The unity of the church
“It is certain that no subject has been more frequently dealt with in sermons, books, lectures, tracts and articles during the last and this century than the question of Christian unity. It is also equally true that it is the same subject that has caused a lot of confusion in the minds and hearts of churches.
Were it merely a matter of organization, it would not have been so serious; but as the exposition of this key passage in Ephesians 4:1-16 shows, it involves vital doctrines. The trouble generally arises because the advocates of what is known as the ecumenical movement are content to make vague general statements – often sentimental – or to emphasize one part of a statement instead of the whole.
We all tend to be the creatures of prejudices, and it therefore it behoves us to examine ourselves and our views in the light of this passage. That there have been sinful divisions in the past is painfully obvious; but the answer is not to be found in the amalgamation of organizations based on minimal truth. The greatest tragedy in the world today is not as, is as so frequently asserted that a divided church, but the fact that the above truth, and that many who are genuinely interested in truth are governed in their practice by traditions.” (Dr Martin Lloyd Jones Christian Unity Ephesians 4:1to 16 Introductory Remark)
They emphasize unity at the expense of truth. This is why carefully need to look at this passage both for our own need of the truth and for our need of its application to this church and ourselves individually.
1. The unity is a priority (1-3)
Paul beseeches these Ephesians believers to walk in a manner to depict the calling that they received in salvation. The fact that the Apostle to the Gentiles pleads, beseeches, entreaties with these Christians to consider their calling in salvation in Christ which is the bond that tie the Christians, show that it is of prime importance and cannot be ignored. We were all called into salvation in Christ. This calling was characterized by much lowliness, gentleness, long-suffering and bearing with one another in love (both of Christ and one another.
We also need to consider once again that when there were myriads of problems in the church of Corinth including a man sleeping with his own mother, abuse of the highest order of the Lord’s Supper, misuse of the spiritual gifts, inter alia; he started to deal with the division in the church – because it is of uttermost importance. In fact, the worst of the sins that a person can commit is schism. This is because it is not just an abuse of oneself but trying to divide the Body of Christ, thought it cannot be divided.
The manner of calling shows its priority;
• With lowliness and gentleness.
It required all humility to be drawn into this salvation, no one was otherwise called. We were all called in the same manner. No one was called who did not realize his sinfulness. Salvation has only reached those who have reckoned the foulness and vileness of their sins. Salvation has only reached those people who have realized that they are helpless sinners who deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. Yet they appreciate that their faith in Christ has been effected in their lives because Christ has saved them freely. He realizes that he has no rights to claim before God. All the rights that a Christian possesses are secured by grace alone. This means a means a Christian would rather take wrong than inflict it (1Cor.6:7). Just like Abraham, who preferred to let Lot have first choice (Gen13:7-18)
• With longsuffering
This is a time, we should remember, when believers suffered misunderstanding, harshness, and cruelty from those who did not share their faith. Imagine women who were married by unbelievers then? How about now? A lot of patience, endurance was required. This is because as long as the husband is willing to live with you then you have no Biblical right of a divorce.
The energy was expended in order to bring us this salvation shows both its priority and its urgency. We cannot ignore such an important calling. Surely, we need to know that Christ suffered much to bring us to salvation so that we may be like Him. Others have as well so much labored for us to be saved. This shows is of uttermost priority that we be one just like the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit works together as one to bring salvation to men.
• With forbearance and love
The fact that we should exercise forbearance and patience shows that this is a duty of prime importance and we cannot afford to ignore it. It is a priority that a body should have mouth to feed it as well as do the talking. Would you imagine any other organ, say an eye saying to the rest of the members that we don’t need the mouth? What if the whole body was an eye? Would it not be disastrous?
If you look closely this is a description of a Christian life (cf.Col.3:12-15). Every Christian should have life that reveals these characteristics.
2. Unity Is Not Automatic
Unity is not an external and mechanical but internal and organic. It is not superimposed or forced on people but by the virtue of the power of the indwelling Christ, it proceeds from within the organism of the church. Therefore, we conclude that the church is spiritual one and so let it remain to be Spiritual!
We must strive in order to achieve this unity by being faithful in doing that which God gave us to do. We should always strive to conduct ourselves in harmony with the responsibilities which our new relationship to God has imposed upon us with the blessings which this effectual calling has brought us.
The struggle here is for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the church. The health of the church is as much vital just as our own. When we are aching as members the church aches. This means that the spiritual oneness indicated in verse three is an indispensable prerequisite for promoting the health and happiness of the church. This comes, not by itself, by a deliberate effort and prayer. We are to endeavor, to make effort, give diligence and do our utmost (2Tim.2:15) not once, but constantly. The motivating factors in all this lofty effort are;
• Advancing the cause of missions
• Winning the victory over Satan and his allies
• True affection for one another
• Love of peace
Peace is not only the motivating factor, but also the fuel of unity. For this reason we are told by different passages the same;
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of order but of peace, as in all the churches of saints. (2Cor.14:33). “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of peace and love will be you” (2Cor.13:11). “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”(Phil.4:7)