Lately, I have been thinking a lot about UNITY.
By Dale Ebel of Dale Ebel Ministries
Most of us that espouse the name of Jesus Christ are advocates of unity. After all, we learned and have cherished some of the most powerful verses about how the Lord God loves and desires unity—
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1 KJV
3“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. …” 13 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” – Ephesians 4:3, 13 KJV
It is important to realize the audience that the authors were addressing in the above passages. This is a unity among believers, not a unity with the broad culture, or with non-Christians. It’s a union that followers of Christ are called to join together in like spirit, mind, and efforts, with the purpose of advancing God’s Kingdom.
I repeatedly hear so called, progressive Christians, as well as true believers call for unity. Unfortunately, they do so without clarifying the definition of unity or identifying the audience to whom they believe the biblical author was writing. Four spheres of jurisdiction are established in the Bible. These are four areas in which God establishes levels of governance and to which He gives specific instructions. God clearly gives specific instructions to particular entities, and because of this, when we read the Scriptures and see a command, we should always ask ourselves, “To which sphere(s) did God give this command?” The 4 spheres are:
the church, or God’s covenant keepers
The jurisdictions in the above verses are both the individual and the church. I call the church, God’s covenant keepers or the community of God’s people.
Listen closely and you will hear a call for unity from across the political, academic, and religious spectrums. Sadly, without clarification of the definition of unity, and certainly not the biblical jurisdiction in view.
The Definitions of Cultural Unity and Biblical Unity.
It is important to separate and define unity based on a biblical worldview as well as unity within the broader, secular culture.
In both the OT and the NT, the words for unity, “henotes,” in Greek and “yahad” in the Hebrew means togetherness, and agreement. It includes an alignment with other Believers to bring about a common purpose that is rooted in Scripture with the result being to Glorify Yahweh God. It is vital to observe to whom the author is addressing or the context of the passage also.
Both a Redemptive and Compromising Story
I was officiating at a memorial service when a woman from the audience approached me with these words: “I am so confused and upset. My husband and I came back from a 3 month stay in the desert, and our church had radically changed. They are now promoting a “woke” ideology and when we confronted the pastor, he simply said, ‘We must maintain unity with the marginalized because that is what Christ would do.’”
How would you have responded to her?
While walking back to the refreshment table I asked her, “Did your pastor introduce any notion of discerning that biblical unity is based on the truth of the Bible?” Her answer—’No.’ I went on and said, “biblical unity must be grounded in truth otherwise it’s simply “good intentions” based on non-truth. Jesus stood no more with the oppressed than He did with the general population. When He did dignify the marginalized as necessary, He admonished them to ‘sin no more’ (John 8:1). Clearly, unity trumps truth for your pastor.
God desires unity built on Truth.
How can we agree with people who are diametrically opposed to Scriptural teaching? The opposing ideology (Woke) is rooted in a deception based on neo-Marxist thought, which promotes the overthrow of religious institutions like the Church. She responded to all of my thoughts by saying, “we need to talk more, but my husband and I knew there was something wrong and most likely we will leave our church of 20+ years because we see the leadership so entrenched in this mindset and unwilling to hear a biblical explanation.” Her comments were laced with sadness and disappointment.
In a church, biblical unity is built on “sound doctrine (teaching).” Below are 10 nonnegotiable doctrines that I believe biblical unity ought to be built on. Find, support, and participate in a church that holds to these truths!
I have discovered that if these truths are not agreed upon, taught, and practiced, inevitably there will be disagreement and possibly even an unhealthy divide within the church. It is also vital that these truths be upheld and taught in every ministry of the Church. I have discovered that staff, in particular, can be shy and quiet about their disagreements with some of these things all while teaching contrary to biblical truth. They do this in their small groups, like women and men’s groups, youth, children’s ministries and in adult gatherings of all sorts. Scriptural truths must be valued, taught, and publicly proclaimed from the pulpit and clearly explained from the Word of God throughout the whole Body of Christ.
Here are my first 10
The literal, historical interpretation of the whole Bible, both the OT and the NT (Exodus 31:17; Matthew 19:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus was and is the LORD JESUS CHRIST (Acts 2:36; Romans 13:14;1Corinthians 16:22).
the way to salvation is through Christ (Acts 2:38; 4:12).
the warnings of coming judgment and God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 2:16; John 3:36; Luke 3:7).
the means and process of sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
the standards for godly living, (Proverbs 16:31; 2 Peter 1:3).
the literal creation account, (Genesis 2:2; Exodus 20:11).
