Church Unity Points to Jesus' Glory
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me.
How important is church unity? Well....Jesus, hours before His betrayal and crucifixion, in His High Priestly prayer emphasized it! When He prayed for us who believe in the apostles teaching, which is the church (verse 20), He prayed for our unity around the Gospel. That was Jesus' focal point in His prayer for the church. Remember per Ephesians 2:19-21 the church is built off the foundation of the apostles with Jesus as the cornerstone. The apostles doctrine is the Gospel and all its implications. Jesus prayed we would be one, united together on the apostles teaching. In verse 20-21 Jesus emphasized that He is united with the Father and prayed that we would be united in the Gospel with one another in the church.
Notice we are united by a commonality. The common denominator all genuine Christians share is we have been born again (the Holy Spirit has given us a new will and nature) therefore we are trusting in nothing else by Jesus' perfect life, death in our place, and resurrection to reconcile us to God, forgiven of all our sins. Faith in Jesus and a life that follows Jesus is not something that originates in oneself but is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10) through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3; 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Spirit of God making us new through the Word of God shared and preached and our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus as revealed in Scripture breaks drown and destroys all social,ethnic, and economic barrier that divides people. Paul states in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In a world that divides over everything, the Gospel unites people who are different with a bond and a supernatural love that is meant to cause the world to scratch their heads in wonder at the love and unity they see in a local body of believers.
Jesus in verse 21 of John 17 conveyed that our unity proclaims to the world that God sent Jesus to save sinners. Our unity around the Gospel and our supernatural love for another in the Gospel witnesses to the world concerning Jesus and His glory. This is why disunity and divisive behavior is absolutely unacceptable to God. Per the Scripture He hates it. We know from Proverbs 6:16-19 God hates a divisive person. We see from Numbers 12 and 16 God destroying disunity in the people of God. We read in Titus 3:10-11 Paul’s command to Titus to make sure the church warns a divisive person in its midst twice and then if they will not repent have nothing to do with them. This is love! Think about it. Division destroys the testimony of the church to its community and the soul of the divisive person before God. To do nothing on both accounts is truly hatred.
Let us never forget that division blasphemies God’s name and character. The church is to represent Christ’s glory and character on earth and when we divide we lie to the world about God. The Triune God is not divided but completely united in love. God, per Isaiah 42:8, will not share His glory and certainly will not have His people lie about Him to the world by their behavior. That is why Israel was conquered in the Old Testament and that is why many churches today no longer exist today. Jesus does remove churches and their witness when their love for Him and each other is consistently not present (Revelation 2:5). I remember reading about a church that had grown from 30 to 190 people in a short period of time. God was drawing many people to Christ, which resulted in a space issue in the building that church met in. The pastor and congregation responded by voting to do away with the pews and replace them with chairs if the church reached a certain size to accommodate more growth. The church reached the size voted on, the pastor did what was expected of him, yet many of the core members responded to the pews missing with anger and vengeance. From threatening phone calls to cruel conversations, the pastor and leadership underwent a series of attacks because they had moved memorialized pews for the sake of more people hearing the Gospel. The insanity of the situation is the church had voted to do this yet when it came time to carry it out the people loved their traditions, memorials, and old way of doing things more than each other and their neighbors who do not know Jesus. These members testimony was not in line with Jesus prayer nor God's revealed character in Scripture. The church split. Imagine dying and meeting King Jesus after having fought that battle in the church and He asks you why you were divisive with His beloved church He died for because of a seat in a building. How do you think that conversation will go? Unfortunately many people will face King Jesus at the judgment seat and have a similar conversations concerning the division and havoc they wrecked on Christ's beloved bride that He adores. I can imagine a response formatting, well good thing we are saved by grace through faith. Yes that is true. Never forget Ephesians 2:10 follows Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:14-26 is also part of the Bible. A professing Christians lack of unity, continual gossip, and hateful treatment of the church of Jesus may show that they do not have genuine faith at all. They may eventually stand before Jesus and hear Him say to them, "I never knew you." (Matthew 7:21-23) We are saved by grace through faith alone, but that faith in Jesus will come with a new set of desires consumed with God's glory and a will that loves Jesus and His church with increasingly fervency.
Are you divisive? Do you find yourself freely giving your opinions to the hurt of others? Do you find yourself always stirring the pot and slandering those in the church, the church which is sacred to our God because His Spirit lives in His people? Are you always involved in a controversy of sorts in the church and life that does not center around the Gospel and essential doctrines? Do you always see yourself as a victim of sorts, meaning everyone is wrong and you are right? Do you understand the seriousness of the sin of division for it may even show that you do not have the Holy Spirit living in you? Division is serious and we all need to examine our hearts asking the Lord to give us hearts that love His glory and His truth to such a degree that we refuse to be in any way divisive in His church.
One more set of questions…. How do you handle divisive people? Are you are striving to follow Jesus faithfully in the church? Do you live out Paul’s command in Titus 3:10-11 or are you more concerned about people liking you than what is truly right per God’s Word and good for them in Christ?
May the sin of divisiveness not be found in the Biblical church of the Lord Jesus. May we be unified around the Biblical Gospel for the glory of God. His glory is worth it!