The Gospel. The belief that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior sent to sacrifice himself so we could be saved from our death penalty for sin. It’s the foundation that Jesus built his church on and it is how we gain access to him today. Hear, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized. The five steps to obey the gospel. It’s all biblical of course (Rom. 10:14, Heb. 11:6, Rom. 10:10, Acts 17:30, Acts 2:38), but I can’t help thinking that we might be missing something.
These 5 steps carry equal weight in the saving of one’s soul, but there’s one more step, I believe, that is supported by scripture and essential to successfully bringing people to Christ. The missing step is unity. All of the other steps are required of the one receiving the message of Jesus. Unity is required of those who are delivering the gospel. And while it may be true that each individual must make their own choice regarding belief in Christ, the unity of the church helps to make or break that decision. In John 17 Jesus prays,
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. 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.”
After praying for his disciples, Jesus prays for the church at large. And what does he ask? That we remain unified and show love to one another. Of all the things that Jesus could have asked for, bravery for his followers, boldness to spread the gospel, or even wisdom to understand his teachings, he prays for our unity. And he does so for a very important reason. In order for people to believe in him, they must see our unity. The lost may hear the message of Christ and believe with that evidence alone. But Jesus says that their belief will be strengthened when they see our love.
This unity is something that is sorely missing in the church today. In a world of denominational differences and arguments over worship practices, it’s hard for the world to witness unity in the church. “There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (John 4:4-6). So while we should maintain belief in the one true gospel, according to the word of God, our unity is a vital part of that gospel.
Let those who are a part of the church that belongs to Christ be sure to live up to our calling. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). Our message of salvation through Jesus will be much easier to receive if we do so.