Unity                          http://wilhelmweber.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/unity005.gif

Psalms 133: 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.

 

Here we see unity described as being in community. Being together with lives joined together. The result is the Lord commanding – sending – the blessing, eternal life.

 

Matthew 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  ‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  ‘Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  ‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

 

The Lord Jesus here defines the community of the saints as those who take care of one another in practical ways. Love is what is looked for, demonstrated by care. Love one for another is the hallmark of the body of the Christ.

 

John 17:20  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. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

 

Here it is apparent that only as we are actually abiding – dwelling in Christ and Christ in us; may we be made perfect in one (unity). Our own attempts at unity outside of dwelling in Christ will be merely uniformity and conformity as demonstrated by many religions and cults. We dwell in Christ and He dwells in us when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ. All who repent and receive remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ via baptism in His name may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the promise of the Father.

 

Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

This is what the body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit looks like. Unity of the Spirit of God, in the love of God shared abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit; not external uniformity. This was community – sharing – not conformity to rules imposed by men.

 

Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.  One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.  For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.  For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.  But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”

 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

 

Receiving one another is essential if we are to dwell together in unity. It is being open hearted to each other, whether the other brother meets our expectations or not. It is in not critically examining each other to see what is lacking or not. It is not in looking at dress or hair length or any other superficial quality. God looks at the heart and it would be good if we did the same.

 

1 Corinthians 7:12  But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

 

When any brother or sister was added to the Lord and thereby to His body locally, their whole house was received along with them. Spouses, slaves, in-laws and children. They would be considered as sanctified – set apart – to the Lord. It would be expected that the whole household would be shown the same love and respect due to the brother or sister involved even if they were themselves not yet converted.

 

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.  However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

This is  maintaining the unity of the Spirit. It is not uniformity of practise and behaviour but the strong bearing with the weak in the faith.

 

1 Corinthians 10:23  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness.” If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.  But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness.”  “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

To maintain the Unity of the spirit I may need to modify my behaviour but I am not required to modify the behaviour of others.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Just in case we should imagine that our gifts and sacrifices can substitute for love when it comes to unifying each local and the universal body of Christ.

 

Ephesians 4:1  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,  endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”

(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

All the gifts given by Christ to His body are for the purpose of joining the body together under Christ the Head in love.

 

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,  nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

If all the brothers and sisters were perfect and pleasing all the time unity would not be the challenge that it is in the real world we live in. The fact that we can all upset each other at various times should be seen as an  opportunity to let God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit overrule our carnal reactions.

 

1 John 4:7 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. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

To paraphrase the words of our Lord Jesus the Christ ; ‘God is love, therefore those who worship Him must worship Him in love.’

Then all the world will know that we are His disciples, because we have love one for another.

 

Colin Thompson. Gateshead. England

Comments welcome by email to colin@followingjesuschrist.co.uk

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