Bible verses about Unity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Before there can be at-one-ment, or unity, there must first be reconciliation. Before reconciliation, there must be repentance. And before repentance, there must be something else—belief! Our belief must be strong enough and with sufficient understanding that it does not just drive us to our knees to save our skin, but also compels us to make the sacrifices necessary to change our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Genesis 2:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Unity is better than singularity. Here, God does not say how much better; He just introduces the principle. It remains for other places to show how much better it can be. This is a positive example that God establishes from the very start: being united in marriage is better than being alone. But a marriage's degree of success will be determined by how much the two minds are in agreement.

Nobody—man or woman—has all the answers. That is why Paul command us in the book of Ephesians to "submit yourselves to one another." The idea of submitting to each another is for the purpose of producing unity; two united can work and produce much more than one person can produce by himself. God does not go into all the benefits here, but He assures us that two minds and lives that have become one are better than one working alone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Genesis 2:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse shows that two human personalities can become one flesh. Why, then, can God not be one with two distinct personalities who work independently yet in complete harmony? Paul adds in I Corinthians 6:17, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." If a human can be one with God and remain entirely distinct, why cannot another spirit being with a separate personality be one with Him?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Exodus 20:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20), protects our relationship with God because by seeking and bearing true witness to the truth, we can have a relationship with God. God is truth (John 14:6), and he who speaks truth from the heart abides with God (Psalm 15:1-2). Speaking the truth also shows love toward our fellow man (Ephesians 4:15). Lies of any kind—bald-faced, white, or anywhere in between—cause separation and distrust, while truth, though sometimes hard to bear at first, produces unity and trust in the end.

Martin G. Collins
The Ninth Commandment


 

Psalm 10:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 2 shows that the proud person takes advantage of those who are weaker. In practical terms, it means that in pursuing personal desires, the proud person has no regard for the needs and comforts of others. He "runs over" people. He has no esteem for their interests and happiness, thinking them unworthy even to consider. Such an attitude will never bring people together.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Psalm 133:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This first verse expresses the goal, the hope, the prayer of all Christians. What a great thing it would be if all the people could live together harmoniously! What things we could accomplish! What great pleasure we would have! How attractive that would be.

This verse certainly expresses the joy that results in brethren being united, when they have unanimity, when they are "at one." An irony of this "psalm of unity," however, is that the word "unity" does not literally appear in it. The literal translation of the last phrase is "when brethren dwell also together." The idea of unity is obviously there, but the final Hebrew word is yachad, meaning "together," "both," "joined." The phrase can be translated, then, "when brethren are joined in dwelling" or "when brethren dwell together." "In unity" is the translator's interpretation, not a direct translation.

The word "good" here is a fairly general rendering, but the psalmist's idea is "proper": "How proper it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" "How fitting, how right it is for God's people to be one."

Pleasant has the sense of "attractive": "How attractive [charming, lovely] it is when God's people dwell as one." And since we are God's dwelling, we could say, "How wonderful it is when God's dwelling, the Temple of the living God, is one building and not scattered pieces all over the place."

In God's sight, unity or togetherness among His people is proper, and it pleases Him to no end. It has the same effect on us. Brethren who are thus joined together receive the benefits of the goodness and pleasantness unity produces. That is why we should yearn for this unity, because it is right, good, and fitting and because it is lovely, attractive, and appealing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Psalm 133:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Godly unity produces joy because it overcomes the sorrow of self-seeking and fulfills the true love of outgoing concern for others. Joy through unity comes when God's people have all things in common—the same beliefs and desires working toward a common goal.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Psalm 133:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 2 and 3 describe what unity is like, comparing it to oil and to dew. David's choice of these two metaphors extends the idea of "good" and "pleasant." Oil, running upon Aaron's head and down into his beard and onto his garments, was good and pleasant. It was good in the sense that it was proper and fitting for a high priest to be ordained with oil.

Our modern sensitivities may recoil at the thought of having oil poured all over us, but this oil was special, being mixed with many spices that gave it a very pleasing aroma. It was a sweet savor. In addition, it was reserved only for this one occasion, the anointing of the high priest. If one attended the anointing of the high priest, he would always associate this fragrance with that ceremony, and should he ever smell it again, it would bring back his memories of that time when a son of Aaron was raised to the rank of high priest. It was fitting, proper, and pleasant.

Why did David choose to highlight Aaron and anointing with oil? These types have a deeper connection with the unity of the brethren than simply being "good and pleasant." Aaron is the prototype high priest. Who is the antitype? Jesus Christ, our High Priest, who now sits at the right hand of God and mediates on our behalf. In the Levitical ritual, it was in the person of the high priest that at-one-ment was made with the people on the Day of Atonement. Only he could go through the veil, after his and Israel's sins had been purged, to present himself before God and sprinkle the Mercy Seat with blood. The high priest is the vehicle of that oneness—unity with God. Is this not what Jesus Christ has done? Who else has gone through the veil to bring us into unity with the Father (see Colossians 1:19-22; Hebrews 9:24-28 10:19-22)?

The picture that God trying to get us to understand is that unity comes from Him and His Son, and then down to us by His Spirit. A beautiful picture! He is the originator of unity, and without Him we cannot have unity.

It is very interesting that there has been a debate for years about how far down the oil goes. Most people take it that the word translated in the New King James as edge and in the King James as skirts means "collar." It is literally "mouth" or "opening." What is the mouth of the garment? We have two choices: On a robe, it is either the collar, which goes over the head, or the skirt hem. Many, comparing this verse with the actual ritual, say that the high priest ws anointed with just a small amount that was ceremoniously put on his head and allowed to drip down his hair and into his beard and onto his shoulders. This is probably true.