The clear teaching of the Triune God, — God the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), God the Son (Colossians 2:15-19), and God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
the understanding and obedience of and to God’s laws as written in both the NT and the OT (Matthew 5:17-20; 7:24).
10. the promises and power available to us that are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29).
Biblical unity calls for unity with the Holy Spirit and the furtherance of God’s truth with likeminded believers. Biblical unity allows fellow Christ-followers to team together by standing fast in one spirit, for a common purpose or goal that glorifies Yahweh God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This unity is described in the Bible as “being yoked.” I will address “yoked” in my next teaching.
In recent years we’ve heard a “widespread call” for unity from advocates of a variety of social causes including social justice evangelical churches. These calls are voiced and heard with the powerful aid of the megaphones of the media, the academic elites, social media, and activists’ communities. It is easy to simply jump on the bandwagon by chiming in with agreement, without verifying the facts. The Christian community, especially, social justice evangelical churches, rapidly agree and become an extension of those voices without any biblical discernment, or support from the Bible. As a result, our culture and the evangelical church at large, are being pushed to have “unity” with causes diametrically opposed to the Bible.
Cultural unity is rather surface at first glance, but proponents continue to demand for deeper loyalties and alliances with the tenets of a particular cause.
For this reason, as a follower of Christ I do not call this “Biblical Unity” but “Cultural Unity” for we cannot, nor should not, have a deep-seated agreement or alignment with causes opposed to Scripture. The challenge comes when vague calls like, “we should love our black brothers and sisters,” or “we are privileged as whites and we must make up for our whiteness,” are stated from the pulpits of progressive congregations without clarifying how that is lived out. Evangelicals simply believe these statements and churches even hire additional pastors to be “ministers of racial reconciliation.”
In the late 1990’s I remember the leaders of Promise Keepers and many of the evangelical churches calling for racial reconciliation. The irony was that the most predominate evangelical black churches in the Portland Oregon area were not calling for this at all. In fact, most of those churches were filled with a majority of spiritually attuned godly black people and still are today, 2022, with a small smattering of white folks attending their congregations. They were and even today are not responding to the vague generalized calls for unity.
Cultural Unity further explained…
In the public arena we can and ought to demonstrate MUTUAL respect by being congenial, pleasant, respectful, friendly, gracious, and practicing honest tolerance with one another. Honest tolerance is respecting another’s opinions but not necessarily agreeing or embracing them by believing or advocating for their ideas, positions, philosophies, ideologies, or religion.
“Cultural Unity” is demonstrated in broad experiences like being together as spectators at a football game, being citizens of the same country where one is united or accepting it’s form of Government, or attending the same school, living in the same neighborhood or being a patient at a local hospital.
This type of unity is so obvious to us that it is hardly noticeable unless significant difference or conflicts arise. Cordial unity is possible and ought to be practiced by all ethnicities with each other which results in living in peace despite the differences we have with one another.
The great prophet Micah said it well:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” – Micah 6:8 NIV
Linda and I live in a wonderful neighborhood with great people who are on opposite ends of the political, spiritual, and ideological spectrum. We are friendly, kind, helpful, and even protective of one another. We respect them all despite some significant differences in the way we live our lives. In this sense we have a “cordial unity.” The Apostle Paul gave us some wise direction regarding a general sense of unity with people:
“I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved”
– 1 Corinthians 10:33 NLT
The Apostle Paul also said: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” – Romans 12:18 NIV
I have discovered that when biblical truth becomes more widely and violently opposed and encroached upon by the broader culture, Christians cannot have true unity nor should they.
For example, who would have ever thought that the un-biblical ideology of “gender identity” based on a person simply declaring they are the opposite sex from their biological gender at birth, would be a pervasive ideology permeating the broad expanses of our culture especially in the world of academia. We cannot and ought not even attempt to align ourselves with such a false doctrine.
Some Concluding Thoughts
The following general points are significant when considering unity through a biblical framework and through a progressive paradigm.
The work of a biblically based church is the salvation of individuals and the making of disciples. Other goals (such as charity and social justice) are important but secondary. When they are pursued at the expense of biblical essentials, or in ways contradictory to Scripture, then the church is in error.
Progressive Christianity is attractive in that it presents a cause, victims to protect, and enemies to resist.
We can and should admit that at times the church has shown indifference to critical social issues. We can correct the indifferences without abdicating or minimizing the importance of sound doctrine. These past treatments of the marginalized ought not to be perpetually held against those who have corrected their error.
When serious error is being publicly promoted, serious correction should be publicly given.