by Doug Rehberg
One of the things that really matters to God is the unity of His church. This unity is not some peripheral matter. It is at the very heart of the Gospel. Without unity the church becomes locked in selfish pursuits and is powerless to proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness.
In His final intercessory prayer, Jesus reveals the importance of unity when He prays, “I in them and you in me that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23) One of the great evidences of the power of the Gospel results in the unity of the church. When people of different backgrounds, temperaments, cultures, and languages are united by the Holy Spirit in Christ, people notice.
One of the most striking New Testament examples of a unified church is recorded in the Book of Acts. Although there certainly were differences of background and culture, and at times heated debates; at its core the New Testament church exhibited unity. This unity was not a uniformity of understanding on each issue; neither was it a sweet superficial sentimentalism. It was not some vague, undefinable pluralistic “oneness” where each tolerated the other’s personal views to accomplish some larger, ethereal goal.
No, New Testament unity was a unity of faith and truth rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ. That is why they were drawn together, regardless of their individual perspectives or proclivities.
A.W. Tozer once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So, one-hundred worshippers, meeting together, each one looking to Christ, are one in heart, nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity-conscious and turn their eyes away from God and strive for closer fellowship.”
Throughout the last few months we have examined James’ commitment to unity in Christ. Indeed, unity is one of his chief purposes in penning the letter to a disparate group of Jewish Christians. Thought he didn’t come to know the truth of the Gospel until after the resurrection of Jesus, his brother, he certainly was familiar with the diversity of the band of brothers who followed Jesus wherever He went. What he saw prior to the cross became seared in his conscience once the Holy Spirit took control of him. He came to see and proclaim the truth—unity is the very heart of the Gospel.