Welcome back folks, to another blog. For those of you who attend our church on a Sunday morning my messages of late have been on unity, the main theme of Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. I thought that I would write a little on subject so that we can have a broader biblical look at unity within the church and with each other as fellow believers; so let’s dive in.
Christian unity is founded on each Christian’s commitment to God, common submission to Him and His will should result in a church unified in worship, fellowship, and service. Both this fact and the conflicting fact of churches frequently fractured, is the testimony of the New Testament.
The gospel of John reminds us that oneness was the Lord’s design for His people, John 17:20-23 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.. Jesus’ prayer for all believers was that ‘they may all become one’ (see verse 21 above). This unity with one another stems from a shared oneness with the Father and Son. The stated intent is that the world may believe in Jesus through the united testimony of His people.
John made a similar point to a church in turmoil. Those in fellowship with God share a resulting fellowship of love, 1 John 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. The absence of this Christ like love which should characterise the ‘light’ is not a small matter. A loveless and divisive Christianity is not true Christianity, 1 John 2:9-11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Paul also prayed for unity in the church and often exhorted believers to maintain unity. his prayers identify the basis of unity as the Father, the work of the Holy Spirit, and our common bond in Christ (see Romans 15:5-6, Ephesians 4:3-6, Philippians 2:1-2).Frequent references to unity reveal both its importance and the challenge of maintaining it.
It is important because it glorifies the Father and the Son. Therefore it is appropriate for us, and it provides a witness to unbelievers. Paul’s actions illustrate how crucial this was to him. His conflict with Peter (see Galatians 2:11-14), the Jerusalem council (see Acts 15), and the offering for the ‘saints’ in Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 8-9) were all attempts both to defend the truth and to maintain the unity of the church.
Yet the church experience divisions. Selfishness, immaturity, conceit, and forgiveness are identified as common root causes (see Romans 15:7, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Philippians 2:1-4, James 4:1-12). Even, apparently, mature Christians could place personal feelings or interests ahead of the good of the gospel. Individuals in conflict could also gather into warring factions and endanger the witness of the church (see Acts 6:1-4, Galatians 2:11-13, Philippians 4:2-3, 3 John 9-10).
We are exhorted to recognize these pitfalls and avoid them. We are to emphasize the church’s common purpose rather than focus on our ambitions. We are to accept each other as Christ has accepted us. Also, like Christ we are to promote the well-being of others, not pursuing our own goals. The true fellowship of believers was not only to govern our own actions but also to promote unity where there was conflict.
The New Testament makes clear the basis for unity in the body of Christ. Jesus, Paul, John, and others frequently emphasised its importance and its rewards. The church therefore bears the responsibility of making unity a reality.
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In Christ our redeemer Ps Jeff