Satan attacks the church through division. In unity, Christians can stand against him. Learn 12 ways the church can remain united.
- Satan tries to lure use into sin through craft, trickery, and deceit.
- If this doesn’t work he then discourages us from acts of devotion to God through accusations and intimidation.
- If he can’t trick us into sinning or prevent our devotion, Satan will attack our minds and hearts to keep us sad, doubting God, and questioning our faith and salvation.
Those are powerful weapons. But as we have seen, the equipment God gives us to fight against Satan’s onslaught is more powerful. It protects our minds and hearts. It reminds us of our right standing before God, our salvation through Christ, and our companionship with the Holy Spirit.
An all-out assault
Throughout his book, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, Brooks has focused on our enemy’s individual campaigns against us. True, these tactics will affect Christ’s body as they affect his children. But until now we haven’t seen a corporate offensive.
That changes in chapter 5. Individually the devil’s objective is to weaken our emotional state, our personal effectiveness, or our obedience. When Satan attacks the church, his goal is outright destruction.
Here’s how Brooks explains the game plan:
By working them first to be cold, and then to divide, and then to be bitter and jealous, and then ‘to bite and devour one another’ (Gal. 5:15).
Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia bypasses the usual opening commendations and prayers. Instead, it launches directly into their foolishness for forgetting the true gospel of Christ. Certain church members had been turning back to law-keeping as a means of personal justification. Paul would not have it. The result is a strongly-worded rebuke.
Paul reminds the Galatian believers of their freedom in Christ, which they should use as fuel to fire their love and service toward one another. The alternative is to “bite and devour” one another through fleshly, unspiritual, unloving behavior. The result would be utter destruction.
This is not the way
The Star Wars prequels – the three movies released between 1999 and 2005 – get a bad rap from many fans of the imaginary universe. But for every Jar-Jar Binks, there’s a legend of Darth Plagueis to balance it out (please excuse my nerd moment). Take for example this oft-quoted line of wisdom from Jedi master Yoda in Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
The diminutive philosopher understands what others don’t see. An irrational fear left unchecked in the heart of an emotionally wounded child will lead to all-out galactic war. The end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith proves Yoda right.
Thomas Brooks explains a similar process in the way Satan divides and conquers a church:
- First, coldness. A fading warmth of our love for Christ chills love for our brother and sisters. There is an individual aspect at play here, though. Each of us is responsible for continually stoking the fires of our devotion to God.
- And then division. Paul urged the church at Ephesus to remain “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). If we break this peaceful bond, we become prone to division. And a body divided against itself cannot stand.
- Which leads to bitterness. When a church divides into factions, conversations around confession and forgiveness of sins cease. The result is bitterness, hearts that store up offenses toward one another, and resentments that fester into hatred.
- And jealousy. Bitter hearts lack the peaceful assurance of faith toward Christ. When we lose that assurance, it becomes easy to want what others have to shore up our weak consciouses. Now we have not only a divided church, but warring factions, each trying to take from another.
- Which ends in biting and devouring one another. Whether through outright attack or self-protection, the wounding begins. The body shrinks through attrition. Splinter groups form. New churches arise, formed from the wounded. Many will never return to congregational worship. Healing may never take place because no one addresses the sins that began the whole process.
A united front
It doesn’t have to be this way. And for many churches it never will be. Satan cannot conquer a body of believers that maintain unity. And unity will not dissolve when hearts remain fixed on the source of their strength, hope, and love.
Thomas Brooks provides 12 reminders for every church that longs to remain unified in the Spirit, which is the unbreakable bond of peace.
1. Dwell more upon one another’s graces
The apostle John wrote that Jesus is an advocate for Christians, one who speaks to the Father in our defense. When we hear good news like this it fills our hearts with joy, and I think this is because we don’t have many advocates in this life. Sadly, this goes for the church.
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9, ESV). This wisdom extends far beyond the New Testament church age. We don’t gloss over or ignore sin. Instead, through confession and repentance, we deal with sin as it comes. But then we put these matters behind us. As Brooks writes, because grace is a work of God, isn’t it better to dwell on it than our failures?
2. Seek safety and security through unity
Jesus often calls us his flock in the Scriptures. Sheep herd together for safety. But the sick, weak, and young become vulnerable when they stray. This is why part of the Shepherd’s job is to ensure we remain safely in our group.
The enemy can pick off a weak, straying believer through bad doctrine or bad influence. So, more mature members should watch for those who wander off, lovingly encouraging them to return. A good pastor will never consider protective measures outside his job description, when necessary.
3. Dwell upon God’s commands to love
“We’re under grace, not under law!” True. Paul even wrote as much. But we are under commands, those of our Lord Jesus. And he commanded us to love one another (see John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17). Later on , in the Holy Spirit, Paul repeated this command in seven of his letters, Peter in one of his, and John in one. Brooks quotes several of these verses in this part of his chapter.
