Christian Unity

by Bryant Evans on December 29, 2012

Christian unity is an oft sought but rarely found product in our diverse world.  Jesus himself desired the unity of his disciples and specifically prayed for it in the High Priestly prayer of John . It is essential for all believers to consider Jesus’ thinking and prayers.

Jesus Prayed for Christian Unity

Jesus prayed for christian unity. Praying for his disciples Jesus asked, “keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one..’ (). In , “that they may all be one…” In “that they may be one even as we are one.”  In , and note the addition of the adjective, “that they may become perfectly one…” Four times in this chapter Jesus specifically prays for unity among his believers.

It’s important to note Jesus’ standard of unity that he seeks. He desires perfect unity. This suggests a complete unity in all matters. The context drives home this point when we see that the oneness or unity between Jesus and his Father is the standard of unity (see and 22). We have come to accept the goal of “unity in diversity” but there is no diversity here. There is not the tiniest space between the Father and the Son and this is the kind of unity Jesus desires for his followers.

Paul was a great follower of Jesus. When he wrote to the fractured church in Corinth he echoed the same thoughts as the Lord.

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

The Corinthians had begun to coalesce around personalities in the church. The result was a disunity that Jesus abhors. Within his body, the church, believers are to stand together in sweet unity with one another and speak the same things. Our goals and our efforts are the same, our doctrine is the same for we are one. The prayer for unity in John is demonstrated in practice among the Corinthians.

The same plea is given by Paul to the Ephesians. These beloved brethren were taught of the depth of God’s grace in salvation. In Paul calls for glory to Jesus in the church. In the next verse, Ephesians 4:1, he calls upon the believers to “walk worthy” of the their calling and in to maintain the “unity of the spirit.” 

What follows next, in Ephesians 4:4-6, is the basis for that unity.

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

I would suggest that Christendom is about half way there. We believe in one God and we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, as the son of God. But beyond that the unity crumbles. We cannot honestly say that we believe in and hold forth, one faith. Nor can Christendom claim a single baptism. There are at least a half dozen baptisms taught within Christendom today.

Given that unity is so precious to Jesus we conclude that the global community of Christ-believers is failing. We are not united. We stand under different names, teaching different doctrines and predicating our faith upon different teachings.

Divided.

Fractured.

Such division displeases Jesus.

Hope for Christian Unity

Let’s go back to John 17 and find the way to unity.

The starting point for Christian Unity is the glory of God. Jesus came to bring glory to the Father (). Our goal must also be to glorify God. Let us destroy the altars to our own successes and victories and give all the glory to God. Only by shattering our own arrogance can we adequately humble ourselves before the Lord ().

Second, Christian Unity comes from and through the Word of God. Consider :

“For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

Zero in on the phrase, “I have given them the words that you gave me.” Most immediately, Jesus is speaking of the truth of his Sonship. But note that they came to that knowledge through the words given Jesus from God. Jesus prays that that his disciples by made holy, sanctified, by God. But how? “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). And again, in , he asks the Father to sanctify his people “in truth.”

This idea of sanctification in truth is empowered all the more when we consider inspiration. Paul says Scripture is inspired (). The word used here is a compound Greek verb which literally means that Scripture is “breathed out by God.” The ESV so translates it that way. The beauty of this thought is that God has exuded his word into the minds of holy men who have recorded the word and given it to us. Through every phase of inspiration the word remains God’s, the writers were tools of God to bring truth to men ().

So if we have the Scriptures, and we do, and if the Scriptures are true, and they are, and if it is through truth that unity comes, and it is, we then have a real hope of unity.

We can begin the long road back to unity today if men will come together in the one place where we can all stand – the Bible. We must begin today to eliminate sectarianism and denominationalism from our lives.

Let us revel in the sanctifying power of the word alone. Let us eschew additions and subtractions. Let us renounce convenient teachings and demand truth from the pulpits of our land. Let us call Bible things by Bible names and allow God to be the absolute Lord of all our lives. It is possible!

 

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter  @jbevans.
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11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (ESV)

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (ESV)

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, (ESV)

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (ESV)

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (ESV)

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, (ESV)

how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. (ESV)

17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (ESV)

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (ESV)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (ESV)

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16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (ESV)

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

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