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FACTORS INVOLVED IN CHRISTIAN UNITY (1)
Victor M. Eskew
A. Within the local congregation, God has brought together many different kinds of people.
1. Outside the body of Christ, many of these individuals would be estranged from one another.
2. But, in Christ all are made one.
a. This happened in the first century between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14).
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.
b. Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
B. This unity of believers is precious. The Lord wants unity to be maintained among His people.
1. Jesus prayed for oneness (John 17:21).
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
2. The first century church demonstrated this unity (Acts 2:46).
And they, continuing daily in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
3. Paul longed for unity at Corinth (I Cor. 1:10); Ephesus (Eph. 4:3), and Philippi (Phil. 2:2).
C. How do we maintain unity in the local congregation?
1. We want to begin answering this question in this lesson.
2. The title of our lesson is: “Factors Involved in Congregational Unity.”
I. LIKEMINDEDNESS IN THE TRUTH
A. The Word of God is the only governing code within the church.
1. II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2. The church does not have a manual, a creed book, a discipline, a catechism, or a statement of faith. These books divide and do NOT unite.
B. For unity to prevail, however, we must be likeminded in the Word.
1. I Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
2. Philippians 1:27b
…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
C. Examples of division due to not being likeminded.
1. The Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 23:7-8)
And when he so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
2. Paul and the Judaizing teachers
a. Paul position (Gal. 6:15)
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
b. The Judaizing teachers (Acts 15:1)
And certain man which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
D. This has been the cause of much division in the body of Christ over many issues: anti-ism, marriage-divorce-remarriage, the Holy Spirit, etc.
II. NO STRUGGLES FOR POWER
A. Power can be defined as “authority over, rule over, and supremacy over others.
B. For some reason, individuals both male and female, have a tendency to lust after power.
1. Mirian and Aaron (Num. 12)
2. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16)
3. James and John (Mark 10:35-37)
4. Diotrephes (III John 9)
C. When power struggles develop, two things happen:
1. A “we versus they” mentality develops.
2. Individuals are forced to take sides and division sets into the congregation.
D. Warnings against the lust for power.
1. Jesus (Mark 10:42-43)
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister.
2. Peter speaking to elders (I Pet. 5:3)
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
E. NOTE: People loathe a ruler over them, but they love one who is willing to serve them.
1. Jesus (Mark 10:45)
For even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
2. May we develop the heart of a servant instead of a lust for power.
A. Selfishness has two sides:
1. Chiefly concerned about one’s own interest, advantage, benefits, and welfare
2. Total exclusion of the interests of others
3. Selfishness wants for self and takes from others.
B. Some selfish individuals in Scripture:
1. Jacob was selfish when he took Esau’s birthright (Gen. 25:31) and his blessing (Gen. 27:18-29).
2. Laban was selfish when he made Jacob work an additional seven years for Rachel (Gen. 29:30).
3. Jezebel was selfish when she had Naboth killed in order to get his vineyard for her husband Ahab (I Kings 21:7-10).
4. Members of the church at Corinth were selfish when they took one another to law before unbelievers (I Cor. 6:6).
C. Selfishness can cause wars to erupt within churches.
1. One group wants one preacher; another group wants another preacher.
2. One group wants to decorate this way; another group wants to decorate another way.
3. One group wants a program run this way; another group wants a program run another way.
4. One person wants to be friends with this person; and other person wants to be friends with that person.
5. One group wants to spend this amount of money; another wants to spend another amount of money.
6. One group wants a van; another wants a bus; and another wants neither.
7. One group wants more technology; another group wants less technology.
D. Two verses:
1. Philippians 2:3-4
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man upon his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
2. I Corinthians 6:7-8
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, you do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
1. Lot was allowed by Abraham to choose the well-watered plain of the Jordan as his possession (Gen. 13:10).
2. This left his old uncle, Abraham, with the barren, less productive land.
3. Question: Who do we honor more when we talk about this particular event? We honor Abraham for his unselfish action.
IV. DO NOT ENGAGE IN SINFUL THINGS
A. Sin is the violation of God’s law (I John 3:4). This is a problem since God’s law is our standard by which to live.
B. Sin can fall into two broad categories:
1. Moral transgression….practice of sin…..fornicator (I Cor. 5)…..saints vs sinners
2. Doctrinal transgression…false teaching…..Nicolaitans (Rev. 2)…truth vs error
C. God tells us exactly how to deal with both of these situations in the church.
1. Moral transgression (I Cor. 5:13b)
Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
2. Doctrinal transgression (Rom. 16:17)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
1. All sin separates a man from God (Isa. 55:1-2).
2. The saints cannot fellowship those who are not in fellowship with God (II Cor. 6:17-7:1).
A. The psalmist writes about how beautiful unity is (Ps. 133:1).
Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
B. Whatever threatens unity is evil.
C. Every Christians must do all that he/she can to maintain unity in the local congregation.
1. Ephesians 4:3
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
2. To have unity we must:
a. Be likeminded in the Word of God.
b. Refuse to struggle for power
c. Practice selflessness
d. Cease from sin: behavioral and doctrinal