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Unity – like love – is part of God’s nature – but not always part of God’s children

Posted by on Aug 10, 2012 in unity | 28 comments

Unity – like love – is part of God’s nature – but not always part of God’s children

This post has a subtitle: “Why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity – or love?”

In the Pentateuch, we read, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV) Jesus prayed that God’s children (his followers) would demonstrate that same unity: “[I ask] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us… that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” (John 17:20-23 ESV) (By the way, in that same prayer, Jesus refers to the glory of God in the context of this unity… both his unity with God, our unity with God, and our unity with one another.)

Unity is part of God’s nature, just as love and holiness and justice and sovereignty is part of God’s nature. And, in Christ, we demonstrate that unity both in our relationship with God and in our relationships with one another.

So… returning to my subtitle… why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity?

And, we can’t chalk this one up to problems that have arisen over the last 2000 years or so. How do I know? Because, in the New Testament, the problem of division and/or an exhortation toward unity and harmony is included in almost every (perhaps every) letter written to groups of believers – that is, groups of God’s children who are followers of Jesus Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

These people did not have hundreds of years of religious traditions, denominationalism, and bickering to blame for their divisions and their lack of unity.

No, those early believers could not blame others for their divisions. They could only accept that they were responsible for failing to live in the Holy Spirit as demonstrated by failing to live in unity with one another.

Unity is still part of God’s nature – part of the nature of the God who indwells and calls us his children and gives us a new nature and empowers us to live in that nature. When we do not accept and live with other believers as real brothers and sisters (as God accepts them in Jesus Christ), then we are not living in the power of the Spirit. When we do not live in the fellowship with one another (not just with our lips but with our lives), then we are not following Jesus Christ.

The problem is not with our traditions or their traditions. The problem is not with our hierarchy or their hierarchy. The problem is not with our denomination or their denomination. The problem is not with our system of theology or their system of theology.

The problem is with submission to God as his child and living in the power of the Spirit in order to demonstrate the nature of God – which includes unity with God and unity with his children.


28 Comments

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  1. 8-10-2012

    Wow. Yes!

    Alan, thanks for this reminder. I so often want to blame the church’s problems on the traditions we have built up, but those are ultimately just symptoms. The problems do indeed start in our own hearts with our own lack of submission to the Spirit.

  2. 8-10-2012

    Except the Lord builds His ekklesia they do labor in vain that build it, except the Lord keep the ekklesia the watchmen watch in vain. I have been tutored by the Holy Spirit to drill all the way down to inspect foundations. The foundations of our hearts and belief systems, the foundations of Truth. For those who are called out of the world system into His marvelous light, their are two necessary pilings. The first is the work of the Spirit in the revelation, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God”. Without this revelation, this ah ha moment, there can be no true metanoia. The purest picture of this revelations manifestation was the infilling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, and the immediate results of 3,000 and 5,000 new spiritual family members added. The Spirit initiated unity of all believers, confirmed by two more witnesses, they had all things in common, no one called anything their own property, so that there was no neediness among them. The second is the witness of Ananias and Sapphira. God was visibly at work, building, keeping, guiding, and protected. We need not miss,”No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” Perhaps in OUR trying to build His kingdom, we miss a few steps.

  3. 8-10-2012

    Pow.
    http://covenantalorganicchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/the-church-and-your-church-are-two-different-things-believe-me/

    “Unity! Unity! Unity! Well, I mean, as long as you agree with me about, you know, The Rapture, Spiritual Gifts, Election of Choice, those kinds of things. And none of that crazy charismatic worship, neither, okay. (You people are of the debbil, that much is obvious.) Now be sure to give a love offering when the tithing plate comes around. 10% is expected, but if you give more, let us know. That way we can give a separate praise to Jeeeezus.”

  4. 8-10-2012

    @Marc,

    Jesus is building His Church, and this is what a son believes. We do have the mind of Christ, and we do speak as His oracles. What’s more, is that we will do even greater things than He did. But I digress.

    I honestly have yet to read elsewhere in The Scriptures where this truth (Jesus is building His Bride/Church) is refuted or altered.

