The New Testament emphasizes the unity of believers in Jesus Christ. Quickly, what unity is not.
- Unity is not an ecumenical group hug that encourages everyone to forget their differences of every kind and affirm everyone else’s views.
- Unity is not failing to address sinful behaviors causing harm to the name of Christ, the church, and to the professing believer. Addressing such matters with Christ-like love and compassion actually promotes the unity of the church.
Scriptural unity rests in the fact that all true followers of Jesus Christ (those who repent of their sins and rest in Christ alone for forgiveness) receive the same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit generates unity among believers. This is absolutely critical. Unity is something God gives and believers maintain through the work of the Holy Spirit. Several passages lay some groundwork for unity.
1. The priority of unity – John 17:20-23
Jesus, in his high priestly prayer, requests two things for believers. First, that they will be one. Second, that they will see His glory (i.e., be with Him in heaven). In other words, the only request recorded for believers accepting the apostolic testimony is that they will be unified! Since Jesus prayed this prayer and since Jesus in the perfect man, obviously unity is important! Very simply, unity is the outworking of sanctification. It requires humility, compassion, kindness, tenderheartedness, and constant exercise of self-denial. Jesus knew exactly what He was praying for.
2. The price of unity – 1 Peter 1:18-19
While teaching about pursuing personal holiness that leads to brotherly affection (unity), Peter describes the basis of all of this in terms of the ransom for our sin. That ransom was the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Christ’s prayer in John 17 depended on the fulfillment of His mission. He fulfilled it. He paid for our sins. It was that price that made it possible for us to be in Christ and to enjoy unity with one another.
3. The practice of unity – Ephesians 4:1-17; Philippians 2:1-11
Unity takes place as believers grow in doctrinal understanding regarding Christ (Eph.) and practice Christ-like selfless service to one another (Phil.). Without accurate teaching, selfless service will be very difficult. Also, without accurate teaching, biblical unity is misunderstand. One primary aspect of maintaining unity involves separating from those who teach false doctrine. Only by understanding right doctrine will one be able to identify and separate from those who teach false doctrine. The practice of unity creates a church that is growing up into the maturity of Christ!
4. The pinnacle of unity – Romans 15:5-6; Revelation 19:1-9
As we practice unity, Paul says we are able to glorify God! In Revelation, this becomes tangible as all God’s people from all time lift their voices in a thunderous chorus of praise for the final defeat of the world system, that obtrusive, devil-energized entity that so forcefully attempted to thwart the unity of God’s people!
ECBC seeks to practice all the Scriptural elements of true, biblical unity so that we are able to bring glory to God.