When I was just a new believer, I remember reading the Bible and seeing all the miracles Christ and the early church performed. I wondered to myself, why is this power not presently being manifested by the modern church? Innocently, I began praying and asking God, “Why?”
Over the next couple of days, the Lord revealed two Scriptures to me. “I am the LORD, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6) and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) It was then that I realized that the problem was not with God, but rather with His people—the church. It was obvious to me that we were clearly missing something. We were either doing something wrong or at the very least, not doing something right.
A few years later as I was in my second year of Bible College, a young lady came to class one day. As she began to talk, you could tell that there was something very heavy on her heart. She asked the teacher and the class if we could help her to better understand something. She stated that she had been witnessing to her cousin, who is a Muslim. After telling him about Jesus Christ, he asked her this question: “If Christianity is real, why don’t we see the same power that was exhibited in the Bible exhibited today?” For this question she had no answer. She asked the teacher and the class if we could help her to understand how she should have answered this question. I don’t believe that she ever received the answer she was looking for! I think at some point, each and every believer has asked this very question, either to his or herself, or to God.
After years of seeking God for an answer to this question, the answer appears to be that the early church had one thing that the church no longer possesses: Unity. Through biblical history, we see the tremendous power that resulted from unity. During the building of the tower of Babel, mankind was united around one central cause: “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech… And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.’” (Gen. 11:1, 7) Their hearts were not pure before God, thus He had to confound their plans. God understood that unless He broke up their unity by confusing their language and scattering them over the face of the earth, nothing would be impossible for them.
Could Christian unity be the one thing that we are lacking which, if restored, would once again restore the tremendous power of God to His people? Examine how many times the Book of Acts says that the early church was “in one accord.” (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 2:46, 4:24, 4:32, 5:12 and 15:25) When the early church was still in a state of unity, Peter could proclaim to the lame man at the temple gate: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) Likewise, when the early church was in one accord (unity), they manifested such an anointing that even the shadow of Peter passing by the sick in the streets was enough to heal them. [See Acts 5:12-16]
When the early church was in unity, the anointing was so great that many signs and wonders were done among them. This caused the number of people being converted to Christ to increase dramatically. Five thousand people were converted to Christ from this one miracle alone. [See Acts 3:11-4:4] Thus we see the power of unity with regard to evangelism. Even the strongest atheist has to rethink his position when his crippled child is now walking or her dead spouse is alive again due to the resurrection power of Christ once again working through His people.
Unfortunately, it seems that the church has traded the power and glory of God for money, popularity and fame. We recall the story of St. Thomas Aquinas walking with one of his superiors through one of the elegant cathedrals of his day. His superior, motioning to the coffers filled with all sorts of precious coins that had been donated to the church, remarked, “Behold, the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have we none!’ St. Thomas succinctly responded: “Neither can we say: ‘Rise up and walk!’”
God’s anointing will not again be fully realized until the body of Christ comes back into true biblical unity. King David likened this type of unity to the anointing oil that ran down the head of the High Priest Aaron: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.” (Ps. 133:1-2)
The idea of the anointing flowing from biblical unity was first and foremost upon our Lord’s mind prior to going to the cross. While our Lord Jesus Christ was praying His high priestly prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed five times that His followers would be united. He first prayed for his disciples: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours… that they may be one as We are.” (John 17:9-10, 12)
He then continued by praying for all believers who would come to believe in Him throughout the church age: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they all may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
Why, with all the things that Christ could have prayed for, knowing that His time on this earth was short, did He choose to pray for unity? He understood that, if divided, the church would not only lose much of its power and anointing, but that those in the church would also have a hard time convincing the world to believe in Christ. The result would be an even greater difficulty in evangelizing the world. In His own words, He states that one of the reasons He was praying for unity among believers was, “that the world may believe that You sent Me.” The statistics do not lie. The more that Christianity is divided, the more the world’s population seeks other religions for answers or rejects faith altogether.
This is why God so hates disunity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Consider the following Scripture: “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. (Prov. 6:16-19)
I remember reading this Scripture as a young believer and thinking that the last one—sowing discord among the brethren—seemed almost out of place. Sure, it is not the best case scenario, but did it really deserve to be on the “top seven” list of things that God considers an abomination? After finishing the Unifying the Body of Christ series, I am now able to look back in hindsight at the big picture with a better understanding of why God hates the sowing of discord among the brethren.
Disunity robs Christianity of its anointing [Ps. 133] and power. [Acts 5:15]
Disunity hinders evangelism. [John 17:21 and Acts 5:12-14]
Disunity shows that we are still immature and carnal. [1 Cor. 3:4]
Disunity negates our Christian witness and testimony. [John 17:21]
Disunity aids the enemy in keeping the New Testament temple (the body of Christ) from being completed. [1 Peter 2:5]
The Marines recruiters have a slogan: “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” Well, Christ has a similar slogan: “I am looking for Peacemakers.” A peacemaker is a person who seeks to bring together two or more parties that have been alienated from other another. Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) Paul taught us that even the creation is eagerly waiting for the revealing of those who will take the mantle upon themselves. [Rom. 8:19]
Jesus Christ was the world’s greatest peacemaker! He specialized in breaking down the walls of separation. [Eph. 2:14] Those of us whose primary desire is to walk as Christ walked [1 John 2:6] will make reconciliation a priority in our lives and ministries. If you are one of the “fivefold ministry,” this is actually part of your job description. [See Eph. 4:11-13] As we go forward with this quest for Christian unity, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?”
Let the cry of our hearts be the same cry that Christ himself asked of His Father for us, a few short hours before His death: “Lord, let us become peacemakers! Let us go forth with a united standard, that we may do miracles in Your name and usher in Your kingdom on earth.”