Before the establishment of the church, Jesus announced, “. . . And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). Just a few hours before going to the cross, Jesus prayed while with the apostles, “Neither pray I for these alone,” said the Lord, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one is us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (Jn 17:20, 21).
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). It is possible for Christians to be of one mind, speaking the same thing.
The saints at Ephesus were urged to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
The church at Jerusalem exemplified remarkable oneness. The disciples in that city were “together,” “had all things common,” and continued daily “with one accord” (Acts 2:44-46). They were “of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32).
In contrast to the church at Jerusalem, God’s people at Corinth were torn with strife. They were saying, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). The Corinthian brethren were going to law with each other before unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:6). They had differences over whether or not it is right to eat meat offered in sacrifice to idols (1 Cor. 8). They were abusing the Lord’s supper, making it a feast for satisfying bodily hunger (1 Cor. 11:18-34).
How can we attain the kind of oneness for which Jesus prayed? On what basis can we be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment? We must stand on God’s platform. Paul outlined the seven planks in this platform in Eph. 4:4-6. (1) There is one body. That body is the church (Eph. 1:22, 23 f; Col. 1:18). (2) There is one Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives life and direction through God’s word (Jn 16:13). (3) There is one hope. The desire and expectation produced by the gospel is eternal life (Tit. 1:2). (4) There is one Lord. Jesus is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). (5) There is one faith. That is the faith for which Christians are to earnestly contend (Jude 3). (6) There is one baptism. That baptism is in water (Acts 8:36-38; 10:47), is a burial (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12), is in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:5; 10:48), and is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). (7) There is one God and Father of us all. He is described in contrast to idols in Acts 17:24-29.
We must walk by the same rule. Amos asked, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Amos was in agreement with God and walking with God. If people really want unity in Christ, “Let them all agree to walk by the same rule, the New Testament.
We must reject all that the Bible does not authorize. We must speak the same things by speaking what the Bible speaks and not going beyond that which was written (1 Pet 4:11 f; 1 Cor 4:6).
We must differentiate between faith and opinion. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The doctrines and commandments of men are no more than man’s opinions which turn us from the truth, and are worthless in the sight of God (Tit 1:14 f; Mt 15:7-9).
Some people have the idea that if we preach the truth, unity will result automatically. Paul knew that more is involved. He wrote of “endeavoring” to keep the unity of the Spirit. We must make careful and painstaking efforts to obtain and keep unity among the brotherhood.
In order to obtain unity we must be united in the gospel and doctrine of Christ without adding to it or taking from it whatsoever. In matters of opinions (e.g. Song books, Study materials, time to meet), we must be willing to compromise and not be dogmatic.