In this episode, Pastor Ted Wilson is with his fellow General Conference executive officers, Erton Kohler and Paul Douglas, to talk about unity in the body of Christ which constitutes our church’s fourteenth fundamental belief.
Unity among believers began with Christ Himself.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father: “Keep through Your name those whom You have given Me; that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). However, He did not pray only for the disciples but also for us that we “may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).
Through this unity of Christ’s believers, the world will accept the good news we share. But what does this unity look like and how can it be achieved?
Ellen White writes in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, volume 5, page 1148, “What a wonderful statement! The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but not in person. By partaking of the Spirit of God, conforming to the law of God, man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ brings His disciples into a living union with Himself and with the Father. Through the working of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind, man is made complete in Christ Jesus. Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another. This unity is the most convincing proof to the world of the majesty and virtue of Christ, and of His power to take away sin.”
Jesus’ disciples had different backgrounds, personalities, and ways of doing things. Hence, they sometimes fought over who would be the greatest. Jesus knew all this and He had a mission for them. But He knew they could never accomplish this mission until they were united.
So, He prayed for them. And in Acts 2:1, “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord…” It doesn’t mean merely being physically together but more importantly, being together in heart, mind, and soul.
In her book The Acts of the Apostles, page 36, Ellen White says, “As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief.”
On page 37, she continues, “The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to…speak words that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship.” Also, “the disciples felt their spiritual need and cried to the Lord for the holy function that was to fit them for the work of soul saving…They were weighted with the burden of the salvation of souls. They realized that the gospel was to be carried to the world, and they claimed the power that Christ had promised.”
But how did this transformation take place?
“Under the training of Christ, the disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit. Under the Spirit’s teaching, they received the final qualification, and went forth to their lifework…No longer were they a collection of independent units or discordant, conflicting elements. No longer were their hopes set on worldly greatness. They were of ‘one accord,’ ‘of one heart and of one soul’…Christ filled their thoughts; the advancement of His kingdom was their aim. In mind and character, they had become like their Master, and men ‘took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus'” (Acts of the Apostles, page 45).
This is the kind of unity we need in the church today. Amid our differences in culture, nationality, language, and so on, God calls us to unite in one message and mission to save souls through His power.
Our fourteenth fundamental belief states: “The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ, we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, Who, by one Spirit, has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, we share the same faith and hope and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, Who has adopted us as His children.”
As we follow the steps of the early disciples, let’s set aside our own desires and ambitions, yield to Christ, and pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By then, He will give us wisdom, strength, and courage to proclaim the gospel to the entire world. And the end will come.