Unity: The Third Strand

It has been quite awhile since our last blog post. We are still here! We were stuck on how to proceed with Pentecost. That is until now!

Genesis 2:24 (HCSB)
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

The Hebrew word for “one” is echadh (אֶחָד‘eḥāḏ) [h259]. This word can be a single object such as “one God” in Malachi 2:10. Or, it can mean the first in a set of things or events such as “first day” in Genesis 1:5. Echadh is also the word most often used to mean “unity”.

The first use of the word echadh to mean unity is in Genesis 2:24. God knew it was not good for man, Adam, to be alone. So, God made a helper and companion which Adam named woman. The verse reads that two separate objects are to become one.

It is possible for liquids like water to merge together to form one physical body of water as in Genesis 1:9. But it is physically impossible for two people to become one person. However, they can become so united in spirit that they can act as one person. Yet, they still keep their individual talents and personalities to help reach a common purpose.

What is unity?

Unity is a God-given tool enabling us to attain common goals. God gives each one of us gifts. His plan is for each one of us to use these gifts to work together as one. Part of coming into unity is realizing everyone has an opinion. We should feel free to express that opinion without criticism or condemnation.

Problems we face:

  1. Being way too sensitive.
  2. Saying we can’t control our feelings.
  3. Allow others to control our reactions.
  4. Start fussing and fighting amongst ourselves.

Paul says to bring our every thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5). We should strive to be in control of our actions and emotions.

Satan knows what is going to push our buttons. If we keep on allowing him to cause strife and division, we won’t ever grow to maturity. We have to stay alert and guard our hearts. So, we don’t fall into the same traps over and over. Without self-control, there is self-destruction. As we take control, the victory will be easier the next time.

Unity is:

  1. To become one
  2. Teamwork
  3. Complete in itself
  4. Quality of being one in spirit, sentiment and purpose
  5. Harmony
  6. Agreement

Unity is not:

  1. Competition
  2. Self-seeking
  3. Disrupted
  4. Argumentative
  5. Infighting
  6. Not listening to others opinions

Why do we need unity?

The body of Christ should be working together as one healthy body to produce results. We need to make sure our motives for doing something are right. Don’t take a position just to impress others.

Romans 14:19 (MSG)
So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words;

In 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, Paul expands on this concept by comparing the body of Christ (the church) to the human body. All member parts of the body must work together. If one part is harmed or is not allowed to work, the whole body is weakened. The body can be weakened so much that it can become disabled or ineffective.

Each person has their strengths and weaknesses in the use of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3–9). A person may be very strong in one or two, very weak in one or two gifts, and average in the rest. Each person brings their unique talents to the body of Christ.

What unity does:

  1. Draws us together.
  2. Helps us cooperate as one body.
  3. Renews and revitalizes ministry.
  4. Gives us a foretaste of heaven.

Where there is unity, there is peace. Strife and tension sap our energy which destroys peace. Our sole purpose is to please God (not man) and to add to His Kingdom. To accomplish this, we will do whatever is necessary to protect unit in the unity of the Church.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a major key to unity. We have to CHOOSE to forgive others in obedience to Christ and His Word. Not only that, we must also forgive ourselves to be able to move forward. This may take a battle within ourselves but worth the struggle.

Guilt

Built up guilt from past deeds will cause us to become frustrated. Thus, blocking us from moving forward and receiving the full blessing God wants to give.

Behavior

A right relationship with God produces a right relationship with others. People may fall short of our expectations. However, that does not excuse bad behavior or mistreatment of others. We are all responsible for our attitudes and actions. Our job is to pray for others.

The third strand

Ecclesiastes 4:7–12, describes how there is strength in numbers. One person can be easily defeated or corrupted. Two people are better because each can be accountable to each other. One can help boost the other in times of weakness.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

The Matthew Henry Concise Commentary puts an interesting twist on verse 12. He equates “one” as being a person who is single. The “two” are a married couple. Then, Henry states that the third strand, the Holy Spirit, makes the marriage very difficult to break apart. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the most important strand in any form of unity.

Fellowship

1 Corinthians 1:8–9 (NET)
8He [Holy Spirit] will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.9God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Greek word for Fellowship is koinonia (κοινωνίαkoinōnía) [g2842]. It means to share, communion, and to participate. Fellowship is a very important part of unity. Believers get together and encourage one another. Two people, with the Holy Spirit invited, are enough for fellowship or to be a koinonia.

