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MAINTAINING THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
THE PLACE OF OUR UNITY
Intro: It has been a while since we looked into the fourth chapter of Ephesians. I want to remind you that Paul is writing about the theme of unity in the church. Specifically, Paul has been teaching us how to Maintain The Unity Of The Church.
Achieving unity within a group can sometimes be a difficult endeavor. We come from so many different backgrounds. We have differing ideas about many different subjects. We were all raised different. We possess differing goals, ambitions and agendas in life. Unity in an atmosphere can be hard to come by.
I would say that unity in the church would be an absolute impossibility if it were solely up to us. Thank God it isnt up to us alone. We play a great part in the unity of the church, as we see in verses 1-3. However, The Place Of Our Unity in the church is not in our ability to produce it all by ourselves. The unity of the church, like everything else we have as the people of God, rests on His grace alone.
Paul has been teaching us in Ephesians that God, by His grace, and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has brought together people from every imaginable background, and has made them one in Jesus Christ. Jews who were born under the Law and who are subject to the Law, and Gentiles who were given over to dumb idols, have been brought together in one body.
The ground of our unity does not rest in our ability to get along with one another. Our unity in the body of Christ rests upon the common elements that we share as members of His body.
All of the elements Paul mentions in these verses are freely given to us by the grace of God. They are the fruit of our relationship with Him. It is these elements that make unity within the church a real possibility.
Paul mentions seven common elements that all believers share in Christ. He groups these elements into three areas. These areas serve to teach us that unity in the church comes from our relationship with the Godhead. Every member of the trinity is involved making unity possible within the church. Lets examine these areas and the elements together today as we consider The Place Of Our Unity.
I. V. 4 WE FIND OUR UNITY IN GOD THE SPIRIT
The Spirit of God is greatly involved in the unity of the church. Notice what He gives us that enables us to enjoy unity in the Lord.
A. There Is One Body - This refers to the universal church made up of all believers, from all ages, around the world. When a sinner is regenerated and given salvation, that sinner is placed into the body of Christ. Paul describes this process in 1 Cor. 12:12-27.
We interact with the world around us using the vehicle of our physical bodies. In the same way, God interacts with the world through His spiritual body, the body of Christ. He uses the members of the Body of Christ to serve Him, the spread the Gospel, the live out the truths of His Word and so on.
We are placed in the universal body of Christ when we are saved, then we find our place within a local body where we can use the spiritual gifts we have been given to the glory of God. Regardless of what place you occupy within the body, you are united together with all believers in Christ.
B. There Is One Spirit - Romans 8:9b says, Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. When we were saved, the Spirit of God came to live within our hearts, Eph. 2:19-22. We have literally become the temple of God, 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
This same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, placed us in the Body of Christ, and He took up residence in our hearts. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the ultimate assurance of our salvation. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, Rom. 8:1516.
This means that we have an even deeper connection that just being part of the same body. The same Spirit of God that lives within you lives within me, and within every other believer. Regardless of the color of our skin, our background, or any other difference we would like to name, if we are saved, the same Holy Spirit dwells within each of us and unites us as one in the Lord.
There are not many spirits bringing people out of death into life, there is only One Spirit doing that work in the World. His name is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that drew you, drew me. The same Spirit that saved you, saved me. The same Spirit that dwells within you, dwells within me. The same Spirit that quickened you and caused you to come alive to the things of God, is the same Spirit that quickened me and caused me to come alive to the things of God. We are made one at the deepest level of our beings through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God.
C. There Is One Hope - The words called and calling refer to the effectual call to salvation. It refers to that time when God drew us to Himself through the wooing of the Spirit and saved us by His grace, John 6:44. When He called us with the common call all the redeemed have experienced, He called us to one hope. Just as you and I occupy one body and are occupied by one Spirit, we also share a common hope.
The word hope does not refer to a wish or a desire. The word hope in the Bible refers to a deep settled confidence based on a clear word from God. In other words, when the Lord called us to Himself and saved us by His grace, He gave us all a common hope.
