Why Union & Unity Matters

By Ryan Dawson 

Last words are significant.  Chapters 13-17 in John’s Gospel are known as the Upper Room discourse.  In this upper room in a home in Jerusalem we find Jesus speaking just before His crucifixion.  He shares His most intimate thoughts with his disciples, and we as readers get to listen in on the conversation.  One writer commented:  “If you think of the Scriptures as the Temple of God, this passage would be “the Holy of Holies” . . . the Inner Sanctuary, where the very presence of God, Himself, dwells.”  These words are very important because within a few hours Jesus would be hanging on the cross.  In less than twenty-four hours, Jesus would be dead and buried. These were the last words the disciples would hear Jesus say to them before He died, and for that reason they take on great significance for all believers.  

While there is much in the Upper Room discourse, but I want to highlight the themes of union and unity and their connection.  At the heart of the Upper Room discourse is John 15.  This teaching is central to all of Christ’s teaching because it is only through union (relationship) with Christ that we can experience eternal life.  All the promises of God that are “yes and amen in Christ” are possible because of our union with Jesus through faith.  Jesus says it this way…

John 15:1-5 (NLT) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Our union with Christ is imperative.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, and branches can’t bear fruit if they are disconnected from the vine as the life source.  Jesus makes it very clear that we are to remain in Him (attached to Him) so that we can bear the fruit of Christlike character and conduct we have been created to display.  This word “remain” or “abide” means to dwell or tabernacle.  We are to be enveloped in the life of Jesus so that His life flows in and through us.  This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says we are “in Christ.”  As we dwell in Christ, God will transform us, and this will result in the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus in us; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23) that will point the world to the Messiah.  

As we grow in deeper union with Jesus we also grow in deeper union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus continues…  

John 17:20-23 (NLT)  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

There is perfect unity within the Trinity (father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and as we develop greater intimacy with God, we will reproduce this unity in the Body of Christ – the Church, as the people of God sent into the world.  Our unity in the Church is to reflect the unity in Triune God.  

But even more importantly, Our unity in the Church is mission critical.  Jesus says that it is our unity, which flows from our union with God, that will convince the world that God the Father has sent Jesus.  Think about this for a second.  Our willingness and ability to develop and display unity in the Church, where we share one heart focused on God and His purposes, will determine our effectiveness as it relates to mission, reaching people for Christ.  This should give us pause.  How are we doing with unity in the Church?  

This is why the Apostle Paul urges believers in the Church at Ephesus to work hard to maintain unity.  

Ephesians 4:3-6 (NIV)   “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Unity requires work & we need to be intentional to maintain it.  Unity does not mean uniformity (that we all need to be the same) but it does mean we need to pursue God and His will together as a first priority.  We need to centre around the essential elements of the faith, being quick to forgive, and extend grace and compassion to one another in our congregation.  We need to love one another even as we have differences of opinion or varied thoughts on the best direction for our church.  I’m mindful of our Land and Impact Centre discussions and I want to encourage us all to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” as we discern God’s leading together.  Remember, our unity should reflect the Trinity and it is mission critical!

We also need to cultivate unity in the larger Body of Christ.  We can pursue opportunities to engage with other believers in the National Capital Region so we can foster unity as the One Church in the city.  The Big Give on June 1 is a great example of the Church doing something together to bless the city.  We all want to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done, so a “win” for another local church is a “win” for us and vice versa.  We can be praying for the churches in our city and encouraging their leaders and congregants as opportunity arises.  Let’s celebrate all the ways God is working in our community and let’s look for opportunities to partner together so the world will know that God has sent Jesus.  

May we be one as God is one, so the world will see Jesus.

Blessings, Ryan

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