However, God may have inspired David to mean "skirt," the bottom hem down by the ankles, not the collar, because the whole of verses 2-3 is hyperbole, exaggeration. The dew of Hermon has never reached the mountains of Zion at Jerusalem; it is too far away. We must remember that the Hebrews frequently wrote in parallel units, and these verses parallel to each other. Since he exaggerates in one, he will exaggerate in the other.

He does this to get his point across to us: We are covered with oil from head to toe, and the Holy Land is covered from north to south with dew. Both oil and water are symbols of God's Spirit. It covers the whole church, every member, not just the Head. The picture here is of the fullness or completeness of the Spirit. As the High Priest's body, we are united with Him, the Head, by His Spirit.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Psalm 133:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

David ends this psalm by saying God commands the blessing of eternal life. Because this is a psalm about unity, unity must be something that we do in response to His command. When God commands something to be done, there must be some response to accomplish His word. God says in Isaiah 55:11 that He sends forth His word, and it does not come back to Him empty, unfulfilled, void. This does not mean that hocus-pocus, abracadabra, something gets done. It means a "work" begins and is accomplished, and God receives it back as a completed project. He commands and gives everything needed for the work to be done, and then someone must respond and do it, presenting it back to God as a finished work.

Unity is such a work, commanded by God. We must respond to His charge and give it back to Him as a finished work, or it will never happen! Unity is something we do in response to His command that it be. It is like many other godly works or acts that consist of God and us working together to produce them. Sanctification is one of these godly acts. God does something for us, usually far more than what we have to do or can do, but even what He does is not enough. We, then, must respond to His action and carry it through for it to be accomplished. He does not say, "You are saved!" and it is done. No. We have to respond to His command—His calling—repent, be baptized, continue in His way, overcome, grow, and endure to the end. Only through this whole process are we completely saved.

Unity works the same way. God sends His Spirit—His very nature, and power with whatever gifts we need to fulfill the process—and then we take up the burden of promoting, continuing, and finishing it. Only then will we have unity. A person can pray all he wants for God to unify the church, but if he is doing nothing to build it, it will never happen.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Proverbs 29:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Proverbs 29:18 in the New Living Bible says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild." It does not mean that those without vision were "screaming Mimi's" running around tearing their hair out or something of that nature. It simply means that those without the revelation of God, those without godly vision, live purposeless lives. Their lives are lived lawlessly and in vanity - without direction. Therefore, for a group to be unified, all must have the same vision of where to go in life. We cannot do that until we all believe the same things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

Ecclesiastes 4:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He intimates that three are better than two. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is showing the principle that unity is better than singularity, and as people who are likewise unified with those who were there before, the institution, the family, or whatever, keeps getting stronger and stronger. As long as all of the minds are undivided, they add to the strength of those who are already there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Isaiah 66:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Humility is the key to oneness with God. Consequently, it is also the key to oneness with our brethren. God's way of achieving oneness is for each person to be so attuned to God that he is motivated to do everything possible to ensure that the relationship (with God or fellow man) is not only unbroken, but constantly becoming ever closer. We should do this because we are striving to become like Him, and that is how He is.

Each person is responsible for cleaning up his character and humbling himself before God. Each is not responsible for judging his brother so critically it drives a wedge between them and separates them. Such a person does not even see his own sin! In such a case, he could not be in God's Kingdom because that manner of thinking would continue right on into it, and God will not allow it there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Matthew 5:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most of us are not at all adept at reconciling warring parties, but that is not the kind of peacemaking Jesus is concerned about for us now. His idea of peacemaking revolves around the way we live. It was Adam and Eve's conduct that shattered the peace between man and God. Cain's conduct broke the peace between him and Abel and him and God. As it is with all of us, conduct makes or breaks the peace!

As mentioned earlier, Paul commands us, "As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18), an arduous task at times, considering human personalities. The thrust of Paul's exhortation implies that, far from being a simple task, complying with it will call upon our constant vigilance, self-control, and earnest prayer.

Though human nature guarantees that peace-breaking "offenses must come," it is part of Christian duty to ensure that our conduct produces no just cause of complaint against us (Matthew 18:7). It is first for our own peace that we do so, for it is impossible to be happy while involved in arguments and warfare. Some Christians are more competitive and contentious than others, and they need to beg God doubly for the spiritual strength to restrain their pride and anger and to calm them. Paul warns, "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Though pride may be at the base of contention, rising anger within one or the other person in a dispute is frequently the first sign that the peace is about to be broken. Paul's warning is necessary because anger is so difficult to check and equally difficult to let go completely before the peace is broken, and bitter and persistent hatred soon replaces the anger.

Paul quotes the first phrase of this verse from Psalm 4:4, then modifies the second phrase to give it a more immediate and practical application. "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord" (Psalm 4:4-5). This is exactly the course Jesus follows when taunted and vilified by those whose ire He had aroused. Notice Peter's testimony:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

If we follow Christ's example, the one reviling or threatening soon finds himself without an opponent. God, then, advises us to be passive in the face of contention. In the Kingdom, however, we will likely be a great deal more proactive, just as Christ is now as our High Priest. He will be even more active when He comes as King of kings to fight against the nations and establish His peace.

Since it is true that "blessed are the peacemakers," it logically follows that God curses peace-breakers, a fact all who desire to be peacemakers must keep in mind. Contention produces the curse of disunity. When Adam and Eve sinned, both unity and peace were shattered, and God sentenced them to death. Regardless of the justification, it is impossible for sin to produce either godly peace or unity. It is therefore urgent that we be diligent not merely to guard against the more obvious forms of sin but also bigotry, intemperate zeal, judging, impatience, and a quarrelsome spirit, which provide a basis for Paul's counsel in Romans 14:19.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

Luke 1:77-79  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

John 14:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word in could prove to be quite a puzzle because, if we understood it as "inside" rather than "in union with," we would have God and Christ crawling inside and out of each other. It would create a farcical, "Where is He now? The Son is in the Father. No, the Father is in the Son." Or, because Christians are included in verse 20, it would be, "No, He's in me." "No, He's in you." Or, "No, I'm in Him." We could get all confused. But God is logical.

