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Unity and fellowship of church

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The church is one in essence, because it is founded on one gospel, united to one Lord and indwelt by one Spirit. Its unity is under constant threat because of the tendency to division that is inherent in fallen humanity, and needs to be continually maintained and actively expressed in fellowship.

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The unity of the church

The church is one

Romans 12:5 NKJV
so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
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The church transcends all barriers

Colossians 3:11 NKJV
where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
See also ; ; ; ; ; ; The great divide threatening the first Christians was between Jew and Gentile, but the church was able to unite the two into one body in Christ.

The church’s unity reflects the unity within the Trinity

The unity of the church is built around the persons of the Trinity: one Spirit, one Lord, one Father.
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The church’s unity is the work of the Trinity

Ephesians 2:16–18 NKJV
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
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The purpose of the church’s unity

To lead others to faith

John 17:23 NKJV
I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
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To lead believers to maturity

Ephesians 4:13 NKJV
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

The nature of the church’s unity

Emphasis is placed on an inner unity of mind and spirit rather than external uniformity.
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Appeals for unity in the church

Ephesians 4:3 NKJV
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
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The church’s unity is expressed in fellowship

Fellowship with God

1 Corinthians 1:9 NKJV
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Fellowship expressed by meeting together

Acts 2:46 NKJV
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
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Fellowship expressed through sharing resources

Acts 2:44–45 NKJV
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
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Fellowship through suffering

Revelation 1:9 NKJV
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
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Fellowship through shared spiritual blessings

1 Corinthians 9:23 NKJV
Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
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Specific actions which express fellowship and unity in the church

Sharing in the Lord’s Supper

1 Corinthians 10:16–17 NKJV
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
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Baptism as an expression of unity

Ephesians 4:4–6 NKJV
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
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Extending hospitality

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Greeting one another

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Welcoming former opponents

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Divisions in the church

Causes of division in the NT church

Personal ambition:


Ethnic tension:

Acts 6:1 NKJV
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

Differences of opinion:


Troublesome heretical leaders:


Partisan spirit:

litigation and disputes


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Warnings against divisions in the church

1 Corinthians 1:10 NKJV
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
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Acceptable differences in the church

In secondary matters of conscience, Christians are to respect rather than judge each other. These things need not impair the essential unity that is in Christ:

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In varieties of spiritual gifts:

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Necessary divisions in the church

Between the true gospel and heretical alternatives:

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Between those truly committed to Jesus Christ, and those apparently part of the church but living sinful lives:

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Over essential gospel principles:

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