The eighth installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #14—Unity in the Body of Christ. It’s not much of a stretch to say that, considering the current tensions and conflicts in our church, this topic is of herculean magnitude, more so now than in any other generation. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.
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Psalm 133:1—“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” This is a fascinating passage! It only takes 30 seconds to read, so immediate context is limited, but the symbolism is dense. Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first, official high priest in organized, Israelite ritual, is undoubtedly a type of Christ. Verse 2 depicts the consecration of him and his sons. Oil that reaches the edge of a robe will soon drip to the ground. It is not a stretch to deduce that this represents Jesus’ celestial coronation and subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, when, keep in mind, the disciples’ unity was optimal.
Malachi 2:10—“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?” Wickedness spread through every social segment during this post-exile period. Chapter 2 begins with God rebuking the priests. They were to be honorable educators from whom the citizens learned spiritual insights, but they flopped on their faces. Additionally, the community was nowhere close to blameless. One specific declaration from above was that the manner in which the men grossly mistreated their wives rendered their religious practice empty.
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Matthew 25:40—“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” When it comes to the Messiah’s apocalyptic discourse, chapter 24 receives much more attention, especially during evangelistic seminars and Bible studies. This is by no means an atrocity, but it would befit us to more properly estimate the value of chapter 25.
The first two sections are the parables of the virgins and talents, respectively, then the closing section pertains to judgment. I would suggest that increased unity is proportional to an increased commitment to service. Even those who differ theologically or are just generally difficult to like still bear the imprint of the Creator.
Luke 9:1–2—“And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” Could there be two lines of unity in this passage? The more obvious line is that the disciples were together, and this, of course, is consistent with our study.
Nevertheless, what were their tasks? They were to cast out demons, proclaim the gospel, and heal diseases. They met people’s spiritual and physical needs. We have diverse individuals forming one team to perform diverse ministries that constitute one mission. Getting off my soapbox and back on track, this passage is flanked by Jesus’ miracles of resurrecting the young girl and feeding the five thousand.
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John 17:23—“I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” Many of us know this popular chapter as Christ’s high-priestly prayer. Jesus stressed the import of unity among His disciples on multiple, connected fronts. It would replicate the bond between Him and the Father. It would affect the world’s perspective of that bond and Jesus’ mission to reconcile humanity to divinity. Other components of His prayer include His people’s protection from evil and sanctification in truth.
Romans 15:5–6—“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Bearing the weaknesses of the weak, pushing our preferences to the side for the welfare of someone else, and accepting others are all part of the package of mimicking Christ’s example, according to Paul at least, and it seems like he knew his stuff. He later charged his immediate readers to minister to the Gentiles and notified them that he planned to include a visit with them in his travel itinerary.
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Galatians 3:28—“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Being a descendent of Abraham is not predicated on having Hebrew genetics, but on receiving God’s gift of redemption through faith in His Son. Everyone with a pulse is a candidate for adoption into the family. Earlier in the chapter, Paul reiterated his distress over the Galatians being persuaded by a counterfeit gospel.
Colossians 3:14—“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” The chapter begins with the admonition to set our sights on heavenly themes rather than worldly themes. This encapsulates the detailed lists of sins to cast away and virtues to “put on.” In fact, “put on” appears three times in Colossians 3. Paul was likely directing our attentions to Jesus’ robe of righteousness, which, when we think about it, fosters our oneness more effectively than anything else does.
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“Unity” has reached buzzword status in our church, and this deeply concerns me because this trend typically turns a word and the idea it conveys into a caricature of itself. We can’t afford this because, as earth’s clock ticks to the precipice of midnight, unity must be ultra-high on our priority list.
Not to continue my verbal geekiness much further, but associating unity with uniformity makes matters worse. I won’t thoroughly dissect these two here, but a moment of demarcation is necessary. On a personal level, we should keep uniformity on the dustiest part of the shelf because the expectation that everyone reaches the same convictions on the same principles at the same times is unfair, unrealistic, and unbiblical. When it comes to snacking between meals, wearing a wedding band, properly delineating male and female roles within familial and ecclesiastical realms, or any other issue, we must offer each other the latitude to learn and grow at our distinct paces.
I admit that applying this tactic to the community level is more delicate, and I don’t have it all figured out. For now, as we individuals, inside the Seventh-day Adventist Christian community, coordinate our different convictions that we have gleaned from Scripture through our unique journeys, the primary tenet upon which we must all unite is that the Bible is the fully-inspired (different from fully-dictated) Word of God. Reaching unity on specific subjects will take time, but it will take much less time if we steadfastly decline any hermeneutical approach that even flirts with the notion that the Holy Canon is culturally acquiescent and a product of variable inspiration.
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It is also imperative that we achieve unity in embracing and practicing the reality that every one of the Lord’s rules, regulations, and particularities is shaped by selfless love. Unity in His brand of love is what best fortifies the credibility of our heavenly witness to a disheveled, dying world.
Please keep your ears to the ground, or eyes to the Internet, as part 9 of our series soon approaches. The topic impacts many areas of our lives, especially our wallets or purses.