A “Unity”  Which Divides

By Royce Frederick

Unity among God’s people is precious, and it is commanded by the Lord (Ps. 133; Eph. 4:1-6). However, some “UNITY” can actually DIVIDE.

The wrong kind of “unity” can occur within a local church.

For example, sometimes a few members of a church “unite” into a group to pressure the elders and the church into an action which they desire. They may be trying to push toward something good for the church, but their method is immediately bad for it. It is a fracture in the unity of that church (see 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-17).

Also, uniting into denominational groups creates division.

To promote unity, some sincere people have united with others to form denominations. But every denomination is one more division among people who believe in Christ.

When used in reference to religion, the word “denomination” usually means a group of churches organized together in a special association. They often have regional and national officers, conventions in which delegates vote, a creed or constitution, and a man-made name. By gathering a large number of churches and members into one organization, they gain a great feeling of unity among themselves.

However, when churches unite together into a denomination, they divide away from all others who have not become members of their denomination. For example, people and churches in “Denomination A” are not part of “Denomination B.”

Christ wants us to unite in Him, in His spiritual body, His church.

Christ PROMISED to BUILD one church: “...I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18) — one church, not different churches wearing different names and teaching different doctrines (see 1 Cor. 1:10).

Christ DIED for one church: “...just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25; see Acts 20:28). He died for His church by dying for all of its parts — for all of its members.

Christ BUILT only one church: “...you were called in one body…” (Col. 3:15; see Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; Col. 1:18). When a sinner believes and is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), the Lord puts him or her into His church (Acts 2:41, 47). He continues building His church by adding new Christians as “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:4-5).

In the first century A.D., “churches of Christ” were established in many places (see Rom. 16:16). They were not different denominations. Each local church belonged to Christ. And, together, all of the churches throughout the world were simply His “church” (see Col. 1:18).

Like today, none of those churches were perfect, because all of their members were humans. But each local church was UNITED with all others by one common bond: They were all trying to hold onto the same thing. They were trying to hold to the word of God as their only guide in matters of faith (Jn. 12:48; Jude 3; Gal. 1:6-8; Eph. 4:5; Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:16-4:5).

Each local church was also INDEPENDENT. There were no denominations. There were no organized groups of churches. Each local church was responsible for its own decisions and actions. The Lord instructed that two or more men in each local church should be appointed as its overseers. Several different terms were used to describe that group of men in the local church. They were called “elders” (presbyters), “bishops” (overseers), and “pastors” (shepherds) (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1-3; Eph. 4:11). In 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:5-9, the Lord revealed the qualifications for the men who would be selected by local churches to serve as their elders. He never gave any instructions for selecting men to oversee groups of churches.

Christ never supported the idea of dividing His body into many different groups.

Christ PRAYED for UNITY: “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...” (Jn. 17:20-21a).

Christ PAID for UNITY: “...that He might reconcile them both [Jews and non-Jews] to God in one body through the cross…” (Eph. 2:16; see Gal. 3:28).

Christ SAID of UNITY that it helps other people believe: ...that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:21b; see 13:35).

Jesus tells us that most people will not follow God’s will (Matt. 7:13-14). But you and I can. We need to do our part for unity by going back to the Bible. First, we need to become simply “Christians,” part of His church, by believing in Him, repenting of our sins, confessing our faith, and being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 6:3-4; 10:9-10; Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16). Then, we need to continue following His will to the best of our ability (Rev. 2:10).

The only way to please our Lord — the only way to be united with Him and His people — is to unite around His written word as our only source of faith and practice.