“What is Christian Unity”, from John Piper, (in harmony with Christ, to Glorify God)

Unity among two or more people gets its virtue entirely from something else. Unity itself is neutral until it is given goodness or badness by something else. So if Herod and Pilate are unified by their common scorn for Jesus (Luke 23:12), this is not a good unity. But if Paul and Silas sing together in prison for Christ’s sake (Acts 16:25), this is a good unity.

Therefore, it is never enough to call Christians to have unity. That may be good or bad.

What Makes Unity Christian?

Christian unity in the New Testament gets its goodness from a combination of its source, its views, its affections, and its aims.

Source

Paul tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). I take that to mean that the Holy Spirit is the great giver of unity. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Views

Paul says that pastors and teachers are to equip the saints “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). In other words, the unity we pursue is unity in the truth. Of course, Christian unity is more than shared truth, but not less. Paul piles up the words for common-mindedness in Philippians 2:2, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (see also Philippians 4:2). Everything is to “accord with Christ.” “May God . . . grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).

Affections

To be sure, unifying love in the body of Christ includes a rugged commitment to do good for the family of God whether you feel like it or not (Galatians 6:10). But, as difficult as it is for diverse people, the experience of Christian unity is more than that. It includes affectionate love, not just sacrifice for those you don’t like. It is a feeling of endearment. We are to have affection for those who are our family in Christ. “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10). “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). “All of you, have . . . sympathybrotherly lovea tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

Aims

Spirit-rooted, Christ-manifesting, truth-cherishing, humbly-loving unity is designed by God to have at least two aims: a witness to the world, and an acclamation of the glory of God. The apostle John makes the first of these most clear. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).

“Christian unity includes affectionate love, not just sacrifice for those you don’t like.”

Jesus’s famous statements in John 17 are rooted in the profound spiritual unity between the Father and the Son, and with those whom God has chosen out of the world (John 17:6). “I ask 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” (John 17:21). Note the witness to the world is that the disciples are in the Father and the Son so that the world might believe. This is vastly more — deeply more — than being related through a common organization.

The oneness that shines with self-authenticating glory for the world to see is union with the Father and the Son so that the glory of the Father and the Son is part of our lives. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). That glory is owing to this: “I in them and you [Father] in me” (John 17:23). From this union with God, and the glory it gives, shines something the world may see, if God gives them eyes to see. God’s aim for this vertically-rooted, horizontal, glory-displaying unity is that he might “gather into one the children of God scattered abroad” (John 11:52).

The ultimate aim of such Christian unity is the glory of God. Hence Paul prays, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5–7).

What Implications Follow for Us?

1. Seek the fullness of the unity-creating Holy Spirit.

“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Seek to be led by the Spirit and to bear the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:1822–23) for these are the cogs in the wheels of love. If you are a stranger to the Holy Spirit, you will care little for the unity he builds.

2. Strive to know and spread true views of Christ and his ways.

Seek to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Share, by every means you can, what you see of Christ. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16).

3. Love Christians across boundaries.

Cultivate affection across differences for those who are truly your brothers and sisters in Christ. Hate serious blunders, not sincere brothers. Humans have never been good at this. And the philosophical and emotional climate today makes it even harder — since truth claims are only seen as a cloak for power-grabbing. But consider what Spurgeon says and seek to become like him. Notice the intensity of hate and love.

Where the Spirit of God is there must be love, and if I have once known and recognized any man to be my brother in Christ Jesus, the love of Christ constraineth me no more to think of him as a stranger or foreigner, but a fellow citizen with the saints. Now I hate High Churchism as my soul hates Satan; but I love George Herbert, although George Herbert is a desperately High Churchman. I hate his High Churchism, but I love George Herbert from my very soul, and I have a warm corner in my heart for every man who is like him. Let me find a man who loves my Lord Jesus Christ as George Herbert did and I do not ask myself whether I shall love him or not; there is no room for question, for I cannot help myself; unless I can leave off loving Jesus Christ, I cannot cease loving those who love him. (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. XII, 6)

4. Serve Christians across boundaries.

For the sake of a witness to the world, seek out ways to show love for brothers and sisters across boundaries — both the kind of boundaries that should be removed, and the kind of boundaries which commit to the truth (and unity in the truth) forbids you to remove. Do this for the glory of God. Let Francis Schaeffer be your guide.

