Monday, January 26, 2009

The Importance of Unity

Please read Ephesians 4:1-16. All of Paul's letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty, and Ephesians is the perfect example. The first three chapters deal with doctrine, our riches in Christ, while the last three chapters explain duty, our responsibilities in Christ. The Christian life is not based on ignorance but knowledge, and the better we understand Bible doctrine, the easier it is to obey Bible duties. The main idea in these first 16 verses is the unity of believers in Christ, This is simply the practical application of the doctrine taught in the first half of the letter: God is building a Body, a Temple. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles to Himself in Christ. The oneness of believers in Christ is already a spiritual reality. Our responsibility is to guard, protect and preserve that unity. To do this we must understand four important facts. First, the grace of unity. If we are going to preserve the "Unity of the Spirit" we must possess the necessary seven Christian graces. 1. Humility. Means putting Christ first, others second and self last. It is having a right attitude toward God, others, and our self. 2. Meekness. It is not weakness but power under the control of the Holy Spirit. In the Greek language, this word was used for a soothing medicine, a colt that had been broken and a soft wind. 3. Long suffering. The ability to endure discomfort without fighting back. Long suffering is developed by suffering long. 4. Forbearance. This is a grace that cannot be experienced apart from love. Means putting up with another person. 5. Love. "Love suffers long and is kind." 6. Endeavor. Means being eager to maintain, or guard the unity of the Spirit. The verb used here is a present participle, which means we must constantly be endeavoring to maintain this unity. When we think the situation is the best, Satan will move in to wreck it. The spiritual unity of a home, a Sunday School class, or a Church is the responsibility of each person involved and the job never ends. 7. The final grace is peace. The reason for war on the outside is war on the inside. If a believer cannot get along with God, he will not get along with other believers. When "The peace of God" rules in our hearts, then we build unity. Second, the ground of unity. Unity built on anything other than Bible truth is standing on a very shaky foundation. Paul names several basic spiritual realities that unify all true Christians. 1. One Body. This is the Body of Christ. 2. One Spirit. The same Holy Spirit indwells each believer, so that we belong to each other in the Lord. 3. One hope of your calling. This refers to the return of the Lord to take His Church to heaven. 4. One Lord. Acknowledging the Lordship of Christ is a giant step toward spiritual unity among His people. 5. One faith. This refers to the body of truth found in the Word of God. 6. One baptism. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that act of the Spirit when He places the believing sinner into the Body of Christ. 7. One God and Father. We are children in the same family. Third, the gifts for unity. Paul named the gifted men God has placed in the Church. 1. Apostles. There are no Apostles today in the strictest sense. These men helped to lay the foundation of the church. (note Romans 16:7 and II Cor. 8:23). 2. Prophets. A New Testament prophet is one who proclaims the Word of God. There are no Prophets who for-tell the Word because the Scriptures are complete. 3. Evangelists. The evangelists built upon the foundation by winning the lost and planting churches. 4. Pastor-teachers. It is the pastors job to lead and feed the flock. The Word of God nourishes the sheep and guides and disciplines the sheep. Forth, the growth of unity. The members of the Church grow by feeding on the Word and ministering to each other. The first evidence of spiritual growth is Christ likeness. The second evidence is stability. The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). The last evidence of maturity is cooperation. Each believer, no matter how insignificant he may appear has a ministry to other believers. Spiritual unity is not something we manufacture. It is something we already have in Christ and we must protect and maintain it. Trust unites, but lies divide. Love unites, but selfishness divides. Therefore, "Speaking the truth in love" let us equip one another and edify one another, that all of us may grow up to be more like Christ. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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