In Part 1 of “The Forgotten Layer of Unity,” I wrote of how the layer of unity of all believers in a local community/region is often forgotten. I wrote that the layers of unity that are found within a local congregation are rarely forgotten, but, rather, are taught extensively and emphasized greatly. And that is good.
In Part 1, I said that I would get into how I believe the Bible teaches the importance and necessity of the community level of unity among believers. And Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth show us both.
In order to truly understand what Paul is saying to these Corinthian believers, it is crucial to understand how these believers were organized. The common practice of believers in any given location was to gather in small groups, (today, we would call them house churches) and then, on occasion, come together for different purposes. Two reasons Paul specifically mentions of why the Corinthian believers come together is worship and observing the Lord’s Supper. But whatever the reason, the normal practice for these believers was to belong to separate groups but then for all of these separate groups from across the city/region to come together for a common purpose.
Now, among the believers in Corinth, there were divisions, things that hurt and disrupted their unity and coming together. One was theological differences. In chapter 1, Paul mentions that there are quarrels among the believers there. “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I means this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’
Different groups followed the teachings of different apostles or teachers who had been in their midst. And while all taught Christ crucified and risen, there were differences in the teachings. Did you notice the ones who thought they were especially right? “Well, you might follow Paul or Apollos or Cephas, but I follow CHRIST!”Even with these differences (we’d call them theological today), Paul is still urging unity in the overall body of Christ.
Throughout this letter, Paul is exhorting, urging, commanding that these believers get past their differences with each other and focus on what they have in common – being a part of the same body, which is Christ. When they do not, when they are divided, even relishing in and celebrating as good those divisions, they are giving the body of Christ a black eye. They are communicating to the rest of their community that they are no different than the rest of the world.
So, have you forgotten about this important layer of unity of believers? Has the local congregation of which you are a part? Or do you or your local congregation, in spite of present differences, actually seek to foster this unity which crosses denominational lines, political lines, racial/ethnic lines, theological lines, socio-economic lines, and so on.
That is the question. We must not forget this all important layer of unity, because it is this layer of unity that speaks the loudest to the communities in which we live.