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If unity means one Church teaching the same doctrines with an abundance of love that is a reflection of the love of Christ, the Church is in a bad state indeed. There are a multiple list of doctrines that differ and many practices that differ. Som will come and tell you if you don’t keep the Saturday sabbath you are worshiping the beast of Revelation 13 other’s say if you got the Baptism formula wrong you are doomed to hell. The list of controversies goes on and on. Some Calvinists tell us that if you don’t believe the TULIP theory your a works religion and not really saved and the underlying factor is they infer, we have it right but you don’t. What is the root of this segregation? I think Paul’s dealing with the Disunity in the Corinthian Church will be what would be a key into exposing the cause of disunity and how to cut it out of the Church. The Apostle Paul has heard that there was division in the Corinthian church. 1Corinthians 1:10-31. First he exhorts them to speak the same things, and to have the same mind and judgment. Is that achievable? Just imagine the difficulty of melding together Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatics, and Messianics. These would not be able to achieve harmony, that is to say, all think the same and speak the same, because they do not all believe the same. In fact some, based on their doctrinal stand would deny that some were really considered a part of the Church. But is there a partial unity that we have achieved that is not the ultimate Bible ideal but identifies us as brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul is addressing one local Church but if it was possible to combine the Church in Jerusalem, with the Church in Ephesus and the Church in Corinth I contend you would still have many major doctrinal and cultural differences that would not help for unity at all. The next thing the apostle Paul addresses is the need to identify with one Name and all experiences should stem from the Name of Jesus Christ. These mentioned were identifying with the messengers sent by Jesus and gloried in the messenger not the Message. Some thought by identifying themselves with the name of Jesus made them exclusively elite. The root cause of course was a lack of humility but instead an arrogant pride that made them project an exclusivism that has become a great tragedy in the Church. I have had the privilege of meeting and sharing with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ that were diverse in denomination, yet we were able to remain in harmony and fellowship because, even though our doctrines differed we knew that we were children in the same family. That does not mean we should not discuss the differences and even debate what we believe. We should be all growing in the knowledge of Christ and seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit. I find debate an excellent way to put what we believe to the test. I have had many ideas that had to be changed because I thought I was right and thought what I heard was right but in actual fact I was wrong. I try to be very honest when confronted with other’s teaching and if I find it is valid according to the Bible I will accept it humbly and change. The final note is that God was going to use the humble to decimate arrogance of the proud,and noble, and strong. He would be using the weak, and foolish, and ignoble to make sure no flesh will glory in Him not others. That is basically the key to Unity. That everybody glory in the Lord and not in the wisdom of man, the nobility of man or power of man.
If we are looking for "true, biblical unity" let's have a close look at what that unity looked like in the life of Jesus and his apostles. Jesus chose 12 men from diverse backgrounds - fishermen, tax collectors, zealots and other country bumpkins - not the religious and educated elite from Jewish society. These men came from different economic and sub-culture backgrounds with different world views. So what united them? Jesus profound truth spoken with amazing authority captivated their minds. His abounding love and limitless mercy, poured out to the most needful and faithful in Jewish society, captured their hearts. So what tested their unity? They misunderstood his mission, still expecting a king to kick out the Romans. Their preconceived ideas of right and wrong led to Jesus chastising and correcting them. They brokered Jesus's affections for positions of power and influence. They abandoned him when the political heat was too great. So what kept this early church together? The charisma of Jesus attracted these men to him like a magnet: 1) His personal holiness, 2) the power of the Holy Spirit, 3) His good news message of God's salvation for everyone who believes, and 4) His love for people shown in the miracles of healing and deliverance. The disciples’ charisma began when they were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Then God scattered them all over the Roman world to spread his gospel message. Each culture heard the message and interpreted its truth and counsel through the lens of their own world view. Their tangible expressions of “being Christian” were influenced by 1) their own cultural values, 2) competing religious beliefs, 3) economic standing, and 4) nationalistic identity. I think there were 4 factors that resulted in true biblical unity. Unity in Identity: The disciples identified with Jesus because they believed in his message and were committed to his mission. All the disciples ministered in his name with great enthusiasm. Unity in Belonging: Jesus invited them to join him just as they were. He trained them - including correcting and rebuking - but never rejected them. He shared with them everything he heard from his Father. He called them his friends. When the disciples began the church the most common phrase they used to describe their belonging was "My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ". This was the bedrock foundation of their unity. Unity in Purpose: The glue that kept their unity together was their focus on fellowship and mission. They met together every day, not once a week. When you are with other people every day they become as close as your biological family. They knew their mission (Mark 16:15-18) and carried it out with great passion, focus and fervour. Diversity in Expression: The early church allowed great diversity in the way each local church expressed their faith in their "religious" practices. Most early churches were born out of the Jewish culture. Later churches were a mixture of Jewish, Greek and other pagan cultures. So what went wrong? Once churches became established for a few generations, they began to look inward instead of outward. Their discussions focused on "what we believe" instead of "how we reach the lost". Their activities focused on perfecting their religious practices instead of loving the poor and needy. In my view, the same holds true today. I believe the best example of Christian unity today is the "persecuted church". In these countries there is no time to focus on what they believe or perfecting their religious practices. They meet in secret for fellowship, encouragement, strengthening and purpose. They leave in secret to share their faith and love other people. This is the definition of true humility; "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." When we focus on the unity of identity, belonging and purpose while accepting great diversity in religious expression, under girded by a spirit of complete humility, we will achieve true biblical unity again.
