Unity in Diversity

1 Corinthians 127 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 12:1–11 (ESV)

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The world divides on so many things. We split on issues of race, nationality, sex, wealth, fame, power, etc. The Church is called to be different. We are called to be unified because we serve the same Lord. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and equals.

Being equal is not the same as being the same. We do have differences. The body of Christ is made up of people who are different in race and nationality, who are different in sex, who are different in social standing, and who have different gifts and abilities. We see in our passage today that God gives different gifts to different people. These things are not for the purpose of making some more valuable than others, but for the common good of all. Let’s celebrate our differences and show the world our unity in Christ.

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One People of God

Ephesians 219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 2:11–22 (ESV)

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage, Paul reminds his readers that God’s plans and purposes are to create one united people of God. He speaks of the former division between Jew and Gentile, which he refers to as “the circumcision” and “the ununcircumcision”. In Christ, the former distinctions and separations are removed and there is “one new man in place of the two”.

The Church is the result of the union that has happened through Jesus Christ. No longer are there distinctions based on sex, social standing, race, nationality, or any other. All who belong to Jesus are the people of God. When we gather today in anticipation of the gathering of all believers in the age to come, our unity and worship should reflect the truth of what Christ has called us to be: one people joined together as the people of God.

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The Need for Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:10–17 (ESV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity among Christians is so important. It is important if there is to be spiritual growth within the church. And it is important if the church is to have an effective ministry to a lost world. Unfortunately, division is a common reality in our churches and it happens for many reasons.

In Corinth, one of the reasons believers were divided was over leadership. This may seem strange, but if we think about it, we see that this is still common today. In Paul’s day, they were saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos”, etc. In our day, it is not uncommon for Christians to brag about and think that their pastor or church is superior to others. “I go to this church” and “We have this many members.” Or, “My pastor is so and so” and “My pastor is popular and writes books.” This way of thinking is divisive and hurts the work of the Church. We should be united in our love for Christ, his people, and proclaiming his good news. Let us focus on those things that unite us.

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That They May Be One

John 1722 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

John 17:20–26 (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 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. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus Prayed for His Disciples

John 1717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 17:6–19 (ESV)

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus prayed for his disciples. Imagine what it would be like if he prayed for you and me. What would he pray for? I believe we have the answer when we look at this passage. He prayed that the disciples would be one (v. 11), that they be protected from the evil one (v. 15), and that they would be sanctified in the truth of God’s word (v. 17).

The content of Christ’s prayer reflects the greatest need of the Church in every age. We need unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, we see how easily divided we often are over trivial things. We need protection from Satan and his attacks because he is always at work to undermine the gospel’s work in our lives and in the world. And we need to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word because it is the means that God has given us for knowing who our Savior is and what he desires from us.

Jesus was not only praying for the disciples of that time, but his disciples across the ages, including you and me. What a wonderful thing to know that Jesus prayed for us!

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Working on Forgiveness

True Forgiveness

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:15–18 (ESV)

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage serves as a basic template of how to handle sin and forgiveness between two believers. The first step is to speak directly to the other person. If that does not work, then getting one or two other believers involved to help is step two. The final step is to bring the matter to the entire body of Christ, the church. If that fails, the person who refuses to repent and who continues to allow sin to cause division is to be removed from the fellowship of believers.

It is important to understand that the removal of a person is a last step. The person should be given every opportunity to turn from his sin and the offended party must stand ready to forgive. Unrepentant sin that causes division between Christians is a serious matter and can have a damaging impact on a church and its ability to be a witness to the world of the redemption found in Christ. This is why such sin must be dealt with and not ignored. Have you ever been part of a church suffering from great division? Chances are the church has let unrepentant sin go unchecked.

Is there a division between you and a fellow believer? Has someone offended you or have you offended someone? Have you gone to the other person to try to work things out? If not, go to the other person. Do not let sin continue to drive a wedge between the people of God. We must be an example of love and forgiveness so we can preach the message of the gospel to the world.

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Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity is a wonderful thing. When the people of God are working together, it is pleasant and brings great pleasure. The psalmist uses two images to illustrate the goodness of unity. It is like the precious oil used to anoint a priest that runs down from his head to his beard and to his robe. The oil spreads over the entire person. It is also like the dew running off of Mount Herman, the highest peak in Israel, and onto Zion. Zion is a dusty and much smaller mountain, but it is where the temple sits. The dew from Mount Herman gives refreshing moisture to dry Zion.

If you have ever been in a church where unity is not present among God’s people, you may have a good understanding of this psalm. Without unity, the people of God cannot prosper and thrive. It takes unity to allow the body of Christ to function as it ought to and accomplish what it is designed to. This is why there is such a great emphasis throughout the New Testament on this vital issue. We are called to love one another, forgive one another, and live in unity as we serve and build one another up. May we dwell in unity and experience its great pleasures.

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Let Us Go to the House of the Lord

I am currently out of town and working from my phone. Please excuse any strange formatting that may result.

Reading the Word

Psalm 122 (ESV)

1 I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of theLord!”
Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem—built as a city
    that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
    the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for[a] Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of theLord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
    “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
    I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lordour God,
    I will seek your good.

Understanding and Applying the Word 

This psalm reflects the thoughts of one in Israel making a trip to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. This worshipper understands the importance of the unity of God’s people and vows to pray for continued peace. When God’s people are divided, their witness to the world is destroyed.

Under the old covenant, the nation of Israel represented God’s people in the world. Under the new covenant, that responsibility belongs to the Church made up of people from every nation. We too must understand the importance of unity among the people of God. We too must seek it diligently and pray for it continually, so that we may faithfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day.