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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 ESV
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
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The church transcends all barriers

Colossians 3:11 ESV
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, 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 ESV
and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
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The purpose of the church’s unity

To lead others to faith

John 17:23 ESV
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
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To lead believers to maturity

Ephesians 4:13 ESV
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, 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 ESV
eager to maintain 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 ESV
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 ESV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
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Fellowship expressed through sharing resources

Acts 2:44–45 ESV
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
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Fellowship through suffering

Revelation 1:9 ESV
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
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Fellowship through shared spiritual blessings

1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
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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 ESV
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
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Baptism as an expression of unity

Ephesians 4:4–6 ESV
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in 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 ESV
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being 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 ESV
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and 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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