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Christian Unity
by Rabbi Nick Liebenberg


In This Lesson
Introduction | Our Connection with HaMashiach | That We Would Become One | Living in Community
Unity Possible but Not Achieved | HaMashiach's Love Unites | A Distinctive Mark


How does the Bible describe the unity that should exist between Christians? The word "unity" derives from the Latin unus. It means "a oneness", "interconnected parts constituting a whole", "being united", "harmony". Notice, none of those definitions infers agreement. Just as a man and woman marry and become "one flesh", so the Apostle Paul instructs that we are "one Body" in Christ.

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Romans 12:4-5)

And in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul writes:
12"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
25that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
(1 Corinthians 12:12,18,25,27 emphasis added)

Thus, we are one Body united in Christ. Our union is based, not on various non-salvific doctrines which define the denominations within Christendom, but on our love for Christ and each other and on our acceptance of His redemptive work.

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Our Connection with HaMashiach
Our connection with each other depends on our connection with HaMashiach. "Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. However, the bread from heaven gives eternal life to everyone who eats it. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is My flesh, offered so the world may live." (John 6:48-51)

How can Yeshua give us His flesh as bread to eat? To eat "living bread" means to accept HaMashiach into our life and become united with Him. We are united with HaMashiach in two ways:

  • by believing in His atoning death (the sacrifice of his flesh) and His bodily resurrection and
  • by devoting ourselves to living as He requires, depending on His teaching for guidance, and trusting in Ruach HaKodesh [the Holy Spirit] for power.

That We Would Become One
Yeshua's chief desire for His disciples was that they would become one — that is, united in Christ in love and in purpose.

"Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to You. Holy Father, keep them and care for them; all those You have given Me; so that they will be united just as we are." (John 17:11)

Yeshua wanted His followers to be unified as a powerful witness to the reality of YAHVEH's love. This, then, begs the question, "How can we be united?" — especially when we consider those things that currently divide us: national boundaries, languages, cultures, various denominational doctrines, etc. We must ask ourselves if we're helping to unify the Body of HaMashiach or separate and alienate over the non-salvific doctrines?

Some ways in which we can help to unite the Body of Christ include:

  • Praying for other Christians;
  • Avoiding gossip;
  • Build others up;
  • Working together in humility;
  • Giving our time and money;
  • Exalting HaMashiach in everything we do: and
  • Refusing to get sidetracked arguing over divisive, non-salvific matters.

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Living in Community
Yeshua does not desire nor instruct that we live out our faith in isolation. He prayed for unity among the believers based on the believers' unity with Him and the Father. We can know unity among ourselves if we are living in union with YAHVEH. For example, each branch living in union with the vine is united with all the other branches doing the same (see John 15:1-15).

Unity Possible but Not Achieved
In HaMashiach, unity has been made possible, but it has not yet been fully achieved.

"If the Gentiles were enriched because the Jews turned down YAHVEH's offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when the Jews finally accept it." (Romans 11:12)

Paul had a vision of a church where all Jews and Gentiles would be united in their love of YAHVEH and in obedience to HaMashiach. While respecting YAHVEH's Law, this ideal church would look to HaMashiach alone for salvation. A person's ethnic background and social status would be irrelevant (see Galatians 3:28); what mattered would be faith in HaMashiach. But, Paul's vision has not yet been actualized.

Many Jewish people rejected the Gospel. They depended on their heritage for salvation and they did not have the heart of obedience that was so important to the Old Testament prophets and to Paul. Eventually and unfortunately, as Gentiles became dominant in many of the Christian churches, they began rejecting Jews and even persecuting them. This practice has recurred throughout Church history with many even teaching that the Church has replaced Israel as God's "chosen" people.

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HaMashiach's Love Unites
The love commanded by HaMashiach should create deep and abiding unity among Christians.

"I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding." (Philippians 1:9)

Have you ever longed to see a friend with whom you share fond memories? Paul had such a longing to see the Christians at Philippi. His love and affection for them was based not merely on past experiences, but also on the unity that comes when believers draw upon HaMashiach's love.

All Christians are part of YAHVEH's family and thus share equally in the transforming power of His love. "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (Romans 8:15)

Ephesians 1:5—

We might conduct a personal survey here and ask ourselves if we feel a deep love for fellow Christians, friends and strangers alike? If we answer "no" or hesitate to say "yes", then we need to pray that HaMashiach's love would motivate us to love other Christians and to express that love in our actions toward them.

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A Distinctive Mark
Unity ought to be a distinctive mark among Christians. "Is there any encouragement from belonging to HaMashiach? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another and working together with one heart and purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2)

Many people, even Christians, live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves. But selfishness brings discord. Paul, therefore, stressed spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to be one in spirit and in purpose.

When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our problems, we demonstrate HaMashiach's example of putting others first, and we experience unity. We shouldn't be so concerned about making a good impression or meeting our own needs that we strain relationships within YAHVEH's family.

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