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Sunday, September 7, 2014 am            Basics Index

BACK TO BASICS – 30
Unity and Denominationalism
True Unity

 As we continue our study of the basics this year, we now want to address the problem with denominationalism.  We have established the groundwork for this month’s lessons in discussing authority, the church and God’s plan of salvation.  Now we want to talk about WHY denominationalism is wrong.  We will begin today with a discussion of Biblical unity.

 I.                    True Biblical Unity

a.        What is True unity? 
The Greek word is
νότης (hestes) and is defined as “a state of oneness.”  (L&N, 63.3)   

BDAG defines it as, “a state of oneness or being in harmony and accord.” 
According to Vine’s it is the neuter of the Greek word for one.  And that certainly fits. 
The word is only used twice in the NT, both times in Ephesians 4:3, 13.
But the idea is found and taught throughout.  For example in Acts 2:1, we read, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”  The apostles on that occasion were together and in total agreement.
Basically, when we speak of unity we mean: to be in agreement and work together within that agreement. 
When we speak of TRUE UNITY our goal is a unity that is based upon the absolute truth of God’s word.

b.       Unity is NOT:

                                                   i.      Simply agreeing to disagree.  The problem with this is it can lead to indifference toward discussing the truth.   Rarely does the difference go away, but has a tendency to reappear at a later time and with more intensity.

                                                  ii.      Peace through compromise of God’s word – this seems to be the mantra of the day.  Unity in diversity is very popular today, even among brethren.  You may achieve unity, but it is on false premises.

                                                iii.      Ignoring that which you differ about – a great concern I see today among professed believers in Jesus is a gospel that is soft on sin and that avoids controversial topics.    The problem is that this “unity” is either the product of ignorance (which could damn the soul) or a lack of courage to confront error.  NOTE: Almost ALWAYS, when a particular subject is avoided, it is because there are problems with it.

                                                iv.      Simply tolerating one another – such is no way to live.  It is not true peace.    True unity is based upon a genuine love and caring for each other. 

                                                  v.      Always getting your way – Eph. 4:3 – speaks of “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  There are times when we need to yield to the needs of our brethren.  ONE of the big challenges we face today is distinguishing between matters of faith and matters of liberty and RESPECTING those who differ with us in these matters.  True unity will yield.

c.        Passages to consider

                                                   i.      Psalm 133:1-3,   Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.”

                                                  ii.      John 17:20-21,  I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

                                                iii.      Philippians 2:1-4,  “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

                                                iv.      Ephesians 4:1-3,  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

                                                  v.      1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

                                                vi.      Prov. 6:16-19 – “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

 

 II.                  Striving for True unity

a.        How do we achieve a unity that is pleasing to God?  For the next few moments we are going to examine some things said in the above passages (and a few others) and notice how true unity is achieved.

b.       Realize that it is what Jesus desires
In John 17:20-21, we have what I describe as “the Lord’s prayer”.  In it Jesus prays for His completed work, His apostles and all who believe through their teaching (which is the word of God). 
In vs. 20-21 Jesus prays that they all may be one, to the same degree that He is one with the Father.  In looking at what unity is NOT (above) we don’t see that in the relationship between the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit for that matter).
Jesus wants unity, but He was never willing to compromise truth to achieve it.  He wanted Israel to be saved (cf. Matt. 23:37-39), but He was NOT willing to alter God’s word by a syllable.
Jesus is our example: Phil. 2:5 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  This comes on the heels of Paul’s discussion of true unity.   In humility Jesus submitted to the Father (Heb. 5:8-9).
If we truly love Jesus, we will want that same unity among us!

c.        Respect God’s word – Again, Jesus never compromised the truth.  And neither should we! 
1 Corinthians 1:10, where Paul pleaded for “no divisions among you” He said that was achieved by all speaking the same thing.   In the prayer of Jesus He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)  
David said in Psalm 119:104, “Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
There HAS to be an objective standard if unity is to be achieved.  
One reason there is so much division today (denominational and even among brethren) is a failure to properly respect the word of God as our standard of authority.    

d.       We MUST have a proper attitude
In writing to the Ephesians about unity (Ephesians 4:1-6), Paul challenged them to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
In Vs. 2 he describes several attitudes that lend to this unity

