Have you ever been a part of a group, club, or (God forbid) a church that reached an apparent impasse?
Could you use some wisdom from above to deal with such a situation?
From cover to cover, the Holy Bible teaches its readers about this beautiful desire of God for His people. Yet, there still appears to be holes in our understanding of unity.
In the beginning, it was apparent that unity of purpose, heart, and mind was God’s will. He desired mankind to live in perfect unity with Himself and each other. Satan must have realized the power of such unity, for he hated its beauty and immediately set out to destroy it. Alas, the first family cooperated, and sin destroyed their perfect unity with God and each other.
Since our sin is the culprit behind the destruction of unity, we must see that its restoration is only possible through God’s salvation and holiness. This is the divine order. Mankind fell, and God’s great love is then initiated towards us through His desire for the remission of our sins. Such great salvation was first prophesied in the beginning (Genesis 3:15), and its tremendous fulfillment is the basis of our New Testament.
Our Savior demonstrated unity with God the Father. Even though one of His disciples would ultimately betray Him, Jesus fostered unity among His twelve as a leader. While en route to the Cross, He prayed for the future unity of all believers, “that they may be one…” (see John 17:20-23). And through His Cross of reconciliation, Jesus made unity between God and mankind a divine reality.
Consider the practicality of this great theme from a Pauline perspective. Perhaps the congregation that needed the Apostle Paul’s help was the most gifted. Despite their giftedness, the Corinthian Church had significant problems, with disunity being the chief result. Therefore, in the opening statements of his first letter, Paul reminds them that God had called them into “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (First Corinthians 1:9).
From the original language, the word which is translated as “fellowship” is in other places translated as “communion.” Such word study helps us to understand our call to true unity. Our God, who is faithful, has called us to a shared and active participation in the life “of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Let’s consider the nature and basis of such fellowship.
The Body of Christ is called into “the fellowship of His Son,” and this phrase is one of rebuke and reassurance for the Corinthians. They would quickly recall that Jesus lived in perfect unity with the Father. A sense of conviction would settle into their hearts as they realized what a lousy reflection they had been of the unity between the Father and the Son. Comfort would then come as they recalled that Jesus desired them to have unity and had even prayed for them. Their hearts were assured by the Spirit that the unity enjoyed in Heaven by the triune Godhead is possible on earth through the faithfulness of the One who called them. Perhaps they recalled David’s words and considered when brethren “dwell together in unity” the Spirit comes upon God’s people as a “precious ointment” (see Psalm 133).
But, we cannot have unity unless we first have holiness. The call is to “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ,” and in Him, we find holiness. The two titles of Jesus and Christ being brought together drive us to God’s saving and sanctifying power. “Jesus” means Jehovah saves and speaks of God’s saving grace (see Matthew 1:21). “Christ” speaks of His power to sanctify those He has saved (see Romans 8:9). His holiness set the Master apart throughout His days on earth. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4). No one can be united in perfect fellowship with the holy Son of God without experiencing the fellowship of holiness.
However, we cannot experience holiness unless we are willing to live in loyalty. Our call is “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,” and herein is our crux. Individual believers must be willing to live in loyalty to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Wisdom tells us that He is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.
Therefore, when individual believers live in loyalty to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they have chosen and continue to experience holiness. When a majority of a local congregation’s believers have answered this call, the chief result of such holiness will be unity in the body. In contrast, you will likely find public carnality and willful sin present wherever disunity is prominent.
Let’s not be deceived, though. Unity in the body of Christ does not mean the absence of conflict. Anywhere and anytime you assemble a group of people, regardless of what banner they are under, conflict will inevitably arise. This is true of Jesus’ Church from The Early Church to our modern day. The true tale of our unity is how we handle that conflict. Unity is not the absence of conflict but the presence of a reconciling spirit. A sweetness of spirit humbly decides, since Jesus is Lord of my life and I desire to walk in His holiness, I will forgive even as Christ has forgiven me. Unity then, with God and with others, is the chief result of holiness.