Forthright Magazine

Biblical Unity For Dummies: 8 Pauline Prescriptions

Paul prescribed various unity prescriptions for those whom God had united in Christ. Here are 8 of them.

Rally Behind The Mission

Where unity thrives, people share a common goal more important to them than divisive issues. “Striving together for the faith of the gospel” should trump other concerns (Philippians 1:27). Pursuing this mission above lesser values would result in “standing firm in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27) and being “united in spirit, and intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2)

Striving for the faith of the gospel ought to be more important to God’s people than their preferred color scheme, worship times, or pews versus chairs. Although some people possess strong preferences in such matters, what matters is furthering the mission.

Exemplify Profound Love

When conflict breaks out, people tend to focus on themselves. Fixations on injustices suffered, on my hurt, or on what I think is best divide people. The Philippian church was experiencing conflict from without (Philippians 1:28-30) as well as within (Philippians 4:2-3).

Healing would result from understanding and living out a profound love (Philippians 1:9-11). Rather than be self-occupied and concerned about one’s own concerns, Paul prescribed the humble attitude of looking to the interests of others and pursuing their well being (Philippians 2:3-4). As saved people living out such a mindset, the behavior of grumbling and arguing could cease (Philippians 2:12-15).

Paul’s own circumstances provided this church with a practical vision of love. Paul was not self-absorbed. His love for people led him to rejoice when people heard about Christ, even if some proclaimed the message in order to hurt him! (Philippians 1:15-18). While Paul preferred heaven, for their sake he desired to remain to serve them – even if it involved self-sacrifice (Philippians 1:21-26; 2:17).

Similarly, when calling for the Corinthian church to embrace love rather than a selfish focus on my rights (1 Corinthians 8:1), Paul’s life once again provided a practical model placing flesh upon what it means to love others (1 Corinthians 9:5,12,19-22; 10:24,33; 11:1).

Focus On Who Matters

Authors and speakers abound. When teachers became a divisive matter, Paul refocused the church’s energies and values upon God and Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-12, 24-25). This required putting humans in their proper place (1 Corinthians 1:19-20; 3:5; 4:1). An improper focus upon and elevation of human personalities leads to division. Joining together to exalt God unifies.

Don’t Prejudge God’s Prerogatives

We don’t know everything. Yet, sometimes we act like we do. We can start judging someone or something to be great, while despising the rest. As the Corinthian church discovered, divisiveness thrives in this environment.

On matters we cannot know because God has not yet revealed his will, Paul commanded the church to avoid making judgments (1 Corinthians 4:5). When the Lord comes he will bring to light what was hidden (1 Corinthians 4:5). We do not belong in God’s judgment seat to either commend nor to condemn what God has not yet revealed.

Offer Charity On Opinions

In matters of private life, convictions about how to serve God can run deep. Such opinions can lead to despising another (Romans 14:3).

Paul’s prescription involved three action items (Romans 14:1-5, 12-15, 22-23; 15:2): First, don’t pass judgment on others. Second, love others. Don’t cause them to stumble because of your choices. Third, keep the matter between yourself and God knowing that God will judge your choices.

Extend The Same Grace 

In spite of our humanity and imperfections, the Lord received us. Extend the same grace to others who are in Christ (Romans 15:7).

Promote God’s Work

When we realize how God’s power has been at work to forge a unified people, a dwelling for our God in the Spirit (Ephesians 1-3), we are urged to work with God by living up to who God has made us to be in Christ (Ephesians 4:1; 2:10, 13-22). This goal-focus drives us forward to put up with one another in love. We should seek to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Clarify God’s Message

While matters of opinion exist, so do distortions of the good news. When the message and practices of the gospel were at stake, Paul prescribed and practiced clarifying the message and opposing false teaching (Galatians 1:11,14; 5:4; 1 Timothy 1:3-4). The unity God desires is not achieved by accepting ideas and behaviors incongruous with the gospel (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

We do not create spiritual unity by embracing whomever we choose. God creates unity by placing people within Christ.

For those of us in Christ, we can observe a number of principles to promote the unity he has created for his glory.


Barry Newton
Latest posts by Barry Newton (see all)