From a good distance away, it would appear as a unified source of light. In actuality, our solar system is a wonderful blend of unique planets orbiting a single star. Each planet is distinct from its siblings. They are all different sizes, different colors, and different distances from the same sun. While all planets rotate and orbit, none of them rotate on the same axis. This means that a full rotation (what we would call a “day” period) is also unique.
We experience a 24-hour day. So does Mars, give or take an hour. But Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have shorter days. Jupiter rotates in only 10 hours and Saturn in 11. Both Mercury and Venus take the trophy for lengthy days. Venus has a whopping 5,808 hours in a full day (242 of our days).
The same is true of a full orbit. We measure a full orbit around the sun as 365 days. Mars orbits at half the speed. If you lived on Mars, there would be 687 days per year. Neptune, the farthest planet from the sun, would experience 165 of our years in one trip around the sun. Mercury, the nearest to the sun, does it in only 88 days.
If these numbers tell you anything, it is that our single planetary body is made up of many different members. Their distinctions run deep. Some are gas planets. Some are solid. Some have multiple moons. Some have none. They each have unique temperatures, seasons, atmospheres, chemical balances, and more. However, they all manage to maintain a harmonious system of planetary balance. No planet interferes with another and causes disorder. It is a body of peace.
This is how God designed the church. It is a single body of Christ followers who are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Although each member of the body is critical, no two members are alike. God has gifted them each in their own way. But, when “each part is working properly,” the fullness of Christ is made manifest (Eph. 4:16).
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:15-16
The Reality of Oneness
While it is true that God, in His limitless wisdom, knows exactly what the body needs to grow up into the fullness of Christ, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any challenges. Not every member will be spiritually minded at all times. We can, as Paul said, “quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). This means we can let ourselves get in the way of God’s work.
The Spirit builds up the body through the channels of our gifts. It is possible, when we are not focused on truth and love, to spiritually “clog” the channel, preventing the power to flow. Timothy, the protege of the apostle Paul, was guilty of this. Paul urged him in two different letters to “not neglect the gift” he had, but to fan it into flame (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). This is an easy trap to fall into.
Another way we can quench the spirit is by neglecting the assembly. The writer of Hebrews urged us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24-25). In other words, God cannot use you to build others up if you are not assembling with the body. Quenching the spirit happens when we neglect the gift and neglect the gathering.
Neglect is failing to look after something. It refers to disregard and mishandling. The church in Corinth was full of the gifts and full in their assembly. But, they were still neglecting both. The church was largely divided by its members’ ability to show off spiritually. Some who claimed to have the more spectacular gifts were considered to be more spiritual. The remaining members, gifted in less celebrated ways, were seen as unspiritual.
To add to that, they fought over heroes. Some said, “I follow Paul.” Others said, “I follow Apollos.” Still, others claimed Cephas. The really pious ones took the high road and said, “Well, I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). But Paul threw it back in their faces and asked them all, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13). Of course not. The Corinthians lost sight of the true nature of the church. It belongs to God, for it is the body of Christ.
The Intention of Oneness
Salvation is the entrance into the body. It is also the initial point of unity. All Christians are one. Spiritual baptism is God placing a new believer into the body of Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). It happens the moment we repent and believe. Immediately, the believer is grafted into the body. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13).
Every believer is in the body of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ is dwelling in them. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). There is no such thing as a Christian without the Spirit. Nor is there such a thing as a Christian who does not belong to the body. This is why we are told to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). The unity is already there. We only need to look after it, not neglect it.
On the other hand, we are told to “attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13). This is different. It is not a reality, but a goal. In one sense, our unity has been accomplished through Christ. In another sense, our unity needs to be lived out and brought to manifest in the life of the church.
According to our next focus passage, unity in the body is accomplished by walking in a selfless manner. It is taking the truths of Scripture and allowing yourself to be washed in love. Paul described it as being a prisoner for the Lord, and thereby the Lord’s body.
Oneness with each other is an important matter. Without exception, every biblical image of the church lays stress on unity. It is the crux of God’s gravity and the key to turning the world right-side up. The question for you today is, what will you do with the unity you have with Christ and His body? How will you seek to maintain the reality of oneness and the intention of oneness? In our next post, we will look at what happens when oneness is sought and, in some respects, found.
Download Gravity: Held Together by God and discover God’s powerful work of unity in the church.
Also available for purchase at Amazon and select bookstores.
Meditate on what you learned by downloading this free wallpaper design for your favorite device and letting it stir your affections toward God’s great work of joining and holding together His church as the members work together as one body.