I’ll never forget the time I bumped into a pastor at the store one day. We served together for some time in ministry and enjoyed a good friendship and working relationship. I asked, “How have you been?” He proceeded to tell me about the church he was serving at and how one of the members had leveled some horrible accusations against him; accusations that were not true in any way, shape, or form. These accusations began to swell and before long the pastor was driven out and the church eventually disintegrated.
There is an indispensable need for unity in the church of Jesus Christ. God places a premium on unity. The one God who has revealed himself in three persons has from all eternity been united; in perfect fellowship. And the Trinity will be unified unto all eternity. Indeed, this is his call to the church. King David unfolds the blessings of unity in Psalm 133:1-3. He begins, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” In verses 2-3, compares unity to the precious oil that ran on the head of Aaron which ran onto his beard and down the collar of his robes. He compares unity to the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
The Definition of Unity
Unity points to the community. It suggests the state of being one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence of unity is harmony. This is the call of the church – to be unified. Yet a quick survey of local churches reveals a disturbing trend. Many of these churches may appear to be unified externally but are on the verge of collapse on the inside. Notice three New Testament examples of this call to unity.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, 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.”
Paul uses a Greek word here, translated as “unity” which is a “oneness.” It is important to see that unity is tied to humility, gentleness, patience, and longsuffering. We can safely say that to the degree that these qualities are absent in the church – to that degree disunity will prevail.
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …”
God places a premium on unity; so much so that it stands at the heart of God’s purposes for the church. And note its aim, namely, mature manhood, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In order to be unified in the way that God intends, we must be growing deeply in the soil of God’s grace. So churches that marginalize theological pursuit are in danger of disobeying this important component of church life. Churches that get caught up in pragmatic approaches to ministry miss out on the blessing that unity brings!
1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
Peter uses a different Greek word here. It is a word that means, “the state of being united; a thing forming a complex whole; like-minded.” I serve at a church where the men gather on a regular basis to weigh-in on important decisions and shepherd the flock of God. From time to time, we have strong opinions on a given issue, yet something incredible always happens. We always leave the meeting united. My prayer is that the same spirit would permeate the local church. Sometimes we agree to disagree. This is part of life. But when a decision is made, we must make a conscious decision to be unified. May unity mark churches that embrace the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. May we stand united around the purposes of our Savior for the glory of God!