One Body in Christ

Friday: Working for Unity

Romans 12:4-5 In this week’s studies we see what the Church is, and are reminded of the unity we have with fellow believers.
Working for Unity

Since we are part of a body with many members, what is the challenge we face in an individualistic age like ours? Well, the answer is not the ecumenical movement. Our task is not to create the unity of the body, above all not from the top down. The unity of the body is a given for those who are “in Christ.” However, we should work for any valid visible expression of our oneness in Christ that is attainable, and we should avoid unnecessary divisions and even try to learn from one another in a humble, teachable spirit, which is the point at which the apostle Paul started in verse three. 

Let me give you a closing illustration. In his study of this passage in his volumes on Romans, Donald Grey Barnhouse tells how he once made slighting remarks about a denomination he considered to be on the fringe of genuine Christianity. A minister from this denomination was present and afterwards told Barnhouse how grieved he was at what he considered an unjust judgment. Barnhouse apologized, and it was agreed that he would meet for lunch with four or five ministers from this particular church. 

When they got together Barnhouse, who had suggested the luncheon, made the additional suggestion that during lunch they should discuss only the points on which they agreed. Afterwards, when they had finished, they could talk about their differences. Well, they began to talk about Jesus Christ and what He meant to each of them. The tension abated, and there was a measure of joy as each confessed that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He came to die for our sins and then rose again bodily. Each acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord. Each agreed that Jesus was now in heaven at the right hand of God the Father praying for His church. They confessed that He had sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that the Lord was living in each of His children by means of the Holy Spirit. They acknowledged the reality of the new birth and that they were looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ after which they would be spending eternity together. 

By this time the meal was drawing to a close. And when they turned to the matters that divided them, they found that they were indeed secondary—not unimportant, but secondary—and they recognized that they were areas in which they could agree to disagree without denying that each was nevertheless a member of Christ’s body. Barnhouse confessed, “Though separated by a continent, I have often prayed for these men and am confident that they have prayed for me. We know that we are one in Christ. They made a distinct contribution to my spiritual life, and I contributed to theirs. I am the richer since I became acquainted with them.”1 

Something like that would be a very good experience for most of us. 

1Donald Grey Barnhouse, One Body in Christ, booklet 68 in the series of expositions on Romans (Philadelphia, PA: The Bible Study Hour, 1956), 11.

Study Questions
  1. How does unity happen?
  2. What biblical teachings are essential for unity?
  3. How did Dr. Barnhouse promote unity?

Application: What kinds of divisions, large or small, are present in your church? Are the issues of disagreement essential ones? How can you seek to approach those with whom you disagree in a humble, teachable spirit?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Fifth Mark of the Church: Unity.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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