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Unity Among Christians – Study Guide

18/12/2013

Unity Among Christian Brethren

Psalm 133 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— life forevermore.

 

E’en as the ointment whose sweet odours blended  From Aaron’s head upon his beard descended,  And, falling thence, with rich perfume ran o’er  The holy garb the High Priest wore: So doth the unity that lives with brothers  Share its best blessings and its joys with others.  Christians are supposed to be ONE -.  The hymnwriter wrote, “We are not divided, all one body we…”  The reality is often far different. Now, I’m not speaking about false unity, unity that takes no account of doctrine or belief, the unity we refer to as ‘ecumenism’. Spurgeon spoke about the dangers of unity without truth.  To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one”? (John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, “Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organisation, regardless… Unite, unite!”  Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity.  Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel. 

So I’m speaking about the unity that exists within the true church, the redeemed people of the Lord, those who have known God’s grace in Christ, whatever they may have written on the door of their church building.   Organically speaking they are already united, for they are all part of Christ’s body.  But the outward appearance is often different.   Christians today are rarely united, as circumstances in too many of our churches demonstrate.

This psalm is about unity, written by David, who certainly wanted his own kingdom to be united.  He did not see this in his own lifetime, for the later years of his reign were full of schisms and divisions and rebellions…  But when Messiah would come – this promise of unity would be fulfilled.  When was it written?  We don’t know, but we do know that David was anointed king at Hebron – 2 Samuel 5 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel.  So we see that there, at Hebron, the elders of Israel were all united, all together in the anointing…

 

1. The Blessing of Christian Unity.

Behold how good and how pleasant unity is!  Now I’ve often made an observation that whatever is good for you isn’t often pleasant, and what ever is pleasant – tastes good – often isn’t good for you!  Fish and chips, an Ulster Fry…  antibiotics…  Unity however is totally different – it is good for you and it tastes good to the senses and to the soul!  It is pleasant!

Unity is a gift from God.  The first image that we are presented with is that the blessing of unity RAN DOWN.  It descends!  David recognises that unity is a blessing that comes from above himself!  It is God’s initiative to rescue us from our sins and bring us into fellowship with himself, that creates the opportunity for unity with Him and with each other.

Unity is for all classes of men.  Hermon is the highest mountain in Israel, and that gives us the second image here, for unity among brethren is like the dew of Herman, falling upon Mt Zion.  Hermon was famous for its dews.  Mt Zion is not a high mountain at all, so again, the blessing of unity is coming down in abundance from above – and it is falling on both mountains, both the great and the small!  You see, before God we are all to be united – it doesn’t matter whether we are important or just ordinary people, for God is no respecter of persons.  In God’s kingdom, all those who dwell therein are sinners, saved only by God’s grace alone.

Unity flows between us.  Note that the blessing of unity runs down upon Aaron.  But not just him.  Aaron was the high priest and his task was to impart blessing to others.  The blessing of unity flows from one person to another.  This was precious oil!  It would have been fragrant and would have filled air wherever Aaron went.  Exodus 33:37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.   Do you know that people who are experiencing the peace of God themselves, certainly are a blessing to others.  Unity spreads, so does division!  Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Unity is like heaven is going to be!  Look at the last few words of the psalm.  It speaks of life forever more.  Unity among the brethren right now is a foretaste of heaven.

 

2. The Loss of Unity.

There is no doubt, that observationally we can see that the visible church rarely displays a united front to the world.    Perhaps we’ve forgotten who the real enemy actually is. If there is one thing more than another required in the Church of God to-day, it is that we present a united front to the enemy. There is a great need of aggressive unity. Just before the battle of Trafalgar, Nelson inquired of Admiral Collingwood where his captain was, and learned that he and Captain Rotherham were not on good terms with each other. Sending a boat for the captain, he placed the hands of Collingwood and Rotherham together, pointed to the enemy’s ships, and earnestly looking them both in the face, he uttered the simple words: ‘Look, yonder is the enemy.’ It was enough; disagreements were forgotten, and victory was gained.

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