Our sermon title today is: “Be One: The Priority Of Christian Unity. Part 2”
We are finishing what we started last week on the topic of Christian unity. Why it is important in the Bible, why it is important to me and my pastoral approach, and why it needs to be important to everyone in this church.
A number of years ago I was driving along *at the speed limit* when someone cut me off. Have you ever been cutoff? My initial reaction was something like, “Who does this guy think he is?” Have you ever reacted like that? I felt in that moment like he was my personal enemy. But then I noticed something in his back window that changed my whole attitude. It was an Old English “D”. He was a Tigers fan. I am a Tigers fan. He and I, together, love the Detroit Tigers. All of a sudden his sinful driving wasn’t as important and my harsh feelings softened. All of a sudden I was not relating to this guy based on what he did to offend me, but, I was relating to him based on something he had in common with me: Detroit Tigers. And because of what we had in common, I thought and acted differently towards him
Christian unity refers to two things: what we have in common that is unchangeable because God has accomplished this for us, and, Christian unity also refers to the way we maintain our day-to-day relationships with each other. On the one hand God has made us one. At the moment a person trusts Christ for salvation they are brought into unity with all other believers: they have the same faith in the same Christ, they have the same heavenly Father, the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the same forgiveness for their sins, the same status with God and so on. As a matter of fact, the purpose of our recent Adult Study at 10am called “Who Are You: Your Identity In Christ” explored all the new identities we ALL have merely because we have ALL received Jesus Christ as our Savior. We are to see ourselves in this new way because we are not what we used to be, but God has made us something new. And we are not only to see ourselves in this way, but we are to see each other. For instance, in my illustration: my identity is that of a Tiger’s fan. I am someone who loves the Tigers. And I have a unity with that other driver because that other driver also loves the Tigers. Whatever other differences there may be between us, we are one as Tiger’s fans.
Now unity also refers to our interaction with each other. Christian unity is a daily practice for us, where we apply NT teachings in our relationships with each other. By doing so, we achieve a harmony and “unity in action” you could say. This unity in action, this unity in how we think and act with each other is born out of the positional unity we all have that God has done for us. In other words, whether we get along or not we have a unity in Christ with each other that we can’t change. But because of that unity in Christ we are commanded to get along. We are commanded to show that unity in our relationships with each other. You could say we are commanded to prove our positional unity by our practicing unity. Referring again to my illustration, you can see this when my attitude towards the other drive changed. Rather than feeling hostility and “me versus you” and “hey, how about I ride your tail for awhile,” I felt like we were joined together by something. I felt like we were partners together in something. I felt like we were on the same team because we loved the same team. Our unity as Tigers fans resulted in how I acted and felt towards that person in a positive way.
Last week we saw that unity relates directly to joy, worship, centering Jesus in fellowship, maturity as believers, evangelistic, overcoming interpersonal difficulties in relationships. Today I want to finish the last 3 points, which are: (1) The Trinity’s Unity Is The Basis Of The Believers’ Unity, (2) Unity Prioritizes Truth, and (3) Unity Is A Sign Against Persecutors
(7)THE TRINITY’S UNITY IS THE BASIS OF THE BELIEVERS’ UNITY
Our unity, is based on Their unity. Turn to John 17:20-23 with me. The basis of our unity with each other is found in the unity the Father, the Son and the Spirit have with each another. The unity within the Godhead is both essential and relational. It is essential in that all three share the same essence as God – they are all three one God. All three have unity in who they are as equal Persons of the Triune Godhead. What makes God God is true for all three of these Persons – the Father, Son and Spirit. Yet remember, they are not 3 God’s, the Bible does not teach a Tri-Theism, that we believe in 3 different God’s. It teaches there is One God, and that One God is Three Person. You can refer back to our sermon on that at the website for a more in depth study of that very distinct teaching. You cannot deny that teaching and be a Christian.
But then the Father Son and Spirit also have a relational unity. They function perfectly together in their activity and work. There is no disharmony in how they go about doing what they do. They operate in perfect unity of purpose, plan, affection, desire. What the Father wants, the Son and the Spirit want.
Now we see a functional difference between all three, something the theologians call “The economy of the Trinity.” For instance, the Bible says the Father SENT the Son – not the other way around. The Bible says the Son OBEYED the Father – not the other way around. The Bible says the Father and the Son SENT the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not send either the Son or the Father. All three are equally God, and all three do different work, but all three do different work in absolute perfect unity of purpose.
