In Part 1, we introduced the three levels of the unity of the Spirit that was present in the early church. To recap:
Three distinct "levels" of unity of the Holy Spirit as found in Acts 2:42-47 are:
Level 1 – LCD (Lowest Common Denominator)
(v. 42) "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in the prayers."
Level 2 – Signs and Wonders
(v. 43) "Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles."
Level 3 – A Lifestyle of Mutual Support and Sharing All Things
(vv. 44-47) "All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need. And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
- What does this level of unity look like in the church?
- What conditions are necessary for this level of unity to exist in the church?
- How can the church enter in/rise to this level of unity?
- What responsibilities do church pastors and clergy have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of unity at this level?
In Part 5-8, we looked at Level 2 unity and Questions A-D.
In Part 9, we looked at Level 3 unity and Question A.
In Part 10, we now look at Level 3 unity and Question B.
Level 3 Unity: Sharing and Common Stewardship of All Things
"All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need" (Acts 2:44-45).
The second question for Level 3 unity:
- What conditions are necessary for unity to exist in the church?
It all comes down to the kind or quality of love.
The two relevant kinds of love in the Greek sense are agape—to love (in a social or moral sense, unconditionally; and phileo—to be a friend, have affections for; which is a matter of sentiment and feelings.
Agape is commanded by Jesus in all our relationships, including God, friends, and enemies (Luke 6). It is the essence of the new commandment of John 15. (He didn't say, "A new option I give to you ...").
The standard for agape is supernatural: "Greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
It is the standard Christ commands us to live by toward all men (not just our family), and certainly expects toward our church family.
Agape love supersedes phileo love.
There is no sacrifice too great for agape. This is not the case for phileo.
The essence of agape is giving: self-sacrifice (John 3:16)
This being the case, agape is the necessary condition for Level 3 unity to be present.
Agape love directing believers' hearts is an absolute necessity for this level of unity of the Spirit in the Church. Moreover, it is not possible for such selflessness to be demonstrated unless God has opened the gates of grace to us. And He has. Level 3 unity is real, tangible and measurable by the very essence of its actions. These acts always proceed from and are the result of agape.
Can't we "skip" Level 2 unity and go straight to Level 3 unity in the body of Christ?
We observe that wherever in the New Testament there was a body functioning in Level 3 unity, they also had, concurrently, a reverence (fear) of the Lord, and the miraculous, as an integral part of their lifestyle. In other words, Level 2 unity was also present.
This suggests this proposition: The existence of Level 3 unity in the early church also ensured "signs following."
That is, if in the body of Christ (church), all things are held with a common use/mindset, which is directed by agape, then miraculous things also are in evidence as part of that body's lifestyle.
In other words, Level 3 unity is sufficient for Level 2 unity.
We can examine the whole of Acts (esp. Ch. 5),2 Corinthians 8:1 and following, and 2 Corinthians 9 as a demonstration of this proposition. Also, there are evidences of the body demonstrating Level 3 and Level 2 unity simultaneously in the rest of the New Testament.
So, we arrive at a necessary and sufficient condition for Level 3 unity in the church: level 2 unity and the demonstration/presence of agape love.
So, we can't "skip" level 2 unity and enter into Level 3 directly without also exhibiting Level 2 unity.
What happens when/if we attain to Level 3 unity?
The result of this highest level of unity of the Spirit, Level 3, in the body of Christ is this:
Mutual stewardship in all material and spiritual things. It is John 17 fulfilled—that they may all be One.
This is the ultimate destiny of the whole church as declared in Ephesians:
"Be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you were 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" (Eph. 4:3-6).
Next time, we will consider the third of the four questions about Level 3 unity: How can the church enter in/rise to Level 3 unity?
Louis Posthauer is the executive director of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry. He has been actively involved in the local church for more than 37 years and currently serves as a lay leader and teacher at Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston. For more information, visit huntersoftheharvest.org.
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