Summary: It is a constant theme in Scripture - God calls His church to be "united". What does this mean, and how can we get it done?
In the 1600s the King of Sweden was Gustav Adolf II - and he was considered one of the great military strategists of the age. As with all great military strategists, the King was thinking ahead to how to control various areas around his nation, and one of the areas he had his eye on was Baltic Sea. In order to control these waters he needed a formidable navy and he was convinced the jewel of that navy would be one of the biggest and baddest warships ever created. And thus was born the idea for the “Vasa”. The Vasa was a huge ship. Her builders used 1000 oak trees in its construction, her mast was over 150 feet tall (roughly equivalent to a 15 story building) and she carried nearly twice as many cannon as any ship afloat - 64. She was to be one of the most intimidating and destructive ships ever to sail the 7 seas.
On August 10, 1628, as the crowds of Stockholm crowded the wharf to see the Vasa launched, it set off on its maiden voyage…and within 30 minutes (Pause) she sank. She sank! But why? Because she was top heavy. She was top heavy because her designer put everything they could on the ship. But in the process of giving this ship everything she might possibly need to go into battle, the designers forgot the single most important thing a ship is supposed to do. What is the most important quality of any ship? She has to be able to FLOAT! If she doesn’t float, a ship isn’t of much use to anyone.
Now in Philippians, Paul is writing to a church that he obviously admires. One scholar said one few letters Paul wrote with NO words of condemnation. Apparently this was a great congregation. But even in this great congregation, Paul senses the need to stress something that no church can survive without… UNITY.
A GREAT church MUST have good doctrine.
A GREAT church MUST have a powerful love for Jesus.
A GREAT church MUST focus on winning people to Christ.
But, if a church is not UNIFIED it won’t be a GREAT church!!!
That’s why Paul wrote: “… let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in ONE spirit, with ONE mind, striving SIDE BY SIDE for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
As I was studying for this week’s sermon I was amazed at how often Scripture stressed this concept of unity. Way back Psalm 133:1 God declared “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in UNITY!”
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul wrote: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you, but that you be UNITED in the same mind and the same judgment.”
And one of the most powerful passages on this idea of unity is found in Ephesians 4:1-6 “I … urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is ONE body and ONE Spirit just as you were called to the ONE hope that belongs to your call—ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
So obviously it is important to God that we be unified. We need to be of one mind and one purpose as a church. BUT WHY? Why do we need to be unified? Well, Jesus told us why when He prayed in the garden before His crucifixion: He asked the Father that Christians “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.”
Jesus said ONE of the reasons was “that they also may be IN US.” John 17:21
In other words a church that is not unified… is not IN Jesus. It’s not IN God.
ILLUS: I once preached in a church that had some serious problems with divisiveness. One time there was some quarreling going on over a decision that was coming up. Several of them were seriously upset because they knew they weren’t going to get their way in an upcoming vote and they were getting pretty nasty about it.
I know I may appear to be a gentle, inoffensive kind of guy, but at times like that I can kind of get into people’s faces. So I gently addressed the issue from the pulpit. I asked them if they ever saw kids quarreling at home. And, of course they had. And I asked “Have your children ever argued?” And of course they had. Then I asked “Why do children argue?” Well, they argue because they want to get THEIR way. And the children usually argued the angrily when their parents were NOT in the room. But once mom or dad entered the room… the fighting usually stops. Why? Because Mom and Dad have the final say.