Now in seeing this, it is supposed to have an effect on us. Our unity with each other is based on and motivated by the unity of the Trinity we worship.
But it pushes further, after seeing the unity within the Godhead, notice next the unity each of us believers has with the Godhead. So each of us Christians exist in a unity with the unified Trinity. “May they also be in us” Jesus says in verse 21. As a matter of fact, if you look at verse 19 Jesus speaks of our unity with Him “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” What Christ is we are. We are not gods – don’t go dumb on me. What did Christ say? He said, “I sanctify myself, so that they may be sanctified.” What Christ is (sanctified), is what we are (sanctified). In other words, because we are IN CHRIST, which is the NT teaching of what a Christian is, we are set apart from the world and don’t belong to it and instead we belong to the Father the Son and the Spirit. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what Jesus was saying in verses 14-18, [READ]. So we do not have a unity with this godless, dark world. We don’t belong to it, we are not “of it” meaning we are a species of human that the world cannot produce and instead only heaven can produce. These verses press home to our minds how alienated from this world we are because of Christ. YET, how at home we are with the Son and the Father. AND WITH EACH OTHER!
The unity continues to develop though: each of us are in fact already in full unity together with each other because God dwells in each of us. Like each other or not, we are all in unity together. Whether we get along or not, whether we like each other or not, whether we work well together or not, the fact is we are all united simply by virtue of being Christians with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and our being
(8)UNITY EMPHASIZES TRUTH (Eph 4:13)
Unity emphasizes truth. Turn to Ephesians 4:13 with me and follow along… [READ]
Unity is maturity. Not only in behavior, but also in doctrine. Turn to Ephesians 4:11-13 with me. “UNTIL we all REACH UNITY
He said, “UNITY” which means “agreement, or unanimity” What are we agreeing on? He says “unity in the FAITH” which means our set of beliefs and the actual conviction we have of them. Then he adds, “AND the KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD” which means how we each understand who Jesus Christ is and what He did. So we are to have unity, unanimity, agreement on what is true.
Biblically, unity among the believers emphasizes truth. The preaching and teaching and discipleship within a local church is critical to the life of that local church, and when it is a constant source of truth it is a great benefit to the believers. If there is no truth, there is no unity. Actually, if there is no truth, there often times is unity, its just that the unity is around lies and falsehoods. Second Timothy 4:3-4 says “They refused to listen to the truth and surrounded themselves with teachers who will tell them what their itching ears wanted to hear.” Those false churches filled with false believers have a unity around false teachings and so they find false teachers to teach them those false teachings.
The only biblical unity – the only true God-pleasing unity – is when God’s revealed truth is revered and agreed on by all the believers.
APPLICATION: This automatically means that UNITY IS NOT ECUMENICAL. Ecumenism, the idea that all churches and religions should unite and join together regardless of their doctrinal differences, is a false unity. It is unity that disregards truth, devalues truth, promotes falsehood, and does not honor God’s revelation. Ecumenism must be rejected in order to maintain true unity that is grounded in truth.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: Separate from false teachers to strengthen unity. It is not the obligation of people standing on biblical truth to unite with false teachers for the sake of “unity.” It is the obligation of false teachers to repent of their false teachings to re-enter into the unity of believers that is built on truth. It is also the responsibility of believers who stand on truth to separate from those who compromise truth.
Think for instance of the congregation in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Paul describes this congregation as “not putting up with sound doctrine” which means they won’t listen to truth and instead want false teachings that are popular in their day. They will “surround themselves with teachers who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear,” meaning they want their worldly views reinforced by the teachers they hire. They are darkened in their understanding, they are blind to truth, their hearts are hardened, they are sinning in their unbelief and stubbornness towards truth. They are false believers following the doctrines of demons who are led by ambassadors of Satan who masquerade as apostles of Christ.
- “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in doing so have departed from the faith.” (1 Tim 6:20-21)
- “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more ungodly. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth” (2 Tim. 2:16-17)
- Then turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-9
- Jesus rebuked the church of Thyatira. He said, “I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.” (Rev. 2:20)
- Jude 19 says of false teachers, “These are the people who divide you…”
- Second John describes separating from false teachers in a way that will make many Christians today uncomfortable. Turn there with me…verses 6-11… Tolerating and “uniting” with and “partnering” with and “supporting” and “approving” of false teachers makes you an accomplice in their wicked work. It means that you are now responsible for widening their audience and encouraging them in their work of spreading lies.
