What we do find in the New Testament is spiritual authority being sent out in the ministry of apostles and prophets. We see that authority being received by the churches. We see a united church within each city held together by “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).
Paul the apostle never wrote to the “churches” of any city. He always addressed his letters to “the church” of that particular city.
There was and is only one church in each city, or locality. He writes to “the church” in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus and so forth. However, he writes to “the churches” in Galatia, “the churches in Asia,” and so forth. This is because these were provinces and not cities.
There may be scores or even hundreds of “churches” that meet in Jesus’ name within a given city. However, there is really only one church in that locality. This one church consists of the many smaller Christian gatherings in that city. Just as all the churches in all the cities in the world make up the Body of Christ, the churches (congregations) within a locality make up the church in that city.
KEEP THE UNITY
In Ephesians 4:3-6 we read, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
In the above passage Paul did not say, “Establish the unity of the Spirit.” He said, “keep the unity of the Spirit.” It is as if this unity were something that was already established. He speaks here as if unity is something that comes automatically as a part of the whole Christian “package.”
We are born again into unity because “there is one Body and one Spirit… one Lord… one God and Father.” Our part is simply an acknowledgment that we are already one.
To fulfill the command to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is to keep something that we already have, for you cannot keep what you do not yet have.
This unity is not in external structures. It is not born in external ties, nor is it maintained by external ties. It is born in the Spirit and in the heart. It is an interior attitude. It is an attitude toward people — the people of God.
UNITY WITH DIVERSITY
We can have all the diversity we want in organizations, denominations, corporations, societies, clubs, fellowships, movements, crusades and campaigns, and still have unity in the Spirit.
We are not held together by “paper membership.” We are held together by “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
On the other hand, you can have one giant organization that includes every Christian on earth and still have no real unity in the Spirit. You may have organizational oneness without real unity.
The “bond” in Ephesians 4:3-6 speaks of something that ties together like a rope or belt. That bond is “peace.” It is called “the bond of peace.” The opposite of peace is strife or war.