Thursday in the Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 27:35-36; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24

The Seamless Garment: The Unity of the Church

One of the great tragedies of Church history, and of Church contemporary, is that we are so divided.  We are divided into three main branches: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, and within those three are other divisions, the most prolific belonging to the Protestant.  I suppose given two-thousand years of history and being spread all over the planet into different cultures, such divisions are not surprising and perhaps expected.  And I don’t want to make the argument that unity must be organic to be true unity; that is, I can pray with both Catholic and Orthodox, and frankly with anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, fully human and divine, who came and died on the cross for our sins and rose again for our justification, and who understands that Scripture means what it says and says what it means concerning doctrine and morals, that they are in no way dependent upon the time in which we live.  This is what I call unity in the truth, and outside of the truth there is no unity.  If I must choose between unity and truth, I will side with truth every time, which I suppose makes me a Protestant.

At the same time, our Lord specifically prayed “that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me…” (John 17:23).  In today’s passage, we are told that the soldiers divided our Lord’s garments among themselves, scavengers that they were.  But the tunic of our Lord was seamless, and they did not want to tear it.  So they cast lots to see who would get it, fulfilling Psalm 22:18.  The Catholic Church has an ancient tradition that the seamless garment represents the unity of the Church that was not and cannot be divided.  In most cases, they have applied this understanding to themselves as the one true church.  With that application, I cannot agree.  But with the meaning and beauty of the symbol, I do agree, and cannot but apply it to that one, holy, universal, and apostolic Church which our Lord purchased with his own blood, which cannot be torn from him, as she is his body and he is her head (Ephesians 1:22-23).  And in agreement with the ancient formula, he who has not this Church for his Mother has not God for his Father, for no one can be separated from the one body of that one head and live.

It was for his Church that Christ came, died, and rose again, and thereby, redeemed.  As we read in his “Priestly Prayer” of John 17:20-26 just before his passion, he looked ahead and saw his Bride and prayed for her.  And he’s coming again to take her away (Revelation 19:6-8).  So it is very fitting that the seamless robe should signify his one and only Bride, the Church.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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