Unity is God’s desires for his people. Unity involves being in agreement, being unanimous in what is valued, believed and how it is lived out. It also involves being united in purpose, working together to achieve a common goal. Unity brings the blessing of God to the church Ps 133. It is critical for the survival of the church, it is a non negotiable.
The trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the perfect examples of complete unity in their relationships to one another and carrying out the plan they created for the salvation of mankind. There was never any confusion, conflict or misunderstandings in the role each one has. They work in perfect harmony with each other.
We have some examples in the Old Testament of people being united working in unity for a common goal or purpose. When there is unity there is the potential to accomplish great things.
Unity in the Old Testament
Tower of Babel
(Gen 11:6) And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
Making David King
1Ch_12:38 All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king.
Example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.
Neh_4:6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he expressed his desire that the disciples would be one just as he and his father were one.
Joh 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. . Joh 17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
Joh 17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Just as Jesus was one with his father so too are we one with Jesus through the work of redemption.
Our unity with Jesus also enables us to share his glory.
We also share his love
We share his mission
We share the knowledge he has given us.
The unity of the believers was critical to the world’s acceptance of Jesus being sent by the father. If there is disunity among believers, it will cause problems for nonbelievers to accept the unity that Jesus had with his father and the purpose for which he was sent.
After the death of Jesus he instructed them to wait for the Holy Spirit to be sent. They obeyed Jesus’ instructions and gathered in a room to pray and study the Scriptures that Jesus had revealed to them about himself. This time of being together helped to form them into a unified team.
Act 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Devoting: persevere devotedly, intense times of prayer
As the disciples gathered together, it was with one accord. This expression, occurring eleven times in Acts, is one of the keys that unlocks the secret of blessing. Where brethren dwell together in unity, God commands the blessing—life for evermore (Ps. 133)
One Accord: one mind, unanimous
Act_2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Women were included, Jesus was one of the greatest liberators for women. The role of women among the Jews was very limited and limiting. But Jesus set a new standard and the early church gave women a new status and opportunities to be involved in ministry. The upper room prayer meeting was a great start to including women in ministry.
As the church grew in numbers they maintained unity. They also made demonstrated their unity by sharing meals among themselves and maintaining singleness of heart.
Act_2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Their unity was also expressed in their prayers and declarations when Peter and John were released
Act_4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
In spite of opposition they remained united of one accord in continuing their ministry in the temple area.
Act_5:12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
Unity in the temple signs and wonders were manifested.
Act 15:25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Church leaders had to solve and issue regarding the Law of Moses, how it should be honored among the Gentile believers. They were united in how to resolve it and who to send out from among them to communicate the message.
These were all great examples of unity in the church but unfortunately there were recorded times of disunity and problems that were the result of disagreements.
Disunity was experienced by the early church.
There was a problem with taking care of the widows in the church.
Act 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
Disunity was caused by discrimination against the Hellenist widows. The problem was quickly resolved and the church was united.
Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement regarding taking John Mark on the missionary journey. They could not come to agreement and had to separate into two teams rather than one team that was not in harmony with each other.
Act 15:37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.
Act 15:38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
Act 15:39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus,
Act 15:40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
Act 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul also had to confront Peter and Barnabas about wrong doctrine and wrong behavior which resulted from it.
Gal 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
Gal 2:12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
Gal 2:13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Gal 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
The Corinthian church was experiencing disunity because they were associated themselves with either Paul or Apollos rather than Christ. Elevating personalities and following after people is always dangerous and can be very unhealthy.
1Co 1:10 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.
1Co 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
1Co 1:12 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.”
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul had to address two believers who were at odds with each other.
Php 4:2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
Paul in his epistle to the church at Colossae stressed that in Christ there is no discrimination. Christ is our unifying factor. Discrimination breeds disunity and it has no part in the body of Christ.
Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Greek The Greek word used here, hellēn, is an ethnic term denoting the people of Greece. Paul sometimes uses this term as a synonym for “Gentiles” (non-Jews). Their cultural heritage dominated the Roman world.
circumcision nor uncircumcision Another way of referring to Jews (those who are circumcised according to the law) and Gentiles (those who are not).
barbarian A person considered uncultured according to Graeco-Roman standards—i.e., those who did not speak Greek or Latin and who practiced foreign customs or traditions and lacked social standing.
Scythian Like barbarians, Scythians were typically regarded as uncivilized people. They were crude, cruel people from the north
Slaves, menial workers at the bottom of the society.
Unity in the body of Christ is not uniformity. In the body of Christ there is great diversity yet we are united in Christ in that he is our Lord and Savior and his teachings along with the entire Scriptures provide the basis of our fellowship along with the Holy Spirit indwelling in each believer.
It is important that we endeavor to maintain unity in the body as it is one of the strongest witnesses to the world of the truth Jesus has revealed to us through his life, death and resurrection. Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to maintain unity of the Spirit.
Eph 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
Eph 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Eph 4:3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Unity will help bring people to Christ while disunity will drive them away. Who wants to be a part of anything that is riddled with division?
Unity or being or one accord has to do mainly with our beliefs, that we are unified or in unanimous agreement to what we hold to be true. Apart from this level of agreement we do not have true unity. We may belong to the same group of people but we do not share the same values and beliefs or behaviors that would identify us as part of the group.
Hindrances to Unity (Joy Dawson)
1. Lack of communication of needs. Pride keeps us from communicating needs. Love can flow out to others after a need is expressed. We don’t want to express needs as it may indicate a weakness. If we do not express our needs we can become a hindrance to unity. We are not invincible.
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
2. Sin, confess your faults one to another that you may be healed.
Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
If we have consciously hurt someone we need to confess to them. If they are not aware of it then it is the exception to go to the person. Restitution should never hurt the other person. Coldness of heart toward someone is to be forgiven.
Mat 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
Mat 5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Mt. 6.14, 5.23,24. Mrk 11.25, 26 forgiveness is required for forgiveness. Expressed forgiveness unites.
3. Expressing love to one another, gratitude, encouragement, comfort and understanding. Don’t be reserved in expressing these things. God expressed his love openly.
1Jn 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Pray to be sensitive to the needs of others and be willing to meet the needs. Put love into action.
4. Not communicating what we are doing and why we are doing it. Leaders think that others should just accept it and not question it
Mat 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
Mat 18:16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
The enemy uses it to lead us to misjudge others and drive a wedge between us.
5. Not having a servant heart.
Jesus set his disciples straight when they were debating who would be the greatest in the kingdom.
Luk 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
Luk 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
Luk 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
They were not looking at serving each other but being served by others. This is the wrong attitude that will create disunity just as it did among the disciples who heard this conversation. We promote unity through our service to each other. Being humble will keep us from being humiliated because of a wrong attitude and expectation.
Unity is corporate humility
Unity must be pursued, it is not optional for believers and it must be put into practice if we desire to receive the blessing of God. It must be protected and any threats against unity confronted immediately. Division and disunity damage the body of Christ and diminishes the witness to the world.