                                                   i.      Lowliness or humility – we cannot be arrogant and self-serving and expect a healthy unity.  
Phil. 2:3 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.”
Even in correcting others, there is to be a humility – 2 Tim. 2:25

                                                  ii.      Gentleness – if we want unity when dealing with delicate matters, we just need to treat each other well.  That is really what gentleness is about – we are not harsh, but meek. 
Galatians 6:1 tells us when a brother is overtaken in a trespass; we seek to restore them “in a spirit of gentleness.”
James 1:21 calls for us to receive with meekness the implanted word (same Greek word as our current text).
James 3:13,
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

                                                iii.      Longsuffering – a form of patience, but it goes further.  It means that with love, you endure difficulties with others.  In the same way that God puts up with our rebellion and sinfulness (2 Peter 3:9). 
True unity does not mean that we are perfect, even in our dealings with one another.  A good marriage is not necessarily one with no conflict or disagreements, but there is a love present that will bear these things and work through them instead of letting them destroy us.

                                                iv.      Bearing with one another with love – it is so important that we have love in dealing with each other.

John 13:34-35 tells us that our love is how the world knows that we belong to Christ.  That love is demonstrated in our unity, ESPECIALLY as we deal with our quirks, different personalities and even differences in philosophy.
Galatians 5:13 tells us, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1.       We must respect each other - Phil. 2:3-4 – we esteem others better than ourselves and we look out for their interests.   This is KEY to achieving TRUE unity! 

2.       We must allow for matters of judgment and be willing to yield!  Romans 14 is dealing with such matters of judgment (Rom. 14:1, 19, 15:1, etc.).  NOTE: The obvious challenge is to determine WHAT belongs in this category.
When possible (without compromise) we ought to be willing to YIELD to each other – James 3:17 describes the wisdom from above as being “willing to yield.”
Should not the kingdom of heaven be more important to us than getting our way on some matter of procedure that is left to our discretion?  Consider Paul in 1 Cor. 9:22-23, he became all things to all men for the sake of the gospel.

                                                  v.      Many others could be added to this – Honesty, fairness, brotherly love, etc.

e.       Strive for TRUE unity - work at it!  Realize that God expects us to be fully united. 
1 Cor. 1:10 – be perfectly joined together.
Ephesians 4:3, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

We must work to agree on matters of faith – in matters of morality, those which affect our spiritual fellowship with one another, matters of worship and work of the church, salvation, etc. we need to be in agreement.  How we understand these things will affect everything else we believe and teach.
    Phil. 2:1-4.  In this verse, Paul describes the degree of unity we are to seek –

1.       Being like-minded – the idea of this is to think alike!  We need to approach the Bible with the same understanding of HOW we approach the Bible – that is why an understanding of authority is so important (2 Tim. 2:15, 1 Cor. 4:6)

2.       Having the same love – as we have already discussed, we need to love each other with “brotherly love”.  We are a family.

3.       Of one accord - we are joined together.  Just as the church is described as a body (1 Cor. 12:12-27, Rom. 12:4-5, Eph. 4:16),  we need to be functioning as a cohesive unit.  As Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:25 says, “that there be no schism in the body”.

4.       Of one mind – we are one in purpose and determination.  We realize that our primary focus is to further the cause of Christ and we will support each other in achieving that. 

f.         This includes dealing with those who are divisive – sometimes to achieve true unity you have to deal with that which infects the body – whether false teaching, immorality or simply those who love to cause trouble.  Continually we are called upon to withdraw from or mark such - Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:3-5, Titus 3:10-11.   While sad, sometimes this is necessary to preserve the purity and integrity of the Lord’s body.    Just as a physical body might require the removal of a cancer or even at times a limb, so it is with the Lord’s church.  It is better to small in number and true to God’s word, than to be large in number because of compromise of the truth. 

g.        Prayer – it is always good to pray for good things.  Paul continually prayed for his brethren.  James 5:17 says the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.
James 1:5 is an example asking for wisdom.
Phil. 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

And thus we can see the importance of Biblical unity.  With this understanding, next week we will examine what is wrong with denominationalism.   But for today, let us strive to keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”