An Urgent Appeal for Christian Unity (Ephesians Sermon 22 of 54)
December 13, 2015 | Andy Davis
The Purity and Unity of the Church, Humility, Spiritual Gifts
Church History: Zinzendorf
Oh, man, well, I love church history, and one of the things that I love to do is just learn some of the great stories of brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone before us, and one of my heroes is Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf who headed for many, many years the Moravian enclave or community of Herrnhut. Now, Nicholas von Zinzendorf was born in the year 1700, and he was raised in a pious German home surrounded by German piety, but he was really not walking a Christian life until he was a university student in Wittenberg, almost about 200 years after Martin Luther posted the 95 thesis. He was there in Wittenberg, it was 1719. And he was in a museum, and he saw a painting of Christ with a crown of thorns on His head and blood coming down His face, and there was a caption under the painting, and it said this, "All this I have done for you, what are you doing for me?" Well, that became a life changing moment for him. He looked at his life and he realized that he was not, as the text says that you just heard read for us, “walking in a manner worthy of the calling that he had received.” Now it's easy to hear some challenge like that, and start going over into works and think, "Oh, now we have to earn Jesus's blood, we have to earn the forgiveness," that's not true. And Zinzendorf didn't hear it that way, but he wanted to live a life worthy of the calling.
Recalling Ephesians 1-3
And as we come now to Ephesians chapter 4, and we're coming to a whole new section in the Book of Ephesians. To some degree, there's a bit of a continental divide between Ephesians 1-3 and Ephesians 4-6. A major transition in the letter from deep doctrine, amazing doctrine, or you could even say soaring doctrine to lifestyle, “How then shall we live?” Ephesians 1-3 has soared over the redemptive plan of God almost like a satellite looking down on the surface of the Earth and you can see to the edge of the Earth east and west, and this grand, glorious, majestic work of God in Ephesians 1-3. Like Ephesians 1, right away, Paul who wrote Ephesians, “praise God for His eternal purposes in Christ, how God, even before the foundation of the world loved us and chose us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He, Christ, might be the firstborn, among many brothers and how He adopted us and He redeemed us by the blood of Christ, how by the shed blood of Christ we have received forgiveness of sins.” He says that the Ephesians, “having heard the word of truth, the Gospel of their salvation, having believed it,” they were included in Christ. And Paul there at the end of Ephesians 1 prays that they would, that the “eyes of their heart would be enlightened” so that they would understand these glorious spiritual things that have happened to them. That they would know the hope of their calling and the riches of the inherited and is waiting for all of us in Heaven. How rich we are, we're going to be in Heaven and the incredible power is at work in us to get us from Earth to that heavenly life. Hope, riches and power. And He prays for that, and He likens the power at work in our lives to the very same power that was at work in Jesus when God raised Christ from the dead physically, and ascended Him through the heavens, physically, and He went through the heavenly realms, and sits at the right hand of Almighty God and rules over all things in Heaven and Earth for the benefit of His Church.
That same power was at work in us, Ephesians 2, because we were “dead in our transgressions and sins,” and we were enslaved to sin. We were in Satan's dark kingdom and we were “by nature objects of wrath.” I don't think we can meditate on that too much. We were under the wrath of God for our sins, and if we had died in that state, we would have been eternally condemned, justly condemned for our sins. But God because of the richness of His mercy in Christ. “Even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins, God made us alive with Christ, and He raised us from the dead spiritually and through union with Christ, we are together with Christ seated with Him at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms.” And he made it very, very plain, it is by grace that we have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. And so we have this 100,000 feet pie like in orbit looking down at all of these grand and glorious things. And that we would know that we as Gentiles, at one time, were outsiders. We were on the outside, we were aliens and strangers, we were “without hope and without God in the world.” But God brought us close, even though we were aliens and strangers, He brought us close and He did an amazing thing with Gentiles like us, He destroyed the “barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” that kept us as outsiders. In the Old Covenant, there were laws and regulations, circumcision, dietary laws, all of that, that separated Jews and Gentiles, He removed all of that through the body, through the death of Christ. And he's brought us in and now all of us together, to borrow a bit of an image from 1 Peter, we are “living stones now built on the foundation of Christ”, and there's this glorious spiritual temple that's rising higher and higher, it's getting more and more majestic all the time. This is the Church of Jesus Christ and we as Christians, we're included, eternally included. We are “living stones” in the walls of this temple that's rising to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit, Ephesians 2.
And Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to know of his ministry. He's about to pray for them in an amazing way which we looked at over the last four weeks. That he want them to know who he is. He's the apostle of the Gentiles, and he was called, specifically called, to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” Let me think about that, the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” and that's his ministry, the privilege he has, the gifting he has, the role that he has to preach and to be an instrument of salvation for Gentiles who are lost to come over and hear the Gospel and be included in this grand, glorious work that God's doing, this temple that's rising and becoming more and more glorious, and larger and larger all the time. Every sinner that comes over. That was Matt Blackstone and work that he's doing overseas and that other servants are doing. Every time someone hears with faith the Gospel of Christ, the temple, this invisible spiritual temple is getting bigger and more glorious. It's the work that God's doing in the world.
And Paul stops and prays for the Ephesian Christians, we spent four weeks on this, and how he prays that they would understand and have strength through the Spirit, to grasp the infinite dimensions of Christ's love for us. “How wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ?” That we'd be “strengthened through the Spirit in our inner man,” to grasp that and that there's this weighty massive conception of the love of Christ for us, that all of us underestimates, every last one of us and that we actually would underestimate a little less that God would “pour out on us through the Spirit,” a sense and experience a feeling of that love that goes beyond knowledge, that we would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” and he finishes that whole section of that magnificent doxology. "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable, more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that's at work in us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, amen."
Living a Life Worthy of Our Calling (vs. 1)
Major Transition: From Doctrine to Lifestyle
So that's Ephesians 1-3, and as Paul has given us this view 100,000 feet above looking down, he is now making a transition, that's the doctrine. How then shall we live? What kind of life are we going to be living? And he says that we should “live a life worthy of our calling.” That's the immediate command here, and that's going to stand over the rest of the book. For the rest of the book, we're going to keep going back again and again to this statement, this desire, this command that Paul has to “live a life worthy of the calling that we have.”
Now immediately he's going to talk about unity, and the need that we have to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” and that's today's message. But then he's going to transition and go from unity to diversity. And he's going to talk about the diversity of spiritual gifts and how the unity then diversity leads to maturity, to the maturity that all of us have in Christ, that we will grow up into full maturity in Christ. So the spiritual gifts are given to bring the full-elect body of Christ from dead in transgressions and sins across the line into life in Christ, and then up into full maturity. That's what's going on. So, we're going to see that that's part of living a life worthy of the calling we receive, using our spiritual gifts.
Then he's going to talk about in Ephesians 4, 17-24, living a life of heart purity, hating sin. No longer thinking like the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking,” their darkened minds, but being made new in the attitude of our minds and living and thinking as Christ would have us do, like God in true righteousness and holiness. And he's going to give us details of this holy life, that we are to live, lots of details, Ephesians 4:25 to 5:21: Negatives and positives things we must not do; Lying, sinful anger, unforgiveness, stealing, laziness, evil speech, bitterness, brawling, some of you struggle with brawling and I'm telling you, you have to put that to death. So we're going to get serious about that sin of brawling. And all sins, all things that are not worthy of the calling that we have, negative things slander and sexual immorality of “which there must not be even a hint in this congregation.” Negatively things we must not do.
And then positively, by contrast, what we must do; hard work, using the fruit of our labor to help the needy not stealing, but working hard and using our mouths to bless people not to tear them down or to liars or slander, being kind and compassionate, forgiving one another, and worshipping together by the Spirit, summed up in that beautiful command in Ephesians 5:18, that we should “no longer be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery, but instead be being filled with the Spirit.”
