by: Gary L. Hutchens
The New Testament scriptures, either directly or indirectly, continually emphasize the importance of unity within the Lord’s church. Why? Many people mistake union for unity. There can be no unity without union, but there can be union without unity. People who are united are also naturally in union with each other. But many people find themselves in some kind of union with other people with whom they are definitely not united. A classic example is a married couple who can’t stand to be around each other. There’s a union- marriage- but there’s no unity.
Unity within the Lord’s church is not only a scriptural teaching, it’s also absolutely essential for the most effective working of the church. There are at least four basic reasons for the importance of unity that can be gleaned from scripture.
First, the world needs to see the clarity of truth communicated through a united Lord’s church. On the night of His betrayal Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (Jn. 17:11, 20-23). He did not pray for some kind of loose union. Jesus prayed for unity among His followers that would be as absolute as that between Himself and His Father in Heaven. A central effect of such unity would be to influence the world to believe that Jesus is the true Savior sent by God. Unbelievers can be influenced to remain unbelievers if they hear the gospel proclaimed by a church in disunity. The world desperately needs to hear that message of forgiveness and salvation taught by a united church.
Second, unity will enable the church to more effectively do the work that God has designed it to do. The church’s primary work is to preach and teach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 3:10-11). Just as a piece of equipment cannot operate at peak performance without all of its parts working together efficiently, so the church cannot be as effective as it could and should be in doing its work without its members working together in unity. Disunity naturally stymies effectiveness. The world needs to be blessed through the effective work of a united church.
Unity will naturally contribute to developing and maintaining the Christian love that the church should exemplify. Love and unity go hand in hand; they complement, contribute and support one another. Christian love is unique in this world. The standard for it is the love Jesus demonstrated for us in leaving Heaven and going to the cross to pay the price for the guilt of our sins. Just as with Christian unity, this unique love between brothers and sisters in Christ identifies us as being true disciples of Christ (Jn. 13:34-35). The world needs to see that quality of love.
Unity is not an option, it’s a command. Our Lord did not suggest the kind of love that produces unity, He commanded it! “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn. 13:34). The apostle Paul sharply rebuked the church at Corinth for their disunity (1 Cor. 1:10; 3:1-4). Unity is an earmark of walking worthy of our calling as Christians (Eph. 4:1-3). The world needs to be able to observe a church that is obedient to the Lord’s command for unity.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)…
Gary L. Hutchens