One of God’s desires is to show His multi-dimensional wisdom to the heavenlies through the Body of Christ, also called the Church (Eph. 3:10). Jesus is the head and CEO of this body, so as believers, part of our spiritual identity is as part of this body, both corporately and locally. Every believer throughout time—past, present, and future—is part of the universal Church. However, it is through the local body of believers, living and worshipping together, that we really learn to function as a unit, using our various gifts to accomplish a larger goal.
While many believers see their faith as a private thing, God sees it differently. When we are saved, we are not only saved from something—eternal hell—but we are saved into something, the Church. While there is much to say about the Church and our role within it, in the context of our spiritual identity, I want to focus on the concept of being “one” with other Christians. I believe the key to unlocking and unleashing the power of the Church is Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20–23:
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.
If we commit to fulfilling that prayer individually, then the Church corporately will accomplish its mission. We will fulfill our spiritual identity, both individually and corporately, as the glorious sons and daughters of God.
What does it mean to “be one” or to have “oneness” in the Body of Christ? It is always good to see how the Bible defines such words, but to keep it simple, we will rely on a famous American who was a strong believer with a gift for definitions.
Oneness (wun’nis) n. 1. Singleness or unity 2. Agreement; concord 3. Sameness; identity.
This definition is a good start for what we need to learn and apply. “Oneness” implies that one or more individuals have unified for some cause. It is true that you are an individual, but the Bible says that apart from Christ, you can do nothing. The independent life does not accomplish much for eternity. You need someone else with whom to unite to accomplish God’s goals. There is a great example of this that is familiar to us all. Can you guess what it is? The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons of the triune God are an awesome pattern of oneness in character, purpose, and direction. Can you see the Father and Son not unifying over a decision? Or the Holy Spirit arguing with Jesus about a task that needs to be done? How ridiculous the thought is!
Believers need to unite in the same spirit, goal, and purpose. Each of us has different skills and gifts, but as we discussed in Chapter 11, there is a diversity of gifts, but only one ministry—the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is laboring individually to accomplish a larger goal.
A good word picture to describe how God intends us to function is the wheel within a wheel in the book of Ezekiel. The components of the two intersecting wheels were different, but they always tracked in the same direction perfectly, up and down and from side to side (Eze. 1:16–21).
Lessons from Babel
Ironically, one of the greatest lessons in oneness in the Bible comes from a group of people God ultimately judged because of that unity. In Genesis 11, we read of the incredible thing that happened at the plain of Shinar. At that time, there was only one language and one common speech, and while God had told mankind to scatter over all the earth, to fill it and be fruitful, the people chose instead to gather together and build a city to see what they could accomplish. Not only did the people decide to build a city, but they decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. I am not sure why they wanted to do this except that it seemed like a challenging goal. After all, mankind has always liked a great challenge, even (and sometimes especially!) when it is against God’s will.
This first-ever skyscraper was quite an undertaking, and the people organized themselves with skill, ingenuity, and hard work. It was such an impressive project that God Himself decided to inspect the quality of their workmanship. They not only passed the inspection, but God could see that without His personal and immediate intervention, they would succeed in their prideful endeavor. He basically said, “They build as one man. If we don’t do anything, they will succeed and nothing will be impossible for them” (Gen.11:6).
You know the rest of the story. God confused their speech by multiplying their languages. People could no longer understand one another and left off building the tower and the city. From there, they were scattered throughout the whole earth, which was God’s original intention anyway. The story of the Tower of Babel illustrates what the Bible calls the flesh. The result of this prideful, fleshly effort was that God punished mankind by scattering them to the four winds and creating nations with geographic boundaries. The lesson I want to impart here is this: If unified flesh can accomplish anything apart from God’s interference, how much more can unified spirit accomplish through oneness?
I say that those people can accomplish more than anything. Nothing on heaven or earth will be impossible for them. This kind of oneness is not possible to achieve on our own. Only the Spirit can accomplish complete oneness, and only through crucified believers, or those who keep their eyes on the Lord.