Here, the sense is definitely "in union with." The Father and Son are two separate Beings who sit side by side in carrying out the responsibilities of providing for and maintaining the operation of His creation both physically and spiritually. When the Son was on earth, He was in union with the Father, and the Father was in union with Him.

It is almost as if they were—well, humanly, we would say "one flesh." When a man and a woman marry, are they two different beings? Yes, they are. Are they commanded by God to marry for the purpose of becoming one, in union with each other? Yes (Genesis 2:24).

Do they crawl in and out of each other? No, of course not. Nevertheless, a blending takes place: a blending of mind and personality. And what eventually happens? It is something that begins even before the two become married. No matter where one of them goes, because of their experiences together, he or she carries the presence of the other with him or her, and they can call up those memories in the blink of an eye. Is that not simple?

The same principle is involved in the union of the Father and the Son—and the union of God and the Christian.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)


 

John 17:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Deuteronomy 6:4 states, "The LORD our Elohim is one LORD." In John 17:5, Jesus establishes that there was a time when He was alongside the Father, but now He says that He is with, alongside of, His disciples. He is not alongside of the Father, and in this context, He asks the Father, "that they [the apostles] may be one as we are." What kind of oneness is this, if it is not being "alongside of"? John 17:21 shows this unity is actually "inside of"!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 17:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are reading their word right now, that is, the word that the apostles wrote. Jesus' prayer, then, is that those of us who now believe through the writings of the apostles may be one with the Father and the Son, and that oneness may come through the reading of the word that they wrote.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 17:20-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

John 17:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's request refers to a oneness in unity, as a unit, of agreement. This same principle is found in Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"—to be one in mind, one in heart, one in spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 17:21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ is indicating a union: "That you might be unified, with the Father, in the same way that the Father and the Son are."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 3)


 

John 17:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice how many time He says "may be." The English word "may" implies possibilities—permission for a thing to occur, not its certainty.

In other words, Jesus' prayer shows that those in a covenant with God will have to desire unity in the same way that God does. It is a possibility that we can have it. We have permission to have it, but it is not certain yet. That unity hangs in the balance, depending on the way that we react within the relationship. Thus, He is praying that it will happen, but it is a "maybe."

The reason we need to desire unity in the same way God does is so that we can prepare for it by doing God's will, by exercising faith. Then we will be prepared to live in the same way that He does for all eternity with Him.

A husband and wife cannot be one unless they are both prepared to live the same way as the other and to make any sacrifices that might be necessary to blend the lives together. So when they marry, their union is a "maybe." The possibility exists if the two will make the efforts to make the "maybe" absolute. As Christians, we must desire this unity enough to make the right choices and sacrifices to marry Jesus Christ in His Kingdom. It is not a "done deal" yet!

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 3)


 

Acts 2:41-42  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There was a time, signified by this day of Pentecost, when the church was unified—perhaps as unified as it ever was in its entire history. These verses reveal two elements of the time when the unity of the church was at its very peak.

1) They were devoted to the apostles' doctrine. In the first century that was "the faith once delivered." It means they were constant. They were resolute. They were single-minded. They were determined in learning and following it. They did not drift. They did not swerve from it, and it produced what it is supposed to: faith in God; faith in His way; faith in His church; confidence and trust in putting these things into practice. They were deeply convicted.

2) They took care of each other. They were very much concerned for their brother's welfare. This was not communism, where they sold all their goods and turned them over to the administration of the church to distribute equally to all. But, rather, it indicates they voluntarily looked out for each other personally (individually), striving to meet the needs of each other.

This is the epitome of "feeding the flock"—and ALL of the body is participating, not just the ministry. Everybody is nurturing everybody else. The whole body participating in two major things, pursuing the faith once delivered and taking care of each other.

The New Testament epistles make it very clear that later, when the first century church was splitting, the people were counseled to get back to the faith once delivered—which means that they had drifted from it. They were no longer doing the things they were doing in Acts 2. Again, why? Why counsel them to get back to the apostles' doctrines?

Putting this together, asking where faith arises from, there are two major components. The first is God and what He does (I Corinthians 2). He opens up our mind. He predisposes it for us to receive something. The second is expounded upon by Paul in Romans 10. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God." Those two work together. What God does, by a miraculous act of His mind, of His will, of His Spirit working in our minds, is combined with the message He gives to the person He sends. It is to be the basis and foundation of our conversion and our faith. From that point on, it becomes a matter of learning more specifically the things that are contained within the message that was delivered to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Romans 12:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse provides the primary key to how to be unified: We must sacrifice ourselves for one another. Sacrifice is the essence of godly love. If we are not willing to sacrifice, we are not showing love. It is as plain as that. The attitude of godly love—being willing to sacrifice—must be the underlying attitude as we interact with each other. "Service" is the last word in the verse, and sacrifice is our reasonable, logical, rational, spiritual service. It is the way we minister to one another and exhibit godly love.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 12:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

After being willing to sacrifice (verse 1), the next step to unity is throwing off the world, human nature, and inferior way of life that we have learned in this world. We could also say we must get rid of the old man and put on Christ, the new man (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Paul later says we have to transform and renew our way of life and our thinking processes (II Corinthians 3:18; 4:16; Ephesians 4:23), and by doing so, we approve and are convicted by God's will. Only by going through this process do we finally get thoroughly in our minds and hearts what God wants us to do to live God's eternal way of life. If we never start walking that walk, we will never prove it, and thus we will never be unified.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 12:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These six verses are all tied together by humility—that one should not think of himself more highly than he ought. God has put us each in the body as it pleases Him, so we should not think that we, as, say, the toe are better than the knee because the toe cannot do the knee's job. God thinks of the toe just as highly as He does of the knee, but if He has put us as a toe, why not in faith do the job of a toe because that is what God wants us to be? If He had wanted us to be a knee, He would have put you in the body as a knee, but He made us to be a toe, so be happy as a toe! Do a toe's work in faith!

