Why Unity – Introduction
Beginning this Sunday, we will put Luke aside for a season and start a sermon series on Unity.
What this sermon series is not –
This sermon series is not intended as a message of condemnation, guilt, or a way to discourage the body. What we do not want to do is provide discouragement and point out one more way we are failing as a body.
The elders collectively believe a series on unity will serve the body well. We recognize that in the past, we have not operated in unity as we ought as leaders and as members.
What the sermon series is –
We live in an incredibly divisive age. There is no unity in the major cities in our country. There are protests in over 2,000 cities and towns in all 50 states. The political climate is toxic. There is a great disparity in the socio-economic structure. There is fighting over skin color, geographic origins, and cultural differences. Let’s face it. Covid-19 brings division. People fight in the marketplace over wearing a mask. Most of us cannot recall a time with as much unrest and lack of unity.
Our aim is that our church is a place where we, and other people we know, can come together and enjoy the blessings of unity (comfort, joy, peace, etc.). Our church can be a refuge; a place of peace, joy, harmony, and agreement. Let’s have a vision!
Jesus prays for our unity on the night of His betrayal. Our striving to be unified is an answer to His prayer. We have the prayer of Jesus to back up our vision for unity.
The vision is within our grasp because we love one another. Love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14). We have the necessary ingredient, “glue” (bond), to make unity possible. And, most important, we have God as our Father, Christ as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit as our guide.
The more we are diligent to strive for unity the more we can make our vision come to pass. The world will never have unity without Jesus. Let’s lift the banner of Jesus and demonstrate that having Him in our life conquers division, strife, and schisms. We have victory and unity because of Jesus.
We are going to trust God’s Word and His Spirit to lead us. The series will explore these five major categories:
- God of Perfect Unity – God exists in perfect unity. God is the standard for all that is good (love, faithfulness, etc.). We understand unity best when we look to Him. God’s unity is beautiful, peaceful, comforting, and satisfying. The perfection of God’s unity is manifest in the Holy Trinity.
- The Unity of Creation – God creates a universe that exhibits the beauty of His unity. In Creation, we see opposites working in harmony. Light and dark find balance. God creates man in His image, male and female, and brings them together in unity as one. God declares His Creation to be very good.
- The Destruction of Unity – God’s image and His unity have an enemy. God’s enemy wreaks havoc by bringing about the fall of mankind. Deception divides. False worship brings enmity. People fall away from God, which results in the loss of unity with God. The consequence is that all people face death and eternal separation from God.
- Jesus Restores Unity – Only the work of God may restore us to unity. Jesus makes it possible for the unity of God and men to be restored. There is no other way to achieve unity except through the sacrifice of Jesus. It is important we understand how only Jesus restores unity so that we do not put our effort into useless methods and striving to bring about what only Jesus can do.
- Striving Together for Unity – By faith, we are in union with Jesus. He restores us in relationship with God and fills us with His Spirit. God’s Spirit reveals in God’s Word the steps we are to take as we venture on the path of unity. The Spirit of God empowers us lights the way for us to achieve the joy and blessings of unity.
The first four categories are the foundation for going forward (like Paul’s letters). We need to know what God reveals on this topic. We desire to imitate the unity God displays and desires.
The main idea for today is for us to be inspired. We will hear things we already know. Sometimes, we need to be reminded. Our goal is to know and worship God, who is the picture of perfect unity.
God is the standard. We look to Him and say, I want to be like Him! It is helpful to see the direction we need to go in order to get there. We know when we arrive because we recognize the image on the map. The goal is joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace. Let’s keep these in mind as we go forward.
The best place to start is the beginning.
Before the Creation of things seen and unseen, in eternity past, God existed in perfect unity. We know this to be true because of God’s revelation in the Bible.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
What we can conclude from chapter one of Genesis is that God made everything that is made, seen, and unseen. He is capable of creating everything ex nihlio (from nothing) by speaking. God exists outside of Creation. He is outside of time (eternal). God is all-powerful since He creates all the forces of nature. God is all-knowing because He knowledge of everything created, and more. The words of Genesis instill reverent awe of God the Creator.
Our “fear” of God is the beginning our knowledge of unity.
In verses 26 and 27, we learn something inciteful about God.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
There is a plurality to God. God is not singular. Three times a plural pronoun is used; “Let Us,” “Our image,” and “Our likeness.” God created “them.” A plural God creates a plural man.
From reading the rest of the Bible, we know the plurality of God as the Trinity. There is one God, “In the beginning God (single),” who exists in three persons. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few conclusions about the plurality of God that we may draw from reading verses 26 and 27.
The Trinity is a shared image and likeness. They are alike in appearance. The implication is that if we see One, we can look at the Others and know they belong together (seen Me, you’ve seen the Father). The Trinity shares a commonality. They belong together.
The Trinity communicates with one another. A consultation takes place on the Creation of people. One speaks, and the others listen. The Trinity reasons together.
