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What is the Church? Part 5

April 4, 2010

Click here to view the “What is the Church?” series.

What is the Church? Copyright, Gregg Qualls (

The Purity and Unity of the Church


Grudem says that “the purity of the church is its degree of freedom from wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church.”

1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) – To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV) – 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The church is both declared to be perfectly sanctified through Jesus (1 Cor 1:2, above) as well as in a process of maturity (Eph 5:25-27, above). There is a tension and therefore requires our humility as we pursue it together.

Practically, this means that in our local expressions of the church, we must ask hard questions like, “Are we more or less pure in regard to each of the 8 essential characteristics of the church?” Also, “Are we free from error and more conformed to God’s revealed will, or less in the 5 ministries of the church?”


Gregg Allison says that “affirming the unity of the church means affirming that the church, which is endowed with oneness, pursues the goal of perfect unity by working diligently to maintain its unity.”

John 17:20-23 (ESV) – 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Maintaining (and pursuing) church unity will also require deep deep humility on the part of the believers involved. Part of the role of the leaders in the church is to identify and protect from and root out the things in the church that will steal unity. Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears list a few unity stealers in their book, Vintage Church (pp.140-147):

  • heresy
  • pride
  • legalism
  • distrust
  • traditionalism
  • too little or too much organization
  • dysfunctional leadership
  • mission loss
  • doing too much

Some of the things (as listed in the same book on pp.137-140) we must pursue unity around in each of our local expressions of the church are:

  • theology
  • relationships
  • philosophy of ministry/method
  • mission
  • organization
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