayer and His intention that the church be united, but unity cannot be achieved apart from obeying the doctrine of Christ. In fact, it is not simply our unity with one another that is affected by our obedience to the, “one faith”: our connection with God is also at stake; 2 John 9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”
Furthermore, unity cannot be achieved apart from the apostles; John writes in 1 John 1:3, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” This is why the early church, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Ax 2:42): they recognized that their unity with God was not separate from their fellowship with the apostles. Why? Because they acknowledged the apostles’ doctrine was from God, it was the, “one faith”. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Christian unity with both the church and the divine is contingent upon our acceptance and obedience to the, “one faith”. As John wrote, “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”(1 John 2:24)
Sectarianism occurs when people abandon the doctrine of Jesus Christ. The entire New Testament references the doctrine of Jesus Christ in a SINGULAR form: “the faith”, “one faith”, “the doctrine of Christ”, “the apostles’ doctrine”. PLURALITY, however, is always used when UNSCRIPTURAL teaching is addressed: “teaching as doctrineS the commandments of men” or “various and strange doctrineS” (Matthew 15:9, Hebrews 13:9). This contrast is made abundantly clear in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from THE FAITH, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrineS of demons,”
My friends, there cannot exist within TRUE Christianity a plurality of doctrines. If this is what the religious community contends, we might well pose Paul’s question from I Corinthians 1:13, “Is Christ divided?” Obeying the doctrine of Christ does not yield schisms, it is not sectarian, it does not accept doctrinal plurality. Divisions, sects, and schisms result when foreign doctrines are introduced, preferred, and followed. Obeying the doctrine of Christ breaks down the divisive walls of human wisdom and unites disciples into a single body, the body of Christ. Thus we must pursue, obey, and implement the doctrine of Christ – the, “one faith” – and avoid foreign doctrines which produce many faiths and many bodies.