By Olen Holderby
Much is being said, orally and in print, on the subject of unity. Appeals for unity are being made by our brethren in almost every paper that comes across my desk, and they are many. It would seem that everyone desires unity. It can-not be denied that there is a lack of unity among God’s people today. Some one(s) has disturbed the unity of the Lord’s people in many places. The disturbers of that unity have been, it seems to this writer, clearly identified, and the means used for this disturbing have been pointedly exposed. This, of course, needs to be done over and over every time there is teaching that is headed in that direction.
While the disrupters of the peace and harmony of God’s people need to be identified and exposed, such is not the design of this article. Our focus at this time is on the “Beauty of Bible Unity,” and we begin by calling the reader’s attention.
Prophecy Concerning That Unity
Some 625 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Zephaniah stated, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (3:9). The NAS and NIV both say serve him “shoulder to shoulder,” while both the RSV and NKJ say “with one accord.” Take any of these translations you wish, and it is still obvious that whatever people were under consideration were to be unified in their service to God.
The importance of this prophecy can be better seen when we realize that it concerns the forthcoming Messiah and his kingdom, the church, his people. Dear reader, that is you and me! This is not the only such prophecy of the peace, harmony and unity anticipated for God’s people in this age.
They were to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: . . .neither shall they learn war any more,” they were to “sing and rejoice . . . and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord,” and they were to “rejoice greatly” for their “King cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Isa.2:4; Zech.2:10; 9:9).
This was to be a wonderful period of time for God’s people; and these beautiful word-pictures are given in grand anticipation of something wonderful to behold and even better to experience. Do you see the beauty of what God here intended?
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
To see the beauty which should have been here, we need to remember the problems which they had and the sin that was in their midst: contentions (1:11), envyings and strife (3:3), being puffed up (4:18), fornication (5:1ff), going to law with one another (6:1ff), marriage (ch. 7), meats/idols (ch. 8), paying preachers (ch. 9), Lord’s Supper (ch. 11), spiritual gifts (chs.12-14), and the resurrection (ch.15). Can you imagine how they must have felt about the presence of these things, especially after the apostle called them to their attention?
Consider the man in chapter 5, the one guilty of fornication. How did his father feel about him? How did everyone there feel when they found out that they had to turn that young man over to Satan? Do you reckon that they deeply wished it was not so?
Think about the problem with the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11. Some of them were probably standing with their eats and drinks in their hands when they learned how they were shaming their fellow Christians and insulting the Lord. When they did examine themselves and discovered what they were really doing, how do you think they felt? Assuming their honesty, this must have been an extremely miserable time for everyone of the guilty.
How strongly they must have wished that all these things had never happened! How so very forgetful they had been, to have failed to speak the same thing and to be of the same mind.
Apparently these people could see how they had marred the beauty of Bible unity, for they are later seen as having cleaned up the mess (2 Cor.2:lff; 7:4-16). Can you see the beauty here, even though it was not present at first?
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
These are familiar verses; and we all use them to stress unity. But, where is the beauty in them?
The answer is to be found in realizing, as nearly as we can, the relationship of the Son to the Father. They had shared their glory before the world was (v. 5), the Father had given him the twelve (v. 6), the twelve had shared this glory that they might all be one (v. 22), and they (Father and Son) belonged to each other (v. 10). The Son had been in the form of God and equal with God, and the Son took on the form of a servant and became obedient to the Father, even unto death (Phil. 2:6-8). The Father created all things through the Son; and the Son was the express image of his person (Heb. 1:2-3). The Son was the image of the invisible God, and in him dwelled all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col.1:15; 2:9).
Is it even possible that the human mind can imagine a relationship so wonderful? So perfect? So beautiful in every way? Now, remember that Jesus is praying that his followers would have this kind of relationship. Again, dear reader, this is you and me! Do you see the beautiful unity for which Jesus was praying?
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
A thorough exegesis of these three verses could require a sizable volume, but we wish to stick to our theme. We refer first to the ointment. This was not just any ointment, but “precious ointment.” This is a reference to the ointment described in Exodus 30, ordered by the Lord, and made with the four best spices (vv. 22-24). It was used to anoint Aaron, his sons, and all vessels used in the tabernacle, and was called “holy ointment” (vv. 25-30). This holy ointment was known for its wonderful fragrance and its use demonstrated an abundance. The writer says dwelling together in unity is like this!
Next we consider the dew. This was the well known dew that descended upon the land from the mountains bringing its fertilizing power and fruitful harvest. There was nothing like it and livelihood depended upon it to a great extent. It was longed for, looked for, and there was rejoicing when it came. The Psalmist says that unity is that way.
The very mention of either the ointment or the dew would most likely produce thoughts of joy and happiness, followed by a determination to have them, whatever the cost. They were very desirable and the faithful pursued them with dedication.
We are told that for brethren to dwell together in unity is like these two items, it is “good and pleasant.” Do you see the beauty in these verses?
Have you ever read Proverbs 6:16-19? Have you thought upon these six things that God hates, the seven that are an abomination? Have you noticed the last of these, “He that soweth discord among brethren”? Such an one destroys this beauty, this pleasantness, this pleasure, this peace, this wonderful harmony among God’s own people. That discord may be the fruit of gossip, tale-bearing, nasty attitudes, the teaching or the practice of error, or even by a self-appointed critic. Whatever the way used to sow that discord, God hates such a person and let us not ever forget this solemn fact.
Ought we not then to pursue the course expressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:1-3, and, “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? Our every fiber must be exerted, even exhausted, to keep this unity, whatever the cost may be. The Beauty of Bible Unity! Is it yours? Why not?
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 19, p. 20-21
October 3, 1996