IN THE CHURCH
1. As Christians, we have a responsibility to maintain unity in the Church.
A long time ago, a little child in an African tribe wandered off into the tall jungle grass and could not be found. The tribe search all day, but could not find the little boy. The next day the tribal members all held hands and walked through the grass together. This enabled them to find the child, but due to the cold night, he had not survived. In her anguish and tears, the mother cried, “If only we would have held hands sooner.”
2. Brethren, I hate to say this, but over the years our fellowship has not held hands very well. In 1865, The Baltimore American, which was one of the leading newspapers in the country, said that the churches of Christ were “the fastest growing religious group in America.” And over the next 100 years, our fellowship continued to experience rapid growth—for in 1965, the church of Christ had an incredible 2,500,000 members.
3. However, at our present time, our fellowship is in decline. Resent demographics show that the church of Christ has about one and half million members. Our fellowship is in decline.
4. Why is our fellowship in decline? I believe the number one reason is because over the years our fellowship has not maintained unity.
a. In (Jn. 17:21), Jesus earnestly prayed that believers “may be one.”
b. Instead of being one, our fellowship has divided or split on such issues as:
(1) Musical instruments.
(2) Whether or not to support orphans homes, & missionary societies.
(3) Lord’s Supper (some demanded that only one communion cup be used).
(4) Kitchens in the church building.
(5) The role of the Holy Spirit.
(6) Dancing, card playing, swimsuits, and Bible interpretations.
5. When will the divisions stop? When are we going to realize that our lack of unity is destroying the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood.
WE MUST HAVE UNITY IN THE CHURCH.
THIS MORNING, I WILL PRESENT TWO POINTS ON THE CONCEPT OF UNITY.
I. FIRST, GOD EXPECTS US TO MAINTAIN UNITY.
1. Here are some passages that instruct us to have unity.
2. Just like a family must have unity to survive & prosper, the church must have unity to survive & prosper.
3. Let me offer several reasons why I believe that some churches divide.
a. Churches divide because of selfish ambition.
(1) In (3 John 9) we read about a man named Diotrephes who wanted to control the church. In fact, the Bible says that “he loved to be first."
(2) Churches divide over men who are hungry for power and control. They want things their way, and if they don’t get it, they start causing problems.
Several years ago, a man in a church wanted to be an elder. However, he was not qualified. Since He couldn’t be an elder, he along with several other people, left and started their own church so he could be an elder. That split was all about selfish ambition.
b. Churches divide over believers boasting in certain men.
(1) In (1 Cor. 1:12), the church was being divided because several members were pledging alliance to different preachers. Some said they followed Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ. They were dividing the church over human alliance.
c. Churches have divided because false teachers have turned others from the truth.
(1) In (1 Cor. 15:12), there were some false teachers telling Christians that Jesus was not raised from the dead. They were in essence telling the Corinthian Christians that their faith was useless. So Paul wrote chapter 15 to explain that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. And in (v. 14) Paul said, “and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
(2) There are still false teachers today who distort the gospel message and cause Christians to divide.
The May 1987 edition of National Geographic included a feature about the arctic wolf. Author L. David Mech described how a seven-member pack had targeted several musk-oxen calves who were guarded by eleven adults. As the wolves approached their quarry, the musk-oxen bunched in an impenetrable semicircle, their deadly rear hooves facing out, and the calves remained safe during a long standoff with the enemy. But then a single ox broke rank, and the herd scattered into nervous little groups. A skirmish ensued, and the adults finally fled in panic, leaving the calves to the mercy of the predators. Not a single calf survived. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 that after his departure wolves would come, not sparing the flock.
(3) Wolves continue to attack the church today but they cannot penetrate and destroy when unity is maintained. When believers break ranks, however, they provide easy prey.
II. SECOND, HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE UNITY?
1. The word unity literally means “oneness, one of the same mind, one in thought.”
A. To achieve unity, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our Christian faith.
1. Paul provides us with a list of the essentials we must believe in (Eph. 4:4-5).
a. One body (One Church).
b. One Spirit (One Holy Spirit).
c. One Lord (We believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord & Savior).
d. One Faith.
e. One Baptism (Meaning that we are baptized in water for the remission of sins).
f. One God (There is one God, yet there are 3 persons in the Godhead).
2. As brothers and sisters, we should believe alike regarding the essentials to our faith. We should be like minded on what it takes to be saved. We should be like minded that the Bible is the Word of God. If we do, we should have unity. If we don’t, then we will have many problems.
B. To achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs.
1. Too often, Believers are separated because of minor differences on certain issues or passages. What a pity it is that our interpretation about the millennium, music, workshops, or even school loyalty has separated baptized believers from one another in the body of Christ. Surly that cannot honor God. That cannot be the idea that God had in mind. These issues should not divide a family.
2. I hope that my salvation does not depend upon my interpretation of the second coming of Jesus; my interpretation of the works of the Holy Spirit; my interpretation of the book of Revelation; my interpretation of kitchens in the church building. If my interpretation is dependent upon these things, I am a doomed man.
3. The problem in many churches is that people take matters of opinion issues and turn them into to mandatory truths that you must believe alike or you cannot have fellowship with one another. That’s just not true. We must have liberty on non essential beliefs that cause problems.
4. These verses assume that there will be differences of opinion in the church on disputable matters. Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with love.
Rubel Shelly, at the Tulsa Worship, gave this illustration or something similar to it.
Two die hard supports of the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins weeks from now may set on opposite sides of the field and they may scream their lungs out for their different teams, wave pennants and jump up and down and applaud at exactly the opposite moments.
What you may latter be shocked about is they road to the stadium together. And after the game they went out to dinner together and picked up their friendship without a beat being missed. Inspite of the fact that their loyalty is with two different teams.
5. In our churches, we must love one another and be friends with one another although we disagree on certain issues.
6. Don’t expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject. Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.
1. God expects us to maintain unity in the church. Jesus even prayed that all believers “be one.”
2. We cannot allow Satan to destroy the churches unity. We must be on guard all the time for situations that could divide the church. It is a serious offense to cause divisions in the body of Christ.
3. To maintain unity in the church, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our Christian faith. We should believe alike on how one is saved.
4. But yet, to achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs. We all strive to know the truth, but at times, we may differ or have different opinions on certain non essential subjects: Subjects that may not be clear in the Scriptures. If we do, we should talk about it in love, and if we still have different opinions, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and a part of God’s family.
5. This morning, if you are subject to the Lord's invitation, please come as we stand and sing.