5 Components of Discipleship: Unity

The final component of discipleship in the local church is unity. The believers in the early church had all things common and were together. Notice what the text says in Acts chapter two, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.” [1]The focus here is on verse 44-46 where it mentions how they came together as one family and shared in meeting each other’s needs. This was a church that was ‘together’, they were united. In order for a local church to be a disciples making church, there must be unity. There are several things about unity that we see throughout the pages of scripture that we should consider.

The first thing to consider when it comes to unity is that unity pleases God. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity![2]God is pleased when His children are united. He desires that we would be one. Jesus even prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one. There is a perfect unity in the Godhead. It is at the heart of God for His people to share in such unity. When the church is divided, God is not pleased. I do not believe that there is ever a case when a local church is divided to the point of a church split where God is pleased. Very little good can come from a church that is divided.

Secondly, unity happens when believers share in each other’s burdens and joys. Paul gave us some very good advice on how we are to live in relation to one another in Romans chapter twelve. Notice what he says in verse 9-16: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.[3]Notice the emphasis that is given on love. We are to love one another with a genuine love. This genuine love is revealed as we care for one another and seek the best for one another. As we grow in love, we will then ‘rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.’ We will share in each other’s joys and in each other’s sufferings. As our love for one another grows we become more and more forgiving and gracious. When someone wrongs us, we leave vengeance up to God and we do not repay evil with more evil. In other words, when believers are together in unity, the love of God is expressed in amazing ways. As we are united, we are then able to real live out the Christian life. No longer will we just be Christian in name only, but we will ‘be’ Christian in our actions and love toward one another. As the church is united, people will do life together. There will be real authentic community as God’s people are united.

As believers, we should also seek unity in all essentials. Paul appeals to the Corinthian church concerning this very thing. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” [4]There were those in the church of Corinth that argued over who they followed. We see this same thing taking place in churches across America today. We have our theological labels such as dispensationalist, Armenian, or reformed. We divide ourselves into various groups such as evangelical, fundamental, conservative, liberal, moderate, etc. Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to not follow after some man-made theology, but to simply follow Christ. Personally, I am dispensational in my view of scripture, but I do not consider myself as a dispensationalist. I believe in the fundamentals of God’s Word, but I do not consider myself as a fundamentalist. I practice church governance in a Baptistic way, but I do not consider myself as a Baptist. We should not look at scripture through man-made theological lenses. We should view the scriptures simply for what it says. I am a follower of Jesus, a born-again believer, and a Bible believer. When it comes to unity in the local church, we should major on the majors and minor on the minors. In other words, there are some areas that are non-negotiable, however, there are those grey areas where we can agree to disagree and continue to work together. Those non-negotiables are those areas in which we draw the line in the sand. It is those core truths of scripture that we must agree on. If we cannot agree on those core truths, then separation is necessary. So, what are those essentials? What are those core truths that we must agree on? What are the essentials? Time will not permit us to look at each essential in detail (that can be a whole other study). However, those core essentials that we must agree on in order to have unity in the local church is listed as follows: a literal six-day creation week and a young earth, sin came from Adam and death by sin, Israel is God’s chosen nation through which He used to bring redemption to the world, the attributes of God, the trinity, the Deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the death of Christ on the cross, the resurrection of Christ, justification by faith alone, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration, the church as God’s called-out ones to be used to bring the Gospel to the world, the second coming of Christ, and the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture. These, I believe, are the things that we must agree on in order to be able to work together in unity. As believers, we should seek after such unity. We should focus on the things that matter most rather than argue over differences of opinions. In order to be a disciple making church there must be unity in the essentials.

Another truth concerning unity in the local church that we should consider is that there can be unity even in great diversity. One of the unique and special things about the church is that we are all different. God has given each of us different personalities and gifts that can contribute to the church in unique and special ways. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians chapter three. “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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.”[5]He goes on to say, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” [6]Every joint or part of the body has something to contribute in order that the church may be strengthened in love. The universal body of Christ is very diverse. We all come from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds that influence our way of thinking and way of doing things. Such diversity is also seen local churches. A local church has both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, male and female, young and old, etc. The fact is, we are all different because God made us that way. A disciple making church is one that will embrace the diversity of the church. It is one that understands that everyone has something that they can contribute to the body, no matter who they are.

A final thought concerning unity in the local church is found in Philippians 2:1-2. Unity is a distinctive mark of true believers. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”[7]We are to be of one mind. Again, such unity focuses on the essentials of our faith. We can be of one mind because we believe in those core essentials. Those who do not believe in those core essentials are either unbelievers or are believers who are deceived and need to be brought to the light. However, if someone separates his or herself from other believers over differences of opinion on non-essentials then they may not be true believers. True believers will be of the same mind. True believers will focus on what matters most. In other words, a true believer will not break fellowship with someone who uses a different version of the Bible than they use, or uses a different style of music than they do, or wears different clothes, etc. They may not attend the same church. Each one may gravitate toward a local church that is more aligned with their particular opinions; however, true believers will not ignore or break true Christian fellowship with someone over things that are not essential. True believers will be of the same mind. We may not agree on every little detail, but we do agree on the essentials. It is because of such unity that we are able to work together for the cause of Christ despite our differences of opinion.

Christian unity is often hard to come by. However, it is a must in the disciple making church. A local church that is making a difference for the cause of Christ and making disciples is one that is united around the core fundamentals of the faith. It is one that focuses on scripture and on what matters most and does not divide itself over things that are not essential.

 

 


[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ac 2:42–47). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ps 133:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ro 12:9–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 1:10–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 4:3–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 4:11–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Php 2:1–2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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