Spurgeon: “Unless I can leave off loving Jesus Christ, I cannot cease loving those who love him.”

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201, emphasis added)

Ambiguity and Hope

When all is said and done, ambiguities remain. What kinds of boundaries should define local churches, schools, denominations, conferences, para-church ministries, city-wide prayer gatherings, and evangelistic efforts? Nevertheless, we are not without anchors. We are not without rudder and sails.

We have the stars above and our trusty sextant. In reliance on the word and the Spirit, in humility, we will arrive home — together.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith?

“The Blessing of Unity”, Pastor Tom Holliday (Becoming Grace, The Gift, The Responsibility)

The Blessing of Unity, Pastor Tom Holliday

(Sermon Notes: LW, 7/18/2022, Alexandria Presbyterian Church, Alexandria VA)

Psalm 133

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

There are Ruptures throughout the Old Testament. In Psalm 133, sings a song of worship in what was called The Golden Age. David knew the pain of division well with his son, wives and brother. 

The Gift

Unity is a gift that only God can bring. We don’t get the credit. 

“Behold”. (v.1) 

Stop. Think about it. Worship the God of Unity. 

Spurgeon said, The saints in heaven, though apparently sundered from us, arc in reality one with us; though death seems to have made breaches in the church of God, it is in fact perfect and entire; though the inhabitants of heaven and believers on earth might seem to be two orders of beings, yet in truth they are “one family.”

“Let all the saints terrestrial sing,

With those to glory gone;

For all the servants of our King,

In earth and heaven, are one.”

So sings the poet. The text tells us that there is a “whole family”; it speaks not of a broken family, nor of two families, but of “the whole family in heaven and earth.” 

Pastor Tom continues, We are One Body, God has One Family, One Spirit, One Faith, One Baptism. Look to Ephesians 4:5-6. 

Does our pride divide us with the need to win an argument? Can it become more important than Loving? If God is our Father then our differences need not define us. God preserves the peace of the church. 

Becoming Grace

The Precious oil runs down. (v2)

The oil is the presence of God, the power of God. It is an aroma, a perfume. Grace runs downhill. We live in Grace when we humble ourselves. Look to God everyday. His Grace drips over.

Martin Lloyd Jones, “You cannot dissect an aroma.”

Just smell the sweetness…It is the aroma of God’s love in your life.

The dew of Hermon (v3)

It would be a miracle unless God makes it happen. (Mount Hermon is the highest mountain, the dew could not reach its destination)

The aroma of grace is a miracle. You become that miracle. You become the aroma of God’s grace. (God’s Love) Not because you are “you”. It is not about personality or gifting, It is the Holy Spirit, the Love of Christ. (in us).

The Gospel makes people that we would not normally associate with dear to us. (not because you are you!) Show a believing that God loves the other person. It is more than believing that God loves us.

Ephesians 4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

The Responsibility

Pastor Tom emphasizes that the gift of Unity is a responsibility. We are then asked to make every effort to walk with patience, humility and kindness to one another and to maintain unity.

Referring to Galatians 5:16-24 on Keeping in Step with the Spirit, he reminds that dissension, strife, and envy grieve The Lord and are sin. Are we grieved? He asks? Does this lead to new ways of repentance?

Summarizing,

Unity is a Gift from God.

it is a Gift from God, we do not get or take the credit.

Unity is built into a dwelling Place for God, by the Holy Spirit.

Try not to be so easily offended. Be patient and kind. Be a sweet aroma to God.

Unity is a Gift Forever.

It is only going to get better. One day this Unity will be shatterproof. There will be no more divisions. Christ will usher it in. Ask God for the Grace to work through the hard things… Let’s pray.

Source: livestream available on YouTube here

“Beloved, Let Us Love One Another”, 1 John 4:7-21 from Charles Spurgeon (God’s Love for us, reconciliation, Divine Love)

Love One AnOther, 1 John 4:7-21, Commentary from Charles Spurgeon

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11

1 John 4:6-7. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

From the abundance of love which was in John’s heart, we might almost be startled at the very strong things that he writes against those who are in error, did we not remember that it is only a false charity which winks at error. He is the most loving man who has honesty enough to tell the truth, and to speak out boldly against falsehood. It is very easy to pass through this world believing and saying that everybody is right.

