Introduction: What is your picture of unity in the Church? What
should be the goal? We look around us and find all sorts of different
churches. If different churches form the “big picture,” why would we
expect something different in the “small picture” of our local
congregation? What about the “medium picture” of our denomination?
Should we modify our definition of unity in the Church? Is it enough
that we are all under the leadership of Jesus? Let’s open our Bibles
and see what it has to teach us!
- Christ and the Church
- Read Matthew 28:16-17. Jesus has been raised from the
dead. What problem is reported in these verses? (Some of
the disciples doubted that it was Jesus – doubted that He
had been raised from the dead.)
- What does this say about the honesty and veracity of
the Bible? (If this were a false account, it would
not express any doubt.)
- What do these verses say about unity?
- Read Matthew 28:18-20. What does Jesus say for those who
are doubting? (That all authority has been given to Him.)
- What does Jesus mean when He says that all authority
“in heaven” has been given to Him?
- What are we to do in reaction to Jesus having all
authority? (Make disciples by baptizing them and
teaching them. We do this knowing Jesus is with us
- What does this say to those who doubted? (Stop
doubting. Your job is to help others believe.)
- Read Ephesians 5:23-24. Let’s focus on the relationship
between Jesus and the Church. Who is the head of the
- What do you think it means for the Church to “submit”
to Jesus? (If we consider the verses in Matthew that
we just read, it means first that we accept that
Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. Second,
it means that we are engaged in the tasks of
baptizing and teaching.)
- What does this say about the Church and organization?
(When Jesus says that He is “the head” of the Church,
that suggests an organization. The obvious point of
the organization is to facilitate doing what Jesus
- Are being engaged in evangelizing, teaching, or both
the minimum qualifications to be considered part of
Jesus’ Church on earth?
- Re-read Matthew 28:20 and Ephesians 5:24. The instruction
is for us to teach obedience to “everything [Jesus]
commanded.” We are called to submit to this instruction.
As I look around, I see many churches teaching many
different things. I doubt that any of them think they are
wrong. How do we explain this?
- Let’s closely examine Matthew 28:19-20. What
doctrines, what teachings, do you find here?
(Baptism. The Trinity. Obedience. The presence of
- As you contemplate each of these, can you see
that they have a natural expansion? Baptism is
about righteousness by faith. The presence of
God is about the Holy Spirit.)
- Are these the only things we should be teaching? (No.
Jesus says in Matthew 28:20 that we should teach
obedience to “everything I have commanded you.”)
- If you agree that the correct answer is “No,”
must we conclude that the Christian Church is
obviously not organized because of all of these
different teachings? Let’s explore that next.
- Unity in Doctrine
- Read Titus 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 2 Peter 2:1. Are all
of the different churches all teaching truth? (Just as we
find false prophets in the Old Testament, so we are warned
about false teachers in the New Testament.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. Is this division about false
teaching? (No. These are unhelpful arbitrary divisions.
The members seem to misunderstand who is the head of the
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. To what is the Church
compared? (A body.)
- What are the common elements here? (Baptism and the
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-18. What do you say about these
divisions? (Unless we are going to say that the many
different churches show that Satan has defeated us, I
think the best way to look at this is through the lens of
this illustration. Most churches teach the basic doctrines
set out in Matthew 28:18-20. However, each church has its
own unique contribution to the gospel. For example, the
Salvation Army emphasizes social welfare. Pentecostals
emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit. Seventh-day
Adventists emphasize the Sabbath and the Second Coming.
All this work is done under the headship of Jesus.)
- Servant Leadership
- Read Matthew 20:20-22. Thanks, Mom! Who are the “We can”
who answer Jesus? (The name of the mother is Salome and
the names of the sons are James and John. Obviously, the
sons are present when their mother asks for the top
leadership positions for them. That is how they are able
to immediately answer Jesus’ question with “We can.”)
- Read Matthew 20:24. Why are the ten indignant? Have they
just discovered they have inferior mothers? (Seriously,
this shows us that all of the disciples wanted to have the
top positions in Jesus’ coming kingdom.)
- Do you find this strange? Do you want to be promoted
at work? Would you like to be in charge of a country?
- What do these leadership requests assume with regard
to Jesus? (They are not seeking to take the place of
Jesus. They understand that He is in charge.)
- Read Matthew 20:25-28. Jesus says that “rulers” in the
Church should not “lord” over others or “exercise
authority” over others. Instead, they should serve and be
a slave. How can you have an organization if no one is
exercising authority and everyone is serving everyone
- Is this consistent with Ephesians 5:23-25?
- Is this consistent with Hebrews 13:17? (In case you
wonder whether “leaders” means church leaders, read
- Read Acts 15:23-29. What does this suggest about church
- Were many of the disciples who heard Jesus talk about
authority in Matthew 20 present at this meeting?
(Determining what Jesus meant by leadership not
exercising authority is aided by looking at what His
listeners thought He meant. In Acts 15 we see leaders
who exercise their authority to quell division and
controversy. I don’t think Jesus is saying that
church leaders should never exercise authority – that
conclusion is inconsistent with many examples in the
New Testament. What Jesus is talking about is seeking
positions of leadership because you desire power and
authority over others. Leaders are called to serve.)
- Read 1 Timothy 5:17-19. What kind of authority do the
leaders exercise here?
- What servant leadership do you find in these verses?
(It refers to the leaders “preaching and teaching.”
Thus, they are servants in that they are doing this
- Read 2 Corinthians 13:10. What authority does Paul
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:1&4-5. What authority is being
exercised here? (Removing a member from fellowship.)
- Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Two words catch my eye: “rebuking”
and “correcting.” Who is doing this? (Likely the same
leaders who are teaching.)
- Are these actions consistent with being a servant
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 5:5. What is the goal of
church discipline? (To cause the wayward member to
recognize his sin and repent. It is not vindictive.)
- Friend, what is your view of unity in the Church now? The
verses we studied show a loose organization under the
headship of Jesus – thus the presence of all of the
different denominations does not show that we are defeated
by Satan. The overall organization is intended to
evangelize and teach. If you are not in some way a part of
this effort, why not give your heart to Jesus today and
join His organization?
- Next week: Final Restoration of Unity.