Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 12, 1970
NUMBER 27, PAGE 9-10

A Quest For Unity — 1

Larry R. Devore

That we should he united in the one faith is a truth taught too plainly in the Scriptures to be denied. That brethren are concerned about unity and fellowship is evident from the many articles on these subjects in recent weeks and months. Brethren are cautious and apprehensive that a zeal for unity may lay groundwork for compromise on the part of some. I share such views, to a degree. It is easy to spend too much time and paper and ink on any one subject while neglecting others. However, this should not dissuade us from studying the Bible teachings on such subjects.

The word "unity" in Eph. 4:3,13, is from the Greek "HENOTES" literally meaning "ONE" (Vine's Ex. Dict. of N. T. Words, Part 4, pg. 171). The dictionary defines unity as, "A state or quality of general concord and mutual understanding; the state of being one; harmony; agreement." The word UNITY is found only three times in Scripture - in Psalms 133:1 and Eph. 4:3,13. However the theme or idea of unity is taught throughout the Bible. Jesus prayed for unity; John 17:20-21. The scope of his prayer encompasses all believers. The apostle Paul gave instructions to the churches that they might work toward and seek unity. Read I Cor. 1:1; I Cor. 4:6; Phil. 3:16 Psa. 133:1. The Psalmist said that unity is both good (for us) and pleasant. Therefore, it is something we should seek to achieve. Every child of God should seek after and work for unity among brethren.

Let us keep in mind, in studying unity, that we are not speaking of "union" (a state of being joined together) but rather the "unity of the spirit," which is the kind of unity which is pleasing to God. It is entirely possible for people to agree together (have union) in a religious way on some other basis than upon the Word of God. So this would he union, these folks would he united in a sense, hut this would not be the "unity of the spirit." The "unity of the spirit" comes by following the Spirit's teaching (i.e. the New Testament). ft cannot be achieved in any other way.

Our brethren one hundred years ago often used this plea; In Faith, Unity, In Opinions, Liberty, In All Things, Charity (love)". While this plea is still heard, it is too infrequently applied and practiced. I think especially the part about "In Opinions, Liberty"; too often' brethren are anxious to bind their opinions upon others.

How Is Unity Established?

How is unity established? First of all, by our obedience to the gospel plan of salvation. "Faith comes by hearing..." (Romans 10:17). The word of God is that which produces faith in our hearts. This faith in Jesus Christ will lead us to repentance of our sins, and will lead us to confess our faith orally, and to be immersed into Christ for the remission of our past sins. (Heb. 11:6; Ac. 17:30; Ac. 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27.) When we come to God by faith in Christ and put Him on in baptism, then and there, we are united with God and Christ (Romans 6:17-18; Ac. 2:47). From that time on, as long as we remain faithful and steadfast, we remain in unity and fellowship with God and Jesus Christ, regardless of what anyone may say or do or call us or tell us.

Having put Christ on in baptism, we are united with, and have fellowship with Christ. Fellowship, from the Greek word KOINONIA, is de-defined as "Communion, fellowship, sharing in common." (Vine's Ex. Dict. of N. T. Words, page 2, page 90). Brethren, however, do not always define "Fellowship" this way. Some brethren think "fellowship" means "coffee and donuts", but they have missed the point altogether. Others feel that fellowship means association, and that association carries with it the idea of endorsement. This is not necessarily true. I John 1:7 teaches me that I am in fellowship with every brother and sister in Christ on earth that is in fellowship with God. This is true even though I have never met a great many of them, I do not associate with them. Yet, we have "fellowship one with another." This does not mean that I necessarily agree with their every belief or action. They may be worshipping with one container on the Lord's table, be opposed to Bible classes, may not believe in in-door baptistries, et cetera. But we are in fellowship because we are united on New Testament fundamentals (i.e. Faith in Christ and His Word, and obedience to His commands.)

That Christians will sometimes disagree, and even seriously so, is indicated by the language of Paul in Eph. 4:13. We must endeavor to keep brethren together and united till we come to the unity of the faith, that is, until we become mature Christians, having attained wisdom in being able to distinguish between matters of faith and opinion. That brethren have often failed to stay together, united, is shamefully evident, and indicates that some of us, or all of us, have not done that which God has charged us to do. In the New Testament we are taught to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11), so we dare not compromise on doctrinal or moral truth. Yet, look at the church at Corinth. They were plagued with numerous problems, factional parties, etc. (I Cor. 1:10-13). Now, did Paul say, "You brethren that are Apollosites go over yonder and meet separately."? You know and I know that he did not. He gave them divine instructions as to how to solve their problems, and prayed that the brethren at Corinth would follow them. Division is not the answer to a congregation's problems. Many times physical division may seem like the only answer, but is it a scriptural answer to the problems? Division cannot be avoided or thwarted by "creed letters", or "creeds in the deeds" or any other kind of opinionated agreements, written or unwritten. Division can be avoided by following the instructions from the One who is the Head of the church. (Eph. 1:22-23).

--1802 Caroline Street, South Bend, Indiana