April 7th – 11th, 2018
Dr. Allen Roberts, Pastor
Euclid Avenue Baptist Church
Unity. This is a biblical concept that virtually all of us have read about in Scripture. It is one which we have most likely heard about through a preaching – teaching message at some point in our walks of faith. Yet, how can we describe what unity may actually look like in everyday life? within the life of a local church? Let’s look at this subject in the following three ways.
First, let’s consider the root of God’s prevailing spirit of unity. The wonder of God’s prevailing spirit of unity lies in recognizing that such unity is rooted in the person of Jesus Himself. Through His atoning work of redemption, the unity we can experience as His church rests in…
- our purchase through Jesus Christ,
- the pardon we have received from Him,
- our position of righteousness in Him,
- our purpose of living to glorify Him.
This sense of unity extends far beyond the thoughts of being connected to one another merely because we attend the same church, or because our kids attend the same schools and play on the same sports teams, or because we live in the same neighborhoods, or because we may even work together. God’s spirit of prevailing unity consists of more than any efforts to become like one another. This unity has more substance to it than simply having common interests and likes in life. The unity which God intends for us to experience and demonstrate as the body of Christ also is greater than idealistic thought that, as Christians, we will always agree with one another.
One of my favorite preachers and authors is Warren Wiersbe. He paints a wonderful description of the root of this unity in his book, Be Hopeful (1 Peter). He writes…
“It is Jesus Christ who is the source and center of this unity. If we center our attention and affection on Him, we will walk and work together in a manner that is fully pleasing to Him. But, if we focus only on ourselves, we will only cause division” (p.53).
May we ever keep in the forefront of our hearts and minds that it is Jesus Himself who is the source, the center, the root of the prevailing spirit of unity which He longs for us to both experience and demonstrate.
Second, let’s give our attention to the recognition of God’s prevailing spirit of unity. What aspects stand out among God’s people concerning His spirit of unity? What does this look like?
1) Outwardly, when God’s spirit of unity prevails among His people, there is a divine sense of beauty that is recognized by all. David wrote in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” If you have been a Christian long enough, and been involved in the life of a local church long enough, I am sure that the truth of this verse resonates within your soul as it does mine. The fellowship of a church family never seems to be stronger, more edifying, or sweeter to the soul, than those seasons when God’s spirit of unity is prevailing among and through His people.
2) Spiritually, there is a godly, genuine evidence of Christ-centered love that is experienced within the body and extended to those outside the body of Christ. Jesus declared these words to His disciples as He was being betrayed by Judas Iscariot: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34 – 35). This agape love is experienced, and extended, not on any individualistic terms of our own. Jesus Himself set the standard of such love— “as I have loved you.” Such love is rooted in our Savior and Lord, and is manifested to others through selfless attitudes, and a servant’s heart.
3) Inwardly, there are attitudes of the heart which are marked by the distinctions of kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, meekness, and courtesy (cf. Ephesians 4:32 \ Colossians 3:12 – 13 \ 1 Peter 3:8). The attitudes which reside within our hearts toward one another do affect the degree to which God’s spirit of unity prevails among His people. If our attitudes toward each other are not right, then how can our worship of God, and fellowship with Him, be right?
4) Behaviorally, there is a life and walk of faith that is marked by the distinctions of humility (cf. Romans 12:10 \ Ephesians 4:1 – 2a \ Colossians 3:12), harmony (cf. Ephesians 4:2b – 3 \ Colossians 3:12), and holiness (cf. Ephesians 4:30 – 31). We need to understand that the impact of our walks of faith have a dual direction. Horizontally, our walks of faith influence the lives of those who surround us. Vertically, our walks of faith determine the intimacy of worship and fellowship we experience with the Lord.
5) Relationally, the responses we give to one another through the various circumstances of life also have some distinct marks to them. As the body of Christ, we are one body, but many members (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14). We are different from one another, and sometimes we may find it difficult to get along with each other. There may, indeed, be times that we find it to be a hard task to agree with one another on certain issues. There may be occasions when we disappoint one another, even hurt one another, by means of our attitudes and actions. And when we find ourselves in midst of such times, the Bible outlines for us what type of responses we are called to give to one another:
- We are to show kindness to one another, be tenderhearted towards one another, forgiving towards one another, and walk in agape love towards one another (cf. Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2).
- We are expected to be longsuffering towards one another (cf. Colossians 3:12).
- We are to be willing to be “bearing with one another”— that is, to be patient with one another, and to allow the Holy Spirit the time needed to work in each other’s lives, for the sake of this unity (cf. Colossians 3:13).
- We are to respond to each other with a maturity of love (cf. Colossians 3:14 \ Romans 13:8).
- Rather than respond in a spirit of vengeance when we hurt and disappoint one another, we are called to respond with the desire and necessary effort to genuinely bless one another (cf. 1 Peter 3:9 \ Romans 12:17 – 18).
6) Vertically, the vitality of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Himself will be characterized by the distinctive marks of…
- the peace of God (cf. Colossians 3:15a);
- gratitude and thankfulness (cf. Colossians 3:15b);
- a mature knowledge and wisdom of the Gospel message (cf. Colossians 16a);
- a joyful, edifying, grace-filled worship (cf. Colossians 3:16b);
- a spirit of gratitude and glory to the Lord Jesus in all things (cf. Colossians 3:17).
Then, third, we must acknowledge our responsibility to nurture and preserve God’s prevailing spirit of unity within His church. The Apostle Paul described this sacred responsibility in Ephesians 4:1 – 3, urging every follower of Jesus Christ to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,… endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The Apostle Peter left his readers with this exhortation in 1 Peter 3:8— “Finally, all of you be of one mind,…”
Much of how this responsibility may be fleshed out in everyday life is described in the previous section. May we never take it lightly, much less should we ever neglect it. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to experience His prevailing spirit of unity in all things. Let us purpose today— in this moment— within our hearts to live our lives in a Christ-centered manner, rather than a self-centered one. Doing so will position us to walk, work, and worship together in ways that are fully pleasing to the One who is the very source of this prevailing spirit of unity— Jesus!
Scripture passages for reading and meditation:
- Psalm 133:1
- John 13:34 – 35
- Ephesians 4:1 – 6 \ 4:30 – 31 \ 4:32 – 5:2
- Colossians 3:12 – 17
- Romans 12:10 \ 12:17 – 18 \ 13:8
- 1 Peter 3:8 – 9