Paul tells us to think soberly, logically, seriously, that as God has dealt to each a measure of faith, that we in faith can consider our place in the church and deal with it. So, whatever we are to do, do it! Do it with all the gifts and skills that God has given—but do not try to do another's job. It is his job to do diligently, not ours. God put us in the body to do a specific job, our job not his, otherwise He would have given us his job!

If we have been given the job to exhort, then we should exhort. If it is our job to minister and serve others, serve—but do not take another's job to prophesy. Paul is saying, "In lowliness of mind, be content where you are, because obviously God has put you there for a reason. If you do the job that God has given to you, you are fulfilling His will." The church, then, can be united because the members are not competing over each other's responsibilities.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

1 Corinthians 1:10-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Dictionaries define an idol as "any object of ardent or excessive devotion or admiration." If we obey the dictates of a person, church, or some other group contrary to the direct commands of God, we are guilty of idolatry. The individual or group becomes the idol, replacing God.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 1:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section reveals that speaking the same thing is a choice. We have to choose for the sake of unity. It is not an option for those who consider themselves to be converted; it is commanded. There is no option. We have to choose to follow Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

1 Corinthians 6:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This usage points out how easily a person can be misled or confused by an inference in contrast to a direct, concrete statement. From this verse, one could conclude that, if he is joined to the Lord, then he is a spirit just as the Lord is. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." The hat-pin test disproves this very quickly. We are not a spirit, not the way the Lord is a spirit.

When we read it in its wider context, Paul reveals that he is not writing on the theme of spirit composition at all. His theme is "closeness of connection," which he illustrates by a man being "joined to a harlot." Unity emerges as the theme as he brings Christ into the picture, and in this case, a Christian's unity with Him is the highest, purest form of unity that a human being can be involved in.

Paul is suggesting, then, that a sheep may wander from the shepherd, a branch may be cut from a tree, a limb severed from the body, a child alienated from his parents, and even a wife from her husband; but when two spirits blend into one, nothing can separate them. So close is their unity that what affects one affects the other. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

So, Paul concludes, do not involve Christ in sin. We should do everything in our power to affect that intimate spiritual relationship, that unity, for good. Our unity with Jesus Christ is spiritual and so close that, as God looks at it, it is closer than being joined in intercourse with a harlot! The reason for this is that, even in such a situation as that, the man and woman are, in reality, still two beings.

However, if we are in Christ, we are actually in His body, which is why Paul employs the word "spirit." We cannot see His body. It is invisible, but it is real! We are in Him! Are we truly aware of that? We need to be growing in the understanding of it. We are cells in His body, as it were, and as Paul explains in I Corinthians 12:26, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. When one part of the body is strengthened, the whole body is strengthened.

We must begin to understand that, when God uses the word "spirit" in this way, it suggests a unity that is extremely close. It is a matter of the joining of minds!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 8:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A cause of Corinth's divided congregation was that the members were flaunting their gifts, claiming they wanted to edify, but the fruits of division showed Paul the real motivation was intellectual vanity - pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

1 Corinthians 11:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Paul is writing to a church he raised up. His instruction to this badly divided church is "keep the doctrines as I delivered them"—not somebody else, but as Paul taught them to the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 1): God and HWA


 

1 Corinthians 12:4-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 4-11, Paul shows that each person God places in the body receives gifts for the benefit of the entire body. In verses 14-20, he explains that diversity in the body is necessary because, if the entire body was just one part, it could not function. The diversity in this context is in terms of gifts, not doctrine, nationality, sex, or race. Diversity enables the body to be much more effective, efficient, and versatile in performing its intended purpose. Each person has a specific function necessary to the whole.

In verses 21-25, Paul makes a veiled warning that we need to guard against both pride in our abilities and its opposite—equally vain—that we have nothing to give. We become useful members when we choose to set aside these vanities and begin doing what we should.

Verse 18, combined with verses 22-26, teaches us that God Himself has organized the body. We need to understand that the greatest Authority in all of creation has specifically placed us within it and given us gifts. If the body is to function as He has purposed, each part must recognize his individual dependence upon and concern for the whole. In addition, each must understand what the body is designed to accomplish. It is the responsibility of each part to subordinate himself to God to produce the unity that will enable the whole body to do its work.

God expresses these concerns for the body because He wants it to function efficiently and effectively in unity. Therefore, what happens to one part, or what one part does, affects the whole. What we do does indeed make a difference because we are individual parts of a living, spiritual organism. Our actions will produce an increase of good or evil, efficiency or inefficiency in the use of spiritual resources, effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our witness, and growth or backsliding in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Galatians 3:26-29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses pair groupings or concepts that separate people and keep them divided and sometimes at war with each other. Paul shows racial differences (Greek and Jew); religious differences (circumcised and uncircumcised); cultural differences (barbarian and Scythian); social differences (slave and free); and finally sexual difference (male and female).

These are in no way all the differences that divide humanity, but they give enough of a representation for God to make His point. He makes it clear that we cannot be united to Him and separated from our brother at the same time. To do something for or against a brother is to do it to Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). Because we, as brethren, are "in" Christ and He "in" us, we are one organism. John says if a man does not love his brother, he does not love God (I John 4:20)! This is serious business. We must be one with both.

The person who is truly converted is motivated, guided, inspired, led by, yielding to, and empowered by the radiant energy flowing from Christ, who lives and works in Him. It is almost as if Christ and His converted brethren are driven together because they share the same nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Galatians 3:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For those who have been called by God and have properly responded, social distinctions - whether national/racial, conditional/financial, or gender - recede, even disappear. The unifying element is the righteousness of Christ, which the Christian puts on and begins to emulate. Romans 10:12 points out that after justification, we have the same Lord and Master, and He is rich in His gifts (grace, mercy, talents, blessings, etc.) to all.

