The Unity of the Faith
By Dennis S. Hankins
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Acts 4:32
The story of Easter continues! Alleluia!
The power of Jesus and his triumph over death, hell, and the grave ignites in his people a living faith that overcomes the world. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Christ unifies his people through his living breath – the very wind of the Spirit of mercy and truth who brings to the children of Adam the blessing of the forgiveness of sins.
The first Christian community in Jerusalem shared an intimate connection with Jesus and with one another. The Church begins at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit descends upon those gathered in one place and in one accord. (Acts 2:4) The first believers grow in Christ because they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42) Generosity characterized the early followers of Christ who had all things in common. They even sold their possessions to make sure everyone’s needs were met. Their glad and generous hearts attracted others and the Lord daily added to their number. Mutual care and love for one another is where evangelism begins.
Now, we know that there is no perfect congregation. Any parish can have disagreements and quarrel among themselves. For the Church at Corinth, their unity was threatened as they divided over allegiances to various Christian leaders they had come to know and love. Some followed Paul, others Apollos, and some believed there was no one like Cephas. Paul appeals to the folks at Corinth asking them to put away their dissensions and become united in the same mind, boasting rather in Christ – Christ crucified; Christ the power of God; Christ the wisdom of God; Christ in us, the hope of glory!
Unity is a common theme in the early Church. Paul exhorts the Ephesian Church to use their spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. He reminds them that their goal is the unity of the faith, maturity in Christ, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13) Paul challenges the Colossians to forgive whatever grievances they may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you, he writes, reminding the Colossians that only forgiveness and mercy will bring about genuine unity. (Colossians 3:13)
There is one body of Christ with many members. Among us there are many gifts of the Spirit each one of us is to use in caring for and building up, one another. One in Christ, we weep with our brothers and sisters who weep. If one rejoices, we all rejoice! All of this understanding goes back to the night that Jesus washed his disciples feet. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34 -35)
So the story of Easter continues because it’s about our Savior who loved us and rose from the dead for us. Outside the tomb Jesus stared back into the darkness and said, “Death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” The legacy of Christ’s resurrection is the unity of the faith. And because Jesus is alive, and the unity of the faith is so important, may we take to heart these words from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)