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Sunday, January 21 & 28, 2018 am                                                    NT Church Index

NT CHURCH (43 & 44)
Unity (1 & 2)

 Having addressed the external elements of the church (its work, worship, organization, identity, etc.), we now turn to some crucial doctrinal components that help us determine if the church is what God wants it to be.

We begin with a brief study of unity.  In this section of our study we want to address what unity is, why division is sinful, denominationalism and what we can do to achieve and maintain true unity.

As you study the New Testament it becomes clear that God wants unity. 

 I.                     Our need for unity

a.       Psalm 133 is a short psalm that describes the beauty of true unity.

b.       The singleness of God’s plan – one of the points we have emphasized in this study is how God’s pattern is to be followed.  We are religiously divided because so many fail to adhere to the pattern.  Far too many put their personal desires above truth, and in matters of judgment they demand their way. 
While there are congregations in other places striving to do the right thing that we would recognize because of their faithfulness, ultimately our unity begins within. 

c.        John 17:20-21 – the Lord’s prayer for unity. 

                                                   i.      This is the prayer and desire of our Lord Jesus. 

                                                 ii.      A prayer for all believers – based upon the teaching of the apostles

                                                iii.      The standard is equivalent to the agreement Jesus had with His Father.

d.       1 Corinthians 1:10-13 -  Paul’s desire that we be united.   In fact, he is PLEADING (a word meaning to earnestly entreat, beg) with them.
Unity within the church.  In Paul’s letters to Corinth, he made it clear that God wants us to get along with one another.  He rebuked their divisive attitudes and gave them direction to overcome such.

                                                   i.      By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – Paul’s authority with which he speaks. 

                                                 ii.      Let there be no divisions among you – not some, but no divisions. 

                                                iii.      Speak the same thing – this is HOW we avoid divisions

                                                iv.      Be perfectly joined together (made complete – NASB) in the same mind and same judgment – this is the degree to which Paul seeks their unity.

e.       The “one body” of 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, - Paul describes a body that is functioning as every part does its share. Again, this is in response to their divisive attitude toward one another.
Romans 12:4-5 – we have different functions, but we are members of one another.

f.         Philippians 2:1-2 – in a letter written to “the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” (1:1), Paul challenges them to be united.  There were clearly some struggles as he pleads with two women to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (4:2).  In our text, we find the degree to which we should seek unity – Paul says, “Fulfill my joy by being:

                                                   i.      Like-minded – to think the same way.  Yes we are all different people, but we need to “on the same page” as we deal with spiritual matters. 

                                                 ii.      Having the same love – this is the motives behind our united attitude.  We love each other the way we ought to, and that becomes primary in the way we conduct ourselves.
John 13:34-35
remember the world has the right to judge us by how we love one another.  Our love and unity are associate with one another.

                                                iii.      Being of one accord – (“United in spirit” – NASB), harmonious.  One source described this as having the same mindset.  We seek for agreement and value our unity.

                                                iv.      Of one mind – again we think the same way (very similar to like-minded).  The NASB says, “Intent on one purpose”.   If there is any difference, perhaps this word has to do with having the same goals.  We must want the same thing.  Assume the sincerity of others (they genuinely want to do the right thing, they want to go to heaven, they want unity, they genuinely care about the church here, etc.) until they prove otherwise.  And their actions, or lack thereof will prove it!

                                                  v.      He will follow this up with the example of the humility of Jesus. (2:5-8)

g.       Ephesians 4:1-6.  A book written to “the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus…” (1:1)  Paul explains how Christ died to break down the middle wall of separation (between Jews and Gentiles) – (2:14-15).  Obviously, there was some dissension between some of the brethren.  This promoted Paul to challenge them to walk in unity. 

                                                   i.      Walk worthy of your calling

                                                 ii.      Attitudes that promote this unity …

                                                iii.      endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace – work at it

h.       HOWEVER, unity CANNOT be achieved at the expense of truth.  Such is not unity, but union.

 II.                  The sin of division

a.       Proverbs 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.

b.       Division is worldly and a work of the flesh – James 3:14-18 – the wisdom of this world – self-seeking, a characteristic that is almost always present in division;
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 – let there be no divisions.  The division is described.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – envy, strife and divisions are signs of carnality
 11:17-18 – an example, when they came together there were divisions among them

c.  Galatians 5:20 – the works of the flesh include dissentions, heresies, selfish ambitions, contentions, etc.

e.     God calls for us to mark or avoid those causing division – Romans 16:17-18 – mark them.
2 John 9-11 if one does not bring the doctrine of Christ, do not have company with them.
Titus 3:10-11 – reject a divisive man after the first and second admonitions…

f.      The problem of division

                                                   i.      It is incompatible with TRUE unity   In fact it is the opposite.  Division produces wars, broken families, mental anguish, ignorance, and stagnation. 