A unity comes with God's calling and justification. We are united in our need for a Savior. We are united in our acceptance of His blood for the remission of our sins. We are united through common experience: We all recognize that the only reason we have physical or spiritual life is because of God's grace and mercy. We are united in our receipt of God's gifts, when all we have earned is death.

When we recognize that the playing field has been completely leveled, and that we all had/have a debt impossible to pay, there is no room for boasting. There are different roles and responsibilities, because God gives His gifts as He sees fit and some people receive more talents than others. But no Christian is inherently better than another.

See also Romans 10:12; I Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 1:15-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The subject of this paragraph begins with the Father and shifts to the Son. At the end, however, the church—its relationship to Christ and among the members—becomes the focus. The major theme of the book of Ephesians is unity. It tells us why we are able to have it and what we must do to maintain it.

Paul describes the church as "a body." This is essential to unity and to preaching the gospel, keeping us from not losing our focus. We have to have God's perspective of what we are. We are a body, meaning a living organism, or by analogy, the human body.

Any organism, like the human body, is unified. Each part cooperating for the good of the whole. Notice that Paul does not use a word like "team." The word "team" has some of the same associations as "body," but it is not as accurate. With "body," Paul not only gets across the concept of association within an organism to accomplish a common work, but it also the sense of a far closer relationship and more critical responsibility, in which each part responds to the will of the head.

We are so close to Jesus Christ that Paul describes us as "His fullness," that is, we fill Him out. We complete Him. Paul does this to relate both the closeness of our association with Christ and our responsibility to Him to do everything in our power to build the strength of both.

The church—we—are Jesus Christ's complement. This is the highest honor a human being can be given! There is nothing greater than to say that we are a part—we fill out, we complete—the body of Jesus Christ! It is as though Jesus Christ our Creator considers Himself incomplete until we become part of Him. He is a Bridegroom, incomplete without His Bride. As a vine, He is incomplete without the branches. As a Shepherd, He is incomplete without His sheep. And so also is He incomplete as a Head without a body, without members, through whom He works and is glorified as they cooperate and yield to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

Ephesians 2:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From the time we were born, Satan began to inject us with his mind, thoughts, ways, attitudes, and purposes, so by the time that God gets to us—but in God's good time He calls us and begins to convert us—we are in union with Satan. All our lives, he has been broadcasting, and we are in agreement with him. This is what has to be overcome.

Satan is with us always. But we have to understand that nobody, not even God, can take away our right of choice of whom we want to be in union with. When God begins to convert us, He makes us well aware that we have a choice and that we can resist and determine who we want to be united with—God or Satan—just as we can determine in our own lives who we want to be friends with.

We can choose our friends. We can choose, then, the kind of relationships we have with them. We can walk away from them, if they are pulling us down—away from union with God.

Unfortunately, that has to be done sometimes so that we be in union, at one with, the Father. We hope that does not happen very often. Parents know that at times they have tell their children, "We don't want you to hang out with him or her." Why? Because they know that that other kid will pull their children down, so they do not want them in union with him. It is a simple principle.

God has put us into the position where we have the opportunity to use our time and energy to make the choice of whether we will be in union with Him. He leaves the choice to us. It is a tremendous thing that He does this because it produces wonderful effects.

So we are juxtaposed between, on the one hand, God, and on the other hand, Satan. But we are free from Satan because we have the choice of whom we want to be in union with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 2:10-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 15, Paul says that God "create[s] in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace." The apostle defines what these "two" are in verse 11: "Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands. . . ." The two, Gentiles and Israelites, share one Spirit in Christ, "who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us" (verse 14). Whether physically Gentile or Israelite, those who have "put on the new man" have one Spirit, God's Holy Spirit.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Ephesians 2:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Formerly, before God began to work in this way, there were two kinds of people on earth: the converted and unconverted. However, let us be a little bit more specific. In the context of Ephesians 2, the two kinds of people were Israelites and Gentiles. When we understand verses 16-20, He is saying now a third class of people is arising. There is the Gentile, the Israelite, and the Christian—the new man.

This is what God is creating, a family, a nation. He is creating something that is unique on the earth: a family that gets along with each other. Such a thing is unseen in the history of men. There are no wars (considering nations being families grown great) that are more vicious and terrible than inter-family wars, which we call "civil wars."

God is creating a family that gets along with each other, and this harmony begins with the acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ. However, God expects that it will not end there. Because of the fellowship that we have with Him through Jesus Christ, as we begin to have more things in common, it will begin to expand out to others whom He is calling. It begins with the Spirit of God working with the person and eventually in him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 2:20-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This creating, building, or growing that Paul writes about here is the process by which we come to have more and more in common with each other so that there can be a continuing fellowship. The Holy Spirit, mentioned in verse 18 and again in verse 22, is the mechanism by which this is accomplished.

The eradication of the differences that we bring with us into the church and the building of the commonality are primarily the creative work of God. He is the Artisan at work, and we are being created in Christ Jesus into a fellowship that is so close that it is likened to a family. Families have things in common. It begins with a biological affinity, and the children of a mother and a father are genetically closer to each other than they are to their parents. What are we called in the church? Brothers and sisters.

Families have looks and practices in common, too, among other things. What they have in common makes them a family. So, in the church, God has to build a commonality to give us the family and therefore the fellowship that will enable us to continue with Him and with our brethren.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 3:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul says virtually the same thing here that he says in chapter one. He just changes the vocabulary. What have we been called or invited to? To be one with God—to be in His Family, His Church, and His Kingdom—all of these are a progression of the same basic thought. God is drawing everybody to Him, to be one with Him (a unity that was broken in Adam and Eve's sin of submitting to Satan rather than submitting to God).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 4:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The part we have to play is to walk worthy of our calling, and as the apostle goes on to say, our calling is to be one: one body, one spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, just as we have one Lord and one Father. We are to be one bride of Christ. He is not a polygamist; He will not marry many brides but one united bride.

