The following was part 1 of a 3-week series on fervent prayer. This sermon is intended to help your church recognize the need for unity, how God desires and creates unity, and to become inspired to pray around that topic.
- The Holy Spirit creates unity.
- Unity is the end goal. It is perfection and completion.
- Unity can and should be proactively pursued outside of/before conflict resolution.
The Holy Spirit Creates Unity.
The Holy Spirit operates from and within unity. He is the unique factor that unites all believers. Paul writes that we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5). The Holy Spirit is the evidence that we are all in the same family:
[Rom 8:14-17 KJV] 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
The Spirit leads us as children of God (14), causes us to cry out to our Father (15), assures our own spirits that we are now children of God (16) and joint-heirs with Christ (17). Furthermore, Paul states that we are actually all part of the same body through the Holy Spirit:
[1Co 12:13 KJV] 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
As further expounded upon in 1 Cor 12, a body cannot function without cohesion between its members. A body part will never be functioning at its optimal level unless it is both giving and receiving from the member connected to it. God designed his body (the church) to only be strong when unified. Discord and disharmony are the kryptonite of a healthy church.
Because God has already orchestrated unity as a defining characteristic of his body, scripture states the unity of the Spirit is to be kept, not attained by any work of our own. We plug into the unity the Holy Spirit creates:
[Eph 4:1-3 KJV] 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
This is a bit of a silly example, but it might be an effective one if you’re a geek like me. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the premise is that there exists a magical ring of unspeakable power. It’s innate evil desire is to get back to its master (the dark lord and enemy of all free people) so it can accomplish the master’s evil will of casting the world into darkness. The ring is bound to the dark lord. It is incapable of good; it could only produce evil by design. Gandalf says: “Always remember, Frodo, the Ring is trying to get back to its [evil] master. It wants to be found.”
In a similar way, The Holy Spirit is always seeking to glorify Christ and his body through the outpouring of love which produces unity (Rom 5:5). The Holy Spirit is incapable of producing evil or any of what scripture calls “the works of the flesh”. It will not produce pride, strife, vainglory, jealousy, or anything that causes division. Its goal is to glorify our Lord Jesus and his body—the church. Therefore, when we listen to the Holy Spirit, it will always put reconciliation and the bonds of peace above even church work. Whoever has the Holy Spirit will have a new nature that strives towards unity.
Unity among the body is the will of the Holy Spirit; we know this.
Unity is the Mark of Perfectness and Christ-Likeness
Unity is the process, but it is also the end goal! If we continue in Ephesians 4, the fullness of unity is one of our greatest rewards.
[Eph 4:11-16 KJV] 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Coming to the unity of the faith is put on par with a perfect man who measures up to the stature of the fulness of Christ. Pastors and teachers were gifts given by Jesus to perfect (equip) the saints for the work of the ministry. As a pastor, how do I know what a healthy saint looks like? What should the goal be? Paul states it clearly. On that day:
- We will be perfectly unified in faith
- Perfect in the knowledge of the Son of God
- We measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ (measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ (NLT)).
A healthy disciple will be growing in the knowledge of Jesus, their lives and actions will reflect the standards of Christ, and, they will be growing in unity with others in the faith. Let us remember that the more unified we become, the more perfect (complete) we become.
Unity Must often be Sought Out and Pursued
If we find ourselves praying for direction for a certain ministry activity—say an outreach event to the community—the Holy Spirit may first direct us to a relational issue in the body that needs addressing. The mission of the church is important to God, but not so important he will allow the love that unites his body to be grieved in the name of growing the church.
Years ago, during my personal study time this scripture jumped out at me:
[2Ti 1:16-17 KJV] 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
This scripture is simply talking about Onesiphorus making a great effort to find Paul in Rome in order to minister to him. As far as we know, Onesiphorus and Paul were in good terms even before this. What’s notable about this passage is the effort put forth by Onesiphorus to track a fellow believer down.
When I read this scripture during my prayer time it motivated me to seek someone out, not to ask for forgiveness or give them forgiveness, but to simply remind them that I love them. Just because I can’t think of a specific offense does not mean it doesn’t exist. The Holy Spirit will endeavor to keep the unity and peace even if there’s just a potential for misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Perhaps communicating with that person put something in proper perspective from their viewpoint that would have grown into an offense down the road—I don’t know. What I do know is that keeping the unity often involves proactively creating it.
It will not always be a “Phillip the Evangelist” moment where the Holy Spirit transports us to the desert in order to speak to someone. If someone is on our heart, we may have to diligently seek them out like Onesiphorus did to Paul. In another letter, Paul sounds hurt that certain others seemed to abandon him while in prison (2 Tim 4:9-11). Perhaps Onesiphorus’ visit prevented Paul from experience those hurtful feelings. Maybe it even gave him the strength to endure further trials.
Don’t underestimate the importance of investing in good relations when God puts someone on your heart. If you choose to invest in unity, you are choosing to align with God’s will.
We could go on to a wonderful study on what scripture says about reconciliation and conflict resolution, but for this message, we are focused on keeping the unity.
However, one issue must be addressed for our church in the season we find ourselves in. For some of us, unity will never be fully attained unless we confront some hard relational and emotional issues between ourselves and other members. After a message like this, it’s tempting to try and push hurts and conflicts under the rug in the name of moving forward in unity. This is admirable, but it will not last.[Show Picture of Church Sign on Overhead: “We Repeat what we Don’t Repair”]
We read that the Holy Spirit promotes unity. This does not mean the Holy Spirit will have us avoid confronting issues of hurt and disagreement amongst each other in the name of “unity”. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit desires unity so much that he’ll continue to let people or issues burn on our hearts and minds until we approach them for resolution.
Striving for this type of unity is uncomfortable to our carnal nature. We may even convince ourselves that we’d appear “negative” or accusatory if we brought up issues so they should be pushed down for the sake of keeping peace (blessed are the peacemakers, right?”). And while it’s true that not all issues are worth mentioning, I believe some of us would do well to confront some of our offenses that are causing disunity. I’m convinced that even though it may be tough at first, the freedom and healing that comes from it will outweigh any initial anxiety.
Remember, the Holy Spirit operates in and out of love and unity. If you see an opportunity to pursue unity, there is little need to pray about if it’s the right step to take. God is building us up to a perfect man who measures up to the stature of Christ, and a church that is perfectly unified in the faith. In the process, we can align with the will of God by proactively pursuing unity.