Unity in DiversityForeword
Remember, don't take my word for it, study the scriptures that I cite. Dig deeper in God's Word.
The Plea for Unity
Our Lord prayed for the men that he had called to be his apostles, asking that they be united.
John 17:20, 21
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
This was a tall order considering that, up to this point, they were divided over who was going to be preeminent among them (read Matthew 18:1-4; 20:20-24; Luke 9:46-48). Even at their last supper with our Lord, none would humble themselves to wash the others' feet. None even washed the Lord's feet. Then Jesus taught a great lesson of humility by washing their feet (John 13:3-17). The twelve (-Judas+Mathias) did get their act together, and together they opened the doors to the kingdom on the day of Pentecost. That day would find three thousand souls added to the church and united in the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Acts Chapter 2). Notice that the Lord's prayer was not only for his apostles, but also for all believers. Paul would plead for unity among the Gentile Churches (read Philippians 1:27; I Corinthians 1:9,10 and Ephesians 4:1-3). United, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, and with one God and Father
(Ephesians 4:4-6). They had their problems, divisions, false teachers, and falling away, and they left their first love, just like us today. Because, after all, they were just like us. The plea for unity was renewed during the Restoration Movement, unity in one doctrine, and that doctrine none other than the scriptures. There are those today that plead for unity, but they preach "unity in diversity", fellowship regardless of what doctrine is taught as long as there is a belief in Jesus Christ. Their claim is that doctrine is not a "test of fellowship", only the belief in Jesus being the Christ, The Son of God. What do the scriptures say about "unity in diversity"? What is the "test of fellowship" according to the scriptures?
Unity in Diversity in the Church in the Scriptures
- First of all, they had been a diversity of sinners; fornicators, adulterers, pedophiles, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, and etcetera. Then they were united in that they had been washed, sanctified, justified in Jesus (read I Corinthians 6:9-11). Some "backslid", but they were not cast aside, they were restored (Galatians 6:1; James 5:16). Some "backslid" and would not repent, but they were not written off. Their sin was not condoned, but every effort was made to bring them back into fellowship with Jesus and his church (II Thessalonians 3:14,15; I Corinthians 5; II Corinthians 2:4-8; I Timothy 1:19,20).
- The church in the scriptures were men and women, diverse in race, nationality, and social and economic situations. They were unified in Jesus Christ, by faith in him and putting him on in baptism (Romans 10:11-13; I Corinthians 12:12-14; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 3:1-6; Colossians 3:11). Mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, agape love, and peace, all found in God would keep them together (Romans 12:9-21; Colossians 3:12-15; Philippians 2:2,3; I Peter 3:8-9).
- There was a diversity of level of knowledge of the word just as it is in the body of Christ today. Those that had been in church longer had a fuller knowledge of the word than those who were young in the faith. This led to some confusion about eating meat offered to idols and keeping holidays (read Romans 14; I Corinthians 8:4-13). The problem was not going to go away over night, but would require time for the young (in the faith) christians to mature in handling the word. They would have to work through the problem with love and tolerance (Romans 14:3; 15:1,2; I Corinthians 8:1). One thing should be noted, those that were weak in the faith were expected to mature (Ephesians 4:14,15). To not grow up in the faith was condemned (I Corinthians 3:1-6; Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1,2;).
- There was a diversity of roles and abilities among members of the body of Christ in the Bible. In the early days of the church, christians were endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit that were to be used for the perfecting and the edifying of the body of Christ (read Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11-15). It seems though, that they let these gifts divide them instead of uniting them. Instead of edification there was envy, jealously, and pride among them over these gifts. What would keep unity? They were reminded that a body is made up of many members that have different functions, unique functions of equal importance. The foot cannot do the work of the hand, and if the foot does not serve its function which member would perform the function of the foot? Each member has to work in the function for which it was intended for the body to function correctly. They were also reminded that there was something that is much more important than any of the miraculous gifts, love (agape, read Romans 12:9,10; I Corinthians 12:31 and Chapter 13). There is not any envy or pride in love, but each member seeks to serve the other. Today we don't have miraculous gifts but there are still evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers. No matter what work we have ability to accomplish, we are to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13,14).
In II Corinthians 6:14-17, the Holy Spirit through Paul told the Corinthians they should not be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers, that there could not be any partnership between righteousness and unrighteousness, or fellowship between darkness and light. We are not to put together what God has put asunder (ante type in Deuteronomy 22:9-11). So, who are the unbelievers?
Christ our Example
Looking back in John 17:20-26, Jesus prayed to The Father that all who believe on him would be one as he and The Father were one. How did Jesus achieve unity with The Father? I believe that this question can be best answered in the words of Jesus' prayer that he repeated three times in the garden before his crucifixion, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42). Christ came to Earth to do the will of his father in heaven (John 5:30; 6:38). His Father's business (Luke 2:49) was his whole purpose in life (John 4:31-34), and his friends and family are those that follow him in obedience to The Father (Matthew 12:47-50; John 15:14). What criteria do you use in choosing with whom you have fellowship?