Unity in the Church

Bible Book: Ephesians  4 : 1-16
Subject: Unity; Fellowship; Maturity

Unity in the Church

Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Introduction

Ephesians 4:1-16

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,

He led captivity captive,

And gave gifts to men.”

9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

There was a little boy who had never attended church, but he went one day with his grandfather. The church had a choir and when they came walking into the choir area wearing white robes the little boy looked up at his grandfather and excitedly said, “Look grandpa! All those people are here to get haircuts.”

Often, what we know about church is something we picked up by observation of the world. The only way to know what a church member is actually supposed to look like and how we are to serve God is to study the Bible. And, if you read the Word of God regarding the church, you will discover that one thing God takes seriously is the UNITY of God’s people.

When we look at the first church that was established on earth – the Church in Jerusalem that was birthed on the Day of Pentecost – we observe that they were born out of a prayer meeting where everyone was in one place, in one accord. The church was unified, and as we read in Acts 2 we note that they were in fellowship, had all things common and had favor with all the people. That kind of unity helped the first church reach people who were being added to the church DAILY. Most churches today are glad to add a member monthly. To think of adding a new convert to the church everyday is practically unthinkable in our age. But, unity is necessary in order to have a faithful, growing congregation.

It is not easy to have unity in any organization, including a church. We each come from different backgrounds and have varying personalities, and we all approach a subject with personal and presupposed attitudes. However, when spiritual things are being considered, it can be dangerous not to seek mutual ground – a place of unity in heart and mind.

In Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul gives us God's Word on the matter of unity within the church.

First, note…

I. The Ground of our Unity

(1-6)

Our unity is not based on our education, race, upbringing, financial condition, health or any earthly or biological factor. We are united in Christ first and foremost as sinners - we are, after all, sinners - everyone of us. Those who have trusted Christ for salvation are redeemed through Christ alone and we are redeemed from a life of sin. We are on equal ground before Him. As it has been stated by many through the years, the ground is level at the cross.

Note a few things about unity that we all must bear in mind.

A. There are Some Things we are to Be

Every Christian is to have certain attributes which we obtain when we are saved. For these to be effective, however, we must develop and practice them, otherwise we drift back to our worldy ways. Four of these are mention in our text.

1. Humble

God abhors pride and keeps the proud far from Him. One of the greatest enemies of church unity is pride. Many churches have been literally ruined by the pride of leaders and church members - the kind of pride that puts self above the Savior and His kingdom work.

2. Gentle

Another attitude that marks a unified church is gentleness. Gruff, angry, hateful speech is absolutely anathema among God's people. In all things, we are to act in a gentle and kind way. Sure, when we are talking about core doctrines in the church, or immoral or illegal behavior among leaders or members we must take a stand, but even then we ought to do so without personal hatred.

3. Patient

Patince is a virtue, and it is one that Christian must have if they are to serve the Lord faithfully in a church. Things often move slowly among God's people, and type A personalities can find it hard to watch the snail-like pace of action on some issues. Alway remember that God has been patient with us and we are to be patient with one another. Unity is destoryed when patience is abandoned.

4. Loving

Love! The hallmark of Christian living! Jesus stated clearly that people would know we are Christians when they see our love for one another. Sadly, love is often missing among God's people in the local church. One evangelist I knew many years ago, who was very successful, used to say to pastors when arranging a crusade or area revival that we have a lot of churches in our communities, not because we are missionary but because we are mean! That is simply too true to be ignored. Many churches sit within blocks of each other because a split among the membership caused a few people to leave a start a new church just down the street. That is not always a bad thing, but it certainly is not indicative of the kind of love that Jesus told us we are to show to the world.

B. There are Some Things we are to Keep

It is true that unity requires us to have some things, but unity also requires us to kee some things. Paul mentions those in our text.

1. The Unity of the Spirit

God Spirit does not seek to divine God's people. Yes, the Spirit may send us off in different directions to carry out ministry that fits the spiritual gifts that each of us possess, but never does the Spirit of God seek to create ill feelings among Christian brothers and sisters. If we are seeking God's infilling through the Holy Spirit, we will discover a unique unity among God's people - even a unity that seems uncanny and unusal. People who, according the world's standards should not get along with each other, will have a bond of peace that can't be explained in human terms when God's Spirit is in control.

