In my last few posts, I’ve considered the relationship between the gospel and “togetherness” and the relationship between the gospel and good works. It seems natural (at least to me) to continue looking at the fullness of the gospel.
In the this post, I’m looking at the relationship between the gospel and unity.
From the outset, I recognize that the gospel is a dividing force. But, the good news is a divider between those who are God’s children and those who are not God’s children. The good news of Jesus Christ does NOT separate brothers and sisters in Christ from one another. Instead, it does just the opposite: the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of unity.
Instead of looking at just one passage, I’m going to point out several passage that connect the good news of Jesus Christ with our unity (that is, with our relational unity to others who are brothers and sisters in Christ).
For example, Jesus’ famous prayer in John 17 touches on this connection:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)
Similarly, Paul places our relational unity in the same context of our one Lord, one faith, and even God’s unity:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)
And, of course, that statement follows Paul’s exhortation to “maintain the unity of the Spirit.” (Ephesians 4:3 ESV) (See also Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:14-16.)
Likewise, when Peter wrote to believers scattered around the Roman empire (1 Peter 1:1), he reminded them of their unity in the gospel:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
Peter’s descriptions above stand out grammatically. The subject “you” is plural; he talking to multiple people at the same time. But, the descriptors (i.e., “a chosen race,” a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation”, “a people”) are all singular, emphasizing their unity.
Unity is not just a good idea; it is a result of the gospel of Jesus Christ – just as “togetherness” and good works are a result of the good news. We cannot separate these into different categories; they go together. If we are not united with brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, then we are not maintaining the unity of the Spirit, and we are not living according to the gospel.
In fact, as we submit more and more to the lordship of Jesus Christ – yielding ourselves to him daily – we will also grow in unity with one another. A lack of unity is an indication that we are not submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord.
It may sound harsh, but it’s true.