The Basics Of Christian Unity

Bible Book: Acts  4 : 29-35
Subject: Christian Living; Unity

One of the last prayers that Jesus ever prayed during his earthly ministry was for his followers to be unified. In John 17:11 he prayed, “...that they may be one, as we are.” In verses 20-21 he prayed not only for those who followed him then, but also for all those who would become his followers in future generations: 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.

It is obvious that our Lord places a tremendously high priority on unity among believers and that truth is echoed throughout the Bible. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” So, I want to speak today on “The Basics of Christian Unity.” My prayer is that as we look at this subject, each of us who is born again will commit himself or herself to doing whatever is necessary to see that our church is characterized by unity. The basics of Christian unity are clearly seen here in Acts 4. First, let’s look at...

I. The Foundation Of Christian Unity

A. Christian Faith

Verse 32 says, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul....” The bedrock upon which their unity was based was the fact that they had all placed their faith in the crucified, risen, living, coming again Son of God. They had claimed that wonderful promise that

Jesus gave in John 6:47: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

B. Prayer

But not only were they Christians, they were praying Christians, and their praying together further enhanced their unity. In verse 29 we read: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Notice that they didn’t pray for comfort, prosperity, or even for their safety - but, according to verse 29, they prayed, “...and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Their concern was that they have the courage to proclaim God’s truth in a hostile environment and that common desire helped bind them together. If you and I want the smile of God on our lives as individual believers, and on our church collectively, we must give priority to being effective witnesses for Jesus Christ both by manner of life and by word of mouth.

These disciples further prayed, in verse 30: “ By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” They were asking God to show forth his mighty, miraculous power, in order that Jesus might be magnified in the eyes of the multitudes and that their witness might therefore be believed.

C. The Holy Spirit

And look at how wonderfully God answered that prayer! We read in verse 31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost....” God desires to fill every believer, and he will if we yield to his total control. To every Christian, Ephesians 5:18 says: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

D. Boldness

But that wasn’t all; verse 31 goes on to say, “...and they spake the word of God with boldness.” They had prayed for boldness, and God gave them exactly what they had asked for. Why? Because they had prayed in accord with his will. Why are we modern-day Christians are often so feeble in prayer? The answer can be seen in James 4:3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts.” But when we get our motives in order, and ask for the right things for the right reasons, prayer can be a mighty weapon.

So, to sum it up, here was the four-fold foundation upon which the unity of that group of first century Christians was built: (1) They shared a common faith in Christ. (2) They prayed and did so for the right motive. (3) As they prayed, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. (4) And, being thus filled, they were able to overcome their fears and to witness courageously to those around them.

Now, having looked at the foundation of Christian unity, consider with me...

II. The Nature Of Christian Unity

True Christian unity has two aspects an inner aspect, and an outer aspect. Let’s look first at the...

A. Inward Aspect

Verse 32 says, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul....”

Christian unity doesn’t mean that there will never be differences of opinion among Christians of course not. It is only normal that we sometimes see things differently. However, Christian unity does mean that, in spite of these differences which sometimes occur, we’ll be careful to maintain a spirit of love, mutual respect, and cooperation.

This can be illustrated by the marriage relationship. No two married people ever saw everything exactly alike; but if that marriage is what it ought to be, the husband and wife will settle those differences of opinion in a spirit of harmony and love. If they do, on rare occasions, get “out of sorts” with each other, they won’t let that strained relationship continue. One or the other of them will take the initiative, they’ll talk it over, and with a caring spirit of give-and-take they’ll somehow work it out they’ll manage to find an acceptable solution.

So, Christian unity is a unity of heart and soul a unity which causes individuals to work together harmoniously, seeking God’s will, and not their own. Here’s the way the apostle Paul expressed it in Ephesians 4:1-6: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one  another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Decades ago, in a certain section of the state of Maine, there was a large number of electric clocks, and all of them were connected by an electrical current to a great central clock. Thus, as long as the current was unbroken, all of the clocks gave exactly the same time and if any one of them gave a different time, it was proof that that particular clock had somehow gotten disconnected from the central clock. In like manner, if we are all properly connected trustfully and obediently to Jesus Christ, we will be in unity that is, we will be “of one heart and of one soul.”

