Two Reasons Why Church Unity Matters to a Well-Lived Gospel Life
In my last post, I argued from the book of Philippians that a life worthy of the gospel treasures and fosters unity in Christ’s church as a non-negotiable priority.
In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul explains three components of this truth: why unity matters, how it works, and what it takes.
In this post, I want to suggest two reasons why guarding church unity matters to a well-lived gospel life.
Reason number one: Trinitarian realities (v. 1).
Paul poses a sequence of conditional “if” statements. He assumes a “yes” answer to each.
One could translate it, since there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy.
This verse resembles the structure of 2 Corinthians 13:14—The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
In Philippians 2:1, Paul has God the Father’s comforting love in mind. When the apostle contemplates the persons of the Trinity, he glories in mercy aspects of all three persons of the Godhead.
He savors Jesus’ massive encouragement, God’s comforting love, and the Spirit’s intimate fellowship—all of which he adds to and piles on the synonyms of “affection” and “sympathy.”
That last word is the same word translated in Romans 12:1 as “mercies”—I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God—capturing the beauties of the gospel covered in chapters 1-11.
If all this is true about God—and it is—how can we be anything but a loving, caring, unity-prizing church full of people?
Reason number two: apostolic priorities (v. 2).
In light of all these stunning Godhead realities so terribly important to his way of thinking, Paul adds further motivation to them by begging this: make my joy complete by being of the same mind.
Imagine this. You’re wasting away in prison, wondering where the next gift to keep you alive will come from, and the thing above all things that will drive your joy over the top is to hear that one of your churches is getting along well? Remarkable!
The unity of his churches mattered that much to Paul. He threw his apostolic authority behind the appeal for unity to motivate the Philippians to guard the oneness of their church.
Both the apostle’s joy priorities and Trinitarian love realities more than answer the question why treasuring and fostering unity should matter to us as a non-negotiable priority.
In their book, Peacemaking Women, Tara Klena Barthel and Judy Dabler emphasize the importance of the connection between beliefs and behavior:
As we learn to walk through life firmly rooted in God’s grace, living for his glory, we constantly identify and evaluate our thoughts and convictions in light of the truth of Scripture. Instead of only addressing our behavior, we ask, “What are the deeply held beliefs that influence my emotions, thoughts, and actions?” and “How do my beliefs line up with Scripture?” We then reject any beliefs that are false, affirm those that are true, and take practical steps to live out our faith in a loving Christian community (21).
The more we affirm true beliefs about the mercies of the Godhead and the apostolic priority of unity, the more practical steps we will take to live out a life worthy of the gospel.
Question: What extra-biblical resources help shape your beliefs in conformity to the Scripture?