Unity and fellowship is a subject that comes up from time to time in the realm of Christianity. Though the two words are not synonyms, they do refer to the same general concept of being connected with others of the same belief and practice. On one hand the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus came to bring division. He said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (John 12:51). On the other hand, the Bible clearly teaches that there is to be no division. Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). How can the Bible clearly teach both? The answer is in that Jesus was talking about the world and Paul was writing about the church. When Jesus came, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12). People in general were divided over whether Jesus was the Messiah that was promised or not. John records an event where Jesus taught and “Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ…So there was a division among the people because of him” (John 7:40-43). There is no doubt that people are still divided concerning the Christ.
However, Paul was writing about division within the body of Christ. Later in the same letter he wrote, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (I Cor. 12:25). The word “schism” in this verse is the same Greek word that is translated “divisions” in I Cor. 1:10. In all the mentions of division within the church, Paul spoke negatively. He wrote of their “envying, and strive, and divisions” as being carnal (I Cor. 3:3). Unity among believers is portrayed as a much desired character. The sweet psalmist of Israel said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Paul said that Christians were to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). In fact, Jesus even prayed for the unity of all believers. After praying for His apostles, He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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 17:20-21). There is no doubt whatsoever that God would have all believers to be in unity.
Some would have and some have called for a somewhat odd version of unity. Some have suggested that we all just agree to disagree. It’s the “you have your belief and practice and I’ll have mine and we’ll just all agree that we are all pleasing to God” version of unity. The prophet Amos wrote in the long ago, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). When one considers the prayer for unity uttered by our Lord, one can clearly see that He was not praying for this form of unity. Notice the kind of unity that He prayed for. He prayed that all believers would be one “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21). I do not believe that there is anyone who believes that the Father and the Son had differing beliefs and just agreed to disagree. The Father and the Son were in perfect harmony in all matters. Do recall what Paul wrote to those Corinthian brethren, “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). Obviously, God’s word commands us to be in unity. It might also be noticed that when Jesus prayed for such unity, He added, “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). Division breeds disbelief.
So, how can we possibly have such unity of belief and practice? It certainly cannot be achieved by following the doctrines of man, for they are many and varied. It cannot be achieved by following feelings, for they vary from person to person. The only way to achieve such unity is for all to lay aside all preconceived ideas and beliefs and go back to the pure word of God, teaching nothing else but what is found therein without adding to or subtracting from it in any way. Israel of old was told upon receiving God’s word, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandment of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). The guide book of God’s word for Christianity is the New Testament. If a belief or practice is not found in the New Testament, it is not a part of Christianity. To hold to such is to add unto the word which God has spoken. If a belief or practice is found in the New Testament, to fail to hold to it is to diminish aught from what God has spoken. If all would follow the New Testament strictly and exclusively, there would be Bible unity.
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