As we at my local church (Life Church) completed the study on the books “Acts of the Apostles” through small Bible group study, I began to ask the question of unity as regards the Body of Christ today.
In Acts 4:32, each of the believers shared in this unity. Not necessarily the apostles and the leaders only but all were unified. There was a common unity of love and of course purpose. Being one in mind and heart must be unified in each and every fibre.
When believers talk to unbelievers about their faith, they are often faced with the question: ‘if you have the truth why are there over 40,000 Christian denominations in the world?’ This question can pose a difficulty for the believer if they have not studied the unity of the Church or how the Church is supposed to operate.
The problem with the disunity in the Church today is that those who claim to follow Christ tend to follow their own ideas or interpretations over what the Bible teaches. This is not what the Bible teaches believers to do. Before we head to the book of Acts to see how the unity of the church came to be, we need to address this problem.
In John 16:13 we read the words “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth”. The reason there is such disunity in the church is that, although these different denominations claim to be following the truth, in reality, they are following their own ideas. There is only one truth but when people begin to stray from that truth, we see the rise of different denominations.
This is illustrated by the example of Noah and the post-flood world. Noah and his family had the truth and they most likely told it to their descendants but after so many generations, the post-flood world began to be deceived and wander after other religious beliefs. They then copy down what they had been told and altered the truth to fit their new beliefs. We see this with the advent of all the different flood stories of the world.
BUT the church did not start out this way. There was unity in the church and we see it in Acts 2:42 and it reads- “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The new believers were not bringing their own ideas to the church but gave them up to learn the truth from the disciples. The disciples all taught the same truth and there were no competing theories among them. Acts 2:46 begins with the following words- “Day by day continuing with one mind.” They all knew and followed the truth.
There are approx. 196 verses in the Bible using the word truth and one of the more famous ones is- “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John. 8:32). There are approx. 55 verses using a form of the word ‘interpret’ but not one of those verses instruct the believer to use their own interpretation of the Bible and its words. If people want unity in the church then they must be like the first church and leave their own ideas behind when they convert to Christianity and devote themselves to learning the truth by following the Holy Spirit to it.
The book of Acts records the use of the phrase ‘one accord’ 6 times but only 4:24 and 5:12 pertain to the unity of the church. These passages read: “And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is to them,” They all held the same belief here. They did not bring in conflicting theories about our origins or any other teaching. Then 5:12 tells us- “At the hands of the apostles’ many signs and wonders were taking place among the people, and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.” This result came as the people saw the power of God in reality. Ananias and Sapphira were punished, and more signs and wonders were performed demonstrating to all that the disciples and the early church held the truth. There was no room for dissension for that had been proven.
This may account for the dissension in the church today. God’s power is not realized or seen by anyone anymore thus it is hard to discern who has the truth and be united with each other. The key for unity is in following the Holy Spirit to the truth just as the early church did in the beginning. One of Jesus’ prayers is vital to the unity of the church. It is found in John 17:17-19
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so, have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
If we want unity in the church, then the church must pursue the truth. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33
The early Apostles such as Peter & Paul never hesitate to reveal heresy which observed the Gospel. Shouldn’t the today church adopt the same example? Never let your genuine desire to have unity to restrain your knowledge (Hosea 4:6) of the wish to preserve the wholesomeness of the Gospel. Be supportive of those who, like Paul, speak forcefully against any and all false teaching.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
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Jameson Edirin Ogbariemu