EULESS, Texas (BP)–As an experiment, Mark Twain said he once put a dog and a cat in a cage together to see if they could get along, and believe it or not, they did.
So he said he put in a bird, pig and goat to see if they would get along, and they did too, after a few adjustments.
Finally in attempting the ultimate test, he said he carefully put a Baptist, Presbyterian and Catholic in a cage, but soon there was not a living thing left.
Twain had a funny way of making a point. But it’s such an important one. It’s a point that the first church lived out daily. What is this point? It is this: God desires for us to get along together. When Christians get along, we can work together and impact this culture for Him!
In Acts 2:41—3, Luke describes the early church in this way: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them….
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
Without embracing these keys to unity, our church will be a house divided, and as Jesus said, a house divided will not stand (Matthew 12:25).
Luke uses a Greek word to describe the unity of the early church, and it is the exact antithesis of Jesus’ picture of a divided house. It is the word “fellowship,” the Greek word koinonia.
In real life, this word connotes “togetherness” and means Christians gather and share about life and God, share their possessions and share God’s impact on our lives. In other words, koinonia is not meaningless jargon; it is something real.
When koinonia is real, it results in spiritual activities (prayer and the Lord’s Supper) but can also be as simple as eating together or giving to someone in need of something tangible: a car, clothes, food or a place to live (look at Acts 2:45; Acts 4:32-37).
What brought these early Christians together? What enables the church to be united in koinonia? It is very simple to say, but most profound.
Peter told the crowd “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:41). And in Acts 2:38, Peter said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Only the following unites the church: the name of Jesus Christ, His forgiveness of sins and the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16).
How does Christ’ name thus unify us, bringing us together toward koinonia?
It’s kind of like this: In the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Greece, America watched as Mia Hamm carried the American flag. All of America united, symbolically, under the flag. The flag represents America, Americans and the freedom and opportunity America experiences.
Great pride. Emotion. Great feeling. And she represented America well when she carried the flag that day. But she represented America best when she actually participated in the Games.
What unites Christians together? The banner, the name of Jesus. But He’s not just a flag that we wave. He is our Savior, our deliverer, the one who brings us close to God. He is our example and our model. We make Him proud when we participate in following Him.
Only the name of Jesus unites Christians. When we are devoted to Him, repentant and participating in the life He gives through the Holy Spirit, divisions will fall. Only in His name do we discover koinonia, whatever our denomination. Only in the name of Christ will we impact our culture for Him.
Claude Thomas is pastor of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area First Baptist Church in Euless. In addition to his column in Baptist Press each month, resources by Thomas are available at www.LifePoints.org.