Worship in Unity

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

A church united in the gospel will be a healthy church. And nothing corrodes a church as fast as division.

It has always been like this for God’s people. In their greatest moments, we see great unity. For instance, after returning from exile in Babylon, we’re told in Nehemiah 8, the Israelites gathered expectantly, “as one man,” to hear the public preaching of Ezra the priest from the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1). In that moment, nearly 5,000 men and women went to the public square before the Water Gate in a spirit of unity and mutual commitment to worship. Their focus was not simply “What am I receiving from this teaching?” but “What am I contributing to my brothers and sisters who have gathered with me?”

This is the way God’s people must always come to worship if there is to be unity among us.

When we are truly walking with Christ, we will long to worship corporately with the people who love Christ. Though our motivation may sometimes run dry, with the help of the Holy Spirit it is possible to share the psalmist’s spirit of worship: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Psalm 122:1). Gathered church worship is far more than an event for you to attend or endure; it is a declaration of shared loyalty to our King and a powerful reminder of the deep unity God’s people enjoy.

It is easy to have a “me-first” approach to church and to be quick to criticize—easy, but corrosive.

Within our congregations, we don’t and won’t always agree. We all have individual preferences and convictions. But at the very center of membership in God’s family there is to be unanimity regarding core issues of our faith—issues like the authority of the Bible, the centrality and preeminence of Jesus, the necessity of evangelism, and the priority of prayer and worship in our daily lives. These shared convictions allow God’s people to gather together in unity. Therefore, while humor from the pulpit, beautiful music, and meaningful programs for families may be gifts from the Lord, they should not be our priority. Instead, we ought to be in prayer for our fellow saints as we seek to worship together in unity, asking that revival may come from our own desire to hear God’s word preached in truth. For when a congregation is prayerfully expectant, God will surely do what He has pledged to do through His word. It is easy to have a “me-first” approach to church and to be quick to criticize—easy, but corrosive. Be sure next Sunday that you are not there only for yourself but for others, and that you are quick to build up and undergird your shared unity in how you sing and speak.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.

Through His Mercy

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16

God is not tied to man-made customs, and He is under no obligation to fit in with our expectations.

Perhaps this is nowhere better seen than in the lives of Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn of Isaac, whose father, Abraham, had been chosen by God to be the bearer of His promises to make Himself a people and bring blessing to His world (Genesis 12:1-3). As the customary heir, Esau typically would have received Isaac’s blessing and inheritance, just as Isaac had inherited these from his father, Abraham. 

Instead, God chose Esau’s brother, the younger twin, Jacob, to receive both. 

Not only was Jacob younger, but he was also an unpleasant character whose name essentially means “he cheats.” It seems unbelievable that he would be chosen—yet the line of promise was to flow through Jacob, and his descendants became Israel, the people of God.

I sometimes struggle with this concept, wondering why God would select Jacob. It seems unfair! Yet the Bible tells us that although Jacob was an unlikely choice, God determined in advance to fulfill His promises through Jacob instead of Esau: “… though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (Romans 9:11). In choosing Jacob, God was fulfilling His purposes from all of eternity. He was also teaching this principle: God does not choose on the basis of merit. None of us deserve to belong to Him. 

This is where we sometimes get things turned upside down. We look at Jacob and wonder why he was chosen, when we should really look at God and wonder at His graciousness. He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). And God mercifully calls us, too, though we are undeserving. 

When we fully realize our predicament before we became children of God—our rebellion, which is deserving of condemnation, wrath, and death—we can begin to understand the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us. We stop asking why God does not show mercy to some; we start wondering why God does show mercy to any. It becomes a matter of deep gratitude that He has made us His heirs, children of God.

You didn’t do a single thing to earn the King’s favor. You made absolutely no restitution for your rebellion. There is only one basis on which you have been adopted into His family: His mercy, freely given and never deserved. In the words of the hymn writer, “Jesus paid it all.”[1] This truth will keep you humble when days are good, and hopeful when you see your sin; salvation is never about your merit but always and only about His mercy.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.

1 Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All” (1865).