Tri-County church of Christ, Watertown, NY, North Country

July 1, 2002, Vol.2, No.13.
Two new articles every two weeks. Bible Question? E-mail us.
THIS ISSUE: "The Unity of the Spirit" (see below)
and "
Hold Fast the Pattern"

The Unity of the Spirit

by Keith Sharp

It amazed me, when I was a boy, to hear that there were 250 denominations in America. Now some studies place the number of separate religious fellowships in the U.S. as high as 3000! Through the years gospel preachers have pleaded for unity, but even those claiming to be New Testament Christians are divided into groups which have no fellowship with each other.

But in Ephesians 4:1-6 the apostle Paul besought Christians "to keep the unity of the Spirit." This causes us to raise four questions regarding the unity of the Spirit. What is it? Is it desirable? Is it possible? How can we achieve it?

A Prayer

In John 17:20-21 the Lord prayed:

"I do not pray for these alone, but also for all those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

The Master's prayer teaches that the unity of the Spirit is the same kind of unity that Jesus and His Father have. Jesus and His Father are not tied together in some organizational scheme despite doctrinal differences. Thus, the unity of the Spirit is not ecumenism. Nor do the Father and the Son just "agree to disagree agreeably" and to love each other in spite of their differences. The popular notion that love will cause us to overlook differences of faith and practice is not true unity. Rather, Jesus and the Father are truly one in nature, doctrine, and practice, and we must be one in these ways also.

Furthermore, the fact Jesus prayed that we all be one proves that such unity is both desirable and possible.

The desirability of the unity of the Spirit is further demonstrated by the fact Jesus observed it would lead people to believe in Him. As sectarian division has grown in America, so has unbelief. How can we expect our unbelieving friends to accept the gospel, when Christians fail to agree on what constitutes the gospel?

A Plea

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The unity for which the apostle pleads includes speaking the same thing (unity of doctrine), having the same mind (the attitude of faith toward the Word of God and love toward each other - Philippians 1:27; 2:3-4), and the same judgment (drawing the same conclusions on matters of faith - Ephesians 4:13).

Again, Paul's plea demonstrates that unity is both possible and desirable.

A Plan

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, 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." (Ephesians 4:1-6)

In this great passage the beloved apostle first teaches us how to have peace (verses 1-3). We can have peace without unity, but we cannot have unity without peace. "Peace" is the absence of turmoil, whereas "unity" is true spiritual oneness. I once had a friend who was an avowed atheist. We had peace but not unity.

Verses four through six contain the Spirit's platform upon which all Christians are to be united. This divine plan for unity has seven planks.

One Body - Unity of Relationship
One Spirit - Unity of Revelation
One Hope - Unity of Purpose
One Lord - Unity of Authority
One Faith - Unity of Doctrine
One Baptism - Unity of Membership Requirements
One God - Unity of Worship

One Body

The body of Christ is his church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Christ has but one church (1 Corinthians 12:20). This is unity of relationship. We must not be joined to a human denomination. The Lord forbids sectarian allegiance and religious party names that reflect and demonstrate such loyalty (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

One Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the divine Being who revealed all truth (John 16:13). Thus, we have unity of revelation. We must not accept any gospel other than the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9), whether it be found in the Book of Mormon, the Koran, or wherever.

One Hope

"Hope" is desire plus expectation. The Christian's only hope is a home in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5). This is unity of purpose. We do not look for a material kingdom on earth (premillennial-ism) or a better earth (the social gospel).

One Lord

The term "Lord" means "ruler" or "master." Jesus Christ "is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). He claimed, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). If we are to be one in Christ, we must have authority from Him for all we do and say (Colossians 3:17). We must have unity of authority.

One Faith

The "faith" is the body of doctrine delivered from God to His people (Jude 3), the Scriptures. The Lord expects us to have unity of doctrine. We must all believe and teach the same thing, the doctrine of Christ.

One Baptism

We gain entrance into Christ, into His body, the church, by means of water baptism (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13). We must all meet the same membership requirements to enjoy the blessings in Christ.

One God

Not only must we all worship the same God, we must worship Him in the same way, "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24). Worship that has no higher authority than human traditions is "vain" (Matthew 15:9). We must have unity of worship.


The sweet psalmist of Israel, David, sang:

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! [It] [is] like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. [It] [is] like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing-- life forevermore." (Psalm 133).

It is good to get an inoculation when one is sick, but it is not pleasant. Chocolate candy is pleasant, but it is not good. The unity of the Spirit is both good and pleasant. It is something for our good that we enjoy. Let each of us determine to heed The Prayer, The Plea, and The Plan and work diligently to promote "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

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