    Why cannot christians understand that they do not advance His Kingdom, not do they build His Church, nor do they save anyone, and that all those things rest upon His shoulders, and never ever upon ours. I have searched at length to find anywhere in His Word where He says, “I need you people. I cannot do this on My own. I am powerless to affect My Will on earth, and only You can do it for Me.” Exactly.

    Salvation is a gift, freely given to us according to His Will and His intent. Knowing that at the beginning of our Salvation that He is Sovereign, why oh why do we labor to seek to improve Him, as if He needed it? Oy.

  5. 8-10-2012

    Chuck,

    It’s much easier to blame others than it is to submit to God and to others and to live in harmony, especially with those who disagree with us.

    Marc,

    Although this post is not specifically about Jesus building his church (ekklesia), I’ll reply. Yes, as we read in Scripture, Jesus alone builds his church (ekklesia), and as we read in Scripture, he often builds his church (ekklesia) through us as we build one another together. Both concepts are found in Scripture, and both are valid.

    Back to unity… are you suggesting that the recipients of those early letters were not Christians, not followers of Jesus Christ, not indwelled by the Holy Spirit, not part of the ekklesia because they had problems with divisiveness?

    Donald,

    Unity always has a source of commonality. As children of God, our unity is only in Jesus Christ. I’m not concerned about any other kind of unity. But, like you point out, many people confuse unity in Christ with unity based on their personal beliefs, organizations, etc.

    -Alan

  6. 8-10-2012

    Alan, I am not suggesting the recipients of the early letters were not born from above, or not filled with His Spirit. The Spirit of God is not divided, but is One Spirit. The Lord is not divided. There is a lot to learn from the beginning of the book of Acts till the end. If we go to the head waters, we see so much of God’s power, purpose, and ways in the midst of the ekklesias, especially chapter 4. With the hindsight history affords and the record of the Scriptures, is there nothing new to learn from the struggles they faced?
    I propose that yes there is.

  7. 8-10-2012

    Alan and all,

    “The problem is with submission to God as his child and living in the power of the Spirit in order to demonstrate the nature of God – which includes unity with God and unity with his children.”

    I re-read these words, took a moment to ask our Father about it, and He directed me to Colossians 2. I see what He is saying. If we can simply submit to His Word, then how can unity, real unity, be far behind?
    ——————–

    For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

    I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

    Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

    See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

    When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

    Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

    If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
    ———————

    Taken from The New American Standard version, since we all know it was the one Paul used. Ha! :)

  8. 8-10-2012

    Hey Alan, we don’t all agree on what you mean by submission or by unity. That is why when we don’t witness to the lost, we fight. If we spent our time, energy and money telling people about Jesus – like the Bible says to do it – the whole problem of Unity would be moot. When the church started becoming doctrinaire – problems began. The devil used Catholicism to confuse – and so we have been ever since.

  9. 8-10-2012

    Jon,

    You said:
    “When the church started becoming doctrinaire – problems began.”

    Hmm. Do you mean when the human leaders of The Church began getting uppity and proclaiming their own ideals, all the while fleecing the flocks by using ‘God chose us, so listen to our teachings or be punished by God’ as their excuse and allowance?

    If we say that His Church stared in 33 AD (just for a number), when did The Church start getting invaded by man’s doctrines? Was it the 200’s? The 300’s? When would you say? These are not loaded questions; I am genuinely curious about this from your stance.

  10. 8-10-2012

    Unity is a struggle because denying the flesh is a struggle. The things that divide the body of Christ are fleshly. (Hmmm… that sounds almost paradoxical.)

    Unity with one another is a struggle because there is not unity with the Father and Son. How can two people be in unity with God and yet be divided? If there’s a horizontal division, then one or both have a vertical division problem.

  11. 8-10-2012

    I agree Alan, self has so many ugly faces. I’m still not sure that the song “I did it my way, ” was written by an unbeliever. . . .

  12. 8-10-2012

    This is why we must be careful to avoid the “us” and “them” mentality. If you are part of an organic/simple/New Testament style gathering…great. Many of us are not. But, we are not “them”…those who are part of the “organizational/institutional church”. We are you, you are us. If Jesus is Lord, we are all part of the same family, regardless of how we function (or even dysfunction).

    We equate unity with agreement. That is, if you agree with me, we are in unity. While agreement must take place, it mainly takes place at the core – the Lordship of Jesus Christ. While you may not agree with all the Christian Missionary Alliance (or any other denomination/organization/institution) does or stands for, it is not right to categorize the CMA as a “them”.

