Unity Without the Gospel

“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 NLT)

It is wonderful to live in harmony and oneness, especially in a family – husbands and wives, moms and dads, parents and children, and even as co-workers or neighbors. And as we think of the Church as the “Family of God,” it makes recognizing and following the dictates of God’s heart easier to follow and enables us together to fulfil His mission much more effectively and fruitfully.

Unity is certainly a Biblical instruction, but what does it mean? From a Biblical perspective it means: “unanimity, agreement, together, altogether, all together, alike.” (Strong’s) Notice what it doesn’t say – “uniformity!” “Like” and “alike” have reference to that which holds us together as one, not the characteristics of each one being held together. The common denominator that unifies and keeps us together is our common belief in the completed work of Christ on the Cross and our resultant common mission to spread the good news of new life and hope in Jesus. But we can approach the fulfillment of that mission in many varied and unique ways, both as local church bodies and as individual believers.

J.C. Ryle wrote: “Unity without the gospel is a worthless unity, it is the very unity of hell.” While I agree with what I believe to be the author’s heart in this quote, I believe it deserves some perspective. When it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ, we must be very cautious with whom we form alliances. There are causes in which I believe and to which I contribute money and time, but they are humanitarian causes that are very different than the mission of the church, and while they may be good, cannot be allowed to draw us away from our central calling as Christ’s Body.

There are also “churches” that preach and promote non-Biblical teachings in an effort to “unite” people under their particular banner. And please understand, these are often very friendly, nice, and sincere people, but they’re sincerely wrong in their theology. Any person or group who denies the deity of Jesus or distorts God’s Word to fit their agenda does not deserve our money or our time, unless and until they’re willing to listen to the truth of God’s Word and be transformed by it, which, unfortunately rarely happens.

That isn’t to say we can’t support other groups or activities that aren’t strictly evangelical, in the sense that what they’re doing isn’t directly inviting people to become believers. I think of organizations such as Right to Life or Family Life, Focus on the Family, CRU, InterVarsity, and the like. Some of these ministries were birthed from the hearts of people who love Jesus and just wanted to move in directions they couldn’t move within the context of a local church.

Photo by Lagos Food Bank Initiative on Pexels.com

Even things like “Food Drives” or “Blood Donations” can be helpful to the communities in which the local church serves and give the church opportunity to meet and learn the needs of their neighbors. There are numerous ways the church united can carry the mission forward to the glory and honor of the Lord.

One last consideration regarding the unity of the church. The oneness, like-mindedness, and corporate devotion to the mission of the church doesn’t mean we can’t individually be effective in forwarding our united purpose. Realizing the unity of the church is focused and centered on the Gospel of Christ as taught and understood by the Church universal across the ages, we must therefore allow the Spirit of God to inform and transform our efforts as individual believers. Being sensitive to and proactive at every opportunity to share love, kindness, compassion, gentleness, and the good news of Jesus with the ones we meet during the course of our daily lives should be part of our normal routine.

To believe the only “united” effort we can make is in the company of other believers is to misunderstand the call of the Gospel. People aren’t saved in groups; they’re saved one person at a time. The Lord often lays on my heart, and I hope on yours, to speak or pray with someone I meet. I consider those divine appointments that give me opportunity to forward the mission and promote the unity of God’s church while at the same time submitting to Christ’s authority in my own heart and life. The salvation of lost souls must be at the heart of our unified efforts, both collectively and individually.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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