Forthright Magazine

Biblical Unity For Dummies: First Steps

Jesus’ prayer that “all of them may be one … so that the world may believe you sent me” emphasizes one value of unity (John 17:21). Yet who should coexist under the banner of Christian unity can be confusing. Is the unity Jesus desires achieved by joining together everyone who acknowledges Jesus? Who determines and by what means is the fellowship of unity created?

Using straightforward principles, a biblically informed understanding is accessible. Healthy initial principles are needed to propel us along a biblical trajectory toward unity.

1) Approach the Subject with the Proper Goal

Since radically incongruent ideas regarding unity have been proposed, it is clear that at least someone is promoting their own vision of unity rather than the Lord’s. If scripture is our guide, God’s word must shape our understanding and implementation of unity.

This also cannot be a cherry picking approach to scripture. The range of scripture’s voice needs to be heard.

2) Understand Who Creates Unity and Where That Unity Is Found

Who makes unity possible? Do we create unity by accepting others? Or are we to recognize the unity that God has made? If it is the latter, if we were to either exclude those whom God has joined together or include those whom God has not brought into fellowship, we would not be promoting the unity God desires. The question, “who creates unity,” is important.

Scripture reveals God working through Christ to unite the world’s diverse peoples into one body, one universal community in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:9,10,22,23; 2:12,13). God, not us, is the source of legitimate unity (Ephesians 4:3-7). Unity exists as a result of God uniting people together in Christ.

God has chosen (elected) to include people within the saved community of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13,14; Ephesians 1:5-10, 13,14). How can we identify who God has brought together? A later principle will tackle that question. For the moment we need to acknowledge God’s work through Christ creates unity. We should also acknowledge that what matters is whether God knows us, rather than our claims about knowing God (Galatians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:4).

We are neither the source nor the creator of biblical unity. Accepting those outside of Christ will not create Christian unity. Rejecting those with whom God has united us in Christ will not create Christian unity.

3) Understand Our Role in Unity

Having laid an extensive foundation in Ephesians 1-3 regarding God’s work through Christ to create a unified body, Paul was very clear. Our task is to preserve and maintain this unity (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Neither our efforts to exclude nor include alter what God has created in Christ. While this is true, it is equally true that our attitudes toward inclusion and exclusion can alter how accurately we perceive God’s work in Christ. It is also true that if our acceptance is broader than God’s or more exclusive than God’s, we will operate under a distorted notion of the body of Christ. Our responsibility involves accepting those whom God has transferred into the kingdom of his Son (Romans 15:5-7; Colossians 1:13).

Biblical Unity for Dummies: False Starts


Barry Newton