A Tower to Touch the Sky
In our present age, unity seems a laughable goal to the cynical. Admittedly, division seems to surround us, both in our immediate circle of fellowship, but especially in the broader circle of all who take up Christ's name. Passages that warn of division, even its necessity, quickly stamp out any dreams of long-term unity among all, who call themselves Christians (I John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18). But, does this mean that God has asked something of us, which cannot be achieved (Ephesians 4:1-6; Matthew 19:26)?
The Basis of Unity
Unity can be extremely powerful, but its goal is crucial to the success of a united effort. If we unite in error, then the failure of our striving is certain. This principle can be seen in the results of the construction of the Tower of Babel, which occurred near the dawn of civilization
"Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. ... And they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.'"
"But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, 'Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.'" Genesis 11:1-6
Please note that the purpose of this tower was two-fold: It was built to make a name for themselves, for their own glory, and it was built to avoid being scattered over the earth. God had previously commanded this people to spread, multiply, and "fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1). Their intentions were to disobey a direct command. Moreover, their attitudes were in direct conflict with the humble spirit, which seeks God's glory, not its own (I Peter 5:5-6). Consequently, God frustrated their efforts and fulfilled His own purpose by confusing their languages. The lesson is that if we seek to unite ourselves under a banner that is contrary to God's will, we should not expect God's approval; moreover, we should expect Him to move against us.
One Language, One Mind
Another powerful point that we can glean from this Old Testament passage is that a common language is also essential to the success of a united effort. Once their languages were confused, the people quickly disbanded and scattered themselves. But, while they had one language and one mind, nothing would be withheld from them. In the New Testament, Paul notes this same principle:
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
... Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" I Corinthians 1:10-13
As having one mind and language empowered the children of Babel, not having one mind and being divided crippled the Corinthian church. The Corinthian church had divided into groups, which were named after men and built upon men. Paul points out two fundamental flaws in their "denominations". First, Christ is not divided against Himself, so why should His body be (Luke 11:17-18; Ephesians 1:22-23)? Second, the leader of a group must be able to save the group. If the men these groups followed were not their savior, and if they were not baptized in their name, then why were they dividing and wearing these men's names instead of the One in whose name alone is salvation (Acts 4:10-12)? If it was unacceptable and erroneous for the Corinthian church to be divided, wearing the names of men and following men, then will we be found acceptable before God if we divide into similar denominations today?
The Potential of Unity
Finally, this passage from Genesis offers divine commentary on the potential of a united human effort. Regarding their effort, God said, Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them". What would happen if we learned the lesson of the tower of Babel? If we truly sought God's will and His glory, unified upon a heavenly foundation, what would limit our achievements? Has not God already told us? You might say that not even the sky is a limit.
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