    Jesus makes us one. It is we who have raised up the walls. We are the ones who have rejected someone else’s revelation or conviction, exalting our own. We do this using nametags and language that suggests a “them” frame of mind.

  13. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    ” “Why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity – or love?”

    I wonder sometime whether they do. Maybe the ones who struggle only think they are God’s children??

    John is right: “Jesus makes us one.” There is no “us” and “them”. In Christ we are one!

  14. 8-11-2012

    John, Yes indeed, we are one, part of one family in Christ. And because we love, we have been made heralds, to warn those children who have been taken captive by the institutional church system. So today if you will hear His voice, come out of her my children and free yourselves for this false god, this idol named church. The Lord is calling to those whom He loves to leave those institution and come to Him outside the camp and be willing to bear His reproach.

  15. 8-11-2012

    Marc,

    Thanks for clarifying. I agree that we can learn much from the book of Acts, as well as the other books of Scripture.

    Donald,

    Yes, that is a powerful passage in Colossians. We studied Colossians together last year, and it was a very beneficial study.

    Jon,

    I agree that we often spend our time and energy on unnecessary things. Besides proclaiming the gospel to the lost, I think Scripture also exhorts us to strengthen those who are already believers. Put those together, and I think we’ve got a good idea of how we should be spending our time.

    Andrew,

    You said, “Unity with one another is a struggle because there is not unity with the Father and Son.” I agree.

    Jeffery,

    Maybe someone could sing that as a “special” one Sunday morning…

    John,

    I do not equate unity with agreement. In fact, I’ve written several post about how disagreement is not the same as disunity. The scriptural exhortations toward living in unity assume disagreements. They also assume a willingness to submit to God and to one another in spite of our disagreements.

    Aussie John,

    I’m sure there are some (perhaps many?) who are not Christians. The point of this post, though, is that unity was an issue to the people that the authors of Scripture wrote to, and the authors all identified their audiences as followers of Jesus. So, at least in those cases, disunity was a problem for real Christians.

    -Alan

  16. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    I am in complete agreement with your reply. What I was getting at when answering your question,“Why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity – or love?”,was that it has been my observation that many who claim to be Christian do not actually put any effort into demonstrating love, or unity, therefore don’t “struggle”.

  17. 8-11-2012

    Aussie John,

    Yes, I think there are probably some (perhaps many) who are not actually Christians.

    -Alan

  18. 8-11-2012

    Marc…In your words…

    “…we have been made heralds, to warn those children who have been taken captive…”

    On another of Alan’s blogs, I made mention that we should all take care not to make this and “us” vs. “them” mentality. While I agree with the essence of what you are saying, I just want to mention that your words have “we” and “those children”, which does bear a tone of us vs. them. Please…I am not trying to be mean or bossy – we are all part of this great Body of Christ, regardless of the package we come in.

    I do not believe that it is my job to “warn” anyone, but to do what is essential…encourage, build up, teach as opportunity arises. If I am to warn anyone – that is, those who I have “won the right” to speak into their lives – it would be in any case of direct sin. I am willing to discuss and share what I know, but the Holy Spirit must reveal and draw.

    There is over 1500 years of this rolling train some call the organized or institutional church. People know no different. The teachings and doctrines are deeply entrenched in peoples minds. But, many of these people love Jesus, nonetheless. These people are my people as much as I am a part of them. Jesus is at the center, regardless of the shape of the house (I am sure my metaphors are seemingly nuts). They are not “them” as I stand with a different “we”. It’s all “we”…Jesus made us one.

    Now, I dig what you are saying. The Church is in a mess. We should, at least, keep dialogues open, concerning the doctrines which have put some, if not many, off track. But, if we are to teach any main thing, I believe it should be the core issues. Mr. Knox often does this, as many of his blogs explain things like unity, love, serving one another, loving our neighbor, etc.

    I hope my own tone here does not make you feel attacked – I do not mean to be that way at all. I just want to explain what I see and as patiently and lovingly as I can express in writing, share my concerns.

  19. 8-12-2012

    @John,

    You said:
    “The Church is in a mess.”

