What Is Unity in the Church?

Dear Church Family,

No one would argue about the importance of unity in the local church. But what do we exactly mean by “unity?” This Sunday in Acts 15 we will examine an event that caused “great dissension and debate” (Acts 15:2) in this young church. In preparation, I hope you have time to read this essay: What Is Unity in the Church? Unity is not union. A union is a merger of churches or para-church organizations. Unity is not uniformity. Uniformity insists that all members look alike and act alike. The anthem of uniformity sounds like this:

Believe as I believe—no more, no less

That I am right, and no one else confess.

Feel as I feel; think only as I think;

Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink.

Look as I look, do always as I do;

Then—and only then—I’ll have fellowship with you.


That is uniformity…but that is not unity! On the contrary, the unity of the Church is exciting because it’s built on diversity. God delights in the plethora of differences His human creatures possess. The book of Revelation describes the final gathering of God’s people from “every nation, tribe, and tongue” (Rev. 7:9). Unity is not unanimity. Unanimity requires that all members agree. The Christian Church has a slogan: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

  • It calls for unity on the essential things—the core Biblical truths which establish our union with Christ.
  • In non-essentials (not the unimportant, but those things that, if lacking, do not prevent our union with Christ), it calls for liberty so that all might follow their consciences under the Word and Spirit.
  • In all things, however, there must be love “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

Unity is grace in action

We don’t have to have the same opinions or come to the same conclusions on all matters. We can disagree and still have consensus. We can have different solutions and still be unified—have harmony. Chuck Swindoll writes, “As long as our knowledge is imperfect and our preferences vary and opinions differ, let’s leave a lot of room in areas that are not doctrinal. Diversity and variety provide the Body with a beautiful blend of balance, but a squint-eyed, severe spirit is a killer, strangling its victims with a noose of caustic criticism.” “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Rom. 15:5-7). In the love of the Lamb, Pastor Steven