Unity of the Church in the New Testament and Today

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But we need to be careful that our common association does not imply to the public that we agree on spiritual matters. While far more could be said I have at least three messages on the unity of the church on the church website , in this message I will address three questions: 1 Why is Christian unity important? The main idea is:. Because Christian unity is so important, we need to think biblically about what it means and how to apply it. Why is Christian unity so important? But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. It took the cross to break down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and to reconcile these two formerly alienated groups into one body in the church.

If the church could display to the world the unity between these groups that Christ secured on the cross, it would be a powerful witness. Jesus said the same thing in His high priestly prayer the night before He was crucified John :. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

While as I will point out next, the unity that Jesus secured at the cross is primarily spiritual and not visible, at the same time there must be a visible expression of it for the world to take notice. The unbelieving world should look at the church and realize that there is something unnatural happening here. Our visible unity should cause unbelievers to want to be a part of the church.

What is biblical Christian unity? It is important to understand that there are two types of unity in the Bible. See, also, Eph. Organizations such as the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches promote organizational or external unity among various denominations. The idea is to set aside the areas we differ and come together on common ground. But both councils are notoriously theologically and politically liberal and they include denominations that deny or compromise the gospel.

Christ was not praying for a one-world church organized under one governing body.

Being one body in Christ does not mean that we all must look alike, talk alike, and enjoy the same kinds of activities. Suddenly, they cut off their long hair and beards and started wearing white shirts with narrow black ties, just as Witness Lee did. They even gestured and sounded like him when they talked.

It was kind of eerie, but it had nothing to do with true Christian unity! The beauty of the body is that it functions as one body although it consists of many different members. We need to think carefully here! There are three broad levels of Bible doctrines:. To deny any of these would be heresy and a denial of the faith. These include: The inspiration and authority of the Bible; the trinity; the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ; His substitutionary death on the cross; His bodily resurrection and second coming; and, salvation by grace through faith alone, apart from works.

These truths affect how we live as Christians, the way we understand God, man, salvation, the Christian life, etc. But genuine believers differ on these matters. Some of these issues border on essential doctrines; but we need to recognize that those who differ from us on these matters are still true believers in Jesus Christ.

They include minor interpretive issues on difficult texts; some methods that are not mandated by Scripture; and other issues. For example: Who were the sons of God in Genesis 6? When does the battle in Ezekiel 38 take place? Did Christ descend into hell 1 Pet. This is the unity of the Spirit which Paul exhorts us to preserve Eph. He goes on to enumerate seven elements of Christian unity, arranged around each member of the trinity Eph. Or at least, they unify the church around things that the world can also create—and often creates better than the church.

By contrast, the unity described in Ephesians 4 is fundamentally different. It is something the world cannot create, nor can it explain. It is the unity of once-crucified Lord who is sending his Spirit to raise dead people to life and fill them with his love. In short, it is gospel unity that has no earthly explanation.

Sometimes apostasy means remaining united

In fact, a unity in church that is explainable through purely sociological factors, fails to display the inexplicable power of God. Therefore, we ought to strive for unity that only comes from God and only comes through gospel of Jesus Christ and prayer in the Spirit. In Ephesians —6, the word one is listed seven times.

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In these same verses, each member of the Godhead is mentioned. And thus the unity of God is expressed in these core elements of the gospel. He explains that there is one body and one Spirit. There cannot be a division between Jew and Gentile, Israel and the Church, because they have the same Spirit. Likewise, there is one hope, because there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. That is to say, there is one way of salvation centered on Jesus Christ; there is one faith for all delivered to the saints Jude 3—4 ; and there is one baptism in the Spirit by which all men and women are unified to Christ 1 Corinthians — Just as the one Spirit and the one Lord stress gospel unity, the single father means the church is one large family, adopted together in Christ.

Put this all together, and we find that the message of the gospel centered on Jesus Christ is the unifying doctrine of the church. The more a church elevates this message and tests all doctrines by the gospel, the more it will grow in unity—not to mention maturity. As we see in verse 7, Paul stresses that the unified body has many various gifts.

What Does Unity in the Church Look Like? Ten Truths from Ephesians 4

And here the gifts are people see vv. Amazingly, the gospel unites racist and racial activist, it unites killer and victim, it unites the self-righteous and wanton sinner, and it conjoins the churched and the unchurched. In sum, by confining us all to disobedience sin Romans —no one is righteous, not one! Romans —12 —and then by uniting us to Christ by his death and resurrection Romans —6 and destroying the wall of hostility that stands between us Ephesians , God has fitted together with all kinds protruding spikes and rough edges.

