Sunday: The Importance of Unity
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Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–13. What does this passage tell us about how important Paul believed unity in the church was? 



Having refuted the allegations that his gospel was not God-given, Paul directs his attention in Galatians 2:1, 2 to another charge being made against him. The false teachers in Galatia claimed that Paul’s gospel was not in harmony with what Peter and the other apostles taught. Paul, they were saying, was a renegade.

In response to this charge, Paul recounts a trip he made to Jerusalem at least fourteen years after his conversion. Though we’re not totally sure when that trip took place, no trip in antiquity was an easy affair. If he traveled by land from Antioch to Jerusalem, the three-hundred-mile trip would have taken at least three weeks and would have involved all kinds of hardships and dangers. Yet, in spite of such difficulties, Paul undertook the journey, not because the apostles had summoned him but because the Spirit had. And while he was there, he set his gospel before the apostles.

Why did he do that? Certainly not because he had any doubt about what he was teaching. He certainly did not need any kind of reassurance from them. After all, he already had been proclaiming the same gospel for fourteen years. And though he did not need their permission or approval, either, he highly valued the other apostles’ support and encouragement.

Thus, the accusation that his message was different was not only an attack on Paul but also an attack on the unity of the apostles, and on the church itself. Maintaining apostolic unity was vital, because a division between Paul’s Gentile mission and the mother-church in Jerusalem would have had disastrous consequences. With no fellowship between the Gentile and Jewish Christians, then “Christ would be divided, and all the energy which Paul had devoted, and hoped to devote, to the evangelizing of the Gentile world would be frustrated.”—F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 111.

What are some issues that threaten the unity of the church today? More important, after we define them, how do we deal with them? What issues are more important than unity itself?

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Sunday: The Importance of Unity — 12 Comments

  1. I really marvel at Paul everyday. I think he is my new favorite testament "apostle" (QQ: Was Paul considered an apostle?)

    Paul had the confidence of thousands because he listen only to one source. God! He not only had the knowledge (even as he did before, when he was a fanatic for what he thought was right) but he had a good and direct relationship with God where he could have called it as it is.

    I want that. But the important thing is not just calling out people or churches but following God's spirit. Paul was God led to the point where despite wanting unity within the church, he never compromised what he believed.

    How do we consolidate that when considering so many different cultures and opinions within, even our church today?

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    • Jason, the question you raise is not an easy one to deal with. We all have different backgrounds, education, and mental abilities and live in vastly different cultural environments. There are many times that I don’t understand the point someone is making because I don’t understand where they are coming from. In spite of these problems there are some things that work for me when dealing with other people.
      1. I make a serious attempt not to lord it over them (Mat 20:25-26). That means that I shouldn’t think that I am right and everyone else is wrong. Because I am so opinionated this is a real struggle for me that I have to guard against constantly. This also reminds me of Elijah who thought that he was the only righteous one left in Israel and was corrected by the Lord when He stated that there were 7000 that were still faithful to God.
      2. I realize that different people have different gifts and functions within the community (1 Cor 12:4-12). That means that my approach to a problem may not be the only valid approach. In fact, there may be a need for many different answers to a problem rather than a one size fits all kind of a thing.
      3. I should never consider a brother or sister in Christ of lesser value than myself (1 Cor 12:14-25). That means that I should value their input. They may be thinking on a very primitive level yet one never knows when they have an experience and understanding that is of huge value to the church and one that would benefit me personally. To me Paul’s counsel is a golden gem, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil 2:3 NKJV).
      If we would think of the community of faith as a sort of marriage that needs to be maintained in spite of differences I believe we would have achieved what Jesus wishes for His church. I have known fantastic marriages where husband and wife at times had serious confrontations but somehow they worked it out and were able to maintain their relationship. I believe the two things they did was to keep the communication open and to compromise as much as they could. From what I have read one of the quickest ways to kill a marriage is to shut down the communication. So to me communication is vitally important to maintaining unity in the church but then so is being compliant.
      While all of this seems great we must also keep in mind that there are things we simply cannot afford to compromise on in our effort to maintain unity. There are also things we should be fluid on and I am very thankful that generally the Seventh-day Adventist church allows a lot of doctrinal flexibility and doesn’t lock things up in ironclad rigid doctrines and creeds as other denominations have. To me the trick is to know where to stand, what the important issues are and where we can afford to be flexible. Again here Paul’s counsel is golden, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom 12:18 NKJV). “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Rom 15:1-2 NKJV see also 1 Cor 10:33).

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      • Well said, Tyler. Maybe you captured this but I am seeing a 4th point

        4. Holy Spirit? Or maybe what you and I are trying to describe is the fruits of the spirit manifested. So maybe your list can be lengthened.

        When growing up, I saw men who were well respected within the church, well read in the Bible and EG but could not show the basic form of love. They seem bent on creating a religious regime that meant do it my way or else. Most times these men stop speaking/associating with any member(s) who does not fall in line.

        Given my recent experience (key turning point after 1 year of deep searching), I am happy to announce that I allowed God to clean me and renew a right spirit. My outlook is so different. I sometimes I believe I can get a glimpse through the eyes of Paul. ;)

        But I hope to depend and renew my connection daily as never to begin relying on self and past experiences but always and only on the Spirit. I think this is the key to effective Christianity where I can not depend on my brother to be filled with the spirit or like minded and I may, through his grace, have to lead or turn the other cheek.

