We are an “Us” you know right? We are of one substance in Christ. We are made of the same genetic code as God. We carry His DNA since we are His children. We are brothers and sisters spiritually first, and second, we have blood relatives. We have the exact same Dad. Because Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord we are “One” in Him because we are “born of the Holy Spirit,” “born again,” or “born from above.” And since we are “born from above” we are primarily “citizens of Heaven.” (Phil. 3:20), not primarily citizens of this planet.
I know it has been common and popular since from the time most American’s became literate which then they received their own “personal” Bible to read from, that we began to view the Bible as written to us as individuals specifically before it is written to us as a community. But this just shows how self-interested we are as modern people. Both the Old and New Testaments were written to communities. They were written to “groups” of individuals. Trained and spiritually gifted Bible teachers who understood the scriptures, as this was the condition set by the apostle Paul, were to teach/explain/interpret the Bible to the community so that everyone in the congregation was on the “same page” regarding what the scriptures taught. So that the Body-of-Christ could grow to maturity through discerning truth from error, justice from injustice, right from wrong, holy from unholy, love from hate, good from evil, you get the point. But for some strange reason when we read an epistle of Paul or Peter, or John we read the “You’s” in there as meaning us individually instead of corporately. Of course, when something is meant to be to individuals like, “each of you should…” or “present your bodies as…” then the scriptures are clear on those points. Quite a few years ago I began reading the Bible as though I am sitting in a congregation of believers and this way, I would rightly understand the context for the community. This also naturally creates a “Body-of-Christ” “love for one another” mindset. It totally changed how I interpreted the scriptures! I was much less me focused and what is God saying to “me,” vs what is God saying to His children, including me.
So, what is God saying to “us”?
Here is a fitting example of Jesus heart for His Church: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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” (Jn. 17:11-12, 20-23, emphasis mine). There it is. Jesus’s prayer before going back to heaven was for our unity. This is not only Jesus major concern but also found throughout, as the focus, in the epistles. For since we are united with Christ, who is united with His Father, who is united with “us” through the Holy Spirit, who is “One” since God is One, who manifests the Father and the Son in and through us to each other and to the World, then this “oneness issue” makes perfect sense that this would be central to God’s eternal plan of reconciling humanity to Himself.
So, for those Christian’s who are passionate about evangelizing the world (which we are to be about) and yet are “self-focused” and are dividing over unbiblical (notice the “un”), unimportant issues of personal preference, opinions, “personal” “individual” interpretations of scripture which are not backed up by a correct, contextual examination of the scriptures, need to get their priorities straight so that we can be ONE and truly influence the world for Christ. Because according to Jesus and Paul it is in our “oneness” that the world will be attracted to Jesus.
The next issue is, how are we going to become one when we are “all over the map” in our views and interpretations of the Bible; being divided on “love, truth, good, evil, right, wrong, salvation, hell, heaven, etc.”? Well, this will be hard for some to swallow, but we need to become as “little children” again. Meaning we need to return to humility, having a teachable heart. We truly need the help of the Holy Spirit to adjust our “world view.” Meaning, our outlook on life, and how we see the world, and each other, and the big picture. We need to return to a “Biblical worldview” just as Jesus and the apostles had because we’ve gotten away from it over the past two hundred plus years!
I really need us to examine this passage and just how important it is for us to grasp. I know I quote it a lot, but in all honesty, it is the key to getting on the same page as a Body: “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:11-14, emphasis mine). In other words, gifted/called Bible teachers are to help us achieve unity in our faith unto maturity. This is the only way we will experience the love of Christ (Who is “One” in unity and purpose) and who is never divided in His heart. We all know this next section of scripture well, however, I am not sure we have truly grasped what it is saying and “how we attain this,” for the only way we will know the “breadth, length, height, and depth” of the love of Christ is when we become ONE: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you [plural], being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints [throughout the world] what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God“( Eph. 3:17-19, emphasis mine). These are “unifying” verses only achieved by our “togetherness in love with all the saints.” For though we all have the Holy Spirit, we do not all have the “fullness of Christ.” We all have a specific “gift and call” within the Body-of-Christ to build one another up with. And only when all our gifts are working together so that we resemble Jesus Christ on earth who was the only One with ALL the gifts of the Holy Spirit in One individual will the World see Jesus. The gifts have now been distributed by the Holy Spirit throughout the Body-of-Christ which came at Pentecost.
Of course, I could write more but this is plenty to chew on! I pray you will take this to heart. And I pray that we all will humble ourselves under our Lord and “Head of the Body,” Jesus Christ, and with willing hearts will receive all that He has given to His Bride in love.