Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father

Ephesians 4:1-6, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (emphasis mine)

The above passage is critical for the life of the church. We read Paul begin to exhort us to "walk in a manner worthy" of our calling. In the preceding three chapters of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes the wonderful things God has done in salvation. In chapters 4-6, Paul instructs us in how to live our lives in light of all God has done. This is walking worthy of our calling.

Paul takes a few verses to begin to explain what this walk looks like as we relate to other Christians. We are to show humility, gentleness, patience, and bear with one another in love. The apostle then stresses the importance of unity within the body. Paul discusses the unity of various aspects of the Christian faith and life. In verses 4-6 alone, Paul uses the word "one" on seven different occasions. Paul's redundancy has a point: to stress the absolute importance of the unity of Jesus Christ's church. He even brings the members of the Trinity into it: One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father.

As we think about the church, this passage must inform both what we believe and how we act. We make a mistake if our focus falls simply on the unity of our own local church body. It is relatively easy to be united with people we agree with, know, and love. Paul's admonition goes far beyond this. As followers of Jesus, we are to be united with all other Christians. We are to be one with them.

This may seem like a tall order since we may disagree with many other Christians about a great many things. However, since they are Christians were are automatically united in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The things that might seem to divide us (such as the ordinances/sacraments, spiritual gifts, church polity, church structure, view of children, etc.) really should not separate us in any way.

This means that we should always be ready to meet other Christians and rejoice with them over being one in Christ. This may happen when the church gathers, but it may also happen in the grocery store, over the back fence, in the bank, over the internet, in the park, at the office, or wherever. Unity in Christ spans location, socio-economic status, education, income, background, etc.

Let us therefore go out of our way to be united with all other followers of Jesus Christ. This may take different forms on different days. It will, however, always be joyful.

In human terms, it may not seem possible for people who disagree on important issues (for example the meaning of baptism) to be united. In response to this disagreement, we often in reality divide while at the same time giving lip service to unity. We don't gather together, but in theory say we are united. This is simply unbiblical.

If we are in Christ and someone else is in Christ, then we are united in Him. Therefore, we must act like it. Let's then do all we can to foster this unity. Let's meet others wherever they are and encourage them and be encouraged. It should be exhilarating to spend time with with other believers if the aim is to build one another up in Christ.

Let's focus on what unites us (Christ) instead of what may divide us (secondary issues).

Division is disobedience. Division is sin.

Unity in Christ is obedience. Unity in Christ is God-glorifying.

4 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

We are of ONE mind on this matter.

I remember teaching on this passage a long time ago. Afterwards a lady visitor said, "Our minister told us that our church has the only true faith in this town."

Eric said...

John,

I'm sure that denominations have a lot to do with this. When we separate over secondary doctrines, we are saying in effect that "we know better than they do." This is simply unbiblical in nature.

Gordon said...

If in fact we are born again Christians then we all have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn't it be refreshing if we let the Spirit, the One Spirit that Paul is talking about here lead in our lives. Would there not then be just one eckklesia (body of Christ) instead of many? Is it not the Holy Spirit that should be teaching us the Gospel? Think on this for a moment. How many denominations were there in the first century at the time of Paul and the apostles? Should there not be but one church founded on the cornerstone of Christ and lead today by the Holy Spirit which is indwelled in all believers. It is man that causes division, and strife. We should be unified by the Holy Spirit, period. Silly me for thinking thid way right. Wrong. Thanks Eric for this post.
Your fellow servant in Christ
gordon

Eric said...

Gordon,

Thank you. I agree with all you've said. I imagine that denominations were originally started with good intentions, but the results have been tragic. If we are in Christ, then we should be one. It's that simple.