Dwelling Together In Unity

Walter Olsen

March 1, 2018

Introduction

Unity is a wonderful thing, whether it be in a family, church, business, or any other grouping of people. Today, unfortunately, so much of the world is living with disunity. [Of course, this has been true ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden!]This is true in the church as well as in any other group of people. Fortunately, unity should be a highlight of the local church. True believers have so much in common. King David observed, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133:1).

In this paper we will consider several aspects of unity within the local church. [When I speak of the local church I mean people who have come to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.]  Let’s consider first the basis of faith. That is, of what is the unity of the church to consist of? Of great importance on this list are the following:

There is a unity regarding the integrity and authority of the Bible. The Bible claims for itself such divine prerogative. Many verses attest to this claim. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). “But the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Pet. 1:21).

If the integrity and authority of the Bible are not adhered to, there is no basis for unity in the local church. There may be disagreement about many other things, but about the integrity of the Bible there cannot be. Unfortunately, some “scholars” assume an authority not granted them by the word of God and so come to faulty conclusions. I don’t assume any superior knowledge here; it is just that there can be no contradiction with the word of God itself. Remember the words of John near the end of the Bible, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

There is a unity of doctrine, of teaching. Our nation is held together by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. [Well, at least it used to be; today there are many attacks upon our constitution. The attacks are both inward and outward.] A people need to have something to agree upon or there will be mass confusion and anarchy. The people of a Bible believing local church essentially agree upon the teaching of the Bible. Not all agree on every point of doctrine, but there is agreement on such things as salvation by grace, the blood atonement, heaven and hell, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a changed life and a host of other things. The point is, there are some things upon which one is to believe if he or she claims to be a Christian.

The basis of agreement on Biblical doctrine is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When people are taught by God Himself, there tends to be unity and rejoicing in the truth God has revealed. Speaking of the Spirit’s part in the unity of believers, note Paul’s exhortation, “I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).

Of course, not all believers agree on everything they read in the Bible. [They do agree on such things as the essentials of salvation, etc]. Some disagree upon such things as the time of the Lord’s return for His church, the rapture, and the specifics of the Millennium as well as numerous other things.

In my opinion, where the word of God is taught and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, there will tend to be agreement.

There is a unity of faith, of believing. The local church is not a gathering of people who have similar interests, or who want to serve others, or have been taught a form of doctrine passed on from generation to generation. The local church is an assembly of people who have been born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have acknowledged their sins and have personally come to Christ for forgiveness. They have heard and believed the Gospel as presented in the word of God. They believe in the  birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God as the Apostle John said, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (I Jn. 4:15). The book of Luke confirms the truth about being saved before church membership, “…and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

When one trusts Christ for salvation, so many things change, things that are true for all believers. Paul, in speaking of the Father says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13).

There is a unity of life. What I mean by a unity of life is somewhat similar to the above but with a different emphasis. The unity of life is the unity of life the church has in Jesus Christ because He is the life of the church. I’m not talking about such things as enthusiasm because of a common agreement about things, but of the actual life of Jesus Christ Himself. He and He alone is the life of the church. Note the following words of Paul, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Emphasis mine.

John also speaks of the life we have in Jesus Christ, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I Jn. 5:11-12). This makes it very clear that Christianity is a belief of life. People may meet together to “worship”, but if they do not have the Person of Jesus Christ as their Savior, they have no life. A church without the life of God is really not a New Testament church. They may agree about many things, but if they have not the life of God  they really have no spiritual unity.

Let’s take this a little further. A church may have mostly born again people, but if they are not walking in the Spirit, there really is little unity. The unity is mostly an agreement about certain programs and many issues, but it is not necessarily a unity of the Spirit. Even born again people have problems with the dominance of the flesh [the affections and tendencies of what man is without God], and when the flesh dominates, there is no controlling spiritual unity. The Biblical admonition is, “…Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

The unity of the Spirit does not happen just because one is a believer.  Paul made the issue clear when he said, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Emphasis mine.

So, if the church would have true unity, it must be a unity of the Spirit. I wonder, though, how often this truth is missed, ignored, or worse yet, denied! People don’t want to be reminded of their own sins, but until this happens, many churches will be a product of man’s own making. When that happens, the result is confusion, disorganization, frustration, competition, a lack of spiritual growth, and a lack of true ministry. Still, many churches carry on as is everything is spiritually normal and good! I wonder, do our churches need genuine revival? Do we maybe need to get back to the centrality of the cross, to the confession of sin, to heartfelt prayer, to loving God supremely and our fellow man as ourself?!

