The Church

Unity Versus Individuality in the Church

May 6, 2014

Some cultures focus on individuality, while most are more group oriented. But when it comes to the local organization assembly of believers in Jesus Christ (also known as a church), God has a lot to say about how its members should behave and relate to the group. Sometimes, members need to hold their peace and allow God to work, while at other times, they must stand up and act upon God’s teachings. Let’s examine this in more detail.

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.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:3-16

So we especially see in verses 12 and 13 that for the believer, Christ is the bond that holds the members of the Church together. Really, without Christ, we don’t have much in common with each other. For example, I am member of an American Church, and I am American, yet outside of Christ, I just don’t have much in common with many of the members of my church.

But God gives hope in verse 13, saying it is a process by which believers come in the unity of the faith, or in other words, come together and believe the same things, and be taught. And in verse 16, saying that the body, or the church (local), is fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.

In other words each member, each person has something to contribute to their church, to further perfect (mature) it.

For the body is not one member, but many.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
I Corinthians 12:14,21-25

So God goes on to say here that even some members which many think are unnecessary, are very necessary, even more necessary than them. I like what Paul writes in verse 23, “those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable”. God doesn’t see things the way we see them. So think about this for just a moment. The feeble members of the Church, the elderly man, the mentally disabled person, etc. We think they aren’t worth much to our church, but God says they are worth a lot.

And I could go on, but I think the prevailing attitude and culture in the East is one of unity. However, in the West the prevailing attitude is that of individuality.

When the group is regarded above the truth or doing what is right, a serious error has occurred. This is where it gets really tough, and I’ve seen it happen myself in the past. So believer, when you know something is wrong, what do you do?

I believe many Christians who love the Lord get caught up in this occasionally. What is a believer to do? Confront the wrong and risk seriously damaging the unity of the group? Will it hurt the other person if I confront them on what’s wrong, or will it backlash and hurt myself or my family? Will it hurt the work of missions? And many other similar questions go along with this as well.

These are serious considerations, and I have been forced to think this through, and seriously pray before taking action. I came across an excellent book during this time for which I am grateful. You see, in the deep meditations of my heart and soul, I lost the most important consideration of all, which is found in John 8.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:36

Believers, Christ has freed us. Complete and total freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from damnation, complete freedom to do his will in our lives.

Allow me to point this out in Acts 5.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
Acts 5:27-33

This was a case of being demanded to forsake God’s commands and precepts by the religious leaders of the day. Now consider this passage:

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Acts 13:6-12

This situation is represents direct opposition from Satan, through an unbeliever, trying to hinder the word of God reaching an unbeliever who was interested in hearing the Word of God. Now let’s go back to Acts 5.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Acts 5:1-5

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Acts 5:6-11

These were people in the church at Jerusalem, who lied to the Holy Ghost, and thus had to be dealt with according to their sin. So the crux of what I wanted to show you here is that the followers of Christ in all three of these instances had to stand up as an individual, and make hard choices which would cause conflict and disunity. Three situations have been shown – a contest with religious leaders, a contest with the devil, and a contest with folks in a church.

But did the men of God back down?

No.

In each case, they followed the Lord and proclaimed the truth.

So let’s go back to John 8.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:31-32, 36

So the Son and the truth make the believer free. John 1 shows that the Son and the Word of God (the truth) are one and the same thing. Therefore Christ makes the believer free through the word of God. So the only way to remain free (I am not talking about salvation, but free in our conscience, and in our daily lives) is to follow this word. To act on it at all times, regardless of who we think might be “hurt” by our obedience to the word.

So there’s a balance between unity and individuality. And it is all centered around Jesus Christ. The members of each church are set together to help, encourage and teach each other, but if one has a problem, the whole church has a problem, and the members have a responsibility to correct these problems.

I’ll finish with this:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-2

Friend, if you haven’t put your trust in Christ yet, you can’t experience the freedom that He offers. God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth as a man and die for your sins. He lifted that burden for you, and all you have to do is accept the gift that He provides to receive eternal life. Click here for more information.

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