Good morning, brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our Lord be with you!
Behold, Brothers Dwelling Together in Unity!
The word koinonia comes from the New Testament. It means “common being”, a word that depicts a group of people who have become one body and are sharing life together in Christ. In the words of the Old Testament, koinonia is “brothers dwelling together in unity” (Ps 133:1).
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever. (Ps 133:1-3)
This is a “song of ascents”, which the Israelites sang while ascending together on their pilgrimage up Mount Zion to worship God. They walked the same path, worshipped the same God, sang the same song, and experienced a unity almost too beautiful for words, a taste of heaven on earth. The Bible describes it as “how good!” and “how pleasant!”. The psalmist David uses two comparisons in this psalm to recount two great blessings for the children of God:
- It is like the precious oil: Oil was poured onto Aaron’s head, overflowing to his beard and robe. (Aaron was the first high priest, and a type of Christ, who would be the redeemer of mankind.) The blessing that God gave through the high priest was a blessing of redemption.
- It is like the dew of Hermon: The dew of Mount Hermon falls from the sky and lands on Mount Zion (where the temple is, and where Jesus Christ was crucified). And there the Lord commanded the blessing—the blessing of eternal life.
“Brothers dwelling together in unity” is the Old Testament foreshadowing of the koinonia that was to be realized in Christ. In Christ we receive both the blessings of redemption and eternal life, becoming brothers and sisters who live together in unity. When Peter and the disciples preached on the day of Pentecost, three thousand people believed and were baptized, and the first church was born in Jerusalem. The first thing that others noticed about them was their koinonia:
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)
A group of people with one mind in the temple, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. This joyful and harmonious scene was greatly favored by all the people. And the result? The witness of koinonia brought many to Christ, and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
He Himself is Our Peace
“Brothers dwelling together in unity” in the Old Testament, is now complete in Christ. “He Himself is our peace”; if we have Christ, we have peace. In Christ, we need only receive and preserve peace, but we need not (nor do we have the power to) make peace:
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph 2:14-16)
The context of this passage was disunity between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jews viewed Gentiles as unclean and did not associate with them. This prejudice has been deeply ingrained in the Jewish nation for thousands of years, resulting in a high wall comprised of complex racial, religious, and cultural factors. Jesus destroyed this barrier of the dividing wall and has made the two groups one. With his own body on the cross, He put to death their hostility and enmity, and made the two one by reconciling both of them to God. Before Christ, there was distinction among the two groups. After Christ, there is no longer any distinction. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, only the new creation.
In Jesus, first there is unity, and then there is peace. Jesus made the two into one new man (Eph 2:15), and made both groups into one (Eph 2:14). After being made into one new man, peace will naturally follow, because this is one body (Eph 2:16), and there cannot be walls within one body. The Lord has made us one, and thus peace has been established among us.
Be Diligent to Preserve the Unity of the Spirit
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:1-6)
The Lord has already given us unity and peace, now we must strive to preserve them, according to the ways of the Lord. This unity and peace were given to us in Christ, and so we must preserve them also in Christ. If you are not in Christ, no matter how hard you work by man’s standards, you will never have peace. Koinonia is the fellowship of believers and consists only of believers. If mingled among them are those who believe only in religion but not in Christ, then there cannot be peace. In reality, there are many churches that suffer discord, spending much time and energy arguing about internal affairs, so much so that they do not have the desire nor the strength to go out and share the gospel. Oil and water never mix. If the merely religious are treated as brothers and sisters, and those who are Christian-by-name-only are embraced as part of the family, this becomes the very opposite of diligently striving for the unity of the Spirit, and in fact, is a conscientious effort to destroy such unity. This is not to say that we should be hostile towards those who are outwardly religious but do not know Christ; rather, we should share the gospel with them in love, hoping that they would one day come to salvation in Christ, and join in the believers’ koinonia.
There are two ways to diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit—one is proactive, the other is defensive. The first proactive aspect has to do with our attitude, which includes having humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance for one another in love, and being united in the bond of peace. Speaking of the bond of peace, there’s a small act that can have a great ripple effect, if everyone takes it seriously—greeting one another. Every time you come to church, take some time to greet others, and show genuine care for those who may feel left out. In time, there will be warmth in the church. Another aspect is the teaching of truth. There must be a constant teaching of the biblical truth that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” (Eph 4:4-6), and the whole body must be exhorted to strive diligently to obey this truth.
The defensive aspect is to prevent the influence of secular worldviews and trends from infiltrating the church. If worldly values such as discrimination, materialism, and individualism are brought into the church, this will allow barriers and walls to be built up among brothers and sisters, and will destroy koinonia. How can we avoid the influence of the world? Only by constantly drawing near to God, learning from His word, having fellowship with one another, worshipping God, and praying together with fellow believers. May the Lord bless you, that you may always experience how good and how pleasant it is for “brothers to dwell together in unity”!