What is this hope? It is the fulfillment of all the promises that belong to the redeemed in Jesus Christ.
All this, and much, much more, became yours when you were called to Christ and made a believer.
We have a common hope in Christ.
By the way, the end of our calling, and the hope connected with it, is eternal perfection in the presence of God in Heaven. That is made clear in Rom. 8:28-29, Eph. 1:4, and 1 John 3:2. Our calling is a calling to perfect Christlikeness and our hope is the sure confidence that God will accomplish this in and for us for His Own glory.
I. We Find Our Unity In God The Spirit
II. V. 5 WE FIND OUR UNITY IN GOD THE SON
The Holy Spirit is involved in our unity as believer, but so is the Son. Notice the elements that He brings to the table.
A. There Is One Lord - The word Lord means Lord or Master. It refers to one Who exercises headship. This world reminds is that there is one head of the church, and His name is Jesus. Paul has already exalted the Lords position in Eph. 1:18-23. He also mentions it in Col. 1:18.
Whether we know it or not, we all serve the same Master. The Pastor, the Deacons, some influential family or person, is not the head of the church. There is a structure of leadership in the local assembly that we would do well to follow. However, the sole Lord over the body of Christ is the Head of that body, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as your head determines that direction your body goes, Jesus Christ directs the church. He is our Head, Eph. 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18. It is the Lord Jesus that we follow. It is His will that we seek. It is His Gospel that we share. It is His praises we sing. We serve a common Lord and that gives us a basis for unity.
By the way, this one Lord is the only way into the one body, John 14:6; Acts 4:12. Once we are in Him, we are brought under His Lordship over our lives, and He is a gracious, wonderful Lord, Who is worthy to be served. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him, Rom. 10:12.
B. There Is One Faith - The word faith can be interpreted a couple of different ways. It can refer to the act of faith that saves the soul and causes a sinner to become a child of God. It can refer to the acts of faith that mark the believers life after he or she is saved. In other words, it can refers to the ongoing life of faithful service to and confidence in the Lord. Or it can refer to the body of doctrine and all believers hold to be true.
I would like to suggest that it is the last two options I mentioned that are in view here. There is one faith. There is one set of doctrine, contained in and revealed by the Bible, the Word of God. This body of doctrine forms the basis of our faith. It teaches us about God, about sin, and about salvation. It teaches us what we should believe and how we should behave based on what we believe.
So, there is one faith. There is one set of doctrinal truth that binds all believers together in the Lord. This does not mean that we must all believe the same thing about every issue. It does mean that there are some unalterable truths that must be believed if one is to truly be called a believer. Let me mention just a few of the non-negotiable truths of the Christian faith.
There are many other doctrines that are true, and should be believed. Those listed above are simply some of the essential truths that must be nailed down in your heart. To miss these doctrines is to miss Gods salvation.
Just a reminder, but what you believe determines how you behave. The one faith Paul mentions here is something we take in from the Word of God and live out in our lives.
This means that we must have a strong relationship with the Word of God. We must read it, believe it and live it. That is Gods will for His church!
C. There Is One Baptism - The word baptism refers to our union with Christ, or our baptism into Him when we are saved. It does not refer exclusively to water baptism. There are many modes of water baptism. Some traditions pour, some sprinkle, we immerse. While immersion is the method taught in the word of God, all modes of baptism share one common shortcoming: none can save the soul.
Baptism is a means of identification. When we are saved, we are commanded to follow the Lord in water baptism. This is a public, outward statement by the believer that he is identifying himself with Christ. He is telling all who witness his baptist that he has died to the old life of sin and has been resurrected to a new life in Christ. It is a moment of public identification. Water baptism is an outward symbol of what happened inwardly when we believed the Gospel and were saved.
Some believers never carry out the Lords command. That is, they come to Jesus and are saved, but they never follow Him in water baptism. They are in disobedience, but they are no less saved. Others submit to unbiblical methods of baptism. They are saved, but they have failed to participate in a method of baptism that pictures the death, burial and resurrection accosted with the new birth. Others follow the Lord in water baptism and are immersed as the Bible teaches.
