United In Purpose

Prior to His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples the mandate to go into all the world with the gospel (Matt 28- 18-20; Acts 1:8). We read in Luke that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on High (Luke 24:49). This power came from the promised Holy Spirit, poured out upon the disciples, equipping them for the overwhelming task of worldwide evangelism. Likewise, we too are commanded to go and teach all nations; we too are in need of the same power that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit filling our lives, if we are to fulfill the great commission.

After Christ’s ascension we read of the disciples obedience to the command of Christ to wait.

 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath days journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:12-14 KJV)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

Notice that they were all of one accord. This is speaking of a unity that they shared, a common purpose in seeking the filling of the promised Holy Ghost, so that they could go into all the world as ambassadors for Christ. They remained steadfast in prayer for ten days, until the Holy Ghost came with the sound of a rushing wind, with tongues of fire setting upon each of them, filling them with His presence (Acts 2:2-4). They were in unity, united in purpose, desiring above all else to be filled and equipped for what Christ had called them to. Imagine that in the midst of their wait, they became discouraged and began to bicker and argue among themselves. Would they have still received the promise of the Spirit? Would they have succeeded in the fulfillment of the great commission? Perhaps they would have never even got started.

Read the word of exhortation Paul give to the Church in Philippi, 

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Phil 1:27 KJV)

We can see the importance of unity within the body of Christ. When unity exists, when we are united in purpose, seeking first the kingdom of God, putting our self interests aside, we accomplish much for the Kingdom of Christ. Let Christians become divided however, and His cause suffers. We must be ever careful to keep the mandate of our Lord in front of us, not allowing ourselves to lose our unity of purpose.

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The Basis For Christian Unity

Unity within the body of Christ is something we read about in scripture.  We see in the early Church where the believers were united in prayer and purpose; where they were all together and held all things in common (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 44-47). What is the basis for this unity? How can a diverse group of believers get along together, even to the point of giving of themselves and their possessions for one another?

The last post dealt with love among brothers and sisters in Christ. You can read it here.  We see that love for one another is a vital part of unity and fellowship within the body of Christ. I would like to examine some other aspects of Christian unity in this post as well.

We read in 1 John,

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3 KJV)

First of all we must begin with God. We read here that the believer has fellowship with God, and with His Son Jesus Christ. This is where it starts. We must know Jesus Christ. It is not enough to know about Him, or to believe certain doctrines and facts concerning Him, but we must know Him in true fellowship. The word fellowship itself speaks of being a partaker of something, to participate in something, with someone else. first and foremost of all, we must be partakers of Christ, through the new birth.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17 KJV)

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11 KJV)

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4:4-6 KJV).

As we have read, there can be no true unity among believers except they are agreed on God. You cannot be in agreement with others who do not hold to God as portrayed in the Bible. There can be no other Jesus than whom is shown in scripture. As we read above, there is one Spirit… one Lord… One God and Father of all. To worship any other God, to serve any other Jesus, is to depart from the faith. As the apostle John states, Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and the Son. (2 John 9)

The above passage of scripture also refers to one faith. Jude admonishes us to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3) There is one faith, not several faiths. We have received the ministry gifts of the Spirit, Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body, until we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13). 

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with  every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.  (Eph 4:14)

Where people abandon the biblical teachings of the apostles and prophets; when the words of Jesus are explained away, there can only be confusion and disorder, rather than the true unity of the faith. Paul warns us that if anyone comes preaching a different gospel, he is accursed. (Gal 1:8-9) He was concerned that there were those in Corinth who might be led astray from the truth.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might bear well with him. (2 Cor 11:3-4 KJV)

There is much debate, and much confusion within the professing Church today. People divide over the nature and character of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit. Confusion exists about salvation, eternal security, end times and the tribulation. The words of Jesus have become muddled and unclear. People are confused about divorce and remarriage, non resistance, and non conformity to the world. Yet the bible is crystal clear on these issues, as well as many others that seem to divide us today. Only as we get our eyes of off man, as we lay aside our preconceived doctrinal positions, and allow the word of God free course in our lives, will we be able to see the truth. We were never intended to be divided and split over so many issues, but were called to the unity of the Spirit.

