the weblog of Alan Knox

We ARE united, but we are NOT united

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in unity | 19 comments

We ARE united, but we are NOT united

As I mentioned in my introduction post yesterday (“Unity: The Series“), this week I’m writing a series on the topic of unity among the body of Christ. Now, remember, I am talking about unity among those who are in Christ, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who are followers of Jesus Christ, who are children of God. This is the beginning point of my series. Throughout the series, you can assume that these are the people that I am talking about.

(Note: Do not misunderstand my statement above. I am not under the misconception that everyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ. However, from reading Scripture, I think we begin by assuming that anyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ, and it is only in very extreme situations that we come to the conclusion that someone who claims to be in Christ is not actually in Christ. This is a point that requires even more in depth study, but it is not the point of this series.)

To begin with, we ARE united. There is only one body of Christ. We cannot choose who is in Christ and who is not in Christ – we do not have that authority. If someone is in Christ, then we ARE united with that person and in the Holy Spirit we DO have fellowship with that person. Period.

It would be easy to quote passage after passage of Scripture to prove this point. But, it’s really not necessary. Just pick a book of the New Testament and begin reading. Soon, you will come to a statement about our unity in Jesus Christ.

I believe that this must be our starting point when we think about unity. We ARE united.

But, when it comes to how we live our lives day in and day out, in general the body of Christ is not living as if we are united. In other words, we are not living in the reality of our unity and fellowship that we already have in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are living a lie.

And, for the most part, we have accepted the lie as normal and healthy. Even when Christians today work toward unity, they tend to work to unify certain subsections of the body of Christ. While these efforts may bring that particular subsection together, the efforts also often further separate that subsection from other parts of the body of Christ. Thus, often efforts that are intended to maintain unity actual produce or intensify division.

Unity is given to us by God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, but we are to work (yes, work) to maintain that unity.

Notice Paul’s focus on our efforts toward maintaining that unity that we already have in Jesus Christ:

I [Paul] therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body… (Ephesians 4:1-3a ESV)

According to Paul, part of living in Christ (“walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”) includes the way that we respond to and interact with other people – especially people with whom we disagree: humility, gentleness, patience, love. Through this “work,” we maintain and live in the unity that God has already created.

I think its clear that in general we are not maintaining this unity.

So, we ARE united in Christ, but we are NOT living in that unity.

———————————

Series on Unity

  1. Unity: The Series
  2. We ARE united, but we are NOT united
  3. Doing the work of unity
  4. Doing the work of division
  5. Unity begins and ends in Jesus Christ

19 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-3-2012

    Hi Alan,

    I love reading your blog.

    It’s been a while since I have read regularly. Lately I have just been skimming titles of posts. (Back log of too many blogs.)

    I am sure I missed out by not reading the other posts up to this point. That being said, you make the following assertion without any examples or explanation of how your assertion is true.

    “But, when it comes to how we live our lives day in and day out, in general the body of Christ is not living as if we are united. In other words, we are not living in the reality of our unity and fellowship that we already have in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. ”

    I think I know what you are saying, and I will go back to the other posts to catch up. This post, though just seems …. empty. How are we living a lie? How are we not unified? Can you point me to some posts that summarize this idea? (I am not disagreeing, just left hanging in this post…)

    :) <–emoticon to show the mood behind the post.
    Steve

  2. 7-3-2012

    Alan, you have written:
    “I am not under the misconception that everyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ. However, from reading Scripture, I think we begin by assuming that anyone who claims Christ is actually in Christ, and it is only in very extreme situations that we come to the conclusion that someone who claims to be in Christ is not actually in Christ. This is a point that requires even more in depth study, but it is not the point of this series.”

    possibly you can point us to where you have developed this premise? …another blog post, outline or article to describe “very extreme situations” and where from the Scriptures these things may be seen?

  3. 7-3-2012

    Stephen,

    In this series, I must write in generalities. So if it doesn’t apply to you and your situation, then great! I’m primarily referring to the tendency of Christians today to gather with those who agree with them while ignoring (and sometimes condemning) other Christians who disagree with them.

    Marshall,

    You can check the posts in my blog in the category “unity.” From what I’ve found, there are very, very few instances in Scripture where we are told to separate from others who claim to be Christians. And, in all of those cases, we are told to consider them to NOT be Christians.

    -Alan

  4. 7-3-2012

    Unity is given to us by God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, but we are to work (yes, work) to maintain that unity.

