Prerequisites for Christian Unity
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (Philippians 2:1-2)
Churches haven't changed much in 2,000 years. The call to unity in these verses is as needed now as it has always been. Let us examine the prerequisites for unity found here.
Consolation in Christ: The Greek word translated "consolation" is frequently translated "exhortation," and that seems appropriate here. The "exhortation in Christ" immediately follows this passage where His beautiful life of humility becomes the exhortation to unity among believers, since disunity ultimately comes from pride (v. 3).
Comfort of love: Comfort could be rendered "encouragement," implying a tender act of incentive. The agape love which the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer produces the incentive to unity. When believers truly love one another in this fashion, unity prevails.
Fellowship of the Spirit: The Holy Spirit makes possible a precious relationship between believers. Through the Spirit's empowering, our wills can be molded into Christlikeness, enabling us to live in unity with our fellow saints.
Bowels and mercies: In the Western world, the heart is referred to as the seat of our innermost affections, here called "mercies," or, literally, "compassionate yearnings and actions." When Christians have tender compassion for one another, divisions cease.
The four prerequisites for unity are then Christlike humility, Spirit-produced agape love, a yielding of the will of each believer to the Spirit, and tenderheartedness toward one another. May God grant that they will know we are Christians by our love. JDM