Regardless of the differences in the methods used in water baptism, every genuine believer in Christ experiences the common baptism of the Spirit. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:13.
So, water baptism allows us to identify publicly with the Lord Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Spirit, which we all share in common, allows Him to identity Himself with us. This baptism of the Spirit, Christ in you, the hope of glory, Col. 1:27, enables us to experience His presence, His power and His help to live out our one faith for our one Lord.
I. We Find Our Unity In God The Spirit
II. We Find Our Unity In God The Son
III. V. 6 WE FIND OUR UNITY IN GOD THE FATHER
It isnt just the Spirit and the Son that contribute to the unity of the Church. The Father is also involved. Notice what Paul teaches us about Him, and His involvement.
A. His Position - He is the one God. This truth, that there is but one God is the foundational truth of both ancient Judaism and biblical Christianity. The ancient Jews said it this way, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD, Deut. 6:4. The early church affirmed the oneness of God as well, 1 Cor. 8:4-6; James 2:19.
Since He is God, He is to be feared, loved, believed, worshiped, served, obeyed, honored, glorified and magnified by all His creation. This idea of one God is the central hub of all we are, and of all we believe. We find the basis of our unity in the person of the one God we acknowledge and worship.
B. His Person - He is Father. This reminds us that this one God is also the Father of all those who are in Christ. As our Father He loves us, He cares for us, He protects us, He provides for us, He hears our prayers, and He secures us in His love and His salvation. As our Father, He has taken full responsibility for us, for our lives here, and for our ultimate journey to Heaven.
One of the greatest truths in the Bible is this: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3:12.
We are members of the same body. We have the same Father. We share a unity that transcends every human relationships, every human problem or every human struggle. He share the same Father, and that makes us family. The fatherhood of God is the basis for our unity as believers.
C. His Power - He is above all, and through all, and in you all. In this last statement, Paul makes it clear that the Father is active in all our lives. This means that God is the One Who is in control of all of life. He is over every circumstance. He is involved in every situation. He dwells in all His children. It is a picture of supreme Lordship and sovereignty.
Our God is over all things. No power can overcome Him. No government can stop Him. No one can thwart His power. He is God over all things from the very heights of Heaven, the scorched floors of Hell. Every star follows the course He gave it. Every molecule in the universe does as it was programmed to do. He rules it all.
Our God is through all. This means that God is working in all things to accomplish His eternal purposes. He knows what He is doing. He knows where He is going. He has a plan that will culminate in His eternal purposes being perfectly fulfilled.
Our God is in you all. We know the Spirit dwells within us, but we are informed here that the transcendent God Who creates and controls the universe also dwells within His children. He unites us in His power, His purposes and in His presence.
Dr. John MacArthur sums this passage up this way: That comprehensive statement points to the glorious, divine, eternal unity that the Father gives believers by His Spirit and through the Son. We are God created, God loved, God saved, God Fathered, God controlled, God sustained, God filled, and God blessed. We are one people under one sovereign (over all), omnipotent (through all), and omnipresent (in all) God.
Conc: If any people in the history of the world had any basis for unity, it is the church of Jesus Christ. One Father has created one family. One Son has given us one faith, one hope and one baptism. One Spirit has created one body.
God has created a unity within His church that can never be broken. It is as shatterproof as the godhead itself. As John Stott once said, It is no more possible to split the church than it is possible to split the Godhead.
We know that local churches have trouble and they experience what we call splits. However, the universal church, the Body of Christ, can never split. It stands complete and united in the power of God.
We are different, but we serve the same God. We are members of the same family. We are indwelled by the same Spirit. We are headed to the same Heaven. We believe the same things.
Thus, we must do everything in our power to live in the unity we have been given in Christ. It is not automatic, but it is possible as we live out the commands of Eph. 4:1-3.
We can preach all we want to, but it is our love for one another and our unity in the Spirit of God that proclaims our uniqueness to the world around us. Our love and unity demonstrate the truth that we are real, and that God is working in us.