The Trinity agrees. There is no apparent argument because their agreement comes to pass. We exist today because of the unified work of a plural God. The Trinity works together to create us.
Think about the unity we see about the Trinity in these two verses.
- The Trinity share a common image and likeness. They are recognizable as belonging to One another.
- The Trinity is not three Persons unknown to each other. The Trinity communicates and is in fellowship with one another. They are in a relationship.
- The Trinity is not in disagreement, but in agreement.
- The Trinity works together for the same purpose.
We can look to the Trinity and understand everything we need to know about perfect unity.
Separate, Distinct, Equal, One, Unity
As we look to the Trinity, we need to acknowledge that the Trinity is a paradox (an enigma, puzzle, difficult to understand the complexity). We cannot understand everything about the Trinity. Two verses help us to see the difficulty we have in understanding the Trinity fully.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
The Bible clearly states that God is One. Muslims accuse Christians of believing in three gods and reject any teaching on the Trinity. (Historically, those who rejected the teaching on the Trinity during the time of the Nicene creed traveled to Mecca. Everything Mohammed learned about Christianity came from those Christians and a group of Jews in the area.)
Another verse that makes understanding the Trinity difficult is a prophecy in the book of Isaiah. We are familiar with this verse.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
We know the verse speaks about Jesus; however, notice how He is called, “Wonderful Counselor” which is a name we give to the Holy Spirit. And, Jesus is called “Mighty God and Eternal Father” which are titles we give to God the Father.
The Three Persons of the Trinity
The way we are to think of the Trinity is that God is three persons. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Each Person is different, but they are all 100% God.
The Father is God but is not the Son or the Holy Spirit.
The Son is God but is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God but is not the Father or the Son.
God is one perfect divine Being in three Persons. We say God is three Persons because they relate to one another in personal ways. The Bible teaches that there is only one God, yet all three Persons are called God.
The Trinity Shares Divine Attributes
Scripture ascribes to all three persons of the Trinity divine attributes belonging only to God (see table below).
Each Person of the Trinity has divine attributes that only God may have. Each person is eternal, Creator, omnipresent, all-knowing (omniscient), supernatural (above nature). Each person of the Trinity gives life to all creatures with life. And each person of the Trinity is a source of strength for believers.
1 John 3:20
1 Corinthians 12:11
1 Corinthians 12:11
The point of knowing that they share attributes is to help us see that they have commonality with One Another. All three persons of the Trinity are like One another with divine attributes.
Three Persons With Separate Roles Working in Unity
The Trinity is three Persons with separate roles. They work together in unity.
The Trinity works together in Creation.
The Trinity works together to bring about Creation.
God the Father works:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
God the Spirit works:
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
God the Son works:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)
The Trinity has separate roles
Here are a few examples of the separate roles of each Person.
The Father sends the Son to us.
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 Jn. 4:14)
The Father sends the Spirit.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (Jn. 14:26)
The Father and the Son glorify one another.
I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (Jn. 17:4–5)
The Son is an advocate for us with the Father.
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Jn. 2:1)
The Son speaks, not on his own, but on behalf of the Father.
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. (Jn. 8:28)
The Spirit speaks, not on his own, but on behalf of Jesus and glorifies Jesus.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (Jn. 16:13-14)
There are many other examples of how the Trinity has separate roles and works together (e.g., the Father gives the Son authority, the Father gives the Son His bride, the Son obeys the Father).
The point we need to understand is that doing different roles does not make one Person of the Trinity more critical than the other. Doing different roles is not a sign of weakness. Doing a different role is not an indication of value. The Trinity gladly works together in unity to accomplish a unified purpose.
The Trinity is a beautiful picture of working together, each with a separate function, for a common purpose.
(recap: Shared likeness. Relationship. Communication. Shared divine attributes. Different roles.)
The Relationship of Unity Brings about Good
The result of the work of a unified Trinity is all very good.
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
We look at the beauty of God’s work, and we know it to be very good. We also know that Creation is to bring about a greater purpose, and that is our salvation.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The work of the Trinity is a work of love that results in our salvation.
A relationship of unity is a loving relationship.
Let’s close with the thought of love as the work of the Trinity.
Scripture tells us that beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Col 3:14)
Listen to Jesus’ prayer to the Father.
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, (end result) so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:19-26)
Jesus desires for us to experience the love of the Trinity. He dies so we may experience deep love. In one of the parables teaching about heaven, Jesus says to His followers, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).
The joy of heaven is the joy of unity that is based upon a loving relationship. We look forward to enjoying the presence of God and being in an eternal loving relationship.
Jesus gave His life for us so that His joy—which is God’s joy—can be in us, and our joy will be full (John 15:11; 17:13). Heaven is our being able to partake in the relational joy of the Trinity, who lovingly lives in unity.
1 John 3:20
1 Corinthians 12:11
1 Corinthians 12:11