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Forrest 02-07-2009 01:19 PM

Biblical Unity
 
Biblical Unity - Part 1

Life in Christ equips every true believer with the knowledge, ability, and passion for maintaining genuine unity with other believers. So if this is true, why is there so much division in the local church today? Is there any clear instruction provided in scripture that reveals the secret for preserving harmony and oneness in the local church?

Division in the church could be the result of “darkness” attempting to fellowship with “light”. In many cases, there is simply no spiritual oneness which has been wrought by common faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “…for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Am I being too harsh? Jesus warned: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Let’s assume though that all the members in your local church are truly believers in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s assume the foundation of genuine unity has been established. Let’s assume we have at least believed the words of Christ when He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” What is the cause of division among true believers then? The Church at Corinth provides a practical answer to this question.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

This passage clearly identifies the fruits of carnality. The Corinthian believers were identified as carnal (or fleshly). In other words, they were governed by mere human nature and not by the Holy Spirit. Their behavior was as if Christ had no part of them. They were seemingly no different than the “natural man” who wanders around aimlessly, in spiritual darkness, without Christ.

They walked as men. They did not walk with the mind of Christ. There was envy, strife, and division among them. The members argued with each other. They were not visibly yielding the fruit of love and kindness. Individuals demanded and clung to their own rights. They were jealous of one another. Contentious and divided, they lacked the fruit of a Spirit-filled life; a Christ directed life. Was the Church at Corinth continuing to bear good fruit? Obviously they were not.

What is the key to possessing genuine unity and oneness? How can a local church come together with “one mind” when we are all so uniquely different? I can tell you that genuine and lasting unity does not inevitably come by finding common interests or common causes apart from a focus on Christ. Oh, sure, we can all find something that pulls us together, something we can sit around and chat about on Sunday, and something that causes us to boast of having church unity. We can ascribe to a certain program. Or perhaps find unity in the particular way we dress. Maybe the church softball team pulls many together. Or it may be a combination of various activities, interests, causes, and programs. These things are not necessarily wrong, but they do not offer real oneness and unity in the church.

Real unity centers in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is secondary to Him. It is not Christ and…. It is Christ alone. That’s the subtle, but powerful message to the Church at Corinth.

The issue is not that the Corinthian believers had envy, strife, and division. The issue is not that they were “carnal” Christians and walked as mere men do. These were all outer symptoms of the deeper root problem. What was the problem? They were “babes in Christ”.

Babies in Christ does not mean they were recently converted and had just become new believers. Most of us have patience for the new convert. We do not expect them to yield the fruits of spiritual maturity as young Christians. But the danger and warning for all of us is that once we receive Christ we have a Biblical mandate to specifically grow up in Him. When we receive Christ and then drift from His preeminence in all things, we may be involved in some nice, clean, religious activities in the church but lack the deep abiding love and commitment to the very person of Christ. Immaturity and the failure to specifically grow up in Jesus Christ results in a phony religion which is often full of envy, strife, and divisions. Jesus Christ must be the beginning and the end (and everything between). He must be the central focus of our life as a Christian. This truth applies to the Christian family, local church, and Christian community as a whole.

So let me ask, are you still a baby in Christ? Or, are you growing in Him? “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Biblical Unity -Part 2

My prayers are not always perfect, but when I read a prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed, I perk up. I never doubt His motive. I do not doubt that His prayer is right on target. I do not question His purpose or plan. And I do not doubt the effectiveness of His prayer. Were you aware that He specifically prayed for unity in the body of Christ? He did.

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:20-23).

Nuggets of Truth from His Prayer

1. Jesus is praying for all who would believe on Him through their word. That’s me! That’s you! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, specifically prayed for us.

2. He prayed that we (all true believers) would be one. But notice He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. How do you suppose Jesus the Son and God the Father are one? Will they ever be separated? Will the Godhead ever have separate agendas? I am certainly not suggesting we will be Divine and always think, say, and do the same thing, but I am saying we are the family of God and are bound together in the unbreakable union of Christ. Unity is maintained when we keep our focus on that reality. We are one in Christ. Jesus prayed for it and by faith in Him it happened. We are one.

