State of being undivided; oneness.
Old Testament Central to the faith of Israel is the confession of the unity of God: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord Your God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Because God is one, one set of laws was to apply to both Israelites and foreigners (Numbers 15:16). Human history is a story of sin's disruption of God's ordained unity. God's ideal for marriage is for husband and wife to experience unity of life, “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Sin in the garden bred mistrust and accusation (Genesis 3:12). Stubbornness of will (“hardness” of heart,
Mark 10:5) continues to disrupt God's desired unity in marriage. God's ideal for the larger human family is again unity. The primeval unity of humanity (“one language”
Genesis 11:1) was likewise disrupted as a result of sinful pride (Genesis 11:4-8). The prophetic vision of God's future anticipates the day when God will reunite the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, bringing back all the scattered exiles (Ezekiel 37:15-23). Indeed, the prophetic hope includes the reuniting of all the peoples of the world under the sovereignty of the one Lord (Zechariah 14:9).
New Testament Jesus prayed that His disciples would experience unity modeled on the unity Jesus experienced with the Father (John 17:11,lb21-23). Such unity verifies Jesus' God-sent mission and the Father's love for the world. Jesus' prayer for unity was realized in the life of the earliest church. The first believers were together in one place; they shared their possessions and were of one heart and soul (Acts 2:1,Acts 2:43;
Acts 4:32). As in the Old Testament, sin threatened the God-ordained unity. The selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the prejudice of those who neglected the Greek-speaking widows (Acts 6:1), the rigidness of those who demanded that Gentiles become Jews before becoming disciples (Acts 15:1)—all threatened the unity of the church. In every circumstance, however, the Holy Spirit led the church in working out creative solutions that challenged the church to go beyond dissension to ministry (Acts 6:2-7;
Acts 15:6-35). Paul spoke repeatedly of believers as “one body in Christ” which transcends varieties of giftedness (Romans 12:5-8;
1 Corinthians 12:13,1 Corinthians 12:27-30) and human labels (Galatians 3:28;
Ephesians 3:6). For Paul, the unity of the church reflects the unity of the Godhead: one God (1 Corinthians 12:6); one Lord (Romans 10:12;
1 Corinthians 12:5;
Ephesians 4:5); and one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4,1 Corinthians 12:11; also
Acts 11:17). Christian unity has various aspects: the shared experience of Christ as Lord and confession of Christ in baptism (Ephesians 4:5,Ephesians 4:13); the shared sense of mission (“one mind,”
Philippians 2:2); the shared concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25; “same love,”
1 Peter 3:8); and the shared experience of suffering for Jesus' sake (2 Corinthians 1:6;
1 Thessalonians 2:14;
1 Peter 5:9).