It can't. Why? Because the church has is made up of Christians. And Christians are human. If we all submitted to Christ the way we should then we would be united. Unfortunately, not only do we all not submit the way we should, probably none of us do. The better question is "how can I help the church to be more united?". The answer to that question is to fulfill the two most important commandments. Love the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
Until the church gets back to the truths of the bible, we will not have unity. There is a product of our old nature that believes we can generate within ourselves a righteousness that we can make ourselves acceptable to God in the flesh. It is trusting in our own righteousness instead of the righteousness of God that comes by faith alone. It is a perversion of the grace of God to save sinners by producing in us a way that will allow God to accept us on our own merit. That if we do what is right God owes us heaven. It is the way that seems right unto men but is a lie from Satan. We can only be saved by accepting the fact that we are sinners and can only be justified before God by faith in Christ alone. Until our churches have more of these people who are truly saved by faith alone, we will have churches full of dead people trusting in their own righteousness. Organized religion is just that. It is religion which never could save anyone. Only those who have put their faith in Christ alone without any thing from themselves will be saved. Those that are trusting in their own righteousness will not be saved. When we put our faith in Christ alone, the Holy Spirit seals us unto the day of redemption and we have eternal life through the spirit that lives in us. Now we are made perfect through the spirit but not in the flesh. Our old nature is no different than it was before we accepted Christ. It had no change. The flesh is still the flesh and the spirit is still the spirit. But until the Church understands that none of us are perfect, and we still all sin, (FIrst John 1-8) then we are not going to get along. Until we get back to our first love, we will find fault with every little thing our brothers do to make our selves more acceptable to God by our own works of righteousness which we have done in the flesh. God has given us grace to show to others because we all have our weaknesses and are not perfect. But those that think they are bound and determined to hold in contempt every one else that does not hold to the righteousness of themselves. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. They make mountains out of mole hills. They are righteous but everyone else is not. They are hypocrites as none of us are righteous. We are not to live in sin or use grace for a license, but we are not to put people in bondage either. It is going by the letter of the law rather than the spirit. The old letter kills where the spirit gives life. Legalism in all its forms takes us away from Christ instead of to Him. It is a loveless way to live. We now become the judge and jury for all others, hold them in contempt because they do not live up to our standard for holiness. It seems that all church groups seem to degenerate into legalism at some point. It is the leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warned us about. They used the law wrongly to hold others in contempt. We see it today in TV preachers that are living in million dollar homes with private jets and taking money from widows and orphans. They are fleecing the flock like never before, and claim they are teaching giving as a way to get your own wealth and health. I do not believe that Jesus wore a $45,000 Rolex and drove a $160,000 sports car with money made from supposedly preaching the gospel. Something is wrong. John talked about those churches that were rich and have need of nothing in Revelation. Just a few of my own thoughts on why organized churches can not get along. Birds of a feather flock together whether they are right or not. To many churches become a club instead of a place to get fed by the word of God while we have believers dying for the faith all over the world. If we would just preach salvation by grace through faith, without works, so no one can boast, at least once a month, I think we would see Christian love and growth again in the church. But pride and self-righteousness will keep us from growing in grace.
First, everyone should understand the origins of the Bible. It certainly didn't drop from the heavens, neatly compiled - the King James version. History teaches us that men added books to the Bible (Council of Carthage, year 397) and men also removed books from the Bible (British and Foreign Bible Society, year 1826) Second, everyone should understand the proper use of the Bible - that is it not meant to go against traditions of the Church. Keep in mind that the teachings of Christ were passed down orally, and took years before they were written down. Third, it should be clear to everyone that the understanding of scripture is not by any one man's own interpretation. It should be a a collective understanding.
Unity is not something we "achieve" it is something we embrace "in the bond of peace" Ep 4.1-4, Ph 3.1-4. All too often believers divide over different views of biblical teachings, clothing, religious practices, music, and other such things while they contend for a unity based on the need for others to agree with them. Much division has occurred among believers over the misunderstanding and misuse of "Christian" unity.
Unity is only mentioned a few times. The scripture lays out how we should unify. However man has seperated himself from Humanity. We are divided into many things such as doctrine, translation and interpretation of Scripture. True unification will come when Christ returns. Unitil then a great deception will fool the elect as in the end times worshipping an anti-christ. Until the return of Christ we will wrestle with the flesh and things like unity. We need to stop seperation from our Living Creator. We are the Children of the Living Creator called human beings making up Humanity. The Living Creator's Son and Holy Spirit are our connection back to this Humanity. Working the plan of salvation for ourselves and sharing with others is our calling to destiny to rule with Christ. Eventually we all will bow and confess that Yashua/Jesus is the Son of the Living Creator. All will have an opportunity to hear the gospel and those who refuse will be cast out leaving a unified Humanity in submission to The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Until then we are to recognize those that are called to different duties layed out in Ephesians 4.
As others have noted there are admonitions and teachings on unity through out the New Testament. But how can mere humans walk in those teachings? There is an answer to that question. Jesus gave the us the power to walk in these teachings in John 17. This is Jesus' final prayer to the Father prior to the Cross and is explicitly for all believers for all time. I want them to be with me where I am so that they will see my glory so that they (believers) will be one just as we (Father and Son) are one. This is not a doctrinal agreement it is a revelation of Christ's glory. This is also not individual, it is corporate. Remember this prayer was answered. Just hours before this prayer the apostles were still arguing about who was greater. They were poised to do what disciples of every other religious and political leader have done: Fight over control. I like to think that when the apostles experienced this that Peter and John saw each other in the light of Jesus' glory and their competitiveness fell away. In the days after this prayer they did not always agree but they stayed unified. Also remember that three years of teaching principles by Jesus Himself did not help at all. Just like us the apostles were human and were acting like humans. I think we all might have a slightly different notion of what seeing his glory means, but at a minimum it means that we somehow know Jesus' power and glory so our own ambitions fall away. May the Body of Christ step into the promise of this prayer!
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