- “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that have nothing to do with them. You can be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: At EFC we emphasize the majors of which we all agree on. The rule here is “First things first, second things second.” This is important because there are simply a set of truths that we don’t allow for any differences on: the Triune nature of God, the Bible as divinely authored and authoritative, Jesus Christ as both God and man; His death burial and resurrection as a substitute for our sins, salvation is only by faith in Jesus Christ, the future coming of Jesus and more. On these there is airtight unity in our fellowship here. Because to reject or think differently on any of these puts you outside of essential FIRST truths of the Christian faith and in the realm of cults.
And yet we have quite a bit of diversity as well. There is diversity on secondary issues here. This diversity does not threaten the unity we have so long as each of us keeps our views on secondary things second.
APPLICATION: The necessity of truth also means that UNITY IS NOT THE SAME AS NON-CONFRONTATION. False teachings need to be dealt with. Shying away from refuting them is not the “unity-thing-to-do.” In the same way, where there is immoral, godless living, it is not the “unity-thing-to-do” to ignore it and not address it. Leaven spreads through the whole batch – sin spreads through the whole body. If a local church will not preserve sound doctrine and righteous living then there is no real unity in that church.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATIONS: At times, DISUNITY is necessary to PROMOTE UNITY (1 Cor. 5). When people threaten the unity of a local church through false teachings, or immoral or unethical behavior, they must be confronted. If they don’t repent they must be removed from fellowship and separated from SO THAT the faithful believers can enjoy unity together.
APPLICATION: Make the truth of God’s word, not the truth
(9) UNITY IS A SIGN AGAINST PERSECUTORS (Php 1:27-28)
Turn with me to Philippians 1:27-28, “…” Notice in v27 the unity language: “stand firm IN ONE SPIRIT…” and “striving TOGETHER AS ONE…” When believers stand as one, in unity, unafraid and unwavering in the faith when people persecute them, THAT is a SIGN. It is a sign to those who persecute them that those who are doing the persecution will be destroyed.
HOW TO BUILD AND KEEP UNITY:
- Adhere to and promote truth and sound doctrine. Don’t adhere to or teach false doctrines. Our unity is first and foremost built upon the truth. Out from that grows our relational unity.
- Pursue righteous living. Do not engage in or promote immoral, ungodly behavior. A little leaven spreads through the whole batch (1 Cor 5). A local church is united in the pursuit of righteousness. When one or more pursue sin they become threats to the unity of the local body.
This is why Church Discipline is a necessary function in a local church. It corrects the sinning person and restores them back to a pursuit of righteousness, which strengthens the unity of believers. If they refuse to correct course then removing them from fellowship and separating from them is how unity in the church is protected. This is why a rot begins in churches that won’t deal with godless behavior. A local church cannot ignore doing church discipline according to the bible when someone in the church is persisting in false teachings or ungodly behavior.
- Do not treat second things like first things. Or to say it another way, do not treat marginal topics like they are core and central to the faith and fellowship of believers. If you have a position on some doctrinal issue that is a secondary issue, then keep it secondary. This goes for personal hobby horses, interests, or pet peeves as well. Do not make these things the measure of this church or other believers. Do not build your sense of superiority as a Christian over other Christians because you have this one perspective on some obscure or marginal issue. some favorite teaching that is not a main thing in the faith.
- Practice the virtues that the bible says must govern our relationships. Patience, forbearance, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, love, considering others better than yourself, caring for the interests of others, and so on. We have to practice them with each other. Because any real relationship with anyone is going to require it. ***And have enough humility to realize that there are ways you fall short that others have to put up with too. Which leads to the next point:
- Don’t make everyone else have to practice those virtues with you all the time. Grow up. Stop making everyone else have to be patient, forebear, humble, gentle, forgive, love unconditionally, and so on. We are all going to need others to be patient with us at times. But I’m talking to people who force everyone else ALL THE time. Stop forcing everyone else to always have to practice those things towards you because you. Grow up.
Christian: are you making EFC a more united church? Or are you making it more difficult for EFC to be a united church?