By Pete Charpentier, D. Min
College of Theology
July 01, 2016
Fostering unity has always been a challenge for Christians. For example, Paul challenged the Church at Corinth to embrace unity and reject factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). But this might be expected since the believers at Corinth struggled on many fronts. However, Paul also called apparent leaders in the Church at Philippi, a church which seemed to be healthy, to be unified (Philippians 4:2-3).
Of course unity continues to be a challenge for Christians today. Although evangelicals agree on the core tenets of theological orthodoxy, they may nevertheless disagree on peripheral issues. So, how can believers foster unity in the midst of their diversity? While several options are available, a focus on Scripture can foster unity among evangelicals.
The Importance of Unity
Jesus emphasized the central role of God’s Word when He prayed for unity among His first followers. Christ’s call for unity in John 17:11 is nestled among several references to God’s Word and truth (see verses 6, 8, 14, 17, and 19).
This observation reveals two important issues related to Scripture and unity:
- Unity is only meaningful when the perimeters of biblical truth are in focus. If there are no lines of distinction, then how do Christians know where to unite?
- There is an organic link between Christ’s truth and unity among His followers. Since Believers submit to the authority of the teachings of Jesus, their focus on Scripture unites them in their common commitment to Christ (Jude 3). The importance of unity is also discussed by other biblical writers.
Paul emphasized the central role of Scripture in terms of both salvation and sanctification in 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Every true Believer has embraced the truth of God’s Word by faith (verses 14-15), and as noted previously, this common bond unites them together. Furthermore, all genuine Believers desire to live daily according to God’s truth. Thus, the fully-orbed power of Scripture guides God’s servants to live in ways which honor Him (verses 16-17).
As indicated above, both the teachings of Jesus and Paul emphasized various aspects of how the issues of Scripture and unity are tightly bound together. In terms of practical application, three points are helpful as evangelicals seek to foster unity through a focus on Scripture:
- The truth of God’s Word marks lines of distinction so that discussions of unity are meaningful. Again, if Believers do not know where to stand, how can they stand together? The perimeters of Scripture answer this question.
- Christians oftentimes end in the wrong place (disunity) because they begin discussions in the wrong place (denominational traditions, theological systems, etc. versus Scripture). Although believers interpret God’s Word differently, a common commitment to Scripture can unite them. While they will disagree on some issues, their focus on God’s Word postures them for unity even in their diversity.
- As Believers submit to the authority of biblical truth, their hearts will be more conformed to Christ’s image. This yields the fruit of the Spirit rather than the works of the flesh in their lives (Galatians 5:16-26). Thus, an authentic commitment to God’s Word nurtures humility and love as opposed to rivalry and envy. This is yet another way that a focus on Scripture can foster unity among evangelical Christians.