Faith is true biblical faith only as it expresses itself in love toward God and our fellow man. Jesus tells us that those who love Him will obey Him. (John 14 :23-24) Likewise, if our faith does not compel us to brotherly love and compassion, it is dead faith. (James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:14-18) Once again, there is one faith as presented to us in the word of God. It is a faith that is to be lived out in our daily lives, expressing itself in love toward God, and our fellow man.

There can be no unity among believers without turning from sin. We read in 1 John 1:5-7,

This then is the message we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

What fellowship can there be between light and darkness? (2 Cor 6:14) As Christians, we find unity in the forsaking of sin, and walking in newness of life. This is shown in true baptism, as we read in Romans 6, 

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 KJV)

Unity among believers is brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit within the lives of those who yield to Him. He will always exalt Jesus Christ by leading us into the truth of God’s word, in love towards one another, and  in obedience to Jesus Christ. We as Christians worship the same God, are made partakers of the same Christ, followers of the same Jesus, filled with the same Spirit, and walk in the same faith. To change any of these things, will only serve to destroy our unity.

 

Unity Within The Body Of Christ: Love

Many Members, One Body.

What we so often see within many Christian congregations today that we call Church, falls far short of the pattern set forth in the scriptures. It seems that something is lacking among many professing Christians, namely, the close knit fellowship and unity that we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistles. 

Paul, in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, reveals that the body of Christ is diverse, that is, made up of many members. Each individual within the body is uniquely different, yet essential to the whole. Paul portrays a tight knit fellowship where each individual is important, no matter what their function is within the body. What one individual may be going through, is felt by the others in the body. They are bound together by a deep love that reaches out to one another in sincerity, unlike the shallowness that we so often experience in Churches across America today.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Cor 12:12-27 KJV)

Called To Love.

We are called to love, as those who have been transformed by the new birth. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 KJV) If we are truly followers of Christ, love will be the natural outflowing of our lives. If it is not, according to this statement, we do not know God!

Fervent love for one another is the mark of a true disciple of Christ (John 13:35). Love is a genuine care for the needs of another. This was made manifest by the early Church after the day of Pentecost.

And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:44-45 KJV)

This love is the outflow of the Holy Spirit within the believer, as seen in Gal 5:22-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

These traits become reality in our lives as we yield to the working of the Holy Spirit within us as individuals, and allow them to work out in our relations with one another in the body of Christ.

In writing to the believers in Colosse, Paul exhorts them to mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering. As Christians, we are to be forgiving of one another within the body of Christ, and above all of these things, we are to put on charity (Love), which is the bond of perfectness (Col 3:12-14). This is the only way that it can work! Christ calls us to set aside our own selves for the sake of the others within the body. Only as we humble ourselves, and give preference to others, will we find ourselves living in the unity of the Spirit (Romans 12:10; Phil 2:4). 

Christ, our example of humility.

 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:2-8 KJV)

Christ is our perfect example of humility. If we are to be of one mind with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; if we are to look out for the interests and well being of each other, even putting others first, we must look to Christ, and humble ourselves. Jesus teaches us that true greatness lies in humility. The one who would be the greatest, must become the servant of all (Mark 9:35). 

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7 KJV)

Again, we see the importance of humility underscored. We also see that if we are not humble, but rather give way to pride, we cut ourselves off from the grace of God that we so desperately need if we would see the Church walking in unity and love.

There should be no one left out, no one lacking what is truly needful, no one lonely and hurting within the body of Christ. We are called to look our for one another, giving of ourselves to promote the well being of each other, and ultimately striving for the gospel in Christ Jesus.