And goes from that into Christian marriage, so beautifully. I had the privilege this morning in the BFL class of touching on that, and the beauty of a Christian marriage of wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord, and husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up. We're going to see all of that as part of living a life worthy of the calling that we have. And then Christian parenting, how fathers are two to train up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and children are to obey and submit to their parents. And then the master-slave relationship we're going to talk about all that, all of these relationships by the power of the Spirit, living a life worthy of the calling that we have received. And then he ends up with spiritual warfare. We're going to have time to do all of that God willing.
Paul’s Moral Authority and Overarching Command
So all of that, that's where we're going, where we’ve been and where we're going. So we're a bit at a continental divide now, as we turn from doctrine into the kind of life that we have and he gives us this overarching command. Verse one, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then or therefore, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." Now this calling is a magnificent thing. I love what Daniel was doing in worship, as he was talking about that. And then we looked at And Can it Be. And I just think that's beautiful. Charles Wesley gave us a great picture of it. The calling is the sovereign work of God similar to his statement. "Let there be light," and there's light, or similar to what Jesus did with Lazarus when he calls out, "Lazarus come forth," and there's life, and then obedience. This is a sovereign calling of God, a powerful thing which creates that which it calls. When God as soon as God says, "I think the word light, there's like, "Let there be light," and there's light, and so God does that in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ that radiates, and we see it. That's our calling, and we have this calling.
Our Calling: Out of Spiritual Death to Perfection in Christ
Now, God's eternal purpose is clearly stated, if you look back at Ephesians 1:4, I covered it in summary a minute ago, but look at it Ephesians 1:4, He God the Father “chose us in Him,” God the Son, Christ, “before the creation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him,” or, “in His sight,” that's our calling, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. “In love, He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” So we were chosen and predestined. Now, I'm going to bring in Romans 8 to talk more about this calling. For "Those whom God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called,” with the Gospel by the sovereign power of God, and “those whom He called, He also justified, and those whom He justified, He also glorified."
So that's what it means. Our calling is to be glorified, it's to be completely conformed to Christ in every way. Eternally predestined to be conformed to Christ in every way, to love what Christ loves and hate what Christ hates. To yearn for and desire, what Christ desires and to choose what Christ would choose and to reject what Christ rejects and to think like Christ thinks about every topic. No disagreement at all from the mind of Christ that we have the mind of Christ and we would think like Christ thinks. And our emotions, we would feel and rejoice and grieve like Christ would rejoice, and grieve in every way conform. And then it goes actually to our bodies that we in the end will be perfectly conformed to Jesus's glorious resurrection body. How awesome is that? Paul captures it I think very well in Philippians 3:21 talks about Jesus, “by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies and make them like his glorious body.” How awesome is that? We're going to be conformed to Christ, resurrection body. So that's our calling. The calling we have received is the sovereign power of God to rescue us from spiritual death described in Ephesians 2: 1-3 in “Satan's dark kingdom, enslaved to our lusts and passions, living dead even while we lived we were dead, spiritually.” “By nature objects of wrath” out of that into life, eternal life, and then increasingly conformity to Christ in every respect until at last, we share a glorious resurrection body with Christ. That's our calling.
Now, at present, we believe that we Christians are spiritually positionally in the heavenly realms with Christ, we're seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. If you don't believe me, look again. Ephesians 2:4-6, “but because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,” Ephesians 2:5, “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, it's by grace you have been saved,” Here it is, Ephesians 2:6, "And God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms, in Christ Jesus."
