By David E. Crosby, Pastor
First Baptist New Orleans
July 27, 2016
The church of Jesus Christ has never valued peace and unity as highly as does her Lord. This has been true since the first generation of believers. It remains true today including in the fraternal fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Jesus prayed fervently for unity among his disciples. He prayed that our unity would be akin to the unity of the Godhead. As followers of Jesus we more accurately reflect the character of God when we are united.
He prayed fervently for our unity because that unity would help the world know that we are ambassadors of the Savior. Our unity is evidence of God’s glory upon us. Lacking unity, the world has a more difficult time realizing that we represent Jesus.
He prayed for our unity because we are more vulnerable to temptation and sin when we are divided. Unity is a blanket of protection provided by the Holy Spirit for the health and safety of the church.
Our unity always increases our spiritual strength. Jesus prayed for unity in the church so that joy would be overflowing among us. The joy of the Lord makes us stronger both individually and corporately.
Jesus prayed for our unity as believers because he sends us into the inhospitable environment of a fallen world with evil stalking us every day. Our unity is just as essential as the unity of an army entering hostile territory.
Jesus experienced disputes among the Twelve who were chosen to be his ambassadors. One of them betrayed him. Unity, then, is an ideal that we work to achieve even as we realize that all things this side of heaven are afflicted by sin.
The early church experienced conflict especially in regard to the teaching that God’s grace saves us without the works of the law. This truth, so essential to the gospel, could not be surrendered, and those who were determined to drag the church back under the law had to repent or be removed.
And the Lord of the church insisted that no ethnic or cultural divisions be erected as barriers to the gospel. Jews and Gentiles were required to worship in the same congregation. The unity of the church was not to be sacrificed to preserve existing cultural divides in the larger society.
The church of Jesus Christ confesses the truth of the gospel in word and deed. Wayward confession and wayward behavior are grounds for expulsion. We are unified around the lordship of Christ in our thinking and our living.
We must insist on the boundaries of gospel orthodoxy and gospel orthopraxy. Apart from addressing heresy in word or deed, all followers of Jesus should work mightily for unity within the family of faith.
Why are we so easily drawn into quarrels and fights within the church? We are sinners.
We are proud, greedy, and slothful. We love less than we should. We fight more than we should. We sacrifice relationships over things that have little eternal consequence.
We have limited understanding of the nature of God and salvation. We cannot at this moment identify our errors. If we could, I am not sure that we would own up to them given that we have spent so much time convincing others that we are right.
We lack intellectual humility. We see our own position as truth without any mixture of error. We cannot seriously contemplate the possibility that the other perspective could be right.
Southern Baptists have achieved a grand consensus in the gospel of Christ. This consensus is lived out through our obedience to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, the incarnation and proclamation of the gospel.
Our consensus is inscribed sufficiently in our confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message. Having this instrument, let us beat our swords into plowshares that the world may more readily see the Savior in us.