We in the church can be disunified if we fail to practice verses 2 and 3: Without lowliness (humility), without gentleness (meekness), without longsuffering (forebearance or patient endurance), without love and peace, we will never have unity. As long as we are proud, easily angered and offended, jump on every little thing, lack patience, and treat each other hatefully—as long as we cause strife—there will never be unity. Even with all that God does (I Corinthians 1:4-9), it will not happen. He will not force unity upon us if we show that we do not want it. The natural order of things is that we will disunify further if we fail to show Him that we are working toward it. So, without these virtues, even with God deluging us with His Spirit, we will not have unity.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Ephesians 4:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Therefore" is a conjunction that bridges either to a command, a conclusion, an exhortation or perhaps, all three. Here it connects to a statement that has elements of all three, with exhortation being the strongest. Paul is appealing to us to make practical application of the things that immediately preceded the word "therefore."

He is referring to what appeared in the first three chapters, as they lay the foundation for what follows in chapter 4 and beyond, that is, what is necessary to produce unity. It does not matter whether it is in a family, church, government, or nation. Ephesians 5, for example, speaks of the unity of husband and wife, which sets the pace for the family and prepares for the Kingdom of God and unification with Jesus Christ for all eternity.

That the chapter breaks in Ephesians 4:1 is almost a disservice. Paul did not write it that way; he wrote it as a free-flowing letter from beginning to end. One thought flows right into another. If we would read it that way with understanding, it would have greater impact than it does in this form. Nevertheless, we tend to segment things because we desire order, so breaking it up like this makes possible a concordance and finding words and phrase relatively easy. Even so, sometimes those "helps" are misleading and a disservice. The break in continuity might have worked better elsewhere.

We need to understand that, with that word "therefore," Paul is telling us to do something! In light of all that appears in the first three chapters of this book, which provides the doctrinal base for unity, we ought to do something. If we believe it and put it into practice, we can have unity! But if we fail in this, unity will also fail.

So we need the guidance of the doctrines to know the direction to take and what to do along the way. But, if we do not go in that direction and do not do what it says, we have not listened to the "therefore." It is our spiritual business to put into practical application the doctrines explained at the beginning of the book.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)


 

Ephesians 4:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.

Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).

Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Ephesians 4:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The overall instruction here has to do with keeping the unity of the faith. Paul names four characteristics of conduct that are "attractively adorning" in two sets of two. The first two go together closely like bread and butter, and the second two go together. All four of them are linked, but the traits within the two pairs are most closely related to each other.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 4:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With all means "with every possible lowliness," "with every kind of lowliness," or "in all situations," or "at all times." In other words, always wear the apron of humility wherever one is, whatever one is doing, whoever one is dealing with, whatever the time happens to be. We should never be without it because it will serve us and God and unity well. It will never divide; it will always cement and hold the group, the family, the community together.

This is to be a fundamental element of our character. We may feel we have something to be proud of. For some, it might be money or ancestry or family. It might be brains, looks, athletic ability, or in the church, our understanding of doctrine. We have to be careful because human nature is always looking for a way to assert what it is proud of and to display it, and this causes division.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Ephesians 4:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Forbearance is a vital part of agape love. Paul's immediate change of subject in verse 3 indicates that by bearing with one another in love, unity of the Spirit is produced. Very interesting and helpful for us today.

Forbearance in love produces unity. When we see disunity and scattering, we can be sure that someone has thrown out forbearance, love, and humility, which the apostle had mentioned earlier. When these virtues are absent, the church goes to the four winds because the members cannot put up with each other. They find reasons to be offended, and they scatter.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Ephesians 4:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Perfect unity will not occur until we all believe and know, and therefore act, like our elder brother, Jesus Christ. This is why the ministry goes over the same territory Sabbath after Sabbath—because we have not reached perfect unity yet. We have by no means "come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God." We have not come "to a perfect man." We have not come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," so the ministry keeps on preaching. It is its job, and if the preaching of it becomes trite, repetitive, boring—sorry, that is the ministry's job.

Ministers have to keep going over it until the perfect man is produced in the body of Christ. We will probably never reach it in this life, so church members should get used to hearing the same old sermons every week. It is hoped that ministers can come at it from new angles, provide deeper knowledge, explain things in a little bit better way each time, and make it seem fresh and interesting. But God, who gave the ministry this goal, desires that we strive to attain it, and so the ministry, if it is going to be faithful, will keep on preaching because it is in everyone's best interest that it do so. We all want to be in God's Kingdom.

It is obvious that the church has not reached perfect unity, and in fact, some of us have regressed in recent years. We can easily see this because, though Christ is not divided, the church is. We have schisms, and schisms are there to prove who is on His side. Paul says there must be schisms, factions, heresies, in the church because they expose, make manifest, those who are really following Christ (I Corinthians 11:19). The goal is that there be no divisions (I Corinthians 12:25), but Paul tells us that there will be, and that is the way God set up the church.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

Ephesians 4:17-32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most of us realize that the unity of the church of God courses through the book of Ephesians as a general theme. Paul illustrates the church as a complete body of which Jesus, though in heaven, is the Head, and the elect here on earth comprise the rest of it. Early on, Paul declares how God has planned the organization of His purpose from the very beginning, determining whom He would call, give His Spirit to, and perfect as His children.

In Ephesians 4, the apostle begins to clarify our Christian responsibilities regarding works. He appeals to us in verse 1 to make every effort to live a manner of life that measures up to the magnificence of our high calling. He then makes sure we understand that we must carry out our responsibilities in humility, kindness, and forbearance as we strive to maintain doctrinal accord in purity.

