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Stage 3

The Bond of Unity

"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" 1 Corinthians 1:10.

The unity of the Church is part of the Gospel message (Eph.2:14-16; Gal.3:28). The Gospel is a contract between God and the believer. This contract has two levels of expression:

The Individual Level

When we individually respond to the Gospel in faith:

The Multiple Level

The Christian life has not been designed by God to be a solitary experience (Eph.3:17-19). As individuals, we receive salvation and reconciliation to God. But in order for God's purpose to be fulfilled in our lives, we need to be connected to others in the Body of Christ. This is because when we come together:

Unity in the Church holds a high priority in the heart of God. In fact, God has hinged His whole eternal purpose on that unity (Ephesians 3:10-11).

The Prayer of Jesus

"...I pray...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" John 17:20-21(read verses 22-23).

Jesus prayed that His Church would have the same expression of unity as God has Himself - three and yet one (Deut.6:4). For this purpose, Jesus is even now interceding for us (Rom.8:34).

"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me..." John 17:20-23.

This is a unity in Christ, not a unity in compromise. The foundation of true Christian unity is the Gospel and a common relationship with Jesus. We can have unity with each other because we are all i ndividually united with Christ (Philippians 2:1-2). Christ is the foundation of our individual lives and also the foundation of our unity (1 Cor.3:11; 2 Tim.2:19).

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" Romans 15:5-6.

The Command of Jesus

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" John 13:34-35 .

Unity is not an option. It is a command (John 15:12-14; 1 John 4:21; 2 John 5-6). The early Church obeyed the command of Jesus and the outworking of their obedience was unity.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" Acts 4:32 (see also 2:44-46).

This verse shows three expressions of unity:

Barriers to Unity

"For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be...I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" 2 Corinthians 12:20 (see also 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:15).

The only thing that can destroy the unity of the Church is self-interest. In Mark 9, we find the disciples participating in three different arguments.

These same arguments can be found in the Church today. God is working to break down these three barriers to unity - divisions over doctrine (Titus 3:9-11), selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10) and exclusiveness (Romans 12:3-5; 15:7) - to bring His Church into true unity in Christ.

This does not mean that we all become the same. It does not even mean that we must all agree on every small point of doctrine. God has built great diversity in the Body and part of our unity means having an appreciation for that diversity.

Keeping the Unity

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" Ephesians 4:3-6 (see also Philippians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 13:11).

We do not need to ask God for unity. We already have it in Christ! But we need to keep that unity "through the bond of peace." This unity is the foundation for all ministry. We must show this unity in many practical ways (Rom.12:9-21; Ephesians 4:2-3; Col.3:12-16; Hebrews 10:24-25). We must have a common identity and a common purpose. We must have a genuine desire for the success of other leaders and other churches. It is in this unity that "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" is expressed through our lives to the world.

"...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" Ephesians 4:13 (see also Colossians 2:2).

 

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Copyright 1981,1996 Paul, Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved. This study may be freely used and reproduced, wholly or in part, by the Christian Church for the non-profit purposes of study and training only, provided copyright and contact information is included.

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