“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
If Christ is actually functioning as Lord of the congregation, unity is more likely. If He is not Lord, division is inevitable; unless it is the unity of the grave! Let us, however, name a few of the factors essential to unity.
- Regeneration. In both letters to the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that a major cause of disunity is the presence of unregenerate people in the fellowship. Or people who behave that way. An essential for unity of spirit is the presence of the Spirit in each participant.
- Faith in the Book. Making the Scripture the true functional authority is the only sure basis for unity in the congregation. If some members are not committed to the authority of the book, schism is almost inevitable. This faith is biblical faith – commitment to obey. And that can’t be merely passive obedience. It includes pro-actively searching Scripture on the part of the whole body whenever an issue that divides arises. A pronouncement by the leader won’t suffice. Faith in Scripture means not only determination to obey, no matter if it means painful change, it means openness and ruthless honesty. The believers in Berea were commended because they received the Word with all readiness and because they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether the teaching of the esteemed visitor were so.
On the solid rock of Biblical truth alone can a church find true unity. It may be important for practical reasons to unite on some teaching that the Church through the ages has not always agreed on. But such peripheries should not become part of the foundation of faith demanded of the members or it may well become divisive. As Augustine said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.” Deciding among those three categories may not be easy but should always be attempted when divisive issues arise.
- Prayer. Only a praying people will ever be truly united and often it is only on its knees that the church will find unity. Since it is the Enemy himself who attacks the church through fostering division, there is spiritual warfare and that can be waged only in prayer.
- Humility. This fruit of the Spirit may not come easily for one who is in leadership, especially successful leaders. Power-holders (or aspirers) usually stress the virtue of unity! So for the church to experience unity at the deepest level, leaders must give special care to produce an abundant crop of this fruit.
Why should the leader be humble? Because he is finite and fallen. We are finite so we know ultimate truth only partially. That’s because God’s ways and his thoughts are infinitely above us. Humility becomes a finite person. Furthermore, we are fallen. What we do know is distorted. And though our minds are in the process of being straightened out, being brought ever more into alignment with Christ’s mind, still we are fallen, reality is still obscured by sinful understandings and predispositions.
When the leader’s demeanor is one of humility, willingness to accept correction, to change, unity is much more possible in the body.
“Therefore if there is any … fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
And how does that happen?
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Even when they obviously are not? Yes..
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5)
If the Lord of creation is humble, how can I not be? And that is a prerequisite for unity in the congregation. Here’s how it works:
I…beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And He Himself gave some to be … pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 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 building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Such is the magnificent vision of Paul as to what God designs the church to be and how he intends to accomplish it.
 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Corinthians 3:14-18, 1 Corinthians 13:12, Isaiah 55:9, 2 Corinthians 3:14-18, Romans 12:2