How Good and How Pleasant it Is for Brethren to Dwell
Together in Unityl
by Tim Smith
“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” (Psalms 133:1-3).
A study of the biblical subject of Unity is ever a timely one, and now is no less the case. There is now, and there always has been since shortly after the beginning of the church, much division within the ranks of those who purport to be followers of Jesus Christ. The Psalmist declared that it is a good and pleasant thing when brethren are united, but is this always the case? Is there any set of circumstances wherein unity is not good? Biblically speaking, the answer is yes. Let us take a few minutes to consider these matters.
Unity is Shared Between Brethren
As the Psalmist declared, unity is
a family thing. We enjoy unity with each other based on our kinship with each
other, and that kinship is based on our relationship with the Lord. We are brethren with each other because God is
our Father. The point at hand is well
illustrated in Paul’s dealings with the brethren in
Unity Between Brethren Is Predicated Upon the Brethren Respecting
the Principles of Truth
We are granted salvation upon proper immersion (Acts ; ; I Peter ), and we are granted entrance into the body of Christ at the same time (Acts , 47; I Corinthians ). But to maintain our salvation and our good standing in the body of Christ we are obligated to be faithful and true to the truth which saved us (James 1:21). Should we, in the course of time, leave the truth and replace it in our lives with error, what happens? Consider the case of the Thessalonians: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians -12). The sin under consideration in this passage warranted the ones guilty of it to be “damned,” but what was it? Murder? Extortion? Perversion? No, it was their lack of love for and submission to the truth. When they left the truth, they left their salvation. What was to be done with them? Were they to continue to enjoy the benefits of the family relationship afforded them in Christ? Hear the same inspired writer in the next chapter; “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw your selves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us... And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed, Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (II Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15). This man who left the truth lost his privileges as a member of the family of God and was to be “withdrawn from” by the faithful. He was no longer in “good standing” with God, and Paul demanded that the church recognize that fact. We may not, with the approval of God, en joy unity with those who have left the truth.
The Prayer of Our Lord for Unity
Our Lord prayed that his followers might be united, and in this wonderful prayer. He linked unity with acceptance of the Word of God. Hear him: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Notice that the unity for which he prayed was linked with the acceptance of (belief in) the Word of Christ as revealed through the apostles. To this Paul adds: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all 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” (I Corinthians 1:10). To do our part in answering the prayer of our Lord for unity and in obeying the command of the Lord through Paul, we must believe in and obey the truth.
It truly is a “good and pleasant” thing for “brethren to dwell together in unity,” but it is only brethren who are so to dwell, and specifically brethren who are faithful and true to the principles of truth. All others are excluded from this relationship. We love the lost, whether they be lost as unfaithful Christians or as alien sinners; but our love for them is demonstrated by teaching them the truth; not extending fellowship to and dwelling in unity with them in their sin.
July 2007; Bellview
Brother Smith is a faithful gospel preacher who labors with the Redford Place church of Christ, 171 Radford Rd; Dothan, AL 36301