God’s Paradigm for Our Unity
Written by Reuben M. Bredenhof |
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Expressing unity internationally is valuable, but even more vital is living it out locally. As church we get to live in real community with each other. We can share our gifts, our talents, our time, our burdens. We have a common table where we eat and drink in remembrance of Christ.
The Holy Spirit says, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps 133:1). This pleasant gift is something that a congregation enjoys when we study Scripture together, worship together, or have fellowship.
Another powerful expression of unity is when we confess our faith. A New Testament word for confession means literally, “saying the same thing.” When we sing or recite our creed, we’re saying the same thing. We don’t contribute our own ideas about God, but we listen to what Scripture says and then confess it together.
A church of Christ not only confesses the same faith but is shaped by this faith. Right beliefs should always lead to right behaviour. And whenever we confess faith in our triune God, He is a model for our life together. The beautiful unity of the Trinity should lead to beautiful unity in the church.
We see this truth in Jesus’s prayer John 17. This prayer is sometimes called his “high priestly prayer” because it’s largely a prayer of intercession. The Old Testament priests approached God at the temple and asked for his favour on for Israel. In a similar way, Jesus prays for his church.
And it is remarkable how Jesus looks ahead to the church’s growth in coming centuries. He prays for believers who haven’t even been born! He says in verse 20, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” The disciples haven’t gone out yet for their missionary task, but soon they will. And as they preach, many will come to faith in Christ.
Anticipating how his believers will grow to become many millions, spread all over the world, Jesus prays to the Father. It should strike us that his very first petition for the future church is for our unity, in verse 21:
…that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.
Notice how Jesus refers to the close unity of the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit, of course). All three persons of the Trinity share a common sovereignty and purpose and glory. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are bound to each other in an eternally loving relationship. They are one!