All the believers were one in heart and mind. (NIV) Acts 4:32a
Luke’s reference to “the fellowship” implies that there was something distinctive in the gatherings of the early believers. One of those distinctives is found in Acts 4:32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” The whole congregation was united to one another in their allegiance to Jesus. The Holy Spirit was holding together the church uniting them in their doctrinal beliefs, as well as in fellowship, giving, and worship (Acts 4:32).
Why is unity so important? Partially because it demonstrates to the world that we are Christians. At the end of His ministry, in John 13 & 17, Jesus made clear that we were to bear some distinguishing marks until His return. In the first passage Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV) John 13:34-35.
The “all men” in this verse refers to the world. Jesus gives us a command which includes the condition: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” An “if” is involved. IF you obey, others will know you are a Christian. But since this is a command, it can also be violated. His command is that we demonstrate a special love to all true Christians. Notice the quality of the love. We are to love all Christians as Jesus has loved us. The love he exhibited to us is to be our standard.
Now the hard part. . .Jesus is giving a right to the world. He is giving the world the right to judge whether you and I are Christians, based on our observable love toward all Christians. That’s pretty frightening! Please understand, Jesus is not saying that our failure to love other believers proves that we are not Christians. Rather He is saying, if you and I do not have the love we should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgment that we are not Christians.
Why are we not have a greater impact on those around us who don’t know Christ? Why does our message of hope seem to lack power? Why don’t others ask us more about our faith? Could it be that we are failing to extend love, Jesus’ love, to our fellow believers?
How can we show the world a spirit of unity? The Bible has much to say about it. . .
- Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12:16
- Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
- . . . for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:12-16
- If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
- Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19
- being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
- Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; purpose in standing firm in unity ‘ to strive together in unity for the faith of the gospel. . . Philippians 1:27
- . . . make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:2
- Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:14
- and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:13