He explains that Christ has given each of us gifts to meet our responsibilities in maintaining the unity of God's church. Foremost among these gifts are teachers who will work to equip us for service in the church and eventually in the Kingdom. This same process will enable us to grow to completion, to mature, no longer wavering in our loyalties, certain in the direction of our lives, and not deceived by the craftiness of men.

With that foundation, the "therefore" in verse 17 draws our focus to the practical applications necessary to meet the standards of the preceding spiritual concepts. We must not conduct our lives as the unconverted do. They are blinded to these spiritual realities and so conduct life in ignorance, following the lusts of darkened minds.

Because we are being educated by God, the standards of conduct are established by His truths and are therefore exceedingly higher. We must make every effort to throw off the works of carnality and strive to acquire a renewed mind through diligent, continuous effort so that we can be created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).

In verses 25-29, Paul moves even further from generalities to clear, specific works that we must do. We must speak truth so that we do not injure another through lies, as well as to maintain unity. Because deceit produces distrust, unity cannot be maintained if lying occurs. We must not allow our tempers to flare out of control, for they serve as an open door for Satan to create havoc.

We must be honest, earning our way so that we are prepared to give to others who are in need. We must be careful that what we speak is not only true but also edifying, imparting encouragement, empathy, sympathy, exhortation, and even gentle correction when needed.

In verse 30 is a brief and kind reminder that, in doing our works we must never forget that we owe everything to our indwelling Lord and Master. We must make every effort to be thankful, acknowledging Him as the Source of all gifts and strengths, enabling us to glorify Him through our works.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul delineates specific responsibilities concerning our attitudes toward fellow Christians within personal relationships.

This brief overview of just one chapter shows clearly how much works enter into a Christian's life as practical requirements that cannot be passed off as unnecessary. How else will a Christian glorify God? How else will he grow to reflect the image of God? How else will he fulfill God's command to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) except by faithfully doing those works that lead to life?

Through the whole process of sanctification, the Christian will make constant use of two additional works: daily prayer and Bible study, which must be combined with his efforts to obey God. No one who is careless about performing these works can expect to make progress growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ during sanctification.

Why? Without them, he will have no relationship with either the Father or the Son, and thus will not be enabled to achieve the required works. They are the Source of the powers that make it possible for us to do the works God has ordained. If we do not follow through on these two works, we will surely hear ourselves called "wicked and lazy" and be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:24-30).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 5:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Those who are filled with the spirit (verse 18) will exhort and instruct each other. Paul does not say that they will judge, criticize, and correct. They will sing songs of praise. They will be grateful always in all things to God for what He has allowed to come into their lives, both the bad and the good things. Those who are filled with the Spirit will be grateful because they understand what God does is for their good. They will mutually defer to each other as long as it is all in the fear of the Lord, that is, they will submit to what is in accord with what pleases God.

Almost the entirety of the remainder of this epistle is devoted to submitting yourselves to one another because it is essential to unity. Paul carries the subject into a smaller venue, the home and marriage relationships. He shows the relevance of submitting to marital unity, then in chapter 6, he moves into parent-and-child unity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Philippians 1:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christian union is built around the fact that we are all partakers with one another in the grace of God. Unity, then, will vary from person to person. With some, it will be tenuous because the relationships and experiences together are just not that strong. On the one end, we have casual acquaintances. We know these acquaintances are part of the church of God, and thus we share a Spirit with them, as well as a hope, a dream, a goal. We are on a pilgrimage with them to God's Kingdom. Because they are in our minds, we have a tenuous union with them.

On the other extreme is the union that we have with our mate, who likewise shares with us the same Spirit, the same hopes and dreams. However, with our spouse, we share a great deal more intimacy and far more experience. Our union with him or her is far deeper. Spiritually, this also applies to our unity with the Father in heaven.

This epistle was written while Paul languished in prison. His fond memories of his experiences with the Philippians made him feel confident, as if he were not alone, as if they were with him in his chains, giving him encouragement in his desperate situation. It is as if he is saying, "Because of our unity, I can feel your support."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)


 

Philippians 1:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul wrote this to the Philippian church, considered to be one of his better, most beloved congregations, before the major apostasy of the late first century hit full stride. However, he was already beginning to warn them that they needed to be united in one spirit and one mind and strive, show some effort, work hard, to keep the unity of the faith.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Philippians 2:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Philippian congregation was generally a wonderful group of people. Many different commentaries state that of all the groups that Paul wrote to, Phillipi was probably the best of them all. However, Paul was writing to these people with some measure of sadness because two ladies were feuding, and it was inexorably dividing the group into rival camps. In this section, the apostle is spelling out our Christian responsibility.

Notice that nowhere in the entire epistle to the Phillipians does Paul tell them, "Don't come to church." He did not say, "Split away by yourself." That is what is happening in the greater church. Paul did not say, "Just go sit in your living room." That is not an option with God. He tells us here that we have to look to and seek higher things. He says to let our conduct be worthy of the gospel that we say that we believe.

How far did Jesus Christ go to make peace? To the death! He did not allow the hostility of the world against Him to justify hostility against those who were mistreating Him.

We should not be misled by the word "if" in verse 1. Paul is not stating a "maybe." He is stating an absolute fact. That word "if" is better understood as "since": "Since there are these things in you because of God's Spirit, sacrifice yourself. Make my joy complete and use them." What are we to use? Love, fellowship of the spirit, bowels and mercies. "Fulfil you my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."

Because of God's calling, because He granted us repentance and gave us His Spirit, we have already been enabled by His spirit to use these things to make peace, to be of one accord, to be of one mind. "The mark of the beast" can be overcome by God's Spirit in us, but we must sacrifice ourselves to use it. It is already there. Thus, Paul is saying, "Use God's love in you, and be of one mind. Quit fighting with each other to gain the upper hand. Consider the other person better than you, and serve him by looking out for his interest."

