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Two Threats to Church Unity

Two Threats to Church Unity

By Pastor Taylor Mendoza
Northpoint Student Ministries

Hello Church Family,

During my junior year in college, one of my professors assigned reading the entire New Testament looking for every reference on the church. It was a fruitful exercise, and one that I wish was assigned more in the classroom. Perhaps the most striking thing I learned from this task was how many references in the New Testament are about the unity of the church. It became clear to me that since we worship one God, the church should be one with each other.

Sadly, in many churches, unity is not talked about. Some have said before that the greatest danger for the church is losing her unity. Unity is sacred among the church body and should be protected by the leadership and the congregation. However, there are at least two major threats to church unity.

The Threat Toward Gospel Doctrine

The first major threat to church unity is a threat to the gospel itself. The center of our faith and fellowship is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is perhaps clearest in the letter to the Galatians where the apostle Paul confronted them for abandoning the truth of the gospel. Put simply, Paul told them that the gospel was the good news of salvation. This was according to the will of God who gave his Son, Jesus Christ, for our sins and delivered us from the power of Satan. God in his grace raised Jesus from the dead in his resurrection, so that it is not by works but by faith that we are justified. Ultimately, the gospel brings glory to God (Galatians 1:1-5).

This is what we call “gospel doctrine,” and the Galatians had abandoned it. Gospel doctrine is the foundation the unity of the church is built on. Without the clear teaching of the gospel, there is no good news for sinners. Without the right understanding of the gospel, the church is fragile and unstable like a house built on a foundation of sand. The apostle Paul confronted those who had turned away from the true gospel, distorted it, and ultimately, who would be accursed if they didn’t repent (Galatians 1:6-9). Likewise, we need to know that we play a role in protecting the unity of the church around the doctrine of the gospel. This means that we must know the gospel well enough to spot a gospel that is different than the one of the New Testament.

The Threat Toward Gospel Conduct

The second major threat to church unity is a threat to the right application of the gospel. A church that gets the gospel right, but does not walk in gospel conduct is a hypocritical church. The gospel changes hearts, redefines our identities, and causes us to shine as lights in a dark world. The threat to the right application of the gospel comes when we no longer walk in step with the gospel. This is exactly what the apostle Peter did that caused Paul to “opposed him to his face.” We read in Galatians 2:14: “I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Brilliantly in chapter 1, Paul confronted those who threaten the doctrine of the gospel, and in chapter 2, he confronted Peter who did not have the right conduct flowing from the gospel. In other words, Peter acted like a hypocrite and he jeopardized the unity of the church.

Two practical ways that we as believers can protect the unity of the church by having gospel conduct are our love for one another, and our humility. Love for one another is a direct response to the love that God has for us in sending his Son. Now because of Christ, the gospel says to us that we are free, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14).

Humility begins in the heart and extends to others. In order to receive the gospel, we must be in a place of weakness and humility in order to put our faith in Jesus. When it comes to humility, Christians have (or should have!) a realistic view of themselves. As the Scripture says, “ Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (Gal. 6:2-4). You play a role in protecting the unity of the church by keeping your conduct in step with the gospel. This also means you help others keep their conduct in step with the gospel as well.

Painted Lady Butterflies and Unity

Church unity is important, and yet in this world, there is no truth so solid as gospel doctrine, no community so humane as a gospel conduct, nothing so resisted and yet so redemptive as both together, and nothing so worthy of our utmost devotion. Protecting unity, by protecting gospel doctrine and gospel conduct is the direction that our church should go.

This past week, I took a stroll around our church campus only to notice hundreds of painted lady butterflies migrating. It occurred to me at that moment we can learn from these butterflies. They were all going in the same direction, and they were going together. Our hope on the Northpoint Church Leadership Team is that we would all go in the same direction together as we protect our gospel doctrine and our gospel conduct. God is bound to bless a church that protects its doctrine and its conduct; may we do the same.

In Him,

Taylor Mendoza
Northpoint Student Ministries