Does God Really Want Unity?
Published on: Oct 16, 2008
Anyone who casually observes the history of the church will see that Christians are rarely united. Before Jesus was crucified he had a prayer of unity at the Last Supper.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (NIV)
When we compare His prayer with the reality of history, one must scratch one’s head and think that His prayer has never been answered. And throughout church history man has tried to fulfill this prayer. It seems by some New Testament verses that we are told to do so. Consider what Paul said to the Ephesians.
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (KJV)
That certainly seems like a command to do so. Even the Old Testament makes similar statements.
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (KJV)
Prov 6:16 & 19
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: ….
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (KJV)
So why hasn’t the Lord’s prayer been answered? Is Jesus powerless? Did God change His mind? Does the Church need to try harder? The answer to all these questions is, NO! The Lord answered His own prayer at the resurrection. The Church has been united ever since Jesus rose from the dead. How can that be? In the Spirit. Paul tells us:
1 Cor 6:17
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (KJV)
Notice, too, in the Ephesians verse quoted above it says “…to keep the unity of the Spirit…”. All who are participants in the new birth are one with the Father, already in our spirits. So why did Paul say, “Endeavouring to keep the unity…”? Because we do not have unity in our souls. Our souls are in the process of transformation.
Unity in the flesh is hostile to the Spirit of God. God destroyed the unity that the post-Flood descendants had in their building the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11), and He will destroy the unity of nations during the end times as declared in the book of Revelations.
During the 20th century there was an ecumenical movement to unite the different Protestant denominations. Many genuine believers jumped on board this movement which set aside doctrinal differences to unite in the common cause of helping the afflicted and suffering. This movement was called the Social Gospel, and ultimately caused many mainline denominations to spiritually die.
I am convinced that it is not God’s will for denominations to unite. Just as He keeps the nations separated, He keeps congregations separated. Why would He do that? Because most of what is done in the name of Christ is the work of the flesh. And no flesh will glory in His presence.
I have always been struck by this verse in 1 Corinthians:
1 Cor 11:19
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (KJV)
The NIV changes “heresies” to “differences” but the Greek is actually hairesis. So what does Paul mean? Is he encouraging heresies? No, he is not. He is simply acknowledging the same thing that Jesus said to His disciples.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (KJV)
Those who are manifested as approved by the contrast of the heresy, are those who follow the Spirit. Religious tendencies are the natural leanings of the Old Man. When Paul told the Ephesians that we are to “Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3), he is encouraging the Church of Ephesus to consciously, i.e., with our souls, to abide in the spiritual unity that already exists, hence the rest of his verse says:
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (KJV)
The prayer of Jesus for unity was already answered in the resurrection. So for the Church to abide in the unity of God and Church that already exists we have to deny self and respond to the Spirit together. The heresies provide the contrast to those approved because all heresies are the work of the flesh. Those who are following the Spirit will be the ones rejected by their own household, and congregations.
Throughout Church history, there have been many pockets of believers who have been united in the Spirit by denying their own lives. This unity will never be found by denominations or any other organizations. For all organizations, even those directed by the Spirit, eventually become works of the flesh.
The ecumenical movement that began in the 20th century has continued to expand beyond the Protestant congregations to include Catholicism, Judaism, and will include Islam and Hinduism soon. For the unity is not based upon the Spirit of God. The movement never intended to be unity of Spirit, for it abandoned doctrine from the get-go. Doctrine is not the Spirit, of course, but the bench marks of the Spirit. The emergent church groups that have disdained doctrines, and even the inerrancy of the Bible, for the primary relationship of Christ, have abandoned their yardsticks and fences that protect them from deception.
Be not deceived, for we are warned that Satan is an angel of light, and that his ministers appear to be ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). God does not want unity in the flesh. He only wants unity in the Spirit. But if you throw out the safeguards He has provided by both the Scriptures and the wisdom of saints past, you will think you are serving God when in truth you are serving a god of your own imagination and demonic inspiration. Beware of the warning Jesus gave:
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (KJV)
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (KJV)
Comments to Original Post
Submitted on 10/16/2008
Excellent post. I honestly agree with everything in it. Good stuff here. As well, encouraging to those of us whom may feel rejected by or questioned of our faith family/loved ones or friends who have not yet “grasped” the Truth and Reality of Father Son Holy Spirit’s Love, Relationship and Grace.
Submitted on 10/17/2008
Thanks Amy. Yet even in small fellowships there is a tendency to think that disagreement undermines the unity of the fellowship. But unity has to be in the recognition of the Spirit, and there will always be those who do not recognize the Spirit when others do, hence the differences, or “heresies”.