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Bible verses about Christian Unity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Corinthians 2:12

As the apostle Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthians, knowing that he is writing to a congregation divided among various factions, he patiently explains to them what makes them different from those in the world yet at the same time unites the members of the church. He, of course, refers to God's Holy Spirit, given to all Christians at conversion by the laying on of hands. The apostle John calls it "the anointing which you have received from Him" (I John 2:27), implying that Christians have been ordained, and thus set apart or sanctified, to a task or office that others have not been given.

This sets up a dichotomy. On the one side are Christians who have freely received God's Spirit, and on the other are all other human beings who, Paul says, have received "the spirit of the world" (see also Ephesians 2:2). Thus, there is a clash of spirits, a collision of motivating forces, at work between the Christian and the world. The apostle writes in Galatians 5 that the two spirits are diametrically opposed, one producing "the works of the flesh," while the other bears "the fruit of the Spirit" (verses 16-25). In fact, he declares in Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God"; the worldly person, imbibing of the spirit of this world, lives in hostility to God and cannot do what God commands.

The Spirit from God, though, removes the human hostility and allows the Christian to know—that is, realize, understand, and use—the gracious gifts of God. These gifts are predominantly spiritual blessings rather than physical ones. Jesus advises His disciples not to worry about food, drink, and clothing because God knows that physical human beings need such things to live (Matthew 6:25-32). Instead, He says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (verse 33). The Christian's mind is to be focused on God's goal and godly things that will propel him along the way there, and he can do this only by the many gifts bestowed through God's Spirit.

Paul's focus in this passage seems to be on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Earlier, he had mentioned that God has chosen to spread the gospel message through preaching, which the worldly Greeks considered "foolishness" (I Corinthians 1:23). Yet, this only exposes the fact that the Greeks did not have the ability to understand spiritual matters, and God would ultimately confound them in their "wisdom" through weak and foolish people preaching a "foolish" message of a crucified Savior. The difference is that those weak and foolish people possess a Spirit that comes directly from the Creator God that allows them to know the truth in all its divine splendor.

Thus, in terms of the apostle's overall goal in persuading the Corinthians that they should "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10), he emphasizes that they have this one commonality, God's Holy Spirit, that makes all the difference to them as individuals and as a congregation. So, as he goes on to say, there is no reason for them to be so judgmental one against the other, for they all "have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:16). Having one mind and being all in one Body of Christ, as he later discusses (I Corinthians 12:12-27), dividing themselves into cliques is both counterproductive and contrary to God's purpose.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

1 Corinthians 6:17

Reading I Corinthians 6:17, a person can easily become misled or confused by an inference in contrast to a direct, concrete statement regarding spirit. 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)


 

Philippians 1:7

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)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:15

Tradition is broader than some admit. A note from a study Bible contains a bit of useful information regarding this word:

Traditions refers to more than customs. In view here is the totality of the apostolic doctrine as it was given to them—all of the teachings, not just what we would think of being the foundational teachings that appear in Hebrews the sixth chapter or things directly pertaining to the great goal in life that gives us the vision of being born in the kingdom of God.

The writer understands that word applies to the whole revelation given through the apostles. "Traditions" reach out to include policies and practices or procedures that the Bible does not specifically speak to. The apostle has the authority to establish them while he is God's apostle.

Notice an application in I Corinthians 11:2. Corinth was a badly divided congregation, at least internally; church members there had all kinds of different ideas. In I Corinthians 1:10, the phrase about being "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" has to do with the way we see things, with our perspective. He is saying that we should not be divided even in our perspectives. I Corinthians 11:2 reads,

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

Ordinances is the same word that is translated "traditions" in II Thessalonians 2:15 and II Thessalonians 3:6. Here, the translators have rendered it "ordinances," as if it referred to law. However, consider the issue in I Corinthians 11: the way—the manner—in which Christians should keep the Passover, the procedures that were to be followed. He instructs them to eat at home first before coming to the service. The passage deals with what we would call church-service procedures. "Traditions" includes these matters.

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


 

 




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