The secret to unity begins with how I view myself within the body of Jesus and how I view others. A key verse that addresses this is Philippians 2:3:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
In Greek, the word church comes from ἐκκλησία ĕkklēsia, ek-klay-see´-ah. It means a calling out, i.e. a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or community of members) on earth or saints in heaven or both. It is variously translated assembly or church.
All disunity in the called-out assembly of disciples (aka church) can be traced back to the simple truth that too often we act selfishly and consider ourselves better than others. Paul goes on to explain further in the following verse: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sadly, the called-out assembly of disciples (aka church) that experience disunity and are in conflict and turmoil are generally filled with people looking to their own needs, their own desires, and their own ambitions. Such behavior is characteristic of unbelievers, not those with the mind of the Messiah. Worldliness, not godliness, is the hallmark of the church, as Paul reminded the Corinthians:
“For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envying’s and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
Human distinctions and differences should be no barrier to holy living in the church. In Jesus the Messiah, all human distinctions disappear. In the Messiah, there are no nationalities (“neither Greek nor Jew”). There is no recognition of former religious differences (“circumcision nor uncircumcision”). The gnostics taught that circumcision was important to the spiritual life. But Paul made it clear that this traditional act of physical surgery gave no advantages in the spiritual life.
There are also no cultural differences in the Messiah (“barbarian, Scythian”). The Greeks considered all non-Greeks to be barbarians; and the Scythians were the lowest barbarians of all! Yet, in Jesus, a person’s cultural status is no advantage or disadvantage. Nor is his economic or political status (“slave or free”). Paul made it clear that a slave should try to get his freedom, but he should not think he is handicapped spiritually because of his social position.
All of these human distinctions belong to the “old man” and not the “new man.” In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul added, “There is neither male nor female,” and thus erased even differences between the sexes. “Christ is all, and in all”, was Paul’s conclusion. “For ye are all one in the Messiah Jesus”.
It is wrong to build the fellowship of the church on anything other than Jesus, His person and His work. Ministries that are built on human distinctions, such as race, color, or social standing, are not biblical. One of the evidences of spiritual growth and the renewing of the mind is this willingness to receive and love all who sincerely know Jesus and seek to glorify Him. The gnostic “super saints” were trying to isolate the Colossian believers from the rest of the assembly, and this was wrong. Even though physically we do not lose our national heritage when we become disciples, we do not use that heritage as a test of what is spiritual.
“The Messiah is all and in all” is the emphasis. “That in all things He might have the preeminence”. Because we are complete in Jesus, we can look beyond the earthly differences that separate people and enjoy a spiritual unity in the Master. The gnostic false teachers, like the false teachers today, tried to rob God’s people of the richness of their oneness in the Messiah. Beware!
We are alive in Jesus; therefore, we should seek the heavenly. We are dead in the Messiah; therefore, we should slay the earthly. We can become like Jesus; therefore, we must strengthen the heavenly and permit the Spirit to renew our minds, making us more into the image of God.
- Colossians 3:11 (NASB) —A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but the Messiah is all, and in all.
- John 10:16 — 16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
- Acts 10:28–29 — 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. “That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.”
- Acts 10:47 — “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”
- Acts 15:8–9 — “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
- Galatians 3:28 —There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in the Messiah Jesus.
- Ephesians 2:14–16 —For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
- Ephesians 3:6 —To be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in the Messiah Jesus through the good news.
Strong, J. (1996). The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 137). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.