You're already there, positionally you are already in the heavenly realms in Christ through your union with Christ. But you are to live a life worthy of that. You are to live here on Earth a life worthy of your heavenly position united with Christ. So we have what Paul calls in Philippians 3, a sense of “upward calling of God in Christ Jesus,” a sense of upward calling. So for the rest of our lives, we're straining after a life worthy of this perfection. So he says in Philippians 3:12-14. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining” pressing, “toward what lies, ahead, I press on for the upward call of God on my life in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14. So Jesus took hold of us, by the sovereign grip of grace for the purpose of our total perfection in Christ. He's got a hold of us and He's never going to let us go that corresponds to us pressing day after day to take hold of Him for the same purpose, perfection. So that's how I hear live a life worthy of the calling. Live a life worthy of the calling. Our heavenly calling. So we're going to press on, we're going to be holy because He is holy. Ultimately, our calling is heaven itself, the New Heavens, the New Earth, the New Jerusalem, the home of righteousness, where only holy people can dwell where everything is perfectly pure and free from sin, where the entire redeemed in the universe will live in a redeemed universe, a New Heaven, New Earth. That's our heavenly calling and so we are to live a life worthy of that.
What is a Life “Worthy” of That Calling?
Now, what does that mean? To walk in a manner worthy? Well worthy means something that conforms or is proportional to that high calling. It lines up with it, it reflects it, it's caused by it, it's completely synced up with it. We are royalty. We are future kings and queens under the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that's what we are, we're to live like it. We're to live, like royal sons and daughters. We are sons and daughters adopted and beloved children, so we have full access to the throne room of God, we should live like it, we should live a life worthy by going regularly into the throne of grace and making great requests of him, we should think like that.
Central Command: Maintain Unity in the Spirit (vs. 3)
Unity is the Goal of Christ’s Redemption
So Paul's going to be describing this life worthy of the calling that we received over the next three chapters, and He begins with an urgent appeal for Christian unity. This is the central command here, Verse 3, "Maintain unity in the Spirit." So look at verse 3. NIV gives it this way. "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." The First thing he says is this issue of unity. Unity is the goal of Christ's redemption in the universe. That's what he's doing, go back and look at Ephesians 1:10, we've seen this before, but Ephesians 1:10, a very significant statement, how God made known to us the mystery of His will He gave us wisdom to know what He's doing. What is he doing well in Ephesians 1:10 it says that he is “bringing all things in Heaven and on Earth together under one head, even Christ.” Remember when I preached on that in Ephesians 1:10, I said sin has had the effect in the universe spiritually and physically, of a fragmentation grenade. Remember that blew it to bits hurdling away from the center away from God. Christ, God, His redeeming work through Christ is to reverse that and bring it back together and make it one. All things together, one under Christ, that's what He's doing.
Unity is the Essence of the Spiritual Temple Christ is Building
And so He's doing this work of redemption of restoration and unity is the essence of this work in the Church, it's the essence of the spiritual temple, that He's building. Remember, I described that at the end of Ephesians 2. And so we, living stones, quarried from “every nation and tribe and language, and people all over the world,” through repentance and faith in Christ we're brought in and we are made one together with other brothers and sisters in the walls of this spiritual temple. So look again at Ephesians 2:12 and following, it says "You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world, you were outsiders, you were out in the cold, you were distant, you were out there." But now Ephesians 2:13 "In Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near." You see that? So we were like pieces of a fragmentation grenade Flying away from God, he stopped that turned us around, through repentance and faith, and brought us back together with other brothers and sisters who He did the same thing in them as well, and brought us together to make us one in this majestic spiritual temple, that's rising. And so there's this togetherness language in Ephesians 2:14-16. Listen again "For He,” Christ, “He Himself is our peace, who has made the two, one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in His flesh the Law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace and in this one body, to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility.” Skip ahead to verses 21, 22, Ephesians 2, 21-22, “in Him,” in Christ “the whole building is joined together,” there's a picture of unity right joined together to become a holy temple in the Lord and in Him, you too are being built together there it is again, “to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
Unity is Patterned After the Trinity
Now, I never tire of saying that this unity that we have in mind here is patterned after the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, it's an infinite mystery, the Godhead, but the Father and the Son and the Spirit, three persons of God perfectly one. And this work of unification that God is doing through the Gospel, puts the Gospel itself on display. And so in John 17, He prays that all who hear this Gospel message may be one, Father, Jesus Christ says, “Father that they may be one, as you and I are one. I in you, they in me. May they be brought to complete unity,” progressively perfected in unity, “to let the world know that you sent me.” You see, so we put the Gospel on display as we increasingly and more perfectly become one with each other. This is a huge deal. This is what God is doing in the world.