That is the way to make a soft path for your own feet, and to show that you only have love to yourself; but sometimes to speak as John the Baptist spoke, or as Martin Luther spoke, is the way to prove that you have true love to others.

1 John 4:8-10. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

By nature, we had no love to God; we were his enemies. We loved sin, and we had ruined ourselves by it; but God took out of his own bosom the only Son he had, that he might make reconciliation for us, and put away our sin. “Herein is love,” says the apostle, as though you could find it nowhere else as it is here. Here is the height and depth of love immeasurable; here is love summed up, here is love’s climax: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 John 4:11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

If such was his great kindness toward us that he denied himself his own Son for our sake, ought we not to be kindly affectioned one toward another?

1 John 4:12. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

“God dwelleth in us” though we do not see him. The nearest approach we can have to God is by this golden way of love.

1 John 4:13-14. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

John is speaking for himself and the rest of the apostles; for they were eye-witnesses who had seen Christ, and therefore could testify to him.

1 John 4:15-16. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Is there anyone here who is full of anger, enmity, malice, and envy? If so, let him know that God dwells not in the heart that harbors such abominations. Until these base passions are expelled, and we feel love to all mankind for Christ’s sake, God is not in us, for “he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” The old method, according to Jewish tradition, was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy;” but Christ’s new rule is, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” This is the point in which our likeness to God will be seen, for he loved us when we were his enemies, and he expects his children to love their enemies; may he graciously teach us that sacred art!

1 John 4:17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

If we can be to the world, in our poor feeble measure, what God is to it, —fountains of love, dispensaries of goodness, — then we need not be afraid of the verdict even of the great day of judgment.

1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:

If a man is conscious that he intends no harm to anyone, that he wishes good to all mankind, that he loves his God, and loves his fellowmen for God’s sake, what has he to fear? He becomes the bravest of the brave, and often finds himself safe and unharmed in places where others dare not go.

1 John 4:18-20. Because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:

John! John! John! This is a very strong expression. Did we not always understand that John was full of affection? Yes, but he was not one of those oily, sugary sort of people who cannot speak the truth. There is no real love in that kind of man; he has only the mere pretense of love. John speaks sharply because he loves ardently. True love hates that which is unlovely. It is inevitable that a man, who is full of love, should feel intense indignation against that which is contrary to love. Hence the apostle says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.”

1 John 4:20-21. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

And the word “brother” is to be understood in the widest possible sense. We are all brothers, springing from the same common parent; and therefore we ought to be philanthropists, lovers of man, loving even the guilty and the worthless, having an earnest desire to do good even to those who do us ill. If we have not yet reached that spirit, we had need begin our true Christian life, at the foot of the cross, by trusting and loving him who there died out of love for sinners; for there only can we learn, in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord, this divine philosophy of love to God and men.

Verses 9-21
1 John 4:9. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

There is love in our creation; there is love in providence; but most of all there is love in the gift of Christ for our redemption. The apostle here seems to say, “Now that I have found the great secret of God’s love to us; here is the clearest evidence of divine love that ever was or ever can be manifested toward the sons of men.”

1 John 4:10. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In us there was no love; there was a hatred of God and goodness. The enmity was not on God’s side toward us; but on our side toward him. “He loved us and sent his son.” The gift of Christ; the needful propitiation for our sins, was all of love on God’s part. Justice demanded the propitiation, but love applied it. God could not be just if he pardoned sin without atonement; but the greatness of the love is seen in the fact that it moved the Father to give his Son to an ignominious death, that he might pardon sinners and yet be just.

1 John 4:11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Here we have a fact and an argument. We ought to love. We ought to love after God’s fashion; not because men loved us. Nor because they deserve anything at our hands. We are too apt to look at the worthiness of those whom we help; but our God is gracious to the unthankful and to the evil.

He makes his sun to rise and rain to fall for the unjust as well as for the righteous, therefore we ought to love the unlovely and the unloving. But just as God has a special love for his own people, we who believe in him ought to have a peculiar affection for all who are his.

The Spurgeon Center

Source:StudyLight.org Commentaries