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Unity in the Body of Christ

Doctrine 14.    Unity in the Body of Christ

The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children. (Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Matt. 28:19, 20; Ps. 133:1; 2 Cor. 5:16, 17; Acts 17:26, 27; Gal. 3:27, 29; Col. 3:10-15; Eph. 4:14-16; 4:1-6; John 17:20-23.)

   Jesus, having finished His work on earth (John 17: 4), continued to agonize over the condition of His disciples, even the evening before His death, in the garden of Gethsemane the main thing on Christ's mind was the unity of His church - those who had come "out of the world" (John 17: 6).  He pleaded with His Father for a unity in the church similar to that which the Godhead experienced. I pray "that they all [His followers] may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17: 21)

   Such unity is a powerful witnessing tool, for it gives evidence of Christ's unselfish love for humanity. Christ said, "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me."  (John 17: 23)

    Unity and the Church

   What kind of unity did Christ have in mind for the visible church today? How is such love and unity possible? What is its foundation?  Does it demand unifornity or allow for diversity? How does unity function?

   Unity of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the moving force behind church unity. Through Him believers are led to the church. By Him they are "all baptized into one body" (I Corinthians 12: 13). These baptized members are to have a unity Paul described as "the unity of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4: 3)

   The apostle listed the basic components of the unity of the Spirit:  "There is one body and one Spirit," he said, "just as you were 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" (Ephesians 4: 4) The sevenfold repetition of the word one emphasizes the complete unity Paul envisioned.

   Calling them from every nationality and race, the Holy Spirit baptizes people into one body - the body of Christ, the church.  As they grow into Christ cultural differences are no longer divisive.  The Holy Spirit breaks down barriers between high and low, rich and poor, male and female. Realizing that in God's sight they are all equal, they hold one another in esteem.

   This unity functions on the corporate level also. It means that local churches everywhere, even though some are recipient of money and missionaries from other countries. Such a spiritual union knows no hierarchy. Nationals and missionaries are equal before God.

   The united church has one hope - the "blessed hope" of salvation that will be realized at the "glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2: 13).  This hope is a source of peave and joy, and provides a powerful motive for united witness. It leads to transformation, for "everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (I John 3: 3).

   The Extent of Unity

   Believers experience a unity of mind and judgement.
Note the following:  "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Romans 15: 5, 6). "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the nam eof our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but they you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1: 10).  "Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13: 11). God's church ought to reveal a unity of feeling, thought and action. 

   Unity in Diversity

   Biblical unity does not mean uniformity. The Biblical metaphor of the human body demonstrates that the church's unity exists in diversity. The body has many organs, all contributing to the optimal performance of the body. Each fulfills a vital, though different task; none are useless.

  This same principle operates in the church. God distributes His gifts "to each one individually as He wills" (I Corinthians 12: 11), creating a healthy diversity that benefits the congregation. Not all members think alike, nor are they qualified to perform the same work. All, however, function under the direction of the same Spirit, building up the church to the best of their God-given abilities.

   To accomplish its mission, the church needs the contributions of all the gifts. Together, they provide a total evangelistic thrust. The success of the church does not depend on each members's being the same and doing the same as every other member; rather, it depends on all the members performing their God-assigned tasks.