The Focus: Church Unity
So the focus here is on church unity. Paul has in mind here, not only the universal Body of Christ, what we call the mystical communion of Christ, the invisible Body of Christ. That's true, that's in his mind, but he's also talking about the local church. He's talking about the Ephesians church there in Asia Minor had a specific place in time where they'd assembled to worship and all that. I don't think they had a website, I don't think they had an email address, I'm sure of that. But they definitely had a physical location where you could go to at a certain time And worship with them. The local church, and so he has in mind the unity of a local church, not just the spiritual or mystical unity of the Body of Christ. He yearns therefore for local churches to put on display the supernatural unity, that is ours in Christ. He knows, as Jesus prayed, that as the Church earnestly loves one another, and forgives one another, and is kind to one another, and serves one another and use spiritual gifts in one another's lives that will put the Gospel on display for the watching, outsider, cold distant world. And they'll say, “I want in. I want to be part of whatever God's doing there.” That's what he's praying for that a local church will put that on display. But by contrast, if the church is fractious, and divided, and unforgiving, and bitter, and living in sin, it will have zero attractional power to the world. So this is a big, big deal.
Unity is Already Ours
Now, unity is already ours in Christ, we have it. It's something we already have spiritually, positionally we are all united with Christ through faith and up in the heavenly realms, positionally. All of us around the world, positionally one. So, Paul uses language here of “maintain” or “keep” or “protect” that unity. It's not something we have to go achieve it's something we have to protect. It's already ours in Christ. So the idea here is to keep, protect, defend against all attacks, that's the idea. This unity has been won for us at the cross, it's been applied to us by the Spirit, so now we have to live it out and protect it from all attacks. So, many of the New Testament commands to us are, “This is what you are now live it. This is what's true of you now live it out.” And so we have this issue, consistent issue of unity in the church.
Consistent Issue in the New Testament
How many of the Epistles deal with this? First Corinthians that church was ripped apart by factions and divisions. “I follow Paul, I follow Peter, I follow Paul, I follow Jesus,” and so he says, "I plead with you that you would be perfectly united in mind and thought, and there'd be no divisions among you." Corinthians. Same thing in the sweet letter to the Philippians. You have these two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche who are just not getting along. And they're the only ones we know by name, but we know in general he's pleading with them, the Philippians he said, “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, any fellowship with His Spirit of any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but the interests of others, and you should have this mind in you, which was also in Christ.” And then that incredible statement about Christ humility. So it's going on in Philippians as well. Galatians they're ripping each other apart, because of false doctrine like wild beasts they’re biting and devouring each other, they need to be one. The acts of the flesh or factions, divisions, fits of rage, and all of that going on in Galatians. The Romans. He has a whole chapter in Romans 14, on church unity especially Jew-Gentile unity. About disputable, debatable issues. So every church struggles with this, every church does, and we have to embrace our responsibility and supernatural effort is required.
Supernatural Effort Required (vs. 2-3)
Conquering the Threefold Enemy
Look again at verses 2 and 3, "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. This effort, this will not be easy to do. Our unity as a church, first term's unity will be under constant assault as long as this church lives. Even down to person A and person B, there's going to be constant assault, the world, the flesh, the devil, those ancient enemies, will come after our unity and seek to divide it. So many different ways, but that's Satan's goal. And so we have to understand how the flesh, our own fanatical commitment to self-interest, destroys unity. And we have to be mindful of how Satan cleverly orchestrates temptations and circumstances that our flesh responds to to divide unity, and how the world is going to be pulling on us and attacking us, alluring us with materialism, and all that, to destroy unity, or persecuting in some parts of the world and probably increasingly in this part of the world. There's going to be hostility and persecution, to the point that brothers and sisters might actually even betray each other to the authorities, destroying unity so the world, the flesh, and the devil are going to be constantly assaulting our unity, and we have to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. So what this means is we have to be on this all the time, we have to be alert to this issue all the time.
