Scripture is very clear on what unity is, what I'm calling real unity as opposed to the fake. Fake unity poses as unity, but isn't. Most often, people who say they want unity, actually want fake unity, which isn't unity at all. They reject true unity, while calling for it. People, who either plot for or settle for fake unity, don't actually want unity. They want some type of credit for unity without even having it. God requires unity. His Word says it is to occur and can occur in each individual true church. It is total, complete unity, described several times in the NT, and based upon the truth.
Biblical unity is oneness, the same type of unity that God the Father has with His Son and the Holy Spirit (Jn 17:11, 21). These three are one in nature or essence, but also one in purpose (Jn 10:30). The unity God expects or requires is to be found in a church, and the following verses describe it: Rom 12:6; 15:6; 1 Cor 1:10; 12:25-26; Ac 2:42, 45; 4:31-32; Eph 4:1-16; Phil 1:27; 2:1-4; 3:15-19; 4:1-2; Heb 6:12; 1 Pet 3:8-9. Unity is to “speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor 1:10).
Believing “the same thing” means one doctrine, sound doctrine, which is contrary to the “unity in diversity” philosophy that is promoted today. The foundation of true biblical unity is the new birth and then sound doctrine. True Christian unity is experienced when born again believers of a local assembly are committed together to the same biblical faith. The passages above describe this as believing the same thing, holding to the same sound doctrine, the same spiritual convictions, the same scriptural goals, speaking the same language and judgment, having the same mind and mouth, being of one accord and standing fast in one Spirit. God requires this true unity in the true NT church.
Paul wrote to Timothy that this unity was "no other doctrine." 1 Tim 1:3 says, ”As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." This is not the unity that most churches expect, even though it is the only unity in scripture. It is what is expected and required of churches, but people look for something else, which is in essence, agreeing to disagree. The scriptural unity could be called as we term it today, unanimity. Since there is one doctrine and practice in the Bible and scripture is perspicuous, plain and understandable (Pr 8:8-9; 14:6; 22:21; 1 Jn 2:20-21), then we should expect unity.
True love and unity speaks out against error and false teachings, but today it’s called being “divisive” or “sowing discord.” Fake unity is overlooking differences in doctrine and practice, which amounts to overlooking false doctrine and sin, in order to get along. Rather than someone saying he doesn't believe and practice biblical unity, he replaces it with fake unity and then says he is practicing unity. Worse yet, because of fake unity being considered or called real unity, the ones who believe and practice biblical unity are portrayed as the purveyors of division.
The NT talks about diversity in the body, but that is diversity of spiritual gifts or giftedness. There will be variation in gifts in a church, but not variation in doctrine and practice. There is one doctrine and one practice, like we read in Eph 4:3-6: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” A church should expect this as unity. Variation isn't unity. It is division. What sometimes people call unity is actually division, real division and not unity.
True unity is also called no division. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Rom 16:17). "That there should be no schism in the body." (1 Cor 12:25). False doctrine brings division. The person opposing, exposing and contending against false doctrine is not the one causing division; the division is caused by the one who believes, embraces, and propagates false doctrine. Because fake unity is considered or called real unity, many times the accusation of division is completely reversed. The one who believes and practices biblical unity is the one that is portrayed as the purveyor of division.
Fake unity is overlooking differences in doctrine and practice, which amounts to overlooking false doctrine and sin, in order to get along. Rather than someone saying he doesn't believe and practice biblical unity, he replaces it with fake unity and then says he is practicing unity. The ones believing and practicing true unity are portrayed as the purveyors of division.
Why it is that people don't practice true biblical unity? In no particular order after the first one, here are some reasons.
A primary and rampant cause is unconverted people feigning faith and playing church, some of which are in leadership positions (cf. Ac 20:29-30). This is major unpurged leaven which will destroy the local assembly.
A second reason, unsound doctrine. People are carried about by all winds of doctrine, by strange and diverse doctrines (Eph 4:14; Heb 13:9). They will read or listen to anyone who claims to be a Christian without spiritual discernment. They can’t “discern between the unclean and clean.” (Ezk 44:23). The Scriptures put these as unsaved, such as Ezk 44:23; 1 Cor 2:14-16; etc, so we resort back to the primary reason.
Three, it requires biblical and doctrinal clarity, knowing and embracing sound doctrine, which takes preparation, study, and effort, and people aren't sure about many things in the Bible, they have doubts, which on its own is again very concerning.
If someone doesn't even believe that it’s possible, in a typical way because he has never seen it practiced, he might assume, walking by sight and not by faith, that it can't be done, so shouldn't be expected. Knowing and understanding the truth, takes preparation, study, and effort. At least one person needs to know what scripture says to believe and practice and then teach that. Many today are not willing to put in that labor. They settle on not knowing and so accepting division. Part of that effort is the courage to stand on the truth that one knows, even though it clashes with the world system.
Avoidance of the hatred of the world, as the world expresses that hatred in various fashions, will allow, accommodate, and then promote division where there is none. This dovetails with the first reason why unity doesn't occur. Many churches fall short of the whole counsel and concentrate on their "core beliefs." They reduce all of the teaching of scripture to a few points that require agreement, giving latitude to much of scripture.
To come to unity on everything, it takes thorough teaching, taking everyone through everything, which starts with a biblical view of unity, so that a church doesn't settle for something less than what God says. This requires a lot of work and conflict and requires accepting true biblical unity and not a fake kind. It might shrink the size of the assembly or, put another way, restrict numerical growth, which is considered by many to be a primary indicator of success and other future desired opportunities. It will very likely bring attacks from those who accept and practice unsound doctrine and fake unity and treat it like it is biblical, when it’s not. There is no true unity without the absence of conflict. Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword, and no one brings unity more than Jesus.
