A Plea for Unity

I’ve been dwelling a lot on the concept of church unity lately since finishing my most recent seminary class on the Pauline epistles. Paul talks about unity a lot. But sadly it’s not something I’ve paid a lot of attention to. I suppose we all know we’re supposed to be unified, but probably in the same way we all know we’re supposed to drive under the speed limit. Unity just feels inconvenient, and nobody is doing it anyways.

The first scripture on unity I want to look at is in Ephesians 3:6. This is about the mystery of the gospel. I’ve always heard that the mystery of the gospel is that the gentiles are fellow heirs. And I suppose that is nearly an acceptable reading of the passage. The reason to read it otherwise is that everyone already knew the gentiles were brought in. Therefore the mystery Paul speaks about in this passage isn’t the fact that they were saved, but rather the fact of how they were saved.
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
The “how” is “in Christ Jesus.” The gentiles are fellow heirs because they are one in Christ with the Jews. The whole of chapter 2:11-22 expounds this. See the “in Christ Jesus” of 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Also note verse 21 talks about how being joined together we (with Christ) grow into a holy temple in the Lord. This brings me to my second point.

I have read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 many times and never understood something fundamental. First of all look at the verse:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
If you’re like me you’ve read this verse a million times and thought, “Yea, I am the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in me. Cool.” But that’s not what this says. Unfortunately our English Bibles are incredibly unclear on this. In other languages it sticks out like a sore thumb that this “you” is plural. My ESV simply notes this in a footnote I’ve never read.

Paul is literally saying that we (as in together) are God’s temple. And then verse 17 tells us that when we destroy God’s temple God will destroy us. When we divide as the church we are literally destroying the temple of God because we corporately are the temple of God.

The mystery of our salvation is related to our being united with other Christians in Christ. I have to then conclude that there is something fundamental about our Christianity which requires unity. I have to imagine this is part of the reason for the Lord’s supper. After all Paul tells us “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

If you take the Lord’s supper and you don’t discern, remember, recognize, the body of Christ (the church!) in which we are unified, then you are eating and drinking judgment on yourself.

There is something about unity which is outrageously fundamental to Christianity. And if we’re not seeking unity, praying for unity, or at least praying for our fellow brothers and sisters then I’m arguing that we’re missing our Christianity. We can not forget that we are Christians because of Christ. We cannot be Christians unless we are in Christ.

Finally, what if Galatians 3:28 read, “There is neither Pentecostal nor Calvinist, there is neither Baptist nor Wesleyan, there is no Episcopal and Lutheran, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”?

Unity. I plea. Unity. If you don’t see it in the Word, then you aren’t reading it. If you don’t recognize it as essential to who we are — change.

Unity. I plea. Unity.