Summary: Unity is a vital issue for society as well as for the Church. For the Church, though, it is an issue we must solve or else the Gospel message falls into disrepute.
Unity is a vital issue for society as well as for the Church. For the Church, though, it is an issue we must solve or else the Gospel message falls into disrepute.
If you start studying any subject, it’s always a good idea to look at the meaning of the word. The dictionary definition of ‘unity’ is ‘the state, property, or product of being united physically, socially, or morally; oneness; opposed to division; harmony; agreement; singleness of purpose or action’. No mention is made, however, of a ‘spiritual’ component in this definition of unity!
However, it’s not ‘unity’ we need to understand. That’s the normal character of God; unity is God’s natural order. We need to understand what ‘disunity’ is, and from where it originates. After all, Jesus said “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). Our Lord also taught that as He and the Father (and Holy Spirit) are one (John 17:11 “... so that they may be one as we are one.”). So, He requires us to be one, namely to be ‘in unity’ – not in ‘unity’, but ‘in … inside unity’, i.e. inside God ,who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. The Basics
Some basic Scriptures on unity are given below:
John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
There are seven main areas, touching unity, that need to be addressed. Let’s look at unity as:
* A symbol: that Father sent Jesus, and that He loves His church dearly.
Rom 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,
* A character: an essential character we need to have.
1 Cor 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
* An agreement: not just an outward sign; it originates in the heart and mind -- if it’s not there it leads to splits and a party spirit within the Body.
Eph 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
* A peacemaker: a soft answer turns away wrath; we have to work for unity, it doesn’t just happen.
Eph 4:13 ... until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
* A maturity: unity demonstrates maturity .
Col 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
* A love relationship: unity through 'agape' love.
Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
* A strategy: The actions we must take to attain unity; ‘clothe yourself’ = as you put on a close-fitting garment, put on - with inner affection and love:
- ‘compassion’ = ‘mercy & pity’
- ‘kindness’ = ‘moral excellence’, ‘gentleness’
- ‘humility’ = ‘humble of mind’ - the mind is our major problem centre!
- ‘gentleness’ = ‘meekness’ or ‘strength under control’ - it is never weakness!
- ‘patience’ = ‘long-suffering’ - i.e. implies a real testing to bring us to patience; a cost!
… none shall be left out!
3. In the Beginning
Before we can discuss the subject of unity concerning the Body of Christ, we need to see it in the context of God’s plan for mankind. Why is it needed? Why does Jesus set so much store by His church aiming for consistency in the area of unity?
In the beginning, God and Man (Adam) lived in perfect unity. The words of Amos rang true “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). Along came Eve, and the unity between her and Adam was perfect, as was their unity with God.
But, then along came that enemy of God and mankind - ‘Sin’. It took the unity enjoyed by God and mankind, and broke it, separating Man from his God. Disunity arrived, for disunity is Sin.