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    • I love these comments, however i am still wondering how is it possible for us to read the same bible and come up with our interpretations even in the seventh-day Adventist church?

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      • Very interesting question. There are many factors that may influence the varied interpretations of the bible. Firstly persons are coming into the church from thier various backgrounds and cultural experiences. They carry these experiences with them and used these experiences to assist with their interpretations. This is just a natural thing to do. As a result people see and understand things differently unless we allow ourselves to be guided strictly by the Holy Spirit. Some persons understand the bible based on the level of their faith. As a result some persons have a deeper underestanding of the bible.

        Have you wondered why students sit in a class at school, listen to the same lesson taught by the same teacher yet at the end some students pass (with varied levels of passes even distinctions) and others fail? We can apply that same concept to the church. We have the same bible but our application of the word is different, therefore leading to various interpretations. OUR relationship with God can also determine the depth of our understanding of the holy scriptures.

        An other concept we should not ignore is John 10:10. The thief comes to kill steal and to destroy. Once Satan is alive there will be confusion and varied interpretations. The devil must continue the controversy he started in heaven. Therefore he will do all in his power to steal our Joy and Passion for God and to destroy us spiritually. He has installed his agents in the church to come up with various interpretations of the scriptures that may lead God's people astray. Matthew 24:11 stated "many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many" 2 Peter 2:1 confirms that ..."false prophets" shall arise from "among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them..." Here we can see that we have been warned about the uprising of various interpretations of the word...

        With these varied interpretations, how can we know which interpretation is the truth? I believe that We have been warned that it will happen. It is our dity to maintain or ask God to help us maintain a solid and genuine relationship with him. We need to study the scriptures for ourselves. Don't get me wrong, we need to respect each others opinions; but at the end of the day there is only one truth. No matter how we may attempt to fix and rearrange the truth to suit our own selfish desires, there still remains one truth. In our quest or search for the truth (if we do so with a genuine and open heart) the God of truth will reveal to us the correct interpretation of the scriptures. It may come through our own personal devotion, or maybe from someone who has the same desire as us to build a link with the God of truth. When we know the truth or the God of truth we will be able to draw out the genuine and reject the counterfeit.
        A genuine relationship with God will reveal the real interepretation. Remember the disciples in the upper room? They prayed for that spirit of oneness and when the holy spirit descended upon them the scriptures stated that they were in one accord.

        God Bless

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        • Stephen, I'm not into music except to enjoy it at times. I don't understand the technicalities of it but I sure can tell when someone is out of step with the rest of the orchestra. To me each piece in the group has a different sound and function. I liken that the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit.

          I also like the flexibility within the Seventh-day Adventist church. Our doctrines are called FUNDAMENTAL beliefs because within each basic concept there is room for variation of interpretation. We as a church long ago decided against a system of rigid creeds. I think the freedom that gives is perhaps the one thing that makes our church attractive to the intellectual person.

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      • Perhaps truth is based on harmony not conformity. In music, a triad forms the basis of a chord. For instance C, E, and G form the C major triad or chord. C does not voice like E or G, yet together their harmony rings true.

        Maybe we can take the metaphor further in that C does not decide how E or G should voice. This is determined by the Tuner who gives each their unique voice, then the Musician is responsible for the harmony as they are called forth by His ability and not theirs.

        This could mean that those who are endowed with the Musician's understanding will also sustain harmony rather than dissonance. They will not seek to change either those unique voices nor to blend them in a dissonant manner.

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  2. To me is interesting that Paul, being sure about God's revelation, never asked someone about the gospel, but the scriptures. How important is, so, for us, to study the bible for ourselves, read and pray, and learn from the Holy Spirit, God himself, the great truths of our savior Jesus Christ.

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  3. I have no doubt that Paul was being led by the holy spirit. What i cant seem to understand is Why he had to take that long trek with Titus and Barnabas to meet with the apostles?

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    • Good question, Oliver. We meet again. ;)

      It is good because it is something I would have never thought about. Oliver, I think you have the making or possibly a philosopher or even a scientist. The why questions that seems obvious are generally always the first phase before a major discovery.

      I have seen that there are significance in everything in the Bible and sometimes the interpretation of it may be on per individual basis and hence why God encourage us to study for ourselves and develop that relationship and he wants to tell us something personal. Paul was told and reacted. He never stop listening. So good question.

      Someone asked at a Sabbath School class that when Paul was struck down, why was he blind for three (3) days? The spirit impressed to hint at death, burial and resurrection. I had never studied this specifically and other bible students may have a different "official/popular" stance.

      Question can be why 3? Why Paul, Barnabas and Titus.

      Is it a far stretch to say Matthew 18:20 (NIV) For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

      I also search the name Barnabas and it is interesting his meaning.

      Acts 4:36: Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),

      Did Paul need someone who entire name defined what he needed at that time when he journey to face this charge.

      The question is who was Barnabas? And who was Titus? What were their reputation? God fearing, Holy
      Spirit lead men? How pivotal was these men to the mission? Why Paul brought "company" to "respond to a charge? (Galatians 2:1, 2).

      So Oliver, I know socratic questioning is generally annoying but I think God favors it and I will ask you to tell me what you think? waiting...... ;)

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      • Thanks For your word of encouragement. Honestly... I dont know. Right now I feel so far away from God. It is as if the holy spirit has gone away from me.

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        • Man, believe me... If you feel so, it's because He is still calling you. The Holy spirit is just a prayer away...

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