Unity of the Church?
[T]ill we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13 NKJV).
Is there a need to pray for unity in the Body of Christ, i.e., the Church? Is there disunity in the Body? If so, is it a disunity of faith or a disunity of spirit?
To pray for the unity of the Church implies that the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ was not heard when He prayed that we all may be one (John 17). When Jesus prayed, His petitions were always heard. He said Himself, ” . . . Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” John 11:41, 42. Is there now unity in the Body of Christ? Was Jesus’ prayer for the Church answered? Absolutely yes!
The evidence that Jesus’ prayer for unity of the Body was answered is clearly seen in Acts 9. When Saul encountered the risen and glorified Christ on the road to Damascus, the Lord Jesus said to Saul, who had persecuted Christians, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9:4. There is no scriptural record ever provided that Saul persecuted Jesus during His earthly ministry; therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that when Saul came against members of the Body of Christ to bind them and to arrest them, he also came against the Lord of the Body. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17).
Have we confused unity with uniformity? Are we seeking a physical oneness with any room for diversity? Will we insist that unity is “them” being with us or we being with “them”? The unity that Jesus prayed for and obtained for His body affords us much latitude, e.g., I don’t have to be with you to be with Him, and you don’t have to be with me to be with Him (Mark 9:38-40).
I don’t pray for the unity of the church because Jesus did and He was heard; however, I do have a scriptural mandate to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit—that Christ has already obtained for us—in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). One can clearly see that unity is not attained but rather maintained. Unity in the Body of Christ is not achieved but rather received. Receive this blessed unity of the spirit! Maintain it by walking in love and peace with others in the Body notwithstanding the non-essential differences. A commitment to walk in unity will produce the much needed outward physical demonstration to the world (John 13:35).