• Unity in the Church
• A sermon that covers the question of whether the church of Christ is a
denomination, and also has application to our human relationships.
• About the only unity that we find in the denominational world is the agreement
to disagree on practice, belief, doctrine, and membership.
• As we have demonstrated from the Bible, there are characteristics of the
church as revealed in the Holy Scriptures that describe the true church of Christ.
• We have also shown that if we plant and follow the seed of the word of
God, the result will produce true Christians free from denominationalism.
• But for now, let us look at the subject of unity in the church.
• Unity Is Desirable
• Before the establishment of the church, Jesus announced, ". . . And
there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd" (John 10:16).
• The Master does not desire that some sheep find shelter in one sectarian
setup, others in another denominational detachment.
• Neither does the Master want people to stay away from any and all religion.
• Sure they should avoid the false ones, but they should be seeking the
one true church that Jesus established and God desires.
• Just a few hours before going to the cross, Jesus prayed while with the
• "Neither pray I for these alone," said the Lord, "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 is us: that
the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20, 21).
• One of the proofs that the church is the true church that is “one”
with God is the unity we are to show to the world.
• Jesus also said that the world would know the true disciples because of
their love for one another (John 13:35).
• To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "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).
• It is possible for Christians to be of one mind, speaking the same thing.
• All they really need is a respect for Bible authority and a love for God.
• The saints at Ephesus were urged to walk in a manner worthy of their calling,
"endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians
• The unity of the Spirit cannot be maintained without earnest endeavor
(diligence in the NASB).
• Contrasting Examples
• The church at Jerusalem exemplified remarkable oneness.
• The disciples in that city were "together," "had all things
common," and continued daily "with one accord" (Acts 2:44-46).
• They were "of one heart and of one soul" (Acts 4:32).
• When a murmuring arose because certain widows were neglected in the daily
ministration, the problem was solved quickly under apostolic supervision.
• The recommendation of the apostles "pleased the whole multitude"
because the authority of the apostles was respected.
• Today, many congregations are plagued with discord and dissension due
to lack of respect for apostolic authority.
• Such was the case in Corinth as we see repeatedly, the apostle Paul defending
• In contrast to the church at Jerusalem, God's people at Corinth were torn
• They had a factional spirit.
• They were saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas;
and I of Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:12).
• Paul charged that their envying, strife, and divisions furnished evidence
of carnality (1 Corinthians 3).
• This brand of carnality often overshadows true spirituality among Christians.
• The Corinthian brethren were going to law with each other before unbelievers
(1 Corinthians 6:6).
• They had questions and problems with marriage relationships; some wrong
(1 Corinthians 5) some carnal based on base desires (1 Corinthians 7).
• They had differences over whether or not it is right to eat meat offered
in sacrifice to idols (1 Corinthians 8).
• They were abusing the Lord's supper, making it a feast for satisfying
bodily hunger (1 Corinthians 11:18-34).
• They needed to learn that there should be "no schism in the body";
all members should have "the same care one for another" (1 Corinthians
• Despite all of these problems, Paul corrected their misunderstandings
and in the end it became a faithful church of God.
• Because they obeyed what was commanded of them.
• Requirements For Unity
• We must ask ourselves:
• How can we attain the kind of oneness for which Jesus prayed?
• On what basis can we be perfectly joined together in the same mind and
in the same judgment?
• How can we demonstrate this to the world?
• The following are some of the essentials for the unity revealed by the
• We must stand on God's platform
• Paul outlined the seven planks in this platform in Ephesians 4:4-6.
• (1) There is one body.
• That body is the church (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18).
• It is not a denomination or a mystical union of man-made religions.
• It is the only body God recognizes.
• (2) There is one Spirit.
• The Holy Spirit gives life and direction through God's word.
• (3) There is one hope.
• The desire and expectation produced by the gospel is eternal life (Titus
• (4) There is one Lord.
• Jesus is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
• He is the head of the church.
• There is no human head.
• (5) There is one faith.
• That is the faith for which Christians are to earnestly contend (Jude
• It is the revealed faith.
• (6) There is one baptism.
• That baptism is in water (Acts 8:36-38; 10:47), is a burial (Romans 6:3-5;
Colossians 2:12), is in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:5; 10:48), and is for the
remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
• (7) There is one God.
• He is described in contrast to idols in Acts 17:24-29.
• We must walk by the same rule
• The word of God must be the standard for our faith and practice.
• Amos asked, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
• Amos was in agreement with God and walking with God.
• The people of Jeroboam's kingdom were out of step with God.
• The New Testament is the revelation of God's will for us today.
• Do people really want unity in Christ?
• "Let them all agree to walk by the same rule, the New Testament.