2. The Bond of peace

That bond of peace means that we are glued together by God's love, purpose and Spirit. The superglue our churches need is available but only to those who are willing to apply it. Be opened to God's love, work in a mutual divine purpose and yield totally to His Holy Spirit, and a unity which cannot be described will exist among believers.

C. There are Some Things we are to Know

In order for this unity to succeed, there are some things we need to know - to learn - to keep in mind and heart.

1. There is One Lord

We have only one Lord and we all serve Him. We may differ on various ideas and seek a different approach to solving problems, but we must always remember that our goal is to please the Lord. I can't have the goal of winning a arguement in my church life and work - I must seek to win the approval of my attitude before the Lord. A unified people will seek what is best for the Lord, in keeping with His Word, and will do so as servants and not masters.

2. There is One Faith

Always remember, my dear people, that there is one faith which unites us. We have faith in Jesus as the Savior who died and rose again to redeem us. We have faith that God's Word is true and is trustworthy to guide us in all things. We have faith that our labor for the Lord is not in vain. We have faith that God has a home for us in heaven, prepared by Jesus - as described in John 14:1-6. We have faith that He holds us in His hands and will never let us go - He will never leave us nor forsake us. We have faith that He will triumph over the enemies of our souls. Let us unite always in those things we believe. People who keep their focus on the faith that unifies are seldom divided.

Second, note…

II. The Gifts of our Diversity

(7-11)

A. The Victorious Lord

Psalm 68:18

1. He Descended
2. He Ascended
B. The Various Gifts He Imparted
1. Appreciating Varied Gifts Creates Doctrinal Unity
2. Appreciating Varied Gifts Creates Functional Diversity

III The Goal of our Maturity

12-16

A. A Unified Maturity Results in the Word of God Being Taught

God's Word will never return void. Our task is to live and share God's Word with others. Keeping our energy focused on this task creates unity among God's people and reduces the chance of division.

B. A Unified Maturity Results in the Works of Service Being Wrought

All of us know that a small child has little understanding of sharing. If a child sees a toy, he thinks it is his. If his brother or sister lays down a toy, the younger child will pick it up and claim it for his own. If the true owner seeks its return, the younger child will, as we say in the south, "pitch a fit." But, when we mature we learn to share with others. We love to give praise to others and not just receive praise. We enjoy seeing other succeed, and not just desiring success for ourselves. We care less about credit for what is accomplished and desire most that God's work is completed no matter who gains acclaim from it.

C. A Unified Maturity Results in the Whole Measure of Christ Being Sought

Maturity grows us into people who seek to discover the fullness of Jesus' life in us. Note one of us here today is all we can be, all we ought to be and hopefully we are not all we will be one day in the future. We are all on a journey to become more like Jesus. Some are further along than others. Now listen carefully to what I'm about to day. The most mature among us will not get in a fight with a baby Christian. An adult doesn't get in a shouting match with a three-year-old. The more mature we are in Christ, the more we act like Christ. Unified maturity brings us all to the full measure of Christ in each life - that ought to be our goal.

Conclusion

Note that each part does its work - are you doing your part?

If you are not doing your part…

i. The Unity of the Church is Hindered
ii. The Diversity of the church is Harmed
iii. The Maturity of the church is Halted

A church that lacks unity damages the work of Christ on earth, for the Lord has chosen to work through His Church! Yes, at some point in your church life, if you are truly engaged and involved, you will get your feelings hurt. At some point you will do a job for which someone else gets the credit. You will be left out of some project that was your original idea. Hear me well! Get over it! The work of God is not about you or about me, it is about Jesus. We simply desire that He is glorified.

One day in heaven, the Lord is going to give out rewards, for no labor for Lord is ever in vain. Be assured that God sees what you are doing, and He knows what some people may be trying to do against you. It is alright. He will straighten all that out in due time. Right now, in the here and now, keep unity among God's people. Never become the person who harms the work of Christ because your attitude was not Christlike. Today is a great day for each of us to renew our commitment to unity. Thankfully, we don't have disunity among us - at least not that I know of - so now is the time to make sure we renew our unity before the Lord. You take a flu shot to avoid the flu and that is better than seeking medicine after you get it. Unity is exactly the same. Renew your commitment while you have unity - it is far better than trying to heal a torn place in the fabric of God's people after it occurs.