There is a unity of purpose. Where there is true spiritual unity, there is a unity of purpose. In a sense, the purpose is multifaceted. It includes many things but excludes the purposes of men. When people are walking in the Spirit, they are concerned for God’s purposes, not man’s. Men who are saved but not walking with God as they should may become “experts” in building and fostering their own objectives. Too many towers of Babel are in evidence today!

God’s purposes for the local church include but are not limited to the following:

Worshiping the Lord from a purified heart. True worship is never first a form. If worship is not from the heart, there really is no worship. Jesus spoke of this when He rebuked the Pharisees and said, “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9).

Seeking the Lord in prayer. Prayer is essential to the well being and ministry of the local church. Prayer is both individual and corporate, that is, prayer together as a body of believers. Jesus, in rebuking those who bought and sold in the temple said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:13). Peter exhorted the believers of his day, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (I Pet. 4:7).

When a church fails to pray, they will fail to see little of the true working and blessing of God. They may point to certain accomplishments made by men, but that is not necessarily the same as God doing His work in the church. The problem is, if the members of the church are not walking in the Spirit, they rarely see the difference!

Preaching the Gospel to all the world. This is not primarily a mission of good works, as important as they are, but of preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that those who accept the Gospel may be saved. Jesus’ commission to the church is, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world [age]” (Matt. 28:19-20). Indeed, there is no true missionary work without the preaching of the Gospel. Whatever else the missionary may do, the end of his mission is to preach the Gospel.

The world includes not only foreign lands, but our loved ones, our neighbors, and the communities we live in.

Giving place to Jesus Christ to live His life in us and through us. No person can live the Christian life apart from the indwelling of Christ. As we yield to Him, he will evidence His life by a desire for righteousness and separation from a sinful world. Is not this the testimony of Paul who said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

There is a unity of hope. People living in the world without God are living without any real hope for the future. They may have a hope for the immediate future, but not for death and what lies beyond. The emphasis of many is to live for the present and let the future take care of itself.

Of course, there is much false hope given by spurious religions, but it is not the hope of God. Believers have a hope promised them by God Himself as recorded in the Bible, God’s word.

The hope of the believer includes too many things to mention here, but note just a few.

He has the hope of God’s presence and care for him for all of his life. Psalm 23 comes to mind here. God knows our needs before we ask.

He has the hope of God’s continued presence in his life. God’s word is, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

He has the hope that, when he dies, he will go immediately into the presence of God.  He is comforted by such verses as the following: “We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II   Cor. 5:8). “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). “For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 320:).

Conclusion

In closing, consider the following: Where there is a lack of unity created by God, other things will dominate. Such things would include confusion, misunderstandings, competition, and often bitterness. Spiritual unity is essential to both the well-being of individual believers as well as to the entire church.

We should not be satisfied with the appearance of unity. Our unity should be a reality created by God Himself as we are yielded to His word and will. I fear that until we have a real moving of God, our so called unity will be a product of our own making. Where that is true, our ministry will be mostly a surface thing without real heart. May God help all of us to determine by His word and Spirit whether our unity is one of our own making or a genuine blessing of God.

Our nation is again faced with the tragedy of a school shooting. The images and screams of the students are horrifying. In thinking about this, I wonder if much of the problem may be because so many have turned their backs on anything that has to do with the truths of the Bible and real righteousness. Much of our culture has been diminished by violence and corruption. In my opinion, the cry for political correctness is a tool of the enemy to do as he pleases. It removes all standards of Biblical righteousness and places the protection of a nation on the whims of man and not of God.

The trial of Jesus is informative here. Pilate said to the mob, “I will therefore chastise Him and release Him. (For it was necessary for him to release one of them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas’ – who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder” (Luke 23:16-19). The conclusion is, “So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:24-25). In many cases, the same mind set is evident today, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas!” The world doesn’t want Jesus. They want Barabbas!!

BJ is doing considerably better with her broken wrist. She can play the organ some and even wash dishes! On February 26th she is to have surgery to remove the medal support put into the wrist to help the healing go well. She will be glad to have this done so she can move her wrist once more.

Special ministry in February has included preaching in the services of our home church, First Baptist of Woodville, on February 25th.

“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:8-10).

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