“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. And the glory which thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:19-26)
Through prayer in John 17 Jesus describes the unity he desires when he asks the Father on our behalf “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:19-26) This relationship desired is the spiritual perfection of the body of Christ for we clearly cannot be physically in one another. Christ’s desire for this unity was “that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” The earthly purpose for our spiritual unity is for the witness of the Father’s love in sending of the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem mankind. It is our spiritual oneness with God that the world needs to see and not some patterned organization of man’s religious assemblies. We must become one in the display of the nature of God that is the Holiness of God, not the uniformity produced by the nature of man in his attempts to establish churches. The natural man can produce great feats of conformity to rules and structures but he cannot produce the spiritual unity birthed of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to be partakers of the divine nature of God through knowledge of the Lord Jesus and our becoming one with Him. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
There are many features to unity with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Paul speaks of some of them in an address to the Ephesians. We are told to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” because “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6) We shall acquire a better understanding of the unity of Jesus Christ through brief examination of these aspects of spiritual unity.
One body refers to the universal church comprised of believers as the mystical body of Christ. And “we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Ro 12:5) We have many different functions or callings within the earthly church “which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.” (Eph 1:23) In these functions we are not to allow any man-made divisions to disrupt our spiritual unity in Christ through such things as drawing special attention toward others or ourselves. The scripture states we should treat all equally “that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1Co 12:25-26) We are to have no petty human jealousies over position within an assembly or gifts given by the Spirit for we all have one purpose and that is to fulfill the will of God.
It is because there is one spirit, the person of the Holy Spirit working in us that there is unity in the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit sees to our regeneration and bestows spiritual gifts so we may carry on the ministry of Christ upon this earth. (Jn 3:6; 1Co 12:4-6) In this work of the Spirit there is not a physical uniformity among believers nor is there one set humanistic pattern to follow. While we never violate the word of God we do not do everything in the same manner for the Spirit leads us to meet the needs of many different and unique persons. While it may take one way of witnessing to one type of person it may require an entirely different approach to lead another individual toward the Lord. It is for such reason Paul states “to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1Co 9:22) It is only the Spirit that can generate this diversity that builds the unity of the body of Christ. No denominational membership drive can ever do what God as Holy Spirit accomplishes through the surrendered believers in Christ. Through His gift of discernment given to believers they can readily ascertain the actions necessary to fulfill the will of the Father in every circumstance. The same Spirit gives all the gifts necessary so individuals may fulfill their functions as members of the body of Christ and there is harmony within the assembly when these gifts remain under His control. In order for the Holy Spirit to have control in our lives we must repent of all known sins. When one elevates their own gifting or an assembly focuses on the gifts rather than the Giver it is a sin for it disrupts the spiritual unity of Jesus Christ. One must repent of such actions and restore themselves to unity with the body of Christ. Never forget that it is a prime function of the Spirit to keep us in true spiritual unity through revealing Jesus Christ in us and by leading us to knowledge of all truth. (John 16:7-15)
The unity of all believers expressed in ‘one hope of your calling’ signifies the knowledge that all disciples have in common of their salvation received through the gospel call. All are united in the belief of the glory and immortality they have as joint heirs with Christ. Knowing the glory of our calling we labor to walk in complete obedience and advance the kingdom of God through occupying in His service until he raptures the church. (1Th 4:16-17) Those united in such one hope of calling know “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:38) Such is the immovable position we hold through unity we have in our Jesus, the one Lord of all creation. However, when any closed ecclesiastical system claims that only they contain the truth of God they fail to recognize the lordship of Christ over all believers and the variety of His churches as spoken to in Revelation. One Lord speaks to the unity created by agreement with all the basic doctrines spoken about the person of Jesus Christ. Those that recognize the Bible is the authoritative standard for the body of Christ also recognize that the unity of believers in Christ as one Lord over all transcends all denominational barriers. If we are not in agreement about basic scriptures there is no basis for unity in Jesus as one Lord for the scriptures are the only recorded knowledge of Jesus Christ. And these scriptures have all been given through the leading of the Holy Spirit: “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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Ti 3:16) The true unity of the Lord Jesus Christ does rest in those persons believing in the inerrancy of the Bible.
Faith (G3982) as defined in one faith is the action of believing, having the persuasion and moral conviction of God’s existence as creator and His bestowal of eternal salvation through Christ as Messiah. There is a unity in faith by the action of belief in the one Lord. This one faith rests on the solid foundation of awareness that there is only one way to eternal life with God, that way being Jesus Christ. One faith is active belief in his words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) We who have come to Jesus Christ as Lord have this unity expressed as one faith and know ourselves to be the sons of God. Scripture justifies us for “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) To believe that man can be saved by anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ means that you do not have eternal life and know nothing of what comprises the unity of one faith.
We receive Jesus Christ by one faith and we live as Christians by one faith and this comprises spiritual unity, for we live by the faith of Jesus Christ indwelling us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
The one baptism that embraces believers is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that takes place at the time of our salvation whereby we become spiritually united or incorporated into one body. For the believer the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always regarded as something that has already taken place. The rite of free choice water baptism is an external sign of faith that will only take place if the unity of one Lord, one body, one faith and one baptism are already present. Water baptism is a symbol of Spirit baptism that acknowledges the Lordship of Christ in one’s life to the world at large. Holy Spirit baptism places one ‘in Christ’ as stated “for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Ga 3:27) This baptism is clearly the action of spiritual unity prayed for by our Jesus and occasions the moment he assumes the throne in one’s life.
At the core of our spiritual unity is ‘one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.’ God as the Father of all dwells only in people who have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Adamant unbelievers are children of the Devil and should never be referred to as the children of God. Jesus speaks of the Pharisees as being such evil children: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44) God is the Father of all as the creator but he is not the Father of all in manifestation of their spirituality for there is no evil in God. The interfaith claim that we all serve the same God is not supportable by the scripture and the ecumenical cry to unite the brotherhood of man actually destroys the unity of Jesus Christ. God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only God that is ‘over all’ and only those who have received Christ as Savior can call God their Father and refer to others as brothers in a spiritual connotation. Jesus is God as the head of the mystical body of Christ and when the body of believers refuses to obey the commands of God in any manner it disrupts the spiritual unity of the body. Spiritual unity demands obedience to Jesus for he is above all and “through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Eph 2:18) It is the power and spirit of God that sustains life through all creation but the Holy Spirit only pours himself out through all that are in relationship with Jesus. (Eph 4:10) Being given the power of the Holy Spirit welds believers in unity as a body and individually enables them to fulfill the Lord’s calling upon their lives. It is because God as Father is living in us and joined together with Jesus as Son that our bodies have become the temple of the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the Trinity. (1 C0 16:19) It is the unity of these three in us as one God that joins us all in the spiritual unity called the body of Christ and His church. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” and we are all one with Him. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Organizational unity can never in itself generate the unity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but this does not mean we become isolationists shunning all assemblies of men. Rather, we are commanded not to forsake assembly together in these end times: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) While we cannot yoke ourselves together with unbelievers we must strive to do so with all believers regardless of their assembly affiliations. So rest secure in the unity we have with the Godhead and simply guard against all doctrinal compromise. Stay focused upon Jesus and remember the purpose of our life is to advance the kingdom of God so “that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phi 2:11) And in our walk of perfection in Christ if you see a brother being “overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Co 13:11) I now pray you may be blessed through whatever personal actions of repentance are necessary to generate the true unity of Jesus Christ in your life. I pray you come to know the reality of our God when He speaks “we have the mind of Christ”.