4626 Highway 36 East Somerville, AL 35670
In last week's bulletin, we discussed the idea that unity among God's people must be based upon God's word, the Bible. I want to continue that train of thought in this article by examining the standard of unity, and then conclude this study by looking at the aim of unity.
In his prayer to the Father on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus said, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21). The standard of our unity is high indeed. We are to seek to be united one with another in the same way the Father and Son are united. No doubt, this will take great effort, but at the same time, it has great value. Consider the unity that exists between the Father and the Son. They shared the same desire, the same purpose, the same belief and the same practice. It would be impossible to imagine the Father and the Son believing differently concerning spiritual matters!
Again, this unity is based upon the will of God. Jesus said, "I and my Father are one . . .
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him" (John 10:30, 38). In a similar vein of teaching, Jesus answer Philip's request "show us the Father in this way - "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake" (John 14:9-11).
The unity of the Father and Son is such that Paul could write that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Understanding this relationship and the prayer of Jesus that we strive for that standard of unity in the church today will forever do away with the idea of "unity in diversity." There is no diversity between the beliefs of the Father and Son - there should be no such diversity in the church today.
Another essential element of the Lord's prayer is the aim of unity. Note again his words from verse 21 - "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Whether we ever fully realize the impact that our unity - or lack of it - has on the world around us, we must be impressed with the words of Jesus. Our influence must be like that of salt, a city set on a hill, a light on a candlestick (cf. Matthew 5:13-16). How much more effective will that be if, instead of just being seen in individuals, that influence is seen in the church as a united band of servants? Let us ever strive to be one, "that the world may believe."
Even though unity is a topic that man has struggled with, it can be achieved and it is worth achieving. But we must understand that God gives unity and that His unity is achieved by accepting His will and submitting to it. May we ever be "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
Thomas W. Larkin