“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” – Psalm 133
It is both good and pleasant when a church lives its life together in a unified manner. It’s like the anointed blessing of God in so much abundance that it covers us with God’s blessing from the top of our head to our feet. When we live in a unified manner, we experience a taste of the world to come, where we will live eternally in perfect unity.
I truly believe that if we want to experience a taste of heaven, the joy of our Savior, and provide a faithful picture of Christ to the world, we need to fight for unity in our churches. Satan wants nothing more than to divide believers in the local church. My goal is to briefly sketch out three biblical realities around this idea of unity.
1) Scripture is clear about the goodness of unity.
We’ve already seen in Psalm 133 that we experience goodness and joy when we dwell together in unity. We experience the blessing of God’s very life. But consider these passages as well.
When we pursue unity, the love and peace of God dwells with us.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11
When we live in unity with each other, we glorify God together.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6
When we are unified, we will be effective, built up, and experience the love of Christ.
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:16
When we are unified, the world will see Christ in us.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21
2) Scripture is clear about the dangers of division.
Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 1:10-13:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?
Paul is clear. When the church is divided, it is a clear sign we are both: 1) not following Christ faithfully and 2) presenting a false picture of Christ to the world.
In 1 Cor. 3:3 Paul says that when there is jealousy and strife, we are giving way to our sinful flesh and not the Spirit. In Phil. 4, we learned of Euodia and Syntyche, who were fighting and their effectiveness at “laboring together for the gospel” was destroyed. We also read countless times of false prophets, wolves, and divisive people who come into the church and cause havoc (1 Cor. 12:25; Jude 16-18; Gal. 5:19-21; Rom. 16:17-18).
This is why leaders of God’s church are called to act so drastically in response. Consider Paul’s exhortation to Titus:
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11
3) Scripture calls the Church to be unified as a picture of God’s unity.
Consider Paul’s reasoning in 1 Cor. 12:12 where he says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” In other words, our unity is a picture of who Christ is. Paul’s reasoning is the same in Eph. 4 where he calls the church to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Why? Because there is “one God and Father of all.” This is how we (Eph. 4:1) “walk in a manner worthy” of our calling. We are one because God is one. This is also why John can say that if someone says he belongs to God but is divided from his Christian brother, he is a liar (1 John 4). The unity of God makes us a unified people.
Unity is rooted in the gospel itself. We create a picture of the unified nature of God and our union with Him by living in a unified way in the church. In the local church, we are “incarnating” visibly the invisible reality of our union with Christ. This is the core purpose of why the church exists. The church is the visible picture of God’s glory on the earth. If we are not living in unity with each other, we are not creating a faithful picture of who He is.
If we are going to be a faithful display of God’s glory in the world, we need to pursue unity. There is great joy available for us in unity and great dangers in the lack of it. May we humbly, prayerfully, and resiliently fight for unity together. For the glory of Christ alone.