    Prove it. Prove to me that Jesus is messing things up, as He is the only one who is building His Church, The Church, and it has nothing to do with us. For you to say that His Church is a mess is an accusation against Him, not against us. We are merely members of His Church, and cannot advance it or damage it without His consent or knowledge of it.

    If indeed His Church is a mess, it is news to me, because I find Her beautiful and amazing. You and I, however, are very messy. But at no time has our messiness infected His Bride or changed Her appearance one iota. If we could do such a thing, than He is not Who He says He is, and is failing as The Groom.

  20. 8-12-2012

    Interesting thought, Mr. Borsch. But, neither my thought nor any intention of my communication was to say that Jesus messes anything up. When I refer to the Church, I mean us. If we are the Church and we are a mess, this is why I say, the Church is a mess. If we are the Church, if we are a mess, if the Church is the Bride, if the Bride has to get herself ready…it would appear that the Church is a mess (As for the Church being the Bride of Christ, no scripture directly refers the Church as the Bride of Christ – I am not 100% either way, so further research is to be done). If the Church is the Bride, and the Bride has to get herself ready…obviously She has some clean-up and dress-up to do. Why prepare if already acceptable and beautiful? If Her appearance is unaffected, then why be made presentable?

    Just throwing out my thinking. I appreciate what you said. I will say, when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. That covers our messiness, for sure – in His eyes. His desire, however, is for us to be one…which we are not, if you go by our actions and attitudes toward one another. That is a large part of our mess. The next large part is our actions and attitudes toward our neighbors. Even if I do not share in some of these (not that I am without blame in these matters – I said, “if”), what my brothers do over yonder still reflects on me. Even though unity is fractured, in Christ we are still, “we”, or “us”. We are a mess and we are the Church. These are my thoughts. I am not pushing some sort of doctrine here.

  21. 8-12-2012

    John,

    Thank you for such a polite response. I think we disagree on verbiage. I view The Church as being something that Christ alone is building, according to His words to Peter. We are not building it. We have no ability to build it. We merely are part of it. Jesus alone is building it. So when you say, “The Church is a mess”, to me this is speaking against Jesus and His ability to build, maintain, love, and manage His Bride. That’s all.

    Here are some Scriptures that point to The Church as being The Bride of Christ. (At least, as I see it. Perhaps some others might shed more light on this. But I firmly believe that The Church, the One He is building, is His Bride.) I hope these help define my position better.

    *Ephesians 5:25 – As covenant sons we are told to love our wives as Christ loves The Church.

    *2 Corinthians 11:2 – “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” I’m sure you see the reference here.

    *Revelation 19:7-9 – “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.”

    Sonship and Marriage run throughout The New Covenant as themes. My 2 cents. :) Thanks for reading, John!

  22. 8-12-2012

    There it is…verbiage. I see your points, too. Thank you, as well…I appreciate being able to have an exchange with someone, without mortar fire occurring.

    Have a blessed week!

  23. 8-13-2012

    @John from 2BTRUE,

    I have been thinking about our small dialogue here, and wrote about it over at my place. SPOILER: You were right, and I was wrong.

    http://theunapologeticprophet.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/we-have-made-the-church-a-mess-indeed-indeed/

  24. 8-13-2012

    John, Thank you for your kind and generous comments. I hope I am learning to use terminology that is not devised in any way, but is uniting.The body of Christ, His Ekkleisa is not and never has been the problem. It is the imposter church system that captivates souls, and manipulates the Lord’s people for its own gain.

  25. 8-13-2012

    I still can’t get away from the fact that the ekklesiae of Corinth, Philippi, and perhaps others struggled with unity… and yet Paul identified them as ekklesia. Either Paul was wrong to recognize them as “ekklesia” or the ekklesia of Jesus Christ can have problems with divisiveness and a lack of unity.

    -Alan

  26. 8-13-2012

    Alan, Yes!!! Ekklesias can and most likely will struggle with unity among other issues. So long as they originate under One Head and that is Christ Himself, the are legitimate children. The defining difference is origin. Christ build the original ekklesia, and an imposter build the current church system.

  27. 8-13-2012

    built

  28. 8-14-2012

    Marc,

    Yes, anyone who is in Christ is a legitimate child of God, and part of his ekklesia.

    -Alan

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