Make Every Effort
“If you're offering your gift at the altar,” Jesus said, "And there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.” So there's a sense of diligence and speed, quickness. Later in Ephesians, He's going to say, "Be angry but do not sin, and do not let the sun go down while you're still angry.” Same kind of teaching urgently quickly deal with anything that would break your horizontal fellowship with someone else. Our church covenant, says, “to be slow to take offense and always ready for reconciliation, mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.” So the image I have here is of constant vigilance on the walls. And we're walking and we're doing a patrol through the night and we're just going to be watching for any attacks on our unity and we're going to be zealous.
Be Completely Humble and Gentle
In order to do this, we have to be completely humble like I said, our flesh fanatical commitment to self, the Gospel destroys our pride doesn't, amen. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” "Be completely humble." He says "With all humility." Pride destroys more churches than any other sin. And so, thinking, You don't need God's grace, thinking you're better than other people pushing your own agenda, you've got an idea of what's best, and you push it forward because you have a special interest, and you're pushing that. That creates factions and divisions, and we are to be completely humble. I tell you, there's enough power for humbling in the Gospel, isn't there? Doesn't the cross of Christ humble us? Don't we come as broken sinners and need forgiveness? So, be completely humbled by the bloody cross of Christ and be gentle. There's a gentleness he talks about here "Be completely humble and gentle." I have a picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God. And the Holy Spirit as a dove coming down out of heaven and resting on the Lamb of God. There's a gentleness there, it's the only description, I ever find that Jesus gives of Himself. Where He says "I am gentle and humble in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls." There's a gentleness, a mildness.
Hasn't this weather been amazing? Any of you hot? I'm really hot right now. I've been here for 17 plus years. It's hard to preach to a hot crowd, alright? And congregation. So hang in there, fan yourselves alright. But this weather has been so mild. And I was out in the sunshine, yesterday, I was waiting for Calvin's basketball game to start, and I was just sitting in the sunshine and this gentle breeze came across my face as I was just waiting there, and I just closed my eyes and I said, "Yes, yes, yes, Lord, December in North Carolina. Thank you. Thank you." I don't miss the blizzards I don't miss the cold. I know there's almost zero chance of a white Christmas alright. Now, I've been told whether could change in a while. I know it could still happen. You kids out there, you're hoping for a white Christmas, not looking good right now, but it's so mild, and pleasant like it's August or September or something like that. But there's just this mildness not a sharpness or harshness, that just destroys fellowship. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” Proverbs 15:1.
Be Patient, Bearing with One Another in Love
Let's be mild with each other, and let's be patient, bearing with one another in love He says, "Be long-suffering, be like God who puts up with so much sin, He is not quick to anger." Let's bear with it. I found the longer you're with someone, the more their habits start to grate on you. Alright, if you ever been on a long mission trip with a small group of people, you know what I'm saying? After a while... Never mind. But anyway, it just starts to happen. And I'm sure it's happening the other way too, and we have to make every effort to cover people sins with forgiveness and to bear with their habits that irksome and annoying
Unity of the Spirit in a Bond of Peace
Make every effort it says to keep it says the unity of the Spirit, it is the Spirit that does this for us, the Spirit gives us unity and makes us one, it's beautiful to see. You go overseas and there's a brother or sister in Christ, don't even speak the same language, never met. There's a unity between us and that brother or sister through the Spirit. "In the bond of peace," the text says. And what I think of, there is both the status of peace that we have, justified by faith, with Christ, we have peace with God, God at peace with us, we at peace with God. That's fine, that's the basis of it. But then there's that peacefulness. A feeling of serenity. He never flies off the handle He is a serene being. And so there is a status of peace we have with each other, but then there's a peacefulness in the relationship such as Philippians 4:6-7. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, I would say peacefulness, from God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." So I think that's what it means to keep the unity of the “Spirit in a bond of peacefulness with each other.” So we're getting along well with each other, and we're at peace with each other and that's a delightful thing.