Warning! Fellowship can easily become cliquish. We naturally tend to fellowship with the same group of people. Make a point to invite new people, especially new believers.

Have meals with other. Bring the needs of one another to God through prayer. Be it two, twenty, or more people, fellowship is a vital part of unity. This was done regularly in the early church (or Ecclesia).

Acts 2:42 (NLT)
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

The Trinity

We have presented a couple of examples of unity. The first one was the unity we call “marriage” between a man and a woman. Here is another example which is known as the Trinity. Trinity is derived from the Latin word “trinitas” which means the number three or triad.

Trinity is the word we use to describe the triune nature of God. God is One but three parts. The word “trinity” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. However, scriptures exist that describe this triune nature.

The concept of one God yet three distinct persons is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. How can one be three? And, how can three be one? Many folks use the example of an egg. It has a yoke, the white, and the shell. However, this does not quite present the right picture.

Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Matthew 28:19 clearly states the three parts of God. Also, the scene at the baptism of Jesus is a picture of the Trinity (Matthew 3:16–17). In this scene, Jesus is in the water. God is speaking from Heaven. And, the Holy Spirit is above Jesus in the form of a dove.

Analogy: The Sun (Sol)

The Sun (Sol) is another, hopefully simpler example. On average, the Earth is 92.96 million miles (149.6 million km) away from the Sun. There is no way we can physically reach the Sun. First, it’s too far away. Secondly, we would burn up before getting there. The gulf between God and Man is impossible for us alone to cross. Plus, God lives in a universe invisible to our eyes.

Let’s say the Sun represents God the Father. So, how do we know the Sun is out there? By its light! Let’s call the light God the Son (Jesus). Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” in John 9:5. OK, what about the Holy Spirit? Well, the heat we feel from the Sun represents the Sun’s power. The Holy Spirit carries the power and the energy of God.

NOTE: We are NOT advocating Sun worshiping. It’s only an analogy.

The oneness (or unity) of God

Then, do we worship three gods? No! There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). Exodus 20:3 (HCSB) states “Do not have other gods besides Me.”

The Trinity is not a concept that our minds can accept or understand on our own. In 1 Corinthians 2:14–15, Paul writes that understanding such things only comes from the Spirit of God. So, we must have the Spirit of God in us and the willingness to listen. Pray that the Spirit reveals these mysteries of God to you.

The unity of Jews and Gentiles

God wants the whole Body of Christ (Yeshua) to be united. In this blog post, we have written about unity in the Church. Yet, God wants all of His people to be united. This includes both Jews and Gentiles. Shavuot and Pentecost are symbols of this unity.

The Feast of Weeks is called Shavuot (שָׁבוּעַšāḇûa`) [h7620]. Shavuot celebrates when God gave Moses the Law (Torah). It is also the start of the Summer wheat harvest. There is a deeper meaning to Shavuot. That is the unification of the Jews and Gentiles!

Christians call the day Pentecost (πεντηκοστήpentēkostḗ) [g4005] which means 50th. The word appears three times in the New Testament (Acts 2:1; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8).

Firstfruits

There is some controversy on the exact date to observe Shavuot. This is based on the controversy of when is Firstfruits. There is no question about Shavuot occurring on the 50th day starting at Firstfuits.

Some say Firstfruits is always on Nissan 16. But the scriptures clearly say that Firstfruits follows the first Saturday Sabbath after Passover (Leviticus 23:15).

49 Days of Omer

The time from Firstfruits to the day before Shavuot are known as the 49 Days of Omer. According to Leviticus 23:15–16, the Hebrews were to count off seven weeks. Shavuot is to occur the day after the seventh Saturday Sabbath.

The 50 year cycle that God planned for the Israelites to follow resembles the Days of Omer (Leviticus 25). Every seventh year was supposed to be a Sabbath year. The year following the seventh Sabbath year (49 years) was to be called the Year of Jubilee.

Manna

Exodus 16:17–18 (NIV)
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

The Counting of Omer was supposed to remind Israel about how God provided manna from Heaven during the Hebrews’ journey from Egypt to the Promise Land. The Hebrew gathered as much manna as the families need. No matter how much or how little manna was gathered, they had enough food for their needs.

