Acts 15 Postlude – Doctrine of the Church – Unity
1) THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
I want to preface this lesson on Unity with a couple of introductory comments:
First, I want to make a distinction between unity and Biblical Unity.
The Greek word for unity, henotes, means unanimity, state of oneness, agreement.
Or, put another way, it means the absence of disunity or disagreement.
We will find in this lesson that Biblical Unity is not just the absence of disagreement or factions, but more importantly, the presence of a number of very important things.
The presence of these “things” naturally gives rise to Biblical Unity.
Biblical Unity grows out of these “things” and is fed by them.
Biblical Unity is at one level, always present, yet on another level requires us to maintain it.
The maintaining of Biblical Unity can also cause division!
Secondly, in some of the verses we will discuss, Paul & Peter address the subject of unity even though there apparently are no glaring disagreements present.
This will serve to further illustrate that Biblical Unity is far more than just “everybody getting along”.
We will find it actually is has a connection to the immeasurable greatness of power that we discussed last week.
Maintain Unity with Knowledge:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
From 1 Timothy 1:3 and 1:20, we learn that Timothy pastured the church at Ephesus.
During that time he faced the problem of false doctrine being taught by at least two congregants.
1 Timothy 1:4-7 tells us that the false doctrine being taught had to do with myths, endless genealogies, vain discussion and teaching without understanding.
In these verses, Paul speaks of unity in 2 specific things: Unity of the Spirit & Unity of the faith.
Unity of the Spirit is a “state of oneness” of the body believers rooted in our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
All believers are baptized by the Spirit and are sealed by the Spirit and so in that we share unity.
Unity of the faith is “agreement” that God exists, is creator and ruler of all things & is the provider and bestower of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Paul demonstrated why we have Unity of the Spirit and faith in that we have one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father.
Unity of the Spirit and Unity of the faith exist with believers even in the midst of our disagreements.
In my opinion, this unity, which God eternally upholds, is part of the immeasurable greatness of power that is directed towards the body of believers.
But, Paul calls on us to maintain this unity, an acknowledgment that we must work to manifest this unity in the life of the church.
In verses 11 & 12, we learn that we are to be obedient in using our gifts to equip the saints.
In verses 13 & 14, we see that we are to grow in knowledge and maturity so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Understanding that biblical unity is related to our spiritual maturity and knowledge of God, what is your responsibility as a member of the body?
What is the best way to know if you are being carried about by human cunning and schemes or that someone is teaching without understanding?
What hinders our growth in this area?
1) So, knowing the things of God – Jesus, Gospel, Scripture, Doctrine, etc. – is crucial to biblical unity.
2) And, using your gifts to equip the saints is also essential to biblical unity – there is no sitting on the sidelines.
Maintain Unity with phroneo:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The overall tone of Philippians is one of joy.
Paul’s relationship with God had obviously deepened during his imprisonment and I think he wanted the church at Ephesus to experience the same thing.
Paul speaks of those who preach Christ with wrong motives.
It is not clear, however, that this was a real problem in the church at Philippi.
In these verses, Paul speaks of being of the same mind and of one mind.
The Greek word for mind in each instance is the same, phroneo.
The words meaning, in this context, relates to humility – this is hinted at in verse 3.
It is often defined as not letting one’s opinion of himself exceed the bounds of modesty.
In Romans 11:20, the word is translated as do not become proud when speaking to the grafted in gentiles.
In Philippians 4:10, the word is translated as concern when speaking of the church’s concern for Paul.
In Romans 15:5-6, the word is translated as to live in such harmony when referring to glorifying God with one voice.
In 1 Corinthians 13:11, it is translated as thought in the phrase thought like a child.
What is Paul’s point in this illustration about the habits of a child?
What does a child think of primarily?
In the course of a normal day, whose agenda are you looking out for primarily?
In our verses here, how is Christ our example for being of the same mind and having one mind?
How are we to be of the same phroneo and of one phroneo?
The word phroneo can also mean to direct ones mind to a thing.
In Colossians 3:1-3, when advising on how to put on the new self, Paul tells us to set our mind on things above.
In Mark 8:32-33, Jesus rebukes Peter, accuses him of not setting his mind on things of God but on things of man.
In Romans 8:5, Paul is showing us how to live life in the Spirit and cautions us not to set our minds on things of the flesh because that means we are living in the flesh.
In Romans 8:8, Paul goes on to tell us that there is no pleasing God when we live like this.
Not pleasing God is a complete failure in the first purpose of the church discussed last week – ministry to God.
And in Philippians 3:19, when speaking of the enemies of the cross of Christ, Paul says they have their minds set on earthly things.
This is exactly what Jesus was rebuking Peter about!
3) So, humility and maturity in our relationships with believers are crucial to maintaining biblical unity.
4) And, setting our minds on others and Christ not on ourselves and the world is essential to biblical unity.
Maintain Unity with Reason:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 & 3:1-4:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
It is from the letters that Paul wrote to Corinth that we are introduced to church discipline.
Sexual immorality was a serious problem at this church and is specifically addressed by Paul.
And among other problems, people in the church were in the habit of suing each other.
Factions arose over who, apparently, had been baptized by whom.
Nous is the Greek word for mind in these verses.
It refers to a capacity to recognize goodness and hate evil and the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially.
Gnome is the Greek word for judgment.
It refers to the ability to have agreement based on knowledge.
What Paul is saying is that we need a Christ-centered Nous to have a God-honoring Gnome.
Paul scolds them for having a man-centered or personality-centered perspective (No Nous) and this led them to make judgments (Gnome) that were not God-honoring and not biblically uniting.
To get a better idea of the nous needed, we will take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:12-20:
12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
Paul is illustrating why it is a mature judgment to be careful and discerning in the use of speaking of tongues.
Notice in verses 15 and 19 he is talking about using his Nous to make sober judgments about the right thing to do.
To further illustrate his point, consider the contrasts he makes throughout these verses:
My tongue vs. my mind – vs 14
In a tongue vs. with my mind – vs 14
Pray with my spirit vs. pray with my mind – vs. 15
Sing with my spirit vs. sing with my mind also – vs. 15
You may be giving thanks vs. other person is not being built up – vs. 17
Ten thousand words in a tongue vs. five words with my mind – vs. 19
These are contrasts between impulse, emotional & spiritual influence and desire vs. a biblically informed, Christ-centered reason and judgment (a Nous informed Gnome).
See how this works:
We have desires and impulses, some of which may even be God given (tongues), and they lead us to certain actions.
But, by using a Christ-centered Nous we can make God-honoring Gnome that may lead us to refrain from that action or to a wiser course of action.
This principle applies to who baptized whom, to speaking in tongues, to smarter-than-thou Bible knowledge and just about anything else.
So in the pursuit of Biblical Unity, just because something is OK, doesn’t mean that it is always OK.
5) MUST BE SO MINGLED WITH CHRIST IN OUR MINDS THAT WE CAN MAKE GOD-HONORING, REASONABLE & OBJECTIVE JUDGMENTS ROOTED IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST AND NOT ROOTED IN THE ISSUE WE ARE TANGLED UP IN! Again, remember Paul – don’t forsake the Gospel and don’t destroy work of God but build up!