John 17:21-23 “ I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
Biblical unity is not based on:
1- Denominationalism: There are some denominations that will not fellowship with those of other denominations; this is unfortunate and a violation of the command of Christ to love one another. For example, the majority of United Pentecostal Church members will not fellowship with other Believers. In fact, the majority of UPC’s don’t believe other Christians are actually saved. Oneness Apostolic Pentecostals are even more extreme and many will not fellowship with UPC’s – who hold to the same essential beliefs! The majority of Independent Baptists will not fellowship with nor associate with churches which are united, such as the United Baptists. Denominationalism is a cancer in our day!
2- Non Essential Dogma: There are Calvinists who will not fellowship with Arminians and there are Arminians who will not fellowship with Calvinists… based on their particular brand of non essential doctrines. They’ll accuse one another of being saved but “holding to heresy” and thus refuse to fellowship with those they themselves will admit are saved yet who hold to “false doctrine”. Others will not fellowship with those who hold to the pre-trib/post-trib view. On and on the list of non essentials go and people divide over such matters. It’s a work of the flesh!
3- Culture / Personal Convictions: There are some who go to even greater extremes. Do you watch television or have a glass of wine with a meal? Such a thing is anathema to some Believers and if they learned you watched television or had a glass of wine they’d believe you to be backslidden! As a result, they wouldn’t fellowship with you based on their own personal convictions. They project what the Lord calls them not to do onto everyone else around them and judge others unrighteously.
False unity is based on:
1- Cult like behavior: Churches which teach the fundamentals of the faith yet in other areas use methods such as fear, manipulation and other such things to keep members are not to be unified with. I have seen some godly churches hold “unity meetings” and invite cult like churches to these meetings simply because these cult like churches held to proper doctrine. This is false unity; it’s not based on the Biblical command to love in any sense of the word. The loving thing to do would be to call such leaders to repent; it’s unloving to unify with such assemblies as it tells it’s members that they’re in a safe place when in reality they’re not!
2- Heresy: Unity with churches that preach heresy would be, for example, to align with churches who teach Hyper Grace or the Prosperity Gospel (or other errors known to be dangerous and/or damnable). While there may be genuine Believers within these camps, the leaders themselves are promoting clear error. To hold unity meetings with or to fellowship with such error is to give the perception that the error that they are teaching “isn’t that bad” when in reality it’s from the pit! Heresy is heresy and we should never give ourselves over to unifying with those who teach heresy.
Biblical unity is based on:
1- The Born Again experience: Our unity is based on the fact that we are Born Again; that is, that we have repented and turned from our sin and placed our faith solely in Jesus Christ alone for Salvation. This in and of itself places us in unity. We’re unified by virtue of the fact that we all have the same Holy Spirit dwelling within us, crying “Abba, Father!”. Our unity is not based on externals but rather on the internal working of God in our spirits. Are you saved? If so, you’re in spiritual unity with every other saved person on the earth! This doesn’t mean you’re to unify tangibly with all Believers or churches but it does mean that all genuine Believers and churches – regardless of their differences – are united with you in spirit.
2- Essential Dogma: We’re unified by the fact we believe the same fundamental truths concerning God and Scripture, namely, that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, that there is only One God, that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, died for our sins and rose again on the third day. We’re unified by a common faith and it is this common faith which brings us, as Born Again Christians, into perfect unity with one another.
3- Essential practice: We’re unified by the fact that without holiness no man will see the Lord. We can and should and must come into tangible unity with Believers and churches who’s leaders promote both sound doctrine and righteous living. There are may be minor differences but these two areas should “seal the deal”, so to speak, on tangible unity.
True unity in Christ is not always tangible; there are genuine Believers within cult like and/or heretical churches who hold to strange doctrines that make it virtually impossible for us to come into unity with. That said, for the most part, it’s not at all difficult to come into tangible unity with Believers and churches who hold to differences in non essentials yet in the fundamentals and in practice it’s clear by their fruit that they love, know and honor Jesus Christ and His Word. There is no reason why we should ever avoid coming into unity with such as these.