“To a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize and realize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed.” – A. T. Pierson
“A man of a right spirit is not a man of narrow and private views, but is greatly interested and concerned for the good of the community, to which he belongs, and particularly of the city or village in which he resides, and for the true welfare of the society of which he is a member.”- Jonathan Edwards
“Those who disrupt the body of Christ and split its unity into schisms are quite excluded from the hope of salvation, so long as they remain in dissidence of this kind.” – John Calvin
“Be united with other Christians. A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together.” – Corrie Ten Boom
“Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity; it is the very unity of hell.” – J. C. Ryle
” The act of faith, which separates us from all men, unites us for the first time in real brotherhood; and they who, one by one, come to Jesus and meet Him alone, next find that they are come to the city of God “and to an innumerable company.” – Alexander MacLaren
“Unity is a gift from God. We do not get to take the credit. Try not to be easily offended. Be patient and kind. Be a sweet aroma to God. Unity is built into a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. 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…” -Tom Holliday, Alexandria Presbyterian Church.
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). –John Piper
Scripture on Unity
John 3:16 —“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Ephesians 4:4 —“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
1 Corinthians 12:13 –-“For 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.”
Psalm 133:1-3 —“A Song of Ascents. Of David. 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.”
1 John 1:8-10 –-“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
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.
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).
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).
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 . . . sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
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 5:18, 22–23) 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.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 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! 3 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.
Unity is a gift that only God can bring. We don’t get the credit.
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.
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.
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?
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.