Today, Jesus is our heavenly bread. We feast on this heavenly bread by reading God’s Word daily and meditating on it. No matter if you feast on a little or a lot of the Word, your soul will be fed and sustained. The amount of heavenly bread needed will very day to day. No matter what, there will be enough.

Omer (or Omar)

An Omer {עׂמֶר`ōmer} [h6016] is dry measurement for grain based on a sexagesimal (base 60 instead base 10, decimal) numbering system that dates back to 2900 B.C,. An omer is approximately two litters or two quarts.

Nugget: It is this sexagesimal system where we get 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour or an angular degree, 24 hours a day, and a circle is 360 degrees. This makes up the longitude and latitude global position system (GPS).

Shavuot

On the last day of Omer, three basketfuls of wheat were harvested. The wheat was threshed with a flail and then ground into very fine flour. The flour was mixed with yeast to make two loaves of bread. Then, the loaves were waved to the LORD in the Temple to signal the start of the wheat harvest.

The wheat was dried, beaten and thoroughly sifted into fine flour. Some accounts indicate that it was sifted as many as 13 times. A picture of the Messiah on the cross.

In Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts, Dr. Richard Booker comments that the two loaves of bread represent the Jews and Gentiles. He states the flour represents Jesus, the bread of life (John 6:35). The yeast in the bread represents our sinful nature. On the day of Shavuot, the high priest waves the two loaves in the temple as an offering unto the LORD.

On page 104, Dr. Richard Booker describes the power of the Holy Spirit:

Now we can see the significance of the fine flour and the two wave loaves of leaven. The fine flour represented Jesus, who was perfectly righteous and without sin. The two wave loaves represented the Jews and Gentile. Both have the leaven of sin in their lives. But both can receive the power of God to help them overcome sin and live as effective witness to the lordship of Jesus (Acts 1:8)

When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we receive the indwelling Spirit for salvation. Like the happenings at Pentecost, we can be empowered and filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. It is called baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is another encounter with God beyond the basic salvation experience. Peter is a good example of his life before and then after Pentecost.

Nugget: it took 50 days for the Hebrews to reach Mount Sinai in their escape from Egypt.

Pentecost

On the day of Firstfuits, Jesus went up to Heaven to sprinkle his blood on the heavenly altar. He also presented himself as a Firstfruits wave offering before God the Father (John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 15:20–23). Then, Jesus returned to Earth to show us that He was truly resurrected.

40 days later, Jesus ascended to Heaven to be with His Father. But, before leaving, He told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come (Luke 24:48). 10 days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived like a mighty wind (Acts 2:2).

Nugget: On this day, did Jesus wave the Jews and the Gentiles before God the Father in Heaven? The Bible does not say so. But, I wonder if He did. Then, did the Holy Spirit rush down to empower the new believers?

On page 23 in The Feast of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal write:

The coming of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the New Covenant and the Church Age which the Messiah instituted in the Upper Room (Mt. 26:28–29). The middle wall separation between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down. From the two the Lord is calling out the church, which is His body.

Jews and Gentiles have always been woven into God’s plan from the beginning. Scholars say many Egyptians left with the Hebrews in the Exodus. Also, Gentiles were grafted into the lineage of Jesus. Ruth is a prime example of this.

The Holy Spirit

The Life Applications Bible states:

The Holy Spirit’s work demonstrates that Christ was supernatural. Thus the church became more Holy Spirit-conscious than problem-conscious. By faith, any believer can claim the Holy Spirit’s power to do Christ’s work.

Where the Holy Spirit is welcomed and cherished, there is excitement, power, and growth. We need the Holy Spirit to help us. Our witness for the Lord will be much stronger if we stand united.

Salvation is available to all

Jesus the Messiah has made salvation available to everyone, both Jew and Gentile. Simeon was an old man when he held the baby Jesus in his arms. Immediately, he knew he was holding the promised Messiah of not only the Jews but for the whole world! This is evident in his prayer.

Luke 2:29–32 (NET)
29“Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation
31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
32a light,
for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon knew the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (Old Testament). His prayer mostly quotes Isaiah 49:6.

Isaiah 49:6 (NIV)
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus` death and resurrection brings the Jews and Gentiles together. Now, we, the body of the Messiah, need the Holy Spirit to stand united and act as one.

Learn from the Ants

Proverbs 6:6–8 (HCSB)
6Go to the ant,* you slacker!
Observe its ways and become wise.
7Without leader, administrator, or ruler,
8it prepares its provisions in summer;
it gathers its food during harvest.

