Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unity in the Church

Very closely connected with the idea of Christ being the head of the body is the important truth that we are all members of one body. Indeed these are the first two principles that are emphasized in the book of Acts. The connection between these truths should be clear. The unity of the body follows directly from the headship of Christ. If we are each looking to Christ and following Him, we will necessarily function together in unity. If we are allowing Christ’s thoughts to be our thoughts, then we will be of one mind. If we have love for the One who begets, then we will not fail to love those who are begotten. If we picture the church as a building, then I would describe these two principles as two large stones cemented together to form the foundation.
In order to drive this point home, I would like to review some of the reasons why this idea is so important to the Lord Himself. First we will look at the words spoken by the Lord in prayer just before His crucifixion. “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me” (John 17:20-23). This is something that was on our Savior’s heart just before His death. Pause for a moment and consider these words. Two things stand out to me. One is that Christ desires our unity because He wants us to be united to Him. The second thing is that our unity (or lack thereof presumably) has a definite impact of the word around us.
Another reason why I believe this is so important to God is because it was the first thing that God did in forming His church. Using the language of Acts 1-2, to baptize them into the Holy Spirit, or more literally to immerse them in the Holy Spirit. Part of what happened on that day was that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), but before that the Spirit is described as a rushing wind which filled the whole room where they were sitting, (Acts 2:2) and so they were quite literally immersed in the Spirit. What was the point of that? Paul sheds some light on this later when writing to the Corinthians when he says, “For by one Spirit we were all immersed (baptized) into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). That was a defining moment in the church. Someone has said that on that day called Pentecost about 120 disciples entered that building, but only one came out. They became one body in that room. The Lord’s orchestration and timing is perfect. God knew that before His disciples entered into the field of service which He had for them, they not only needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but they needed to be immersed in the Holy Spirit; they needed to be unified in one body.
Now we must consider what unity really means. In describing the early church, the Bible uses such phrases as, one mind, one heart, one soul. Certainly there is a lot more to it than the mere lack of strife or quarreling. Unity cannot be achieved simply by ignoring our differences or reducing our doctrine to the lowest common denominator. That is not what is described in the New Testament. I hope that we will have many discussions to further clarify what unity is, and how to preserve it and restore it when necessary. For now, however, I will leave you with these two thoughts: 1.) In Ephesians 4:4 we are exhorted to be “diligent to preserve (guard, keep) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It is of great importance to the Lord, and it should be to us as well. 2.) Remember that this foundational stone is inexorably connected to the truth that Christ is head of the church. Unity cannot exist if we are not fully submitting ourselves to His headship.