Could they for this be blamed by the candid of any party? Does not every party
confess that its own rules are fallible, and that the Bible is the only infallible
rule? Do they not act wisely then, who give up the fallible for the infallible?"
(Barton W. Stone, Christian Messenger, Nov. 25, 1826, p. 16).
• We must reject all that the Bible does not authorize
• Moses E. Lard, writing in the first issue of his Quarterly (Sept., 1863),
attempted to summarize the plea of such men as Campbell, Stone, and others.
• ". . . The reformation consists in an effort to induce all the truly
pious in Christ to become perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the
same judgment, by accepting as doctrine, precisely and only what is either actually
asserted or necessarily implied in the Bible; to speak the same things by speaking
what the Bible speaks, and to speak them in the language of the Bible; and to
practice the same things by doing simply the will of Christ.
• Spoken over 150 years ago, and we are still making the same plea.
• We must differentiate between faith and opinion
• But it is not as easy as that.
• We often come across people who have made what we consider an opinion
into a matter of faith.
• This causes problems.
• Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).
• Nothing should be urged as a matter of faith unless it is backed by divine
• Alexander Campbell once noted: "A person's faith is always bounded
by testimony; his knowledge by observation and experience, and his opinions where
both these terminate, and may be boundless as God's creation or as human invention"
(Christian Baptist, Feb. 6, 1826).
• Many times brethren form a personal judgment about something, and that
opinion is preached or spoken as if it was law and gospel.
• Romans 14 needs to be heeded very strongly, because many have used it
to promote error and falsehood.
• We ought to avoid preaching human opinions, and we must never elevate
them to the high level of divine revelation.
• But what do we do when brethren demand something they consider to be doctrine
and we consider to be opinion?
• No matter which side we are on, we have a moral obligation to treat each
other as a brother and with respect, and we must keep the option of further study
• We must have the proper attitude
• In the business world as supervisors we are taught that we cannot judge
attitudes, as we do not know what anyone’s attitude is.
• What we can see is the behavior, and by such behavior, we may come to
a determination as to what kind of attitude this person has.
• So we may not change a person’s attitude, but we can modify their
• We may preach loudly about the importance of walking in the old paths,
and we may guard against unscriptural practices with the sharp perception of a
good sentinel, and we may stress one Lord, one faith, one baptism, only to fail
to keep the unity of the Spirit.
• Paul mentioned lowliness and meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance
in love (Ephesians 4:2).
• Some gospel preachers have never learned to show patience.
• Neither have some/many(?) of the members.
• There are brethren who seem to have a divisive spirit.
• At the slightest disagreement or provocation, they are ready to draw away
disciples after them.
• Humility is a missing ingredient in a lot of men.
• The desire to rule, or to have one's own way, even if it means splitting
the church, has crippled the good cause in many localities.
• This is precisely the reason that denominations start and exists.
• We must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit
• The unity into which the Spirit leads is based on truth, not error.
• A million people can be united in the practice of error, but that unity
does not transform their error into truth.
• It is the unity of the Spirit that is to be preserved in the bond of peace
• Some people have the idea that if we preach the truth unity will result
• Paul knew that more is involved.
• He wrote of "endeavoring" to keep the unity of the Spirit.
• We must make careful and painstaking effort.
• This necessitates crushing unholy and selfish ambitions.
• It includes keeping down strife, seditions, and heresies.
• It involves the application of Philippians 2:3.
• Most of us deplore division in the church.
• We plead for unity based on the Bible, but in practice a lot of us insist
on unity based on our personal whims.
• Although we dare not compromise principles of right for any purpose, we
must be willing to compromise in the realm of human judgment.
• Many congregations that have been ripped apart with bitterness and turmoil
could have remained united if certain people had swallowed their pride, shown
willingness to admit wrong, extended forgiveness, learned to keep their mouths
shut, tended to their own affairs, shown brotherly love, exercised patience, and
talked about staying together instead of "starting a new work" (a pretense
• God's word teaches that unity is desirable, and it reveals how such unity
can be attained.
• Through the ages many have caused divisions and hindrances by teaching
what is contrary to the doctrine of Christ (Romans 16:17).
• As David Lipscomb well expressed it, "All human teachings, inventions,
and institutions are occasions of discord, stumbling, and division . . . . The
hearts of those who add human inventions are not right in the sight of God"
(Commentary on Ephesians 4:3).
• Each Christian can make his contribution to the unity of the church by
walking according to God's pattern, teaching others to walk by the divine rule,
rejecting everything contrary to the Scriptures, maintaining the right attitude,
and humbly endeavoring to promote and preserve the unity of the Spirit.
• It all boils down to whether we have the resolve to do it God’s
way, or demand “our” way.
• What are you doing to maintain unity in this church?
• What more can you do?
By Carey Scott based on an article by Irvin Himmel
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