    I beg to differ Alan, first part is truth second is a deception, and gets us to work in the energy of ones own flesh and blood.
    NO NO NO Again NO!!!! When one works at anything to accomplish or maintain then one is under the curse of non cmpliance and is controlled of the worldly ways LAWS. Work is of the flesh and flesh wants a reward, Spirit is already rewarded no reward needed. The gift is a gift there is no maintenance to keep up, it is by faith in Christ and in christ alone through faith we are tanslated to the Father through the Holy Ghost and by this and this alone we are made perfect from Father’s vantage point, and I will rest in that, I am finished with my works as God is finished with his.

    If I am working at maintaining then I am tryiing to please someone, god or something and While i am focused on that How can I represent the love joy peace and righteousness in the Holy Ghost that is spread about in my whole body and all believers, just not all see this truth?
    In the utmost care i send this to all

  5. 7-3-2012

    Howard,

    I am saying nothing more and nothing less that what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:1-2, which I quoted in this passage. If you read me as saying more than that, then you are misreading me. If you are claiming less than Paul says, then I’d hope you would reconsider.

    “Work” is not a bad word. It is a perfectly good word, a word that is commonly used in Scripture of our response to God’s grace, and it is appropriate and necessary for that. It is only inappropriate when suggesting that one can work toward being accepted by God. That’s not what I’ve said here or anywhere else.

    -Alan

  6. 7-3-2012

    the good work that has begun in the believer shall be carried on unto the day of christ Jesus, his return in the twinkling of an eye. and through trusting god and God alone we all live in unity. And you know the others the moment you make contact with them

  7. 7-3-2012

    One unity issue that I have seen is the tendency of churches to ignore other churches. “You are a member of your church and I am a member of mine.” The same goes for denominations.

    Something I thought about recently when reading again the Acts 6 passage and the choosing of seven deacon/servants, is that this unity problem likely involved multiple congregations. If that is the case, deacons seem to have had a role in bridging congregations and dealing with systemic issues that cause division.

    These days, I haven’t seen deacons working among churches plural, but within individual churches. Have we missed something?

  8. 7-3-2012

    Stephen,

    Yes, that’s an example of what I’m talking about here. Of course, it doesn’t have to be someone with a certain title or position. There’s very little interaction at all between different groups of believers, even those who live and/or work near one another.

    -Alan

  9. 7-3-2012

    Wow. Do we really understand the calling? Do we really understand what we are called to. Our understanding of that has been somewhat distorted by the teaching of Arminius. Let us not that we are called by God in His Sovreignty…

    Jon

  10. 7-3-2012

    Jon,

    I don’t understand your point. I certainly agree that we are called by God in his sovereignty. (I’m assuming that you meant “note” instead of “not”?) Perhaps you could explain your comment?

    -Alan

  11. 7-4-2012

    “If we are not living in the reality of our unity and fellowship that we already have in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, then we are living a lie.”

    Forgive my slight adaptation of your statement. But it is a shocking point.

  12. 7-4-2012

    Art, thanks this is a reality and for us to check out with God to know when we have slipped back to the fleshly ways of deceit and truth sets us free from deceit

  13. 7-5-2012

    Art,

    I agree with your modifications. My post was a generalized view of what I’ve seen among the church. Thus, my “we” was an association with my brothers and sisters in Christ and a recognition than any of us can fall into living this lie.

    -Alan

  14. 7-6-2012

    God’s sovereignty is unified…period. In His soveregnty, God calls (draws) us to Himself. In the new testament, we are instructed to tell (witness) others what God has done for us. If we understand that, and if we make that our mission there will be a far greater sense of unity. In many cases it is those things we do as “church members” that creates points of division. Sharing Jesus with others is pretty simple and needs little organization and structure.

  15. 7-6-2012

    I concur it is this simple, I think emotions cloud this simplicity

  16. 7-7-2012

    Even with the brevity of this post, I understand what you are saying about the lack of unity within the Church – which is also a problem within individual churches, sadly enough. Just for clarity’s sake, I ask this: What about if you have to separate from brethren because of more serious disagreement?

    Is it right, as you see it, to sever ties with a congregation who are led by someone who is controlling, judgmental and manipulative (most of the congregation following suit)? While I understand about the idea of unity, is there a time to disconnect with some people?

    Just because we are united in Christ, does that mean we should be united in person with people who are of such a mindset? I am not talking about mere disagreement so much as scriptural infractions by people who would not engage in a dialogue concerning the issues.