What can we learn from an ant?

  1. Cooperation
  2. Perseverance
  3. Diligence in working
  4. Sacrifice
  5. Strength in Numbers
  6. Unity of purpose
  7. Peacefulness

Barriers to unity

It is interesting how the Holy Bible associates animals with human characteristics. Many associations are not good. Here are a few examples of barriers to unity associated with animals.

The little foxes (and jackals)

In the Bible, foxes are associated with ruin and destruction. This story about Samson is a prime example (Judges 15:4–5). Samson tied the tails of foxes or jackals together. A torch was placed in the knot. Then, Samson set the torches ablaze and released them in the corn fields of the Philistines. The foxes scattered everywhere thus setting the fields on fire. Vineyards and olive trees were destroyed in addition to the cornfields.

That is what Satan does in the Church. He causes little problems in the hopes they lead to bigger problems. Gossip is like this. Little rumors are started about someone. Then the rumor spreads rapidly. Eventually the person’s reputation is ruined whether the rumor was true or not.

The little foxes destroy more than just people. Whole ministries have been brought down. And, many good works have been tainted.

Serpents, snakes, vipers, and scorpions

Snakes are associated with deception and false teachings. Vipers are associated with persons that poison the minds of others. Many times, Jesus called the Pharisees, Sadducees, and even some priests a brood of vipers. They distorted the Law to serve their wants and put a yoke on the Jews.

As in any crowd, there are people who spread lies and try to rile up the people. This was likely the case with the Hebrews in the wilderness. There were a few that poisoned the minds of the others against God and Moses. Unfortunately, the people who left Egypt was all too willingly to go along with the rebels.

Because of the constant complaining and disunity, God allowed the vipers (probably adders) to bite and poison the people. But, God did provide healing for those who believed . God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole. When bitten, the person just had to look up and believe in God to be healed.

The serpent was the most cursed of all of the animals (Genesis 3:14). So, why put it on a pole? Jesus was put on a pole at Calvary. Because He bore the weight of all mankind’s sin, Jesus temporarily became the most cursed of all mankind.

God lead the Hebrews through the wilderness providing protection from the effects of the venomous snakes bites and scorpions stings (Deuteronomy 8:15). Today, God provides protection to us from those who try to poison our minds. He also, through Jesus the Messiah, gives us authority to rebuke them. However, it is still a bad idea to pick up and handle venomous snakes and scorpions. The same applies to being around people who spew out venom with their words.

Scorpions also represents the attacks of temptation. Those who tend be drunkards, should stay from alcohol. Alcoholics should not even be around people who openly drink in their presence. The same goes for people who are easily lured by pornography and other harmful vices.

A recently rehabilitated person may say, “Those temptations don’t bother me anymore. I can handle it!” A few stings of temptation don’t seem to be harmful. You resisted easily. But, over time, the poison of be sting after another starts to cloud the mind. Eventually, the temptation becomes too strong. Soon you find yourself more deeply engaged in that old vice than ever before.

Defeating satan’s creatures

First thing to learn is we cannot overcome life’s problems on our own. We do not have the strength to do so. Yes, strength in numbers help us to hold out longer. Only with the power of the Holy Spirit can we truly overcome temptation and the many other troubles.

How to achieve Unity?

The only way to achieve true unity is through the Holy Spirit. Egos MUST be put aside. Much prayer, soul-searching, and seeking God will be required. How will the Holy Spirit help us to achieve unity?

The Holy Spirit will provide:

  1. Empowerment
  2. Authority
  3. Praying in tongues
  4. Use of Jesus’ name
  5. Spiritual gifts.

Unification of the Body of Christ (Yeshua) does NOT imply being all-inclusive. Compromising with the world is NOT an option. The world has tried and will continue to try to oppose Christ at every turn. We must stand firm on the whole Word of God and be united through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the full force of the Holy Spirit was opened to us, the Body of Christ. We must draw upon the power and energy available to us. The unity of the first century church can and will be restored.

We Are One in the Spirit

Verse 1:
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
may one day be restored
Chorus:
And they’ll know we are
Christians by our love, by our love;
Yes, they’ll know we are christians
by our Love!
Verse 2:
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity,
And save each man’s pride.
Verse 3:
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we will spread the news,
That God is in our land

There will be more about “same judgement” at a later time.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)