Vernon W. Kerns

Jesus said, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word: 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." (John 17:20-21) Jesus desired that his disciples be unified as He and the Father are unified. Unity is one of the most important characteristics of the church.

We should look at the Godhead to study their unity. Paul writes that God works all things "according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:11) Consider Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit; Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work." (John 4:34) Jesus did not do as he wanted, but as the Father wanted. Again, Jesus said, "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." (John 8:29) Jesus was always in subjection to the Father. He did not originate his teaching, nor did He work the way he personally desired, but always in all things, He was subject to the Father.

John writes concerning the Holy Spirit, "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." (John 16:13) All of the Godhead is subject to the eternal design that God accomplished in Christ. They do not serve self but work together with one mind and one goal, to fulfill the divine purpose. They are unified.

People are naturally self-serving. Paul writes, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:2-3) Being mere men is not being what God desires.

How, then, is the unity of the Spirit developed? One must place value on the church, which Jesus purchased with his death. He thought it was worth dying for. It is the body of Christ, and God places the greatest possible value on the church. Members must feel the value of the local congregation.

The value of the local congregation is built by having positive regard for each individual member. The following verses build an atmosphere in which this regard can be developed. "Submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21) "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." (Phil 2:3) "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;" (1 Peter 5:2-3)

The preceding verses do not mean that Christians are to be closed, mouthed and blind followers of lords and masters. Rather, the following needs to take place. "From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Eph. 4:16) "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1) The church member is to have a submissive attitude, being in subjection to other members and elders, when the congregation has them. In this subjection, each member needs to be taught and encouraged to serve (supply) of himself or herself to the congregation. Each member has the responsibility to give of his or her talents, judgments, and viewpoints to the congregation. When giving of these things, the member must also be under the scrutiny of the members of the congregation. Each member, or elder when the congregation has them, evaluates ideas and proposals by the scriptures. If an idea has merit, it needs to be supported: if an idea lacks merit, it should be opposed. Rejecting a proposal does not mean you are rejecting the person originating it. It is a sin to oppose individuals (unless the individual is a false teacher, and then you have no choice). If the group supports an idea and it is scriptural, then individuals must subject themselves to the congregation by following its lead. The congregation, in this atmosphere, grows together in unity. It becomes one unit, and, as a group, it strives for the faith of the gospel. "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27) -Rt. 1 Box 131, Shock, WV 26638.


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