Unity vs. ConformityBro. David Chancellor
10/16/2005 6:00 PM
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 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: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Our thoughts have to do with unity, but not with conformity. Conforming to fit in is not the same as unity. Unity is found in the spirit God puts within the heart. Paul spoke as “the prisoner of the Lord.” He came to these beseeching them to walk worthy of the calling of God. This is addressed to those who know God. There is no unity between the godly and the ungodly. “…With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love…” If we are all conforming and being alike, how does forbearance fit in? “I really struggle to forbear with _____ because we are so much alike.” That doesn’t make sense. Forbearance involves bearing with others on things where there are differences. Our perspectives and views on things are sometimes different. A harmonious marriage involves some forbearance because the two involved are not identical. You come from different backgrounds. The church is similar in this regard. There will be times when there are different perspectives and approaches to things. We need to keep our love for one another. When the love of God in us is strong, the unity will be there. If we were all exactly alike, there wouldn’t be a need to endeavor to keep the unity. There are things about each of us that are alike; we must be delivered from the bondage and power of sin, and we all desire to walk in truth. When we get saved, we don’t automatically have the same level of understanding as those that have been saved for years. Some may not have had much training or much right training in Biblical things.
Just because we are different people with different backgrounds and different levels of understanding doesn’t mean that we can make truth whatever we want it to be, or that we can choose our own way. We all have to learn and grow in the things of God. We are all pursuing one thing. As time goes on, we should all begin to think alike. We will constantly be learning things that we didn’t know before. God will show us things all along our walk with him. Throughout our lives, we should all be pursuing that one God. As we learn and grow, we will begin to think more alike. We can have unity now, though, because we have the Spirit of God within us. All of us have received some measure of grace. We don’t want to begin to think too highly of ourselves. We need to have consideration for others. It is by the grace of God that we have been given what we have. Whatever understanding we have is by God’s mercy and grace.
Gifts have been given. You could read verse 11 two ways. One way is that he gave some the gifts of apostleship, etc. Another way is that he sent those to you for your good. Some might feel that a pastor isn’t much of a gift. God gives what is needed to help us grow.
“…unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…” Our unity should help us to grow in Christ. We’re striving to achieve the spiritual growth that makes us like Christ. Our goal is to bring people to the stature of Christ so that they can withstand the winds of doctrine. You must be focused on God and his will to be able to do this. If you build on a man or a title, the winds will blow you. If you build on Christ and focus on him, you will withstand the winds. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ…” We need to grow up in Christ.
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” This is an explanation of why the devil works so hard at division. He wants to take away the part that is effectual, the part that would edify and give increase. The devil would be thrilled to have us conform and not have true unity. True unity has the varying parts supplying one to another. Sectism is based on agreement without unity. Unity binds you together. It brings a real concern for one another. Unity causes people to want to be together. It is more than agreement. It is something that binds us together - a love and concern for each other. The devil would like to break this bond by differences of understanding. Unity makes prayer effective because of the bond. It causes us to feel the need that’s there. Unity goes beyond everyone being able to say the same thing. It is the love of God in us.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs; that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
Paul realized his time could be short and he might not be able to come. He wanted them to stand fast and pull together for the same goal. Get together and push together. Work together. “One mind” doesn’t mean equal knowledge, but having our minds made up to serve God. It is to have the mind of Christ - a single-minded desire to please God.
There is something that should tie God’s people together that is greater and stronger than knowledge; this is the Spirit and love of God. It causes us to have a deep care and concern for one another.
1 Peter 3:8-11
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
“Finally, be ye all of one mind…” Have the attitude and determination to please God. “…having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous…” This compassion is needful. Have compassion. There will be times when people get into trouble of their own doing, but we need to be compassionate toward them.
To expound on unity without love is an ineffective approach. Courtesy is good for unity. Give good when you receive evil. Be careful how you deal with others. There are times when it is more important to let a thing go than it is to prove your case.
“…not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing…” Even when contending with the devil, Jesus didn’t bring a “railing accusation.” Even when we face evil and railing, we should desire that good should come upon that one. This is necessary for true unity. We must desire good for our brother. When we can be a blessing to one another, we inherit a blessing.
“…For he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile…” The best tool the devil has for destroying unity is in the mouth. If what I have to say won’t edify, I should leave it unsaid. Stay away from evil. There aren’t too many gossips that look for good news. We shouldn’t like evil, but we should love peace. We need to work together to achieve the same end. We don’t want trouble; we want peace and unity. We want to be able to help and encourage one another to overcome and make it through. Unity binds our hearts, not our heads, together. We can only have it by the Spirit and love of God within. Sometimes forbearance and endeavoring and sacrifice are necessary to keep it, but it is a blessed thing to be able to dwell together in unity. It is worked by the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s people.