In order to understand the theological framework for unity in the church, you must understand the nature of the Trinity. The Bible teaches that God is three distinct persons - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each person is distinctly God, but each person within the Trinity is also one (the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Father, etc.).
Within the Trinity there is both diversity and unity, authority and submission. The church must take its cues from the Trinity on how it is to operate. Put this idea on hold for a moment. We'll come back to this at the end.
Diversity and Unity
In 1 Corinthians 12:14, Paul says, "For the body is not one member, but many." Here we see that the church body is never just one person. The church is made up of many people who are to work together for the good of the church. Paul elaborates on this by teaching that each member is supposed to function as God has placed them in the body of Christ (verse 18). When the church functions in this manner, it becomes a unified church. Members are not looking down on other members with different roles. Each person serves as the Lord has called them into the body of Christ, the church.
Interdependent, not Independant
Look at verse 21 - Paul says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' or again, the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'” The entire point of what Paul is saying is that the body of Christ is made up of many different parts, all of which are important and needed for the church to function. There are no insignificant parts of the body of Christ.
The body of Christ is interdependent on one another, not independent of each other. Those who are older need the younger people in the church to carry the church on into the future. And the younger people in the church need the older people in the church for wisdom, guidance, prayer, and leadership. The church is one body made up of many members all of which need each other to carry the Gospel forward and advance God's kingdom.
This is obviously a very light treatment of unity in the church, but needless to say, the church is not meant to function like a Pushme-Pullyou animal. A church must work together in order to most effectively live out the Great Commission and make disciples of Jesus Christ. On a practical level, this means that you do not complain or grumble if you do not get your way on any number of things, primarily preferential issues (music, color of carpet, etc). Unless major doctrinal issues are at stake, then the each member of the church should be willing to put others first in a way that reflects Christian love and peace.
Finally, let me return to the Trinity. Why does the Trinity matter in this discussion at all? It matters because the Trinity, God himself, is who we are to represent in this world. If the Trinity is both diverse and unified, then when the church reflects that within each local congregation, the church is then revealing to the world the nature and character of God. On the other hand, a church that is not unified will fail to reveal God to the lost world.
It is our desire at First Baptist to put others first and to seek unity in the church over issues that might otherwise divide a congregation. Unity is a core value that we will seek to uphold for the good of the church and for a lost world that needs to catch a glimpse of God in our congregation.
Because of Grace,