Last week’s bulletin article “Christian Unity?” discussed the unity that is supposed to prevail among all of those who claim to follow Christ. Jesus prayed that all of His followers would be as united as are He and the Heavenly Father (Jn. 17:20-21). Denominationalism, however, has produced exactly the opposite of what Jesus prayed for. The fundamental concept of denominationalism is division, and division is exactly what it has produced within the realm of what is called “Christendom.”
The article laid out a practical plan whereby true Christian unity can be achieved. The division of denominationalism must be admitted. God’s word must be accepted as the standard for determining true doctrine. Error must be recognized and turned away from, and the true teachings of God’s word must be followed. On that simple, straightforward basis the unity that Jesus prayed for can be achieved.
But there is another level of unity that also must be discussed. It is the unity that should prevail within a local congregation of the Lord’s church. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation, he admonished them to “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” (1 Cor. 1:10). Paul used five expressions in that verse to emphasize the complete unity that needed to prevail within the church at Corinth. He went on in the next three verses to rebuke them for division within the congregation. He highlighted that division again in the opening of chapter three (3:1-4) and gave corrective instruction throughout the letter pertaining to various specific situations of disunity within the congregation. Significantly, Paul ended the Second Corinthians letter exhorting the congregation to “be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Cor. 13:11).
The local congregation is the church that is seen by the local community. Generally, it is through the local congregation that the work of the church is done within the local community. In order for a congregation to present the most effective image of our loving Savior, the individual members of that congregation need to themselves embody the love of Christ for each other (Jn. 13:34-35).
Christians within a congregation should lovingly work together, utilizing their individual talents to effectively carry forth the work of the church (Eph. 4:12-16). Members should be careful to not conduct themselves in such a way that would cause strife and disunity within the congregation (2 Tim. 2:22-24). Paul instructed “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19).
In order to most effectively teach the denominational world about true Christian unity, the church must itself exhibit that very unity. That unity begins within individual, local congregations. Let’s be sure that we remain dedicated to portraying to the world around us a proper image of the true church. Let’s always be diligent to nurture and exhibit the unity within our congregation for which Jesus prayed on that night so long ago as He prepared to go to the cross…
Gary L. Hutchens