You are probably asking, “What! Another article on unity? Why?” Yes, because I think most of the articles, blog posts, and even books miss the core meaning of Christian unity.
Parts of Ephesians 4 are usually quoted where Paul instructed the Ephesian believers to “maintain” the unity of the Spirit in verse 4 and in verse 13 he spoke of the goal of Christian ministry being to “attain” unity.
I think this definition of the English word is very accurate, and in the context of this brief study.
“Unity is defined as the state of being undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. It is the smallest whole numeral representation. It has the quality of being united into one. Unity can denote a combining of all the parts, elements and individuals into an effective whole.” (Wikipedia)
I appreciate most this statement, “It is the smallest whole numeral representation”. That would be the word “one” used to describe the many.
So then how you worship, what church you attend, or even your conclusions on a particular Bible doctrine are not causes, or even clues of Christian unity. Many of us have a list of beliefs and practices that others must comply with before we can unify with them. That is not “unity”, that is “uniformity”. Saying the same things and doing the same things doesn’t even come close to making believers “one”.
A careful and thoughtful reading of Jesus’ prayer for his own in John 17 shines the light on true Christian unity as well as any place in the Bible. Hear his words…
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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.” (John 17:20–24)
Here it is! Just as the Father and the Son are “one” those of us who have Christ are “one”. Unity begins and has its source in our individual relationships with Jesus Christ. If you are not one with God, through Christ, you can’t have unity with another Christian. It is this supernatural love relationship that results in “unity”, not the observable expressions of our faith like which church we attend, how we worship, what we approve or disapprove, etc., etc.
Every true Christian is one with God the Father, one with Jesus, and because of that infinite oneness, one with every other person who is in Christ. This is why Jesus would say these astonishing words about God’s love for us.
“…and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23b)
When I first understood what Jesus had said in his great prayer I could hardly take it in. God loves me like he loves Jesus! God loves you dear believer with the same unpolluted divine love he has for his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Wow! That is the bedrock of Christian unity. “God so loved the world…” It is that God-love that brings us together and binds us and creates the lowest number to describe God and his people, “One!”
Unity is a love gift, it is the ultimate expression of God’s matchless grace. God was in Christ who with one hand holding on to God the Father and with the other hand holding on to wicked, ungodly sinners he brought the two together making them “one”. We have been “reconciled”, “set right” with God by the doing and dying of our Lord Jesus Christ. All of this happened outside of us without our schemes and abilities.
So you see, you don’t have the latitude to decide who you will have fellowship with, who you will love. Any place on earth where you find a person who is rightly related to Jesus, who is at peace with God, you by family relationship are united to that person.
If you are in the family of God, rejoice and give thanks for God’s amazing grace. If you are not in the family, come on in. You will be welcome at the table.