Unity is a hallmark of healthy churches. The Bible describes the earliest Christian gathering by saying, “Now all the believers were together and held all things in common…And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-46). Notice that the togetherness of the church led to evangelistic results.
Jesus prophesied that such would occur. He once said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In addition, He prayed for the church to have such a witness: “May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). Unity is necessary for churches to have an impact within society.
But how can congregations develop such a spirit of camaraderie? Do they have to glibly and blindly agree on everything? Does God does expect uniformity amongst the ranks of His people? Is some sort of spiritual mind control needed?
Through studying the New Testament, we discover that Christian unity isn’t characterized by a cold, cultural and customary conformity. Instead, it thrives even in the midst of diversity and differences of opinion. This is true, because it is grounded in certain spiritual realities which transcend the ordinary stuff of life. Let’s consider three ways in which Christians are bound together. If we pursue unity through this means, we can be a church which makes a maximum impact for Christ within our community.
A Common Salvation The gospel is ground zero for Christian unity. The fellowship we have finds its origin in the message of Christ. When Paul wrote to Titus, he spoke of “our common faith” (Titus 1:4). Jude used a similar descriptor for the gospel in his letter (see Jude 1:3). The moniker doesn’t depict the faith as something which is plain, ordinary, and non-spectacular. Instead, it conveys the way in which it is easily transferable and held in common by a great number of people. All believers are recipients of, and adherents to, the same simple faith. As they live according to the beliefs and practices of Christ, they experience an other-worldly bond (see 1 John 1:3 and 7).
A Common Spirit At the moment of salvation, believers receive the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. This third person of the Trinity gives guidance, promptings, instruction, encouragement, and conviction (see John 16:5-11). As believers live in worshipful surrender to the Spirit’s leadership, they experience a bond of fellowship with other believers (see Philippians 2:1).
A Common Service Finally, believers experience unity through their participation in Christian ministry. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave the church its marching orders (see Matthew 28:18-20). By faithfully engaging in the Lord’s Great Commission, believers get themselves on the same page. Paul spoke of the way in which he and the Philippians experienced a partnership through gospel ministry (see Philippians 1:5). Many churches are fragmented and fledgling because they aren’t driven by Jesus’ purpose for the church.
Dr. Patrick Latham