The church, as described in the New Testament, began with a group of people who were dedicated to the resurrected Christ. These Christ followers, later called Christians, were filled with passion in their souls and fire in their hearts. Founded by Jesus Christ, built upon by the preaching and teaching of the apostles, and spread abroad through persecution and missionary zeal, Christianity today has reached into almost every part of the inhabited globe.
Along with the spread of Christianity came diversity in worship. This is only natural as different cultures, generations, and personalities strive to worship corporately in a way that pleases God. Sadly, all too often, diversity in worship is a cause for division rather than unity. The different approaches to worship can cause confusion and misunderstanding. God, however, has placed a high priority on unity within the church and has made unity vital to worship (Eph 2:11-22 and 4:1-16).
One way in which we can help bring unity within the church is by telling the fullness of God’s story, centered on Christ, in our worship – his birth, life, death, and resurrection. In our corporate worship, our highest purpose should be to come together in unity to remember Christ’s saving acts, allowing them to deeply affect the way we live and worship.
It's All About Unity
Like many other aspects of Christianity, the church is to be viewed in a Trinitarian perspective (Matt 28:19-20). How does the work or role, of each member, Father, Son, and Spirit, bring different illumination to our understanding of the church? The church is unquestionably connected to all three members of the Godhead – worshipping the Father, serving the Son, all the while being filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are unified, the church is to be unified in purpose and worship. Jesus prays specifically for this when he prays, “so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22)
There are many metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the church. In the entirety of Scripture there are numerous metaphors for the church drawn from the world of agriculture, religion, architecture, biology, and so on. Each metaphor contributes something unique about the nature of the church and greatly increases our understanding of God’s incredible work called the church. Each intends to give us a different vantage point to help in our understanding of the purpose and design of the church.
Metaphors for the church seen in Scripture:
- Field (1 Cor 3:6-7, 9)
- Marriage (2 Cor 11:2)
- Temple (Eph 2:19)
- Household (Eph 2:19)
- Living stones (1 Peter 2:5)
- Chosen race (1 Peter 2:9)
- Army (2 Tim 2:3-4)
- Vine (John 15)
- Flock (John 10)
All of these metaphors help in our understanding of the church. Yet the metaphor used most frequently in the New Testament when describing the church is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 1:18).
A Unified Force
Behind each of these Biblical metaphors is the concept of unity. The church is to be a unified force in the world. The unity to which God is calling his church is deliberately defined and given as a declaration to his people. This unity of the church is produced and expressed in a community experience as described in Acts 2:42-46,
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
This passage of Scripture describes the way of church life. It is a movement towards a goal. The author of the book of Acts, Christ’s disciple Luke, does not simply relate history but imparts the conviction that unity is possible.
Christians have a responsibility in view of Christ’s desire for unity of the church, to accept that all who love Christ in authenticity and sincerity are members of his Body. This makes them brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore they must do what they can to cooperate with and express love to fellow members of Christ.
The church God blesses will keep its attention focused on the people for whom Christ died and the desire he has for unity. And our worship will be most powerful when we join together in unity in praise of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.