Pastor Jim's Message

Jim

John Piper is author of more than 50 Christian books, a teacher and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. I recently read an article by him on the topic of Christian Unity and was inspired by it. As I see the present age, unity is lacking in the world, but unity is called for amongst Christian brothers and sisters. We may see the faith in a slightly different way from another Christian, but the family of God should love one another and worked together in unity for God’s purposes.

Now unity for unity’s sake is not what is called for in the Bible. Unity among two or more people gets its virtue entirely from something else. Unity itself is neutral until it is given goodness or badness by something else. If Herod and Pilate are unified by their common scorn for Jesus (Luke 23:12), this is not the unity God would have us seek. In contrast, if Paul and Silas sing together in prison for Christ’s sake (Acts 16:25), this is a unity pleasing to God. Take note, it is never enough to call Christians to have unity. The unity must be defined by the Gospel truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Piper points out, that “Christian unity in the New Testament gets its goodness from a combination of its source, its views, its affections, and its aims.”

 

Piper then explains this combination of four which creates the goodness of unity:

Source

Paul tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Notice the phrase the “unity of the Spirit.” The truth is that God’s gift to us at Pentecost, namely, the Holy Spirit, is the great giver of unity. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). In other words, we must all begin with the same focus which is to focus our attention upon God as we are guided by the Spirit.

Views

Paul says that pastors and teachers are to equip the saints “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). In other words, the unity we pursue is unity concerning the truth revealed by God’s Written Word, the Holy Scriptures and the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Everything is to “accord with Christ.” That is what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:2, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Paul makes a similar statement in Romans 15:5, “May God . . . grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.”

Affections

To be sure, unifying love in the body of Christ includes a rugged commitment to do good for the family of God whether you feel like it or not. God is not calling Christians to put up with one another when they see things in a different light, the experience of Christian unity is more than that. It includes acceptance and love, not just grudging sacrifice for those you don’t like. We are to have affection and concern for those who are our family in Christ. “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10). [When Paul uses “brother” he means women, too] “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). “All of you, have … sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

 

I love Piper’s final point …

Aims

“Spirit-rooted, Christ-manifesting, truth-cherishing, humbly-loving unity is designed by God to have at least two aims: a witness to the world, and an acclamation of the glory of God.” That’s what the Christian faith is all about. Living life, enjoying God’s blessings and showing others how grateful we are to God for what God has done for us. The apostle John makes this clear in his Gospel when he quotes Jesus, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus’ famous statements in John 17 are rooted in the profound spiritual unity between the Father and the Son, and with those whom God has chosen out of the world (John 17:6). “I ask that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Note the witness to the world is that the disciples are in the Father and the Son so that the world might believe. This is vastly more — deeply more — than being related through a common organization or just wearing the same team colors.

Piper summarizes: “The oneness, {the UNITY}, that shines with self-authenticating glory for the world to see is union with the Father and the Son so that the glory of

the Father and the Son is part of our lives.” Yes! “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). Piper again, “From this union with God, and the glory it gives, shines something the world may see, if God gives them eyes to see. God’s aim for this vertically-rooted, horizontal, glory-displaying unity is that he might ‘gather into one the children of God scattered abroad’”(John 11:52).

The ultimate aim of such Christian unity is the glory of God. We can accomplish so much together when God and His Son, Jesus Christ, are our focus. Hence Paul prays, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5-7).  AMEN!

--Jim

 

 

Last Published: July 18, 2019 9:08 PM
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