The Spirit’s Unity in the Church

Ephesians 4:1-6"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.In Chapters 1-3, the apostle has said a great deal about the calling of the Christian and the privileges and blessings that he has in Christ. His praise and prayer rise up to God at the thought of these. Now he goes on to speak especially of how the Christian ought to live because of this high calling. First he speaks of the humility which should be shown by each Christian. And from this he goes on to speak of the unity of the Church, with all its members, with their different gifts, working together in love."

Ø Vs 1-3: Here, as often in Paul’s letters, we have the word “therefore”, which makes us think back to what has gone before. He has said many things about the “calling” of the Christian. He is called to know God in Jesus Christ, to know His grace, to be a child of God, to be one of His own people, to inherit His kingdom, to be a messenger of the unsearchable riches of Christ, to lay hold on the love and power and wisdom of God through prayer. Paul is saying; “Think of this high calling, and live in a way that is worthy of it.” He says, “I Paul, the prisoner, appeal to you to do so” He does not remind them that he is a prisoner so as to make them pity him, he wants, rather to remind them that he does not regret having to suffer imprisonment or anything else for Christ’s sake. He wants them to be willing to do anything for Christ, to follow wherever His call leads them, and to show in a worthy way that they are people whom God has called. But how must Christians live if they are to live worthily? A life like this will be seen in the quality of their personal life, and in the quality of their life together as a fellowship.

a. Qualities of their Personal Life: The first of these is lowliness or humidity, the opposite of self-centeredness and pride. The non-Christian world in Paul’s day did not think highly of humility. In fact we have no record of the use of this Greek word before Paul used it; people accepted it as natural that a person should make himself as great as he could in the sight of others. So it is today. The person who follows Christ has to go a different way. Read John 13:1-15. He cannot exalt his Saviour and exalt himself at the same time.

The second quality is meekness, the opposite of self importance. It means submitting in obedience to God and to His word. (James 1:21) It means submitting to other people. Paul will have more to say about this in 5:21, and not trying to dominate or control them. We are told in Numbers 12:3 that “Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth”. From the story of his life, we know how humbly he was before God and before man too, even though he was their appointed leader.

Thirdly there is patience. This word is used in the New Testament for the endurance of suffering and trial and difficulty (James 5:10), but especially for patience with people. God has been patient with us in spite of all our stubborn resistance to His ways (Romans 2:4). If we are walking worthily of our calling, we must show that same patience with other people (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Then fourthly, comes forbearance. This means much the same as long-suffering, but it especially concerns our attitude to the person with whom we find it hard to live, the person who annoys and provokes us, and even tries to do us harm. If we are Christ’s we will not return evil for evil, but good for evil and by the grace of Christ, we will love even when no love comes back in return, Matthew 5:38-48; 18:21-22)

b. Qualities of Life in Fellowship: The four qualities that Paul has named in verse 2 are necessary if, in our personal lives, we are to live worthily of God’s call. We need them also for the sake of unity. Where there is pride self-importance, self-centeredness, and impatience, quarrels quickly come. Then the unity that God has given us is broken, and so our witness for Christ is spoilt. (John 13:35; 17 :21) So with all our strength we are urged to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. The Apostle has more to say about this unity in the verses that follow.

Ø Vs 4-6: We do not have to make unity and fellowship, we have to guard it, and not allow it to be spoilt by jealousy or strife. The unity is there; it is God’s gift. When thus Christians meet- although they may be of different races, of different ages, one may be rich and the other poor, one educated and the other not - they should immediately recognise that they are one. They have a faith that is the same, they have a way of life that is the same, they are of the same family in Christ – and these things are greater than all the differences between them. Paul now gives seven foundations of that unity.

A verse in the song: “The Church’s One Foundation" reads: Elect from every nation; Yet one o’er all the earth Her charter of salvation - One Lord, one faith one birth; One holy Name she blesses, Par-takes one holy food; And to one hope she presses, With every grace endued.

1. They are brought into one body: The repeated New Testament teaching is that the Church is not just the collection of those who believe; It is the body of Christ. As we believe in Jesus Christ we are not only joined to Him, and receive personally the gift of eternal life, – we are also made members of His body. We belong together just as the different parts of the human body belong together. Paul has more to say about this later. Here we must see that it means that we can never disregard our fellow Christians; we must not divide ourselves from them. God has brought us to be one body.

2. There is also one Spirit: one and the same Spirit of God who lives in all of us who belong to Him (Romans 8:9-10). The same Spirit directs us all in the same way – and so we have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In our daily experience we all share the most wonderful blessing possible – God’s Spirit in us. This blessing divides us off from those who do not know it, and binds us together in one with all who know it (1 Corinthians 12:13).

3. We have one hope that belongs to our calling: We share the same call of God (v.1) to know Him and serve Him now; we have the same destiny awaiting us, to live forever with the Lord. If we will be together then for eternity, how foolish it is to think of not wanting to worship and work and witness together for Him now.

4. We have one Lord: Jesus Christ is our Master to whom we owe all our loyalty. If we are fighting for Him, it is foolish and disloyal to strive one with another, or to refuse to join forces one with another to make His cause victorious in the world.

5. We have one faith: We depend on the same Lord, and draw all our strength from Him as we trust in Him. We have the same great beliefs – beliefs that should bind us together. Outside us is the vast non-Christian world of men who do not share these beliefs. We are one in the truth of the gospel, and with one voice should witness to those who do not know this good news in Christ.

6. Men who come to Christ in faith, are by His command, baptised into Him: There is one baptism, the same for all who name the name of Christ. We may differ over details in our understanding of the meaning of baptism; we may differ in the way that we baptize; but by baptism we are reckoned outwardly and visibly no longer with the non- Christian world, but with Christ and His people. We accept His grace and His calling, and determine that we will live for Him and “fight manfully under His banner” to the end of our lives. No matter what our background or race or nation (Galatians 3:27-28), we are baptized into one family (1 Corinthians 12:13)

7. Finally, we have one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all: This great God is our God. He has shown us His ways. He has given us His Son. He has come by His Spirit into our lives. We believe in Him as Preserver of all, Provider for all. We believe that He fills and controls His world. If such beliefs unite us, and the vast non-Christian world surrounds us, rejecting (but needing) this saving truth of God, should we find it hard to live with our fellow Christians, and want to separate ourselves from them? There are more things that unite us than those that divide us.

May the Lord help us as we think on this thing: - the Spirit’s unity in the Church.

About the Author: Silas Eke became a new creature in Christ Jesus in September 1969 while on the Nigeria/Biafra war-front. Since then, he has been actively engaged in sharing Christ to others through his writings, invited talks and personal counseling. As a writer, Mr Silas Eke was the author of a newspaper column "Ministering Christ" which appeared every Sunday for six years from 1984 in the Sunday Concord. His first published book “Enjoy your family” stems largely from his work while writing the column. You can find him on the web at http://silarolipte.blogspot.com/