Our Lord, just shortly before going to the cross, prayed for unity of all believers (John 17:20-21). Here in our text unity appears as a major concern of the gifted apostle Paul. In light of this, a good question is: “Why is there so much disunity in the religious world among those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ?” It is not always easy to maintain unity; Paul said it is something that we must “Endeavour (give diligence) to keep.” It takes work to maintain it. It also appears that “unity” is not something produced by Christians, but by the Spirit of God—and we are admonished to “keep it.”
Men cannot create unity nor methods of unity. A divine unity has been created and granted to the church. It is this unity that we are to guard and maintain. All barriers to unity are of men, not of God. We must shun and oppose all human teachings, inventions, and denominations—because they are causes of division, stumbling, and discord. “To divide the spiritual body of Christ is as cruel a crime against God and man as it is to pierce the fleshy body of Jesus with a spear” (David Lipscomb). The “unity of the Spirit” is the unity which the Holy Spirit provided when the church was established. This unity is a Spirit-led unity and when the church has this unity, it will be “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
Paul speaks of “the bond of peace.” A bond is something that fastens, binds, or holds things together. Therefore peace is the bond that holds the unity of the Spirit together. Nothing good comes out of disunity. It is not possible for unity to exist where there is enmity and discord. Nothing good comes from fighting among ourselves. We must attempt to maintain peace at all times. The psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
The Spirit’s plan for unity among members of the body of Christ is given in the following text: “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” (Eph. 4:4-6). The Spirit's plan for unity is made up of seven items. The words “there is” are not in the original text. Note how verses 3 & 4 would read if we omit them. This plainly shows that the “unity of the Spirit” consists of maintaining these seven items. All of the divisions of the religious world—Christian, professed Christian, and non-Christian—are the result of a violation of one or more of these seven items. Let's look at each of these seven items that make up the “unity of the Spirit.”
#1: One Body. This one body is the church of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 23). Jesus called it “My church” (Matt. 16:18). He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He “gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). Christ has only one church; He only bought one church. Today all believers can be “one body” if we will accept and follow only that which is taught (authorized) in His word. (See Colossians 3:17.) It is when we bring in creeds, disciplines, and other opinions of men that unity is broken. The “one body” has one head (Eph. 1:22-23). The “one body” has one foundation (I Cor. 3:11). The “one body” has one mission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Jesus is the “Saviour of the one body” (Eph. 5:23). All (both Jews & Gentiles) are baptized into this “one body” (I Cor. 12:13). We are added to the “one body” when we obey His commandments (terms of entrance) (Acts 2:47). Considering all of these Scriptural facts about the church, why are we hesitant to proclaim that one MUST be a member of the church of Christ in order to be saved? Have our convictions wavered? Are we afraid to proclaim clearly the distinctiveness of the “one body?” The church of Christ is distinct and this distinction must be proclaimed to a lost world! The “unity of the Spirit” can never be reached in denominational, divisive, sectarian groups. The Scriptures even condemn divisions within the “one body” (I Cor. 1:10-13). No denominational, sectarian churches belong to Christ. He never died for them; He never purchased them.
Next week we will continue our study of the Spirit’s plan for unity.
Paul M. Wilmoth