In the brutally self-serving culture of the Roman Empire, Christian love stood out brightly and with stark defiance. Could that be said of the Church today? In preserving our unity, can a loving Church make itself non-ignorable?
4. Dwell more upon those things on which we agree
No Christian living in the age of social media should skip this point. But now, after years of Facebook feuds and Twitter wars, I have personally sensed a shift. We’re beginning to realize that online arguments don’t change minds and almost certainly don’t save souls.
Churches will continue to experience internal disagreements as long as they consist of human beings. But we cannot say it better than Brooks – that if we agree “concerning God, Christ, the Spirit, and the Scriptures,” our unity will survive anything else.
5. Consider the unity of the Trinity
“May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:53)
“… and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6b)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …” (Galatians 5:22ff)
Love and peace among the saints is that which puts the counsels of their enemies to a standstill, and renders all their enterprises abortive; it is that which does most weaken their hands, wound their hopes, and kill their hearts. (Thomas Brooks)
If the Church remains committed to internal peace, the great demon of discord and division cannot win.
6. Maintain unity through peace with God
This is a good reminder – that the church body comprises individually reconciled saints. The sheep enter the sheepfold one at a time. Corporate salvation doesn’t exist in the Bible.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV). The dividing wall Paul mentions here is both literal and figurative. A wall separated the Court of the Gentiles in Herod’s temple from the inner area meant for Jews. But this division represented the difference between those who were and were not God’s people.
Jesus in his death and resurrection destroyed that division. When He did this, he curtain that obscured the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place tore in two. As each person becomes a new creation in Christ by faith, he and she join this newly unified body of the faithful.
7. Remember you are brothers and sisters in Christ
Family, am I right? We can’t choose the family into which we are born. And God doesn’t ask our advice before saving someone into our spiritual family.
We live in time when one of our most respected magazine writers claims the nuclear family was a mistake. Modern cultural and economic pressures, along with shifting values, give rise to a call for new familial structures. Or at least, new thinking that makes room for them.
But God’s family doesn’t resemble this hyper-local unit. It is massive and elusive. It is here, and there, and everywhere. And yet it is unified and fixed on a single Person. His love gave new birth to each of us. Now, our insistence on remaining unified with our spiritual siblings must honor this truth.
8. Consider the consequences of division
This will be the first time I have mentioned the novel coronavirus pandemic on this website. But I can’t think of a better reason to break the silence.
At the time of this writing the United States has suffered about 147,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease the SARS-COV-2 virus causes. We saw an early downward trend in the number of daily new cases as our citizens complied with government safety mandates. And then in mid-June, things changed.
Many U.S. states began lifting restrictions. Then, school years concluded. We approached Independence Day weekend. After three months in lockdown, Americans were growing weary of isolation. The beaches and bars beckoned. We largely heeded their call.
The subjects of mask-wearing, social distancing, and avoiding indoor gathering took on political colorings. Engaging in or eschewing these measures was no longer a matter of public health but of whom you would vote for in November. Whereas other nations nearly shut the virus down through unified effort, the U.S. seemed to cripple itself through inconsistent messaging and a divided populace.
Imagine how much better our nation could have fared if we had committed to indefinitely forego our privileges to bring this deadly virus under control.
Can the Church learn from this? Will we?
9. See the honor in seeking unity
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.Romans 5:6–9, ESV
God is due all our honor for being the first to seek peace with us, while we were spiritually at war with him. It is now our greatest calling to maintain unity when we are the first to seek it with others. When we do this, we reflect God’s character.
10. Remain unified in God’s word
A church cannot maintain unity in the Spirit of Love if its members insist on judging one another. And it cannot move forward in unity if its members will not do all they can to preserve it.
Some will stumble during this arduous journey. Others will grow weary of the struggle. The strong must carry the weak forward, reminding one another of the prize ahead. At every step, God’s word alone must be the authority of each person’s obedience to Christ.
11. Judge yourselves first
If each church member spends regular time judging their own thoughts, words and deeds, there will be no room left for others to judge them. Our private reflections should expose the sin we need to confess. Repentance will then bring forgiveness. And the renewed heart can remain part of the unified body.
12. Maintain unity through humility
It may seem that humility should have been the first point, as there can be no unity without it. And as we examine the qualities of humility, we see how this trait touches every previous point.
Humility refuses to judge others, but can judge only itself. It looks outward for wisdom, not into its own heart. Humility seeks peace above all personal gain. It recoils from the consequences of discord, instead placing its precious spiritual siblings before itself. It seeks to remain at peace with God in order to main unity with its body. Humility knows well all the persons of the Godhead and seeks to glorify Them above all. It focuses on what unites itself with others, seeks to love others before its own self, clings to the safety and security of those it loves, and keeps foremost in its mind those things that it shares with other humble souls.
Humility is the ultimate key to unity. And a church humbly unified in the bond of peace by the power of God will persevere to the end.