The prayer of the Lord in John 17:20-21 clearly states the Lord’s desire towards church unity among Christians and it is a very beautiful verse to read:
John 17:20-21: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”.
This beautiful Scripture reveals that God’s Will is certainly for the church to be one. However, are there exceptions to this unity? Is unity the same as uniformity? How does it work?
This is a super important subject, since there have been huge divisions in history like the Protestant Reformation, so it’s important to answer the questions and issues that revolve around unity in the church.
The answers for this issue, as with any other issue, are always in the Word of God(the only one you should listen to).
As you will see in this post, unity and uniformity are NOT the same. This post will also reveal several Biblical truths on why unity may not always be what you have in mind, and why uniformity should be goal for the church, and not unity.
For this reason let’s take a look at the definition of unity.
1. Uniformity Should Be The Goal, Not Unity
What Is Unity?
Merriam-Webster defines unity as: “A condition of harmony or accord”, and “the quality or state of being made one”.
What is Uniformity?
The Free Dictionary defines uniformity:
“Always the same, as in character or degree, unvarying”.
As well as the Collins English Dictionary:
“If there is uniformity in something such as a system, organization, or group of countries, the same rules, ideas, or methods are applied in all parts of it”.
What does this mean for the church?
This means that according to the Bible, we should all strive for uniformity, not necessarily unity.
Two churches can be united to one another without being uniform. A perfect example of the difference between unity and uniformity can be two countries: Ireland and England, which are united, and together form the United Kingdom, but aren’t necessarily uniform in their idiosyncrasy, dialect, or laws.
“Unity”, like Ecumenism, recognizes the differences but attempts to make peace with those who differ with doctrinally, i.e. having harmony with those differences.
That’s why the concept of Christian unity can prove dangerous, really quick.
In fact, what they each mean has different implications for the church.
Upon further study of the Lord’s Word, we find that our Lord provided important rules regarding this subject.
2. Christ Set The Uniformity For The Church In John 14:15
He definitely made the church uniform when He stated:
John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments”.
Our amazing Lord made it clear that those who loved Him, would keep his Commandments, which are uniform.
Those who pretend to, but don’t actually love Him would not keep His Commandments no matter how much they try to disguise it.
This is a harsh truth, but it’s a fact because the Bible confirms that you can’t come up with your own invented beliefs and still call yourself a Christian.
If there is a group of “Christians” that don’t conform to the uniformity of beliefs of the church, then they don’t belong to the church.
3. Paul Warned That The Church Wouldn’t Always Be Uniform Or United
The Apostle Paul did actually warn that eventually the church wouldn’t be uniform (or united) in Acts 20:29-30:
Acts 20:29: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves”.
Having read our Lord’s desire for oneness in John, however, both our Lord Christ (and the Apostle Paul) stated that there would be extenuating circumstances that would harm the uniformity of the church.
4. Other Prophetic Reasons That Would Affect Uniformity (And Unity) In The Church
History has revealed that hardened hearts, the devil, sin, lack of prayer, lukewarmness, and other reasons contribute to doctrinal division within the church.
Not Every Christian Has The Holy Spirit
Our Lord stated in John 16:13 that The Holy Spirit will guide us towards ALL truth.
John 16:13: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come”.
Not everyone has the Holy Spirit. Not everyone lets himself or herself be guided to the truth by the Holy Spirit. Not everyone loves Jesus.
So that’s one of the reasons why there isn’t sometimes uniformity within the church.
Biblical Prophecy Warned That The devil Would Try To Break The Unity
1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”.
It’s UP to us to fight for remaining united.
5. Does Christian Unity Mean We Have To Have Universal Acceptance?
Should you, as a Christian, always try to unite with everyone? The answer is no.
Paul sheds light on this issue on 1 Corinthians 5:11. He states:
1 Corinthians 5:11: “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person”.
And also our Lord himself said in Matthew 10: 34-36:
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household”.
When the teachings from the Lord conflict with someone, we are instructed not to EVEN tolerate this. We find this on Revelation 2:20:
Revelation 2:20: “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds”.
This woman, that our amazing Lord calls Jezebel, was apparently a “Christian” that was promoting demonic practices within that church in ancient Greece.
And the Lord rebuked them severely for tolerating what she was teaching.
So should you strive for unity or even TOLERATE when other “Christians” doctrines, ideals, beliefs, openly contradict the Word of God? The answer is no.
Dark Movements That Promote “Unity” and are not from God:
A movement from the catholic church that while it recognizes the differences, it promotes that there should be “harmony” between all of these differences.
A religion that has “no creed” but instead encourages everybody to believe what they want. It doesn’t recognize the differences and believe we should all be “one”.
In conclusion, my dear Christian, promoting unity without knowing what it actually entails can prove to be a dangerous endeavor.
Let’s pray for always adhering to Biblical values and for the souls of those who sadly, knowingly or unknowingly believe unBiblical doctrines that put their souls in danger.
This post was part of the November 2018 Synchroblog.
Here is the list of other writers and authors who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. Go read them all to see what others think about church unity.