Relationships of the Believer
LESSON SIXTEEN – UNITY
Lesson Goal: Our goal in this lesson is to understand why unity in the local congregation is so very important and what the nature of that unity is.
THE VALUE AND IMPORTANCE OF UNITY
1. Read Proverbs 6:16-19– 16 There are six things Allah hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
What is the last item mentioned in this list of seven things Allah hates?
2. Read Proverbs 10:12–Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
a) What is at the root of dissension and disunity?
b) By contrast, what covers all wrongs?
3. Read Mark 3:22-25– 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” 23 So Isa called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
a) Will a kingdom or family that is divided and split be able to stand?
b) What do you think is the result if a congregation is divided?
4. Read John 17:20-23– 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
a) In this passage (see vs. 20) Isa is praying to the Father on whose behalf?
b) What is Isa’s main request for them?
c) What does Isa say will be the results if his request is fulfilled?
d) Consider the different places in the world where there is strife and turmoil. How much true unity do you see in the world?
e) Why would you think that if the congregation demonstrates real unity, the world will thereby realize that Isa al-Masih, the head of the congregation, must have been sent by Allah?
THE MEANING OF UNITY
There are different kinds of unity that are possible. One of the most common is external unity. Such unity is based on external agreement, although internally there may be serious disagreement. Thus, consider two men who go to do salat. Both have a beard and are wearing a prayer cap and other similar clothing. They go to do their salat at the same time and in the same place. They both recite their salat in exactly the same way, including the ceremonial washing beforehand. However, the two men cannot stand each other and don’t talk to one another. We can say that they have an external unity, but that there is not internal unity.
Consider another situation of two men who are disciples of Isa. One wears a suit, refers to Allah as God, is clean shaven, and attends church on Sundays. The second man wears traditional middle eastern clothing, has a beard and mustache, refers to God as Allah and worships in a local congregation on Fridays. Externally they seem to have no unity or agreement.
Both of them, however, have accepted Isa al-Masih as their Savior and Lord. Both are filled with the Holy Spirit and, when opportunity arises, both witness to neighbors and friends of their faith. And when the two men occasionally meet, they enjoy talking and praying together, reading Allah’s word and encouraging one another. We see with the above two men that there is internal unity despite a lack of external unity.
Let us look at what kind of unity the Injil means when it speaks of unity – an external or an internal unity. In fact, in the early days of Isa’s community of believers, during the time of the Apostle Paul, this was a burning issue and the cause of a great dispute. Some of those who had become disciples of Isa out of Judaism began claiming that a person had to follow all the external rules of the Jews in order to be saved. In other words, people couldn’t become members of the congregation unless they practiced complete external unity with those who first joined the congregation. Thus, the legalists attempted to force the external rules and regulations of the Jewish law onto all who would follow al-Masih in order to have complete external unity.
To settle this important issue, the early believers had a large council in Jerusalem attended by the apostles and congregational leaders. You can read about that very important meeting and the conclusion they reached in Chapter 15 of the Book of Acts. Read for yourself Acts 15:5-21 and then answer the questions below–
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Musa.” 6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago Allah made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Injil and believe. 8 Allah, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test Allah by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Isa that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders Allah had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how Allah at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 ” `After this I will return and rebuild Dawud’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 that have been known for ages. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to Allah. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Musa has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
5. What was the decision of the council? Would everyone now have to obey the same external rules and regulations?
6. What can you then conclude? Which type of unity was more important to the early leaders of Isa’s followers, external or internal?
7. What type of unity do you have with a follower of Isa from a non-Muslim background? What are your areas of agreement?
8. What areas are there where you have differences with that person?
9. From your perspective, which is more important and significant, the differences you have with that believer from a non-Muslim background or the points of agreement and unity? Why?
TO MEMORIZE – JOHN 17:20,21
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.