B. Outward Aspect

Now consider with me the outward aspect of Christian unity. Verse 32 continues as follows: “...neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” This was surely not the only outward expression of their unity but it is likely cited here simply as representative.

This was not so-called “Christian Communism,” as some have tried to characterize it. Indeed, there is no such thing. For one thing, there was no state ownership involved here. Further, this sharing of goods was not imposed from without it was all voluntary.

Moreover, it was done in the name of Christ, whereas Communism denies God.

Obviously there were many believers who were having a hard time of it financially. They were struggling to make ends meet. So, in a spirit of unselfishness, they decided to share with one another what they had. They set a good example for you and me for God expects no less of us. In 1 John 3:16-19 we read:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

The familiar hymn says it like this:

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one

Our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes,

Our mutual burdens bear;

And often for each other flows

The sympathizing tear.

We’ve looked at the foundation of Christian unity, and the nature of Christian unity; now consider with me...

III. The Results Of Christian Unity

A. Power

For one thing, verse 33 says, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus....” They had prayed that God would enable them to proclaim his word boldly, and he had answered that prayer and now we see that their bold witness was accompanied by power from on high. If you and I will “pay the price” in surrender to Christ so as to be in unity with our Christian brothers and sisters, the Lord will also empower our witnessing. Does that mean that everyone with whom we share the gospel will be saved? No, even our Lord himself didn’t receive a positive response from everybody. But it does mean that if we are walking the straight and narrow as believers should, and are in unity with our fellow Christians, God will empower us to present the truth in a way that will honor him and we will see fruit from our labors. In some cases it may be our part to plant, in other cases to water but God will bless with increase; there will be people saved along the way.

Several years ago a little three-year-old girl got lost in a large, open field. The grass and weeds were so high that she couldn’t be seen. Realizing her predicament, her family was frantic as they  searched in all different directions, but to no avail. Their fears intensified as the hours wore on, for they knew that if they didn’t find her before nightfall she would be terrified, and would be in danger of exposure to the elements and also of some wild animal possibly attacking her. Someone made the suggestion that all of those in the search party join hands and make one huge line and walk through the field, one section at a time. To their great relief, just before dusk they found the little girl, unharmed. Because they joined hands, they got the job done.

Even so, if you and I as fellow believers in Christ and fellow members of his church join hands in our efforts to rescue those who are lost in sin, God will bless our efforts.

B. Grace

Now let’s look at another, closely related, result of the unity of these early Christians. In the last part of verse 33 we read: “...and great grace was upon them all.” “Grace” is “the unmerited favor of God.” The statement that “great grace was upon them all” means that God blessed them in a great way.

As already noted, one expression of his grace was his supplying of their physical needs. Verse 34 says, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” God’s grace is what moved those early Christians to share with one another, so that no one went lacking.

But undoubtedly there is also much more meaning wrapped up in that statement that “great grace was upon them all.” Because these Christians prayed, were Spirit-filled, were unselfishly sharing what they had with others, and were boldly proclaiming the gospel and were doing all of this in a spirit of unity God poured out showers of blessings upon them. They found true in their own experience that wonderful reality of which Paul later spoke in Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Their hearts no doubt echoed the same sentiment that was later recorded in Ephesians 2:20-21: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Living in harmony with your fellow believers is one of God’s primary requirements for being used to reach others, and for being personally blessed.

A timber man will tell you that a pine tree growing out to itself, away from the other trees, will never attain a great height and therefore will never have top value. But the trees which are in the midst of the forest reach toward the sky and develop into the tall timber which is so valuable and sought after. In like manner, the Christian who stands with his brethren in a spirit of unity attains spiritual heights that the isolated person knows nothing about.


We’ve been thinking about the importance of Christians living and working together in a spirit of unity but before you can contribute to Christian unity, you must first make sure that you are a Christian that you have repented of your sins, and by faith have absolutely surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, trusting his sacrifice on the cross as the payment of your sin debt. If you’ve never made that all-important commitment, I challenge you to get that issue settled, this very hour then you can claim this great promise of Christ in John 6:47: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

If you are already a Christian, but have been guilty of creating disharmony in the church by careless, critical words, or by a wrong attitude I challenge you to ask God’s forgiveness and to commit yourself to being a unifier, not a divider. If you and I will work together in Christian unity, God will bless and  use us as individuals and he will bless and use us collectively as a church. Will you do your part toward that end?