                                                 ii.      It shows a disregard for God’s word – we have shown how God commands unity (not just a suggestion).  Far too often, division among brethren is about someone (maybe everyone) ignoring God’s teachings, OR selfish attitudes OR both.  Sadly, many in the religious world today endorse division as no big deal (e.g. denominationalism, unity in diversity, etc.).  And it seems that more and more so-called brethren are leaning toward the same.

                                                iii.      It often breeds ignorance and indifference – first, often division is the product of ignorance because one has not fully studied a subject (or weighed the possibility of other views on a subject); second – some don’t WANT to study a subject out of fear they might have to change or yield to another; third, sometimes we don’t want to do the work to avoid division. 

                                                iv.      It tears churches and brethren apart – both within and often results in splits.   In doing this, it gives the Lord’s body and His cause a “black eye” to critics and the community.  Romans 2:24 speaks of the name of God being blasphemed because of Jewish Christians not behaving properly. 

                                                  v.      It WILL separate one from God! When there is division, SOMEONE is wrong!  Unless they repent, there will be consequences. 

 III.                   How do we avoid division?

a.       Knowledge – our need for studying God’s word – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  Never underestimate how important knowledge is to agreement.  Ignorance often destroys (as noted above)- Hosea 4:6

b.       We need to speak the same thing.  As we have noted, we need to be like minded, with the same ultimate goals and approaches to respect for God’s word. 
2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to handle God’s word accurately.
THIS will only happen if we are all seeking to follow the same path.  All involved need to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and mind – Matthew 22:37.  If all have that same love, it will keep us from divisions
Colossians 3:1-2 also reminds us to seek those things that are above, and to set our mind upon them.

c.        Avoid foolish disputes and striving over words
1 Timothy 1:3-7 – the very introduction of this letter addresses this concern.  2 Timothy 2:16 – shun profane and idle babblings; 2:23 – avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife; Titus 3:9 – avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions and strivings…
We’re not talking about genuine, doctrinal discussion – which is needed.  How often do we get bogged down arguing about words – at times there are words or phrases or verses (or perhaps a song we sing) that can be properly interpreted differently, without doing damage to the gospel, but we get so adamant that it be accepted the way we want it.  We do the same thing with liberties (see Romans 14).
NOTE: I am not saying we ignore doctrinal differences!   But the truth is, many churches have divided over matters of opinion.

d.       As a church, let us resolve that we are going to stand for the truth – this includes elders and preachers that are unyielding to doctrinal compromise.  Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 4:2, Ephesians 5:11; Romans 16:17-18. 

e.       We need to be the family of God – our relationship as brethren needs to be real and continually growing.  

f.         If we have concerns with a brother we need to go to him – Matthew 18:15-18.  Sometimes divisions are the product of failing to stop the leak in the dam when we first notice it.  OR we ignore our personal responsibilities to one another.  We let problems get out of control and repairs do greater damage than if we had taken care of it early on. 

g.       We need a proper attitude – Philippians 2:3-4 - think about the other over; humility, willing to yield on matters not involving salvation, etc. 
Ephesians 4:2 – we need a proper attitude toward each other – gentleness, patience and longsuffering.  Unity doesn’t mean that disagreements will not arise.  WE are all human and think differently, but who do we do with those differences?  That is where our Christian attitudes come in.  Ephesians 4:32 – kindness, tenderhearted, forgiving, etc.
NEVER forget “the golden rule” (Matthew 7:12)
NEVER forget what proper love looks like – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

This is a brief description of some things to consider to help us be united as God would have us to be.  It is highly likely that there will always be those professing to follow Jesus in this world, and religious bodies that claim such is what they are doing.  BUT, will there always be genuine, uncompromising congregations of the Lord’s people?  The answer to that lies in our efforts to stay true to Him and one another.  The future of the church depends on TRUE unity. 

BUT, having said all this, we realize there is a time when we may have no choice but to divide.  We will address this in the next 2 lessons as we talk about denominationalism and when division is necessary. 

Are we as united as God would have us to be?  Think about it!