Make no mistake – the devil despises unity. He will do whatever it takes to divide family and friends. He will pull out all the stops to divide a church or ministry. And he will work tirelessly in order to divide a country. One of the things that Satan hates the most is a unified church family. Note several reasons for the devil’s utter antipathy of unity.
First, when God’s people are united, the body of Christ works as God intends – harmoniously. Paul speaks of this unity in 1 Cor. 12. “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that they may be no divisions in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (ESV). Here we see that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. God is honored and glorified when the body of Christ works in a harmonious fashion; when the people of God are mobilized and faithfully exercising their God-given spiritual gifts. Satan on the other hand, loathes the very notion of unity with a devilish passion.
Second, when God’s people are united, the gospel goes forward in great power. We see this demonstrated most vividly in the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, the apostles receive a promise; a promise of the Holy Spirit’s power that will accompany their ministry as they faithfully proclaim the gospel to the nations. In Acts 2, the day of Pentecost arrives and Peter preaches a bold sermon that results in the conversion of 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). As the people of God devote themselves to the purposes of the church (Acts 2:42), God faithfully “added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In Acts 4:4, we witness the conversion of 5,000 more people as they sit under the preaching ministry of Peter. This pattern occurs over and over in the book of Acts. When the people of God stand united, the gospel goes forward in great power – all the more reason for the devil to despise a united church.
Third, when God’s people are united, Christ’s agenda triumphs over people’s personal agendas. Here’s a principle to remember: Rejecting bickering results in rejoicing together. When personal agendas are set aside for kingdom purposes, Christ’s agenda prevails. So the devil will work strenuously to pit believer against believer. Woe to the church who passively sits by while the personal agendas of carnal people win the day. When personal agenda strike at the core of the local church, the devil has gained a major victory.
Fourth, when God’s people are united, God is greatly glorified. When forgiveness is at the center of a church family and grace marks the ministry, people are encouraged and God receives the glory. When selfish agendas are cast aside, God is glorified. When “pet projects” are shelved in order to defer to a higher purpose, God is glorified. Paul notes, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 4:15, ESV).
We have uncovered some reasons why the devil hates unity. But it does not end here. Satan not only hates unity; there is something he loves, namely, division. The devil relishes a people who are divided. He is eager to promote division, especially in the church. So notice several reasons for the devil’s love of division in the church.
The Devil’s Love of Division
First, when the church is divided, effectiveness fades. Nothing could be plainer. When people are at war, the troops lose strength and effectiveness wanes. Quite honestly, division takes work. And while the people who are engaged in division grow weak, it is the faithful efforts of shepherds that are ultimately affected. I often wonder if people who spark division really understand how pleased the devil is with their work.
Second, when the church is divided, ministry morale declines. This principle is related to the previous one. For whenever division takes root in a church, ministry morale by definition will be on the downgrade.
Third, when the church is divided, the flesh is stirred to action. I have learned from experience that when a group fosters division in a church, their sinful activity has a stunning effect. It actually brings out the worst in people. It serves, if you will, as a sin catalyst – igniting the flesh in people who moments before were faithfully serving God. It is no wonder that the devil has such a passion for division.
Fourth, when the church is divided, the gospel is tarnished. I was never much of a math student but here’s an equation I understand and have seen firsthand over the years. Gossip + division = a lack of love. And if we take John 13:35 seriously and affirm that people will recognize that we are disciples because of the love we show one another, it stands to reason that a divided church actively and aggressively tarnishes the gospel. Francis Schaeffer rightly notes that the “final apologetic” is our love for one another and the unity expressed in the context of relationships. I’m convinced that Satan is perfectly happy to see the gospel being proclaimed by a divided church – because the luster of the gospel is being adulterated which results in a weak, tepid, and ineffective message. May God help us!
Fifth, when the church is divided, the Holy Spirit is quenched and grieved. When Jesus prayed the High Priestly prayer in John 17, he said, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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” (John 17:20-21, ESV). In other words, the Trinity has from all eternity been in perfect fellowship and unity. So when disunity invades a church, it strikes at the core of who God is. Division militates against what is precious to God, namely, unity. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is quenched and grieved when division puts a stranglehold on unity.
Sixth, when the church is divided, God is not glorified. Of course, whenever a church is divided, God is not honored. And when God is not honored and glorified, we find the devil grinning ear to ear. I heard a pastor say a few days ago that he “does not believe in the devil.” Now the arch-enemy of our souls is really smiling. He’s not only managed to spark division in the church; he’s convinced one of the leaders in the church that he is only an imaginary enemy.
So we come back to the primary assertion, namely, there is an indispensable need for unity in the church of Jesus Christ. A church that fails to live up to the biblical ideal is a disobedient church; a church that is marginalized; a church that is weak and ineffective. May God give us strength to obey the mandate before us. May we stand side by side in unity all for the great namesake of the Lord Jesus Christ.