This is not by accident, but on purpose. In saving all kinds of people, God gets greater glory; and by joining us together in the same local church, he teaches us how to walk in unity, as we grow in humility, gentleness, patience, and love. This plan, laid out in Ephesians 2 and 4, then means unity is not uniformity. It does not mean everyone looks the same, talks the same, or thinks the same. Still, unity is never satisfied with lowest common denominator co-existence. Rather, the goal of unity is to grow up together in Christ. That is unity leads to maturity, and maturity fosters greater unity.

And to facilitate this, God has given gifts to the church. Again verse 7 stresses the way in which the Lord personally and intentionally gives gifts to the church. Christ is building his body, and he knows exactly how he wants it shaped. Therefore, he uniquely redeems and repurposes people in the church. Even more, we know Christ is working to shape each member of his church, and he is shaping us through one another. Now, this means that our sins dent and damage others, but it also means that the sins of others will scar us and send us back to our gracious head.

Still, the point of Ephesians 4 is to stress how the members of the body are given to build one another up. That is to say, in local assemblies, we find gifted people committed to serving one another.

Why Unity is Important for America (and the Church)

Through these gifts, God leads the church to grow in biblical maturity, which in turn facilitates greater unity. In Ephesians , Paul starts with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers, as the foundation stones of this growth process. In this way, the whole church is built up in love, with the result being a body that grows together in maturity.

And thus churches who want to grow in true unity, must press into the Bible and let the Bible press into every corner of their lives. Now this may be the most difficult truth to get or embrace, but it is the most important and it protects earnest Christians from being overly jaded with dis united churches. In a world filled with devils, and in churches that range in maturity and cultural background, church unity will only come through seasons of disunity and difficulty.

What things do you wish you could do over in regard to your faith? What can you learn from your regrets about the past that can help you make a better future? In the Old Testament, Pentecost was the second of three major feasts that every male Israelite was obligated to attend. It was held fifty days in Greek, pentekoste , fiftieth day after Passover. During that feast the Hebrews presented to God the first fruits of their summer harvest as an offering of thanksgiving. It is likely also that by the time of Jesus the Feast of Pentecost included a celebration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, as well Exod.

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. What is the significance of this amazing event? Pentecost was to be a joyous feast, a feast of thanksgiving to the Lord for His bounties. Here, perhaps, is the reason for the false accusation of drunkenness Acts Jews from all over the Roman Empire who came to Jerusalem for this feast heard the message of Jesus, the Messiah, in their own languages.

In a unique way, Pentecost helps undo the dispersion of the original human family and the formation of ethnic groups, which began in earnest at the Tower of Babel. The miracle of grace begins the reunifying of the human family. God was at work in the hearts of all these people. Many had heard about Jesus from far away and may have traveled to Jerusalem with the hope to see Him.

At Pentecost, God miraculously intervened in the lives of the disciples and used them as witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. What activities did these early followers of Jesus do as a community of believers? What created this amazing unity of fellowship? Bible instruction is an important way to facilitate the spiritual growth of new believers. This new community spent time learning from the apostles all about Jesus. They also spent time in prayer and the breaking of bread.

11 Bible verses about Church, Unity Of

The mention of fellowship certainly infers that this new community spent time together, often and regularly, both in the temple in Jerusalem, which still served as the center of their devotions and worship, and in their private homes. They shared an intimate life. They ate and prayed together.

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Prayer is a vital element of a community of faith, and it is essential to spiritual growth. This new community spent time in worship. This steadfast fellowship generated good relationships with others in Jerusalem. No doubt the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives made a powerful impression on those around them and served as a powerful witness to the truth of Jesus as the Messiah.

Unite is Something You Do, While Unity is What You Are

What can your local church learn from the example set here in regard to unity, fellowship, and witness? This sharing of common goods is not a requirement of the community but a voluntary outgrowth of their love for each other in the fellowship they experience. It is also a concrete expression of their unity. This mutual support continued for some time, and we are given more details about it in Acts 4 and 5. It is also a theme that we find in other places in the New Testament, as we will see next. It is in this context that Barnabas is introduced for the first time. He appears to be a wealthy person who owned land.

Having sold his property for the benefit of the community, he brought the money to the apostles Acts , Barnabas is portrayed as an example to follow. Read Acts and Compare the behaviors and attitudes of Barnabas with those of Ananias and Sapphira. What went wrong with this couple? Besides their sin of outright lying to the Holy Spirit, these people also displayed greed and covetousness. Perhaps no sin can destroy fellowship and brotherly love faster than selfishness and greed.

Luke is honest in sharing this story about less virtuous people in the community. In the Ten Commandments Exod.

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