Is Unity Something Built or Something Maintained?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Authority and the Church, Part 12

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Steve Ham, AiG–U.S., explains that Christians are instructed to keep unity rather than build unity.

Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (John 17:11)

Today’s big question: is unity something built or something maintained?

The great high priestly prayer of Jesus is one of the richest passages in the Bible. In this prayer our Lord prayed for us as those He dearly loves. Christian readers should feel a wonderful sense of gratitude, knowing our Lord has saved and is molding us to and for His glory.

In today’s verse Jesus prayed for unity starting with the apostles and reaching to the church as a whole. He prayed that they be kept in unity, even like the unity within the Trinity. This is a significant petition from Christ and one every Christian should observe. Jesus didn’t ask that they be helped to build or establish unity but that they would be kept in unity.

The unity of the church is already fully satisfied in Christ. In Christ the church has all things that pertain to life and godliness revealed to us in His Word, beginning in the first chapter of Genesis. In Jesus the church has salvation, and in Jesus the church comes under all His authority. Everything the church requires for unity is already in Christ, and everything we need to know for unity is in the pages of His Word from Genesis to Revelation. When we realize unity in Christ comes with the territory of knowing Christ as Savior, we must also realize that unity is not something we can build or establish ourselves.

In a world that tells us we are united on the basis of a consensus of agreement, Jesus tells us differently. It does not matter if there is agreement with two or two thousand, and it does not matter how educated or how popular the consensus is. True unity can only exist when it is grounded in the One who is truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Many Christians through the years have attempted to claim Christ and yet establish their own unity of thought in human philosophy and add this to Scripture. This has only resulted in factions that take away from the unity in Christ.

The church has everything it needs for unity in Christ and His Word, and we should be careful not to stray from that unity. Jesus prayed that we would keep our unity in Him. Therefore, building Christian unity is impossible—only destroying it is possible by leaving the truth that is in Christ alone. That’s why the apostles regularly warned us to not compromise with the world (for example, see Colossians 2:8).

Today’s big idea: only when we stray from the truth in Jesus do we stray from true unity.

What to pray: ask God to keep us from the divisive philosophies of humanity.

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