3. The glory which God the Father gave to God the Son has been given to us. What glory? The answer is found in John 17:10. “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” Jesus is in you. You are one with God the Father and fellow believers through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say again, Jesus is in you. We can each proclaim: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3).

4. The world will “…know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” The power of our unity is a visible testimony to the world that Jesus has come, that God loves us, and that God the Father loves God the Son, Jesus Christ. Perhaps our ineffectiveness and lack of power to witness is because of so much division, arguing, and strife. The lost world does not believe us. Our message of hope and love through Christ is tainted by our carnal behavior. We must prayerfully endeavor to love one another as Christ has loved us if we wish to ever have true power in our witness for Him.

The solution for maintaining unity is a constant gaze on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we love and know Him, He is able to love through us. Our unity is real.

Biblical Unity - Part 3

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Notice our endeavor in the Christian life is not to keep unity. Our specific endeavor is to keep the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. What is the unity of the Spirit?

Through the Holy Spirit we are born from above. We are knit together in the bond of peace. Through the Holy Spirit we are one body, have one hope, one faith, and one spiritual baptism. Our oneness is because there is “one Spirit” and “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”. Our union is exclusively and specifically by faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the reality of who we are in Christ. Jesus, “the Prince of peace” abides in us. Jesus, the personification of love abides in us.

When Jesus ascended to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to reside in every true believer. Jesus did not leave us comfortless. It is important to observe, Jesus not only sent the Comforter (John 15:26), but He also said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). Jesus Christ personalized this promise when He said “I will come to you.”

The Christian life is simply Christ in you. Christ personally comes to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9). “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). We are complete in Christ.

Not only are we filled with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, but God the Father is also in us. John 14:23 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” It is great news that God abides in the Christian—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit reside in you.

It is imperative for us to understand and acknowledge the fact that all fullness [the presence, power, agency, and riches] of the Godhead bodily is specifically in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9). He has the preeminence in all things. He is head of the church. He has a name above every name, every knee will bow to Him—on the earth (all people), in heaven (all angels), and things beneath the earth (all demons). Christ is the beginning as well as the end, the Creator of all things—all things were created by Him and for Him. He is head of all principality, power, might, and dominion. All power is given to Him in Heaven and in earth. He is Lord of lords and King of kings.

The Spirit filled life is a life filled with Jesus Christ. The unity of the Spirit is simply a life unified by Jesus Christ. A church body that focuses on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ has enduring unity and resides in the unbreakable bond of peace.

May we each purpose to declare the full counsel of God which centers in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. “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;” (Philippians 1:27).

Biblical Unity - Part 4

The Christian life is not complicated or complex. It is Christ and Christ alone. Not everyone believes that. Not everyone truly understands that. But when you grasp the fact that you are complete in Christ it will change your life.

Our privilege is to know Him. Our purpose is to glorify Him. Our mission is to proclaim Him. Our unified message should be Jesus Christ. Many simply refuse to fully commit to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not referring to initial salvation from the penalty of sin. I am saying we should recognize and acknowledge Christ as our very life. It is the essence of what we have become and who we are. It is our “new” identity. Our speech reveals who we are and what we believe. Our conversation reveals the central passion of our life. Our mind becomes an open book to others through the words we speak.

What characterizes your local church fellowship? What testimony is preeminent in the community and to those who visit your church? And what is the ministry “emphasis” of your local church body? Everything should be Jesus Christ. Attempt to find a single lesson or subject that does not find its power, plan, purpose, or principle in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Home, marriage, parenthood, employment, evangelism, holiness, outreach, ministry, and meditation all find there solution in Christ. Check it out. Be honest. Is Jesus Christ the solution? Is He the answer? Do you need something in addition to Christ? Don’t just say it, believe it!

This is serious business. Life begins with Jesus Christ. Life continues with Jesus Christ. And yes, life ends with Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).

The “same rule” and the “same thing” is Christ. Do you see it. That I may win Christ. That I may know Him.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).


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