To believe and practice true unity as described in Scripture (Rom 12:6; 15:6; 1 Cor 1:10; 12:25-26; Ac 2:42, 45; 4:31-32; Eph 4:1-16; Phil 1:27; 2:1-4; 3:15-19; 4:1-2; Heb 6:12; 1 Pet 3:8-9) sometimes even requires a split. A split doesn't sound like unity, but to get to unity, often a split must take place. Some think the split is worse than not having unity, so they put up with false doctrine and practice. Unity in the church has been perverted in definition to allow for tolerance of false doctrine and practice. Unity has become getting along, despite differences. This is not the unity in scripture. They had the same doctrine and practice and not just “major doctrines.” The standard was scripture, everything God said.
With this new unity, the false one, the better person, the elevated person, is the person who tolerates the most error. He sees something wrong, does nothing about it or worst, embraces it. Not disagreeing or agreeing to disagree is the highest value in the false new way. This is not biblical unity, but it is what men are left with, and it has become accepted in churches. I understand that not everyone will agree on everything all the time. However, that is the standard, and anything less should be rejected.
Where the Bible doesn’t speak, which is very few things (such as matters of food and keeping of holy days) either explicitly or implicitly, there is liberty. Discord shouldn’t come from areas where someone has liberty. Liberty issues are non-scriptural issues. Music, clothing, fashion, Bible versions, holy living, doctrine, family, marriage, the home, relationships, etc, are not issues of liberty! The doubtful disputations (Rom 14:1) are concerning issues that the Bible is silent about, or has at least judged to be a liberty issue, like the dietary examples given in Rom 14 and 1 Cor 8. So-called "unity" today is often guided by giving liberty to believe and practice differently within the same assembly. Men are doing that by making doctrinal and practical issues now issues of liberty for the sake of getting along.
That is a historic change and heretical. For example, in the same evangelical church (or even Baptists and definitely Protestant) you have premillennial or amillennial, or in other words 30% difference in doctrine right off the bat, but its unity. False gospels are tolerated without a blink of an eye. Pastors and people tolerate differences, they just keep kicking the can down the road, to “get along,” not unify, treating the differences like they are allowable. For most, numbers are more important than truth and true unity. Men don't want to lose anybody, even if the people aren't believing or doing right. Losing people is the worst thing for them and for various reasons.
So churches change the definition of unity in order to keep more people and also stay together on lesser terms. The toleration of false doctrine and practice becomes the new standard. Deep compromise will surely bring massive division and factions down the road, reaping what they’ve sown. Actually, this touches something very controversial that others wouldn't want to touch, because it exposes disobedience to God's Word prevalent everywhere and unconverted people. A false unity creates a false peace based on false doctrines, told by false teachers, that are followed by false converts. There is only one teaching in scripture, but churches allow for more than one teaching on doctrines and practices. If you don't do that, now you are considered to be violating some definition of love, which is closer to toleration.
Where God speaks, there needs to be same mind. The Bible itself is plain. It can be understood, even by children. Acceptance of anything less than the truth is not in accordance with God. He is the standard. Not only has He told us what He wants to believe and do, practical as it is in all areas of life, but He’s given us the grace and strength to do it. This is the sanctification that Jesus prayed for in John 17. The unity that Jesus spoke of in John 17 is not fake unity. Jesus Himself was the perfect example by always submitting to the Father and then praying for us to be sanctified in the same way (Jn 17:17).
Paul speaks of this many times, I think of Rom 15:14, “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Like a lot of other biblical words or concepts or doctrines, unity is changed, perverted, morphed, or dumbed down to something it isn't. Many people are completely fine with that. They think it’s a good trend, and want unity to mean what they want it to mean, like many other words and doctrines. Love for example, is twisted to something miles away from what it actually is, fitting with the wrong unity. If you say someone's "love" isn't love, that’s a worse violation than corrupting love itself.
Ironically, it is unloving to say someone's love isn't love. God, however, is still going to judge us for love based on what He says it is — the same with unity. Love isn't an amorphous arbitrary act or attitude, and the right love is received for true unity. Jesus said, if you love me, keep my words, sayings, and commands. Paul said, be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ. We conform to the image of Christ by looking at Him in scripture and then obeying. People aren't doing that. They are inventing their own Jesus in their mind and then obeying him, someone who is morphed into their own opinion. It’ll effect their views on what unity is and consequently embrace fake unity.
A church that accepts something less than biblical unity isn't obeying scripture, because scripture teaches it. If you are going to get unity, you've got to want unity. You can't settle for the fake. Unity comes from purity, so the desire for unity starts with purity. That requires true Biblical conversions, followed by true believers baptism which is immersion, and then obedience to all the counsel of God’s Word. In that is includes a true local church with church membership and closed communion of the members. Not having church according to the Word of God is disobedience to scripture. A church should have Biblical closed communion at communion with members of the local body (which is the church in Scripture) who are born again, immersed, united by sound doctrine and walking in truth. The church isn't a big tent that accepts many diverse beliefs and practices. It is a very narrow tent that accepts only what God says in His Word.
Where scripture is silent, church members have liberty, but obedient faithful true churches won't settle for anything less that true, biblical unity. There isn't a biblical teaching of the fake unity. Scripture teaches against it. Since it can't be defended with the Bible, a typical defence is an attack on those holding to true unity alone. It is equal to "calling good evil, and evil good." They call division unity and unity division. They say toleration of division is unity and intolerance of division is division. Divisive people are intolerant of division. Intolerance isn't allowed. Those who accept division encourage unity, except that it is fake unity. It isn't real or true unity.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Ps. 133:1-3).