When he says, "Let this mind be in you," what he literally says in the Greek is, "Keep thinking like this." How? As Jesus Christ has already shown us. He is saying, "Don't let your mind be drawn toward what you consider to be the cause of the offence." Or, "Don't dwell upon those things."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast


 

Philippians 2:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Philippians 2 is written to a congregation with a problem of division within it. Two ladies were having a fight or at least a strong disagreement. Paul, at least partially, writes what he does in Philippians to correct this problem. He advises in broad principles how division that exists between any two people can be healed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Philippians 2:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consolation is better as "encouragement." That you be likeminded is Paul's way of saying, "Resolve these differences." It is easy to see that this places the responsibility on each person to do what they need to do to heal the fractured relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Philippians 2:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus is not against greatness or having power, but He wants it to be given by God. God will give it to those who are in harmony with His law, His government, and His way of life. Unity with Him begins with the right attitude toward Him, toward others, and toward the self.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Philippians 4:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The New King James translates this literally. The margin, however, reads: "Let your forbearance or graciousness be known to all men." Let it shine. Why? "The Lord is at hand."

This is a Book written to us! We are coming upon the absolute worst time in human history, and Paul left us a note from nearly two thousand years ago, telling us that this time, as it was in the days of Noah, is the time to exhibit forbearance to all men. Forbearance should be on the top of our list of virtues that we want to include in our character. We should let our gentleness, graciousness, forbearance be known to all men, especially at the end. Squabbles, fights, and offenses only make things that much worse in this terrible era of human history.

Among us there should be peace and unity. If anyone is to be seen showing love and forbearance for one another, it should be God's church - and lately, in the past decade, we have failed the forbearance test. It does not mean we must put up with evil for long, but that we give others a chance to change. If they fail to change, then matters must be worked out so that there will be peace. But we have to start with forbearance.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Colossians 3:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Considering these two verses in context, Paul is saying that because the Colossians had undergone the radical transformation of receiving the new nature and being renewed, they should work hard at making practical the salvation Christ made possible. They should do this by ceasing to do the things that separate and starting to do the things that bond. From chapter two, he carries over an underlying assumption that some measure of doctrinal difference is probably exacerbating the unity problem.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Colossians 3:12-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul puts love "above all," showing that love is the epitome of virtues. Here, its importance is as "the bond," something that binds or holds things, like a congregation, together.

Eventually, all groups tend to fly apart. They do not remain united by magic. Generally, a group maintains its unity through a common cause. As each person contributes to attaining that cause, unity is generally served. However, even though individuals expend effort to achieve the cause, frictions arise from a multitude of reasons. Love is the supreme quality that enables the members of the group to maintain unity and keep it from flying apart. This is achieved by each person constraining or restraining himself to act in love.

Interestingly, qualities that we normally think of as being manly—like drive, courage, determination, and aggressiveness—are missing from this list in Colossians 3. Though they are not inherently evil, they play directly into the human ego, frequently resulting in crass individualism.

Because it tends to produce division, individualism is not what Paul is aiming for here. Without strong spiritual control, those traits tend to descend into competitiveness, anger, wrath, malice, dissembling, accusation, slander, and foul talk. These in turn are nothing more than unashamed self-seeking, traits that split and divide.

Each virtue Paul lists is actually an expression of love, traits that make it possible to live in a community. There is nothing weak and effeminate about them: It takes a strong person to resist what comes naturally and do what God commands rather than go along with urges of our carnal feelings. Paul lists love as a separate attribute here to show that it is not limited to the qualities he names.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

Titus 2:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Self-mastery is self-government, self-control. A person who has self-mastery is a disciplined person, one who has his life in order. The first thing that a person has to accomplish when he begins to rid his life of evil is to get his own life in harness. Because, if we cannot control ourselves, we are sunk! The rest of the growth process will not follow. It all begins with mastering number one.

The thought in Ephesians 4 is that every part of the body has to contribute to the unity of the whole. How does one contribute to the church's unity? By making sure that one is growing, by letting grace teach us, by consciously responding to it.

Self-mastery can be even more strictly defined as "sober," which is how it is translated in the King James and New King James versions. This is a direct translation of the Greek word. In addition, it could also be translated as "sane"! Does this not indicate that before grace comes into our lives, we are all somewhat insane? Indeed, it does! Grace teaches us how to be sane—sound-minded! This is a looser translation, but it still fits.

This word also appears in Greek literature as "discreet," "self-discipline," "to behave in an orderly manner," "to be prudent," and "to be moderate," depending on the context.

We find it in the Bible in such places as Romans 12:3; Titus 2:6; and I Peter 4:7. It always suggests a person who is even-handed and has his passions under control, one who makes proper use of his drives and desires. This implication connects perfectly with the Christian work of getting rid of worldly passions. This word describes a person in whom there are no extremes in his or her manner of life. In the religious or spiritual sense, it means one who is making steady progress in growing into the balance of Jesus Christ. Someone who is not doing these things will be divisive because he is serving himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

James 3:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse shows why the Day of Atonement is needed. It is a day that pictures at-one-ment, the state of being at one. It is needed because men are horribly divided from one another. Some are trying to pull the nations of the earth together as one, but their attempt will fail because it does not originate from God and is not being conducted in a godly manner. It is not being orchestrated by God or His Son, Jesus Christ, and is, instead, being done in a carnal way, which will produce the exact same fruits that all of the other past efforts at unification have produced—division, destruction, and death! In this, we are witnessing a major, worldwide attempt to bring the earth together under one, anti-God system, even as was attempted in Genesis 11.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

1 John 4:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John wants us to understand how much God loves us and to believe how special we are to God—our faith in how much He loves us. The fact that God is love is repeated from verse 8 to emphasize how complete God's love is toward us. The verse ends with the fruit of this kind of love—unity.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Find more Bible verses about Unity:
Unity {Nave's}
 

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