Biblical unity is oneness, the same type of unity that God the Father has with His Son and the Holy Spirit (John 17:11, 21). These three are one in nature or essence, but also one in purpose (John 10:30). The unity God expects or requires is to be found in a church, and the following verses describe it.
Romans 12:6, 15:6, "Be of the same mind one toward another. . . . That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."This unity is also called no division.
1 Corinthians 1:10, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
Philippians 1:27, 2:2, 3:16, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. . . . Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. . . . Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."
Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."Paul wrote to Timothy that this was "no other doctrine."
1 Corinthians 12:25, "That there should be no schism in the body."
1 Timothy 1:3, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine."This is not the unity that churches expect, even though it is the only unity in scripture. It is what is expected and required of churches, but people look for something else, which is in essence, agreeing to disagree. The scriptural unity could be called as we term it today, unanimity. Since there is one doctrine and practice in the Bible and scripture is perspicuous, plain and understandable, then we should expect unity.
The New Testament talks about diversity in the body, but that is diversity of gifts or giftedness. There will be variation in gifts in a church, but not variation in doctrine and practice. There is one doctrine and one practice, like we read in Ephesians 4:3-6:
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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.
A church should expect this as unity. Variation isn't unity. It is division. What sometimes people call unity is actually division, real division and not unity.
Fake unity is overlooking differences in doctrine and practice, which amounts to overlooking false doctrine and sin, in order to get along. Before I write about how people practice fake unity, because it is most typical unity, I want us to consider why it is that people don't practice actual unity, biblical unity. Rather than someone saying he doesn't believe and practice biblical unity, he replaces it with fake unity and then says he is practicing unity. Worse, because of fake unity being considered or called real unity, the ones who believe and practice biblical unity are portrayed as the purveyors of division.
Why No Biblical Unity?
In no particular order, I want us to consider the following reasons or possible reasons why people do not practice biblical unity, despite the description of it and requirement of it in scripture. I will list all of them first and then talk about them within a series of posts.
- It requires biblical and doctrinal clarity, which takes preparation, study, and effort, and people aren't sure or they have too many doubts about the Bible.
To have biblical unity, at least two people must believe there is one God, one truth, and that they can know and understand that truth. This is how the Bible presents God, truth, and knowledge and understanding of truth. If someone doesn't even believe that is possible, in a typical way because he has never seen it practiced, he might assume, walking by sight and not by faith, that it can't be done, so shouldn't be expected. He's going to have to believe the Bible on that.
The last of the above three, knowing and understanding the truth, takes preparation, study, and effort. At least one person needs to know what scripture says to believe and practice and then teach that. Many today are not willing to put in that labor. They settle on not knowing and so accepting division.
Part of that effort is the courage to stand on the truth that one knows, even though it clashes with the world system. Avoidance of the hatred of the world, as the world expresses that hatred in various fashions, will allow, accommodate, and then promote division where there is none. This dovetails with the last reason why unity doesn't occur.
What I've observed is that churches fall short of the whole counsel and concentrate on their "core beliefs." They reduce all of the teaching of scripture to a few points that require agreement, giving latitude to much of scripture. To come to unity on everything, it takes very thorough teaching, taking everyone through everything, which starts with a biblical view of unity, so that a church doesn't settle for something less than what God says.
- It requires a lot of work and conflict, because you have to deal with people who don't want to unify and will cause division.
- It requires accepting biblical unity and not a fake kind.
- It might shrink the size of the assembly or, put another way, restrict numerical growth, which is considered to be a primary indicator of success and other future desired opportunities.
- It brings attack from those who accept and practice fake unity and treat it like it is biblical, when it is not.