For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. There are two kinds of Christian unity.
(1) Among all believers there exists a vital union. By our faith in Christ we are united to Him and to each other as members of our body connected with the living head. This union exists in spite of all diversities of character and creed. The uniting power is faith. Without that we are dead, and death means separation.
(2) But the text speaks of another union, or it is a superfluity. The Colossians were already partakers of the union common to all Christians. Now the apostle prays that they may be knit together in love. This is not a doctrinal union; desirable as that may be, it is only a union of head. Nor is it an ecclesiastical union; desirable as that may be, it is yet mechanical and external. This is eternal, spiritual, vital.
2. The word is translated compacted (Ephesians 4:16), proving (Acts 9:22), assuredly gathering (Acts 16:10), and means to make to come together. The Colossians were not so compacted as the apostle wished them to be. Seducers had disturbed their fraternal concord. So the apostle prays that their affections may intertwine and interlace; or that as a broken joint when reset knits itself to the other members of the body, so the members of the body of believers might be united to one another, love being the uniting power.
3. Each Church should he a confederated body, so consolidated into one as to be invincible in conflict with the powers of evil.
4. We can have this unity without dull uniformity. There is unity in the Godhead, yet not uniformity; unity among the angels, but they have degrees of power and dignity; diversity among the stars, yet they are all related to the central sun. This unity does not destroy our individuality or our right of private judgment. The Church's vesture may have divers colours, but it must be without seam. Individual members may resemble the rainbow which combines the seven prismatic colours into one glorious arch, or like the ocean in its unfettered flow, "distinct as the billows, but one as the sea."
II. ITS NECESSITY.
1. Being destitute of this unity, no body of Christians can answer the end of its existence. It is only where brethren dwell together in unity that the Lord commands His blessing.
2. This unity is essential to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is only when believers are "builded together" that they are a fit "habitation of God through the Spirit." Not before the temple was compacted did "the glory of the Lord fill the house." When "they were all of one accord in one place," there came the blessings of Pentecost.
3. It is only when united that a Church is powerful for good. Separate the particles of a ponderous hammer, and each atom will fall harmless as a snowflake; but welded into one, and wielded by the arm of the quarryman, it will split granite. Let the waters of Niagara be divided into separate drops, and they are no more than a Scotch mist.
4. Without it a Christian Church may any day be scattered. It is but a heap of sand the separate particles of which may be separated by a gust of wind.
5. It is necessary to Christian comfort. We are so constituted as to be dependent on each other. To preserve a frigid isolation is to create misery.
III. THE POWER WHICH SECURES IT. Love, without which no real union is possible. The universe has no equal force to that of love. We may think alike on doctrines, polity, and methods of work, but unless our hearts are full of love to Christ and one another we are not united. This power is to be obtained at the Cross, the birthplace of Christian love.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;