Ephesians 4:13 – Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
The fivefold ministry gifts were given to equip God’s people until the church “attains” the unity of the faith. Paul’s statement about attaining unity is as big a goal as one will find. It is hard to imagine the church in that kind of unity. Perhaps it is what we understand unity to be that is the problem. Unity is impossible in the natural. Biblical unity is the work of the Holy Spirit in the “hearts” of God’s people, not simply in their heads. Today, I have unity with many in the Lord’s church, not based on agreement about everything, but in agreement concerning God’s kingdom purposes.
One reason unity has been difficult to achieve is that, around the second century, church fathers shifted the focus from the “kingdom of God” to the Church. The body of Christ began to be taught that where the Bishop is, there is the church. The apostles taught that the church is the people of God and bishops were “overseers” who provided care for God’s people. The apostles further taught that the kingdom was in the Holy Spirit. He is the center of all that the Father and the Son are doing. This shift set the stage for “ecclesiastical structures” rather than the government of God that the apostles founded. The Reformation brought the church part of the way back to God’s original purpose, but not all the way back. Out of the Reformation came many divisions over doctrine and the government of the church.
The twentieth century brought a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit reviving the Lord’s church. Unity has been on the increase as the Lord changes the hearts of His men and women. There is more unity today than since the first century. The real shift began to happen around the 80’s and 90’s as the church began to focus on the kingdom of God and not on denominations. Unity prayer was at the foundation of this revival in the Lord’s church. One of the first areas was united prayer for the nations and unreached people groups. Another important shift was united prayer in cities as pastors began to pray together to fulfill the “Great Commission.” Marches for Jesus took place all over the world as God’s people celebrated the kingdom of God and His Glorious King!
Unity begins in our family, our local church congregation, and our cooperation with what the Lord is doing in our locality. Search your heart today and see if there is any division toward others in the body of Christ. If there is, repent and give it over to the Lord. Ask the Father for grace to live in the unity of the Spirit and the bonds of peace with everyone. This does not mean compromise of your convictions. It does mean keeping our hearts right before God and others.