What Does the Bible Say About Christian Unity?
What does the Bible say about Christian unity in such a divided culture?
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
We're not the first people to have this kind of experience. Think about what it was like for early Christians when Jesus had been crucified, when his followers were in some sense illegal. Think of Stephen being martyred. Think of what happened to Paul during the persecution of the early church. We're not the first Christians to face a divisive, conflicted sort of culture.
There’s a passage that's been important to me over the years. It's Acts 2:42, where the Bible says they devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. When it says they devoted themselves, the Greek word that is used means “to give yourself exclusively to.” It means to focus only on, to make these your priorities. They devoted themselves exclusively to the apostle’s doctrine, to the Bible, to biblical truth. It says they devoted themselves to fellowship. It's the fellowship which in the Greek means they devoted themselves to unity — to caring about each other and for each other. Third, it says they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. That's a reference to the Lord's supper and more generally to worship. And then to prayer. In the Greek it says to the prayers, which is a focus on spiritual discipline, on times of prayer during the day. In Psalm 55, the Jews prayed evening, morning and at noon. There was this rhythm of prayer in their lives. When they focused on those priorities, they found unity in the Lord and unity with each other.
The Holy Spirit
I remember years ago a person used to say, “What does that look like with skin on?” In other words, “How do we live that out?” I can't do that without the power of the Holy Spirit. All of this happened right after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came to indwell these believers. If I don’t start the day by asking the Holy Spirit to forgive my sin and cleanse me and restore me to a relationship with the Lord and lead me and empower me, then I can't live this out. I can't be focused on scripture, I can't be focused on the unity of the family of God, I can't be focused on worship and prayer the way I need to be. But if I start the day asking the Holy Spirit to fill me, control me, and help me live by these priorities, then He will.
Second, I’m going to spend time every day in scripture — time alone with God in the Bible. Then I’m going to ask the Lord to help me to think biblically as I go through the day. “Lord, what's the biblical answer here? What's the biblical response? Lord, how could I be living out fellowship? How could I be showing Your love in my love?”
When it speaks of the breaking of bread, we need to ask, “Lord, how can I worship you through this day?” Spend time at the start of the day worshiping. Then take time through the day to worship, to give thanks for what God has given and to praise God for who He is.
I need time during the day to get alone with God in prayer. I need to be praying through the day as I face the things of life. The Holy Spirit will help us to live out these priorities in a way that draws us to the Lord and to each other.
Why do we need Christian unity now more than ever? The first reason is because it's biblical. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one so the world would believe the Father sent the Son. Our unity is critical to our witness in the culture. If the culture sees us divided and fighting each other, why would they want to be part of that? So, if we decide to answer Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and take this as relevant, then we can begin moving toward unity because God has called us to do that.
A second reason I've already mentioned is because it enhances our witness. It shows the world something they can't find someplace else, gives them a reason to join the body of Christ so they can be part of the family of God. Every reference to the church in the Bible is a collective reference: a body with many parts, a vine with many branches. If we see unity as our witness to the culture, then we see it the way God does.
One last thought comes to mind. When we manifest unity with each other, we gladden the heart of our Lord. The reason Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, prayed for unity in John 17 is because that's what his Father wanted — the unity of his people.
If we'll choose to seek unity in these foundational principles by the power of the Holy Spirit, we'll be biblical. We'll be advancing the witness the Lord intends for us to show the world. And we’ll be gladdening the heart of our Father.
Pray this week:
Heavenly Father, I want to be filled with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be reading Your Word and praying daily. I want my fellowship with other Christians to gladden Your heart and draw unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Need help living out this unity in your daily life?