    So long as you can make sense of this, let me know what you think, if you will.

  17. 7-8-2012

    John i would have to ask myself is this of me, my mindset or is God saying to me comr opur of her my people. This is an individual decision between God and you. I have walked away I have said get out. I have made mistakes both ways, yet God who is faithful I have have learned truth from every scenario. so John trust for the answer and tell me what fellowship is there if all you have is those that just agree with you. please refriain from reacting in the flesh as most do. Wait in patience for your answer from God tha tlives in you. Either way you will learn discernment brother, and God loves those that are astray as much as God loves those are of the fold. Remember the 99 sheep in the fold and how much God rejoices over the one that comes to belief in sincerety. Many worship with their lips and actions, but their hearts can be for from God. God uses vessels that are mature to bring in the sheep. Mostly it is in being available for God to use you. So please relax from your works as God has from his. Enter thr rest and thus love will take over and you will walk or stay, either way love (God) has got the reins
    Love you brother, walk in the Spirit and surprise yourself.

  18. 7-8-2012

    Thank you, Howard, for your kind and balanced remarks.

    Yes, this is about my previous experience, one I have mentioned in pieces on previous comments. We tried to open dialogue with our previous pastor and all he did was get defensive. He has managed to convince others to cut ties with us (my son got married last Sept. and sent 6 invites out to families from this previous church, 5 of which did not come, only two of those even bothered to RSVP their declines). Essentially, they have cut us off, we have not cut them off. We do not push the issue, as they have made their stance obvious.

    As I see it, there is love and there is trust. I can love someone and not trust them. If any of those people needed my aid, I would give whatever is in my ability. But, because they have embraced cultish ideas very similar to the Shepherding Movement, I cannot trust them.

    I guess my point is, even though we are one in Christ, I feel it may be better not to fellowship with those who are not to be trusted. We certainly can not have fellowship without unity. But, is unity broken when serious scriptural tenets are blatantly ignored (and the offending party will not acknowledge the error)?

    There are and will always be disagreements. We can come to points to agree to disagree, and we very well should if we are to maintain any level of unity. However, when it is not a matter of mere doctrinal disagreement or a matter of disagreement over some tradition…when it becomes a matter over plain, obvious scripture and the other party will not budge or even discuss the matter, it seems to me that parting ways is not only a top option, but may be a priority.

    In our case, we prayed for several years as what to do. Every time we were ready to bolt, we knew in our spirits that it was not right. Once it came to light that we were dealing with serious violation of scripture, as well as unscriptural doctrines, we knew it was not a matter of if we were to leave, but when. Again, we did try to discuss the issue, but a wall was immediately raised.

    You are 100% correct, though…one must seek the Lord on these issues. We cannot allow our emotions or circumstances to be the first dictate of our actions. While emotions are there and circumstances may seem to point toward a direction, the Lord sees the entire picture, even to the future. Yes, we must seek Him.

    I do pray for an opportunity to open a dialogue with someone in that church. Please, if you would, pray for the Lord’s wisdom and the possibility for an opportunity. I seek no revenge, nor do I seek to “destroy” the church, take anyone “down”, convince people to leave or any of that. I just want to set the record straight and expose the errors. I prefer, as my wife and I do pray, that these folks get things right and be the potential church they can be.

  19. 7-8-2012

    John, thank you for sharing brother. I had a man once tell me in a business where he was in charge of many stores. We had dinner together and I asked him what he was going to do about the workers that were just not doing it right and talking gossip.
    I will always remember the answer, He said, Howard I just let evil knock itself out. Any evil always exposes itself eventually. then I remembered the disciples asking Jesus to stop those over yonder casting out demons in Christ’s name. Jesus said any diveded kningdom cannot stand, Satan casting out satan will not last, Then I remember Paul saying there are those tha preach of contention and those of sinceriy, I will glory in both for Christ is being preached, those that are truly seeking shall find as you have, So brother glory in the fact that Christ is being preached and if the church is diveded it will not stand. I personally think just carry on be ready in season and out of season to give an account for the joy that remains in you regardless of the circumstance. Those that are seeking will ask and you will give account, this willl be the Holy Ghost speaking in your stead from your willingness for this to be. Just watch out for the physical sword that the enemy so desperately wants you to pull out as Peter did when they came to arrest Jesus and Jesus said that his kingdom is not here on earth and restored the man’s ear, I personally feel this WOW!!!!