The Seven-Fold Basis of Our Unity (vs. 4-6)
Stunning Assertions of Doctrinal Truth: Seven-Fold Unity
And then in verses 4-6, He gives the seven-fold basis of our unity. “There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called. One Lord, one faith, One baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all, and through all and in all.” This is a stunning assertion of the doctrinal basis of our unity, seven-fold Unity, how perfectly one we already are if we are in Christ. And note the Trinity here.
The Trinity: The Basis for All Unity
There's, “one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope are called.” One Lord, that's Jesus. One faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all. That's the God the Father. So God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, all here, the perfect unity of God, how God is perfectly one with himself, the Father, the Son, the Spirit perfectly one, never a shifting shadow of disagreement between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that's how we are to be with each other. And that's a beautiful thing.
And he says, "There is one body." Christ is working one body in the world, there's one Lord, one body and he's not doing separate works in Iran and something different in China and something different here in North Carolina there is worldwide one body of Christ. And we're going to get this image more and more unfolded for us in detail in the next section, but this body growing and building itself up in love, together, one in Christ and one Spirit. We don't receive a different Spirit from someone else around the world when they come to faith in Christ, the same Holy Spirit indwells us. And “one hope when we were called.” So when you're having trouble in a Christian relationship, could be in marriage, could be with another brother or sister in Christ here in the church, we have one hope. We're going to the same destination. We're traveling to the same place. When we were missionaries in Japan, we had the privilege of being on the Shinkansen, the bullet train, and I love that thing. It was like flying on earth Magnetic Levitation, we're going 300 miles an hour. It was awesome. But we're all going to one destination believe me, alright. There's no one getting off half way there. And they would arrive within two seconds of their stated destination time. It was all computer-controlled and nothing can get in the way.
It's a picture of the sovereign grace of God, the redemptive plan of God we are all going, all of us, the elect, to the same place, we're going to Heaven. So when you're in a conflict with your spouse, with a friend, someone in a home fellowship, another Christian brother or sister, something's going on. Keep in mind we have one hope here, the same delight of Heaven, the same New Heaven and New Earth, and New Jerusalem we're going the same place. And then “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” take them all together, but that's what Christmas is all about one Savior, Jesus Christ, that's one Lord, one faith in Him, that “if we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised Him from the dead. We will be saved.” One faith, and then, one baptism, which I take really is the baptism of the Spirit then testified to by water baptism. By one spirit, we're baptized into the “one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” It is for this reason, Christ came. And so we get to preach that. And I think about that. I mean, this time of year, we get to proclaim the Gospel, and I don't know that every one of you that listens to me now that you're born again, but that's what Christmas is for. God sent his son into the world, who died on the cross, this one Lord, to give us salvation by faith in Christ. And so, the call of this message on you, if you're outside of Christ, is to believe in him. There's no unity apart from that.
And then he finishes with this statement, “one God and Father of all who is over all, and through all and in all.” This is the Almighty God, who rules over Heaven and Earth, He is over all. So the picture of God seated on his throne, high and lifted up, and all the nations before Him are like “a drop in the bucket and dust on the scales and like grasshoppers before Him.” “One God and Father of all who is over all and through all,” for Paul says in Acts 17, “in Him, we live and move and have our being,” “and in all,” that's our unity.
So applications I've been weaving applications all the way through, but begin this by asking this question. "What am I doing right now with my life that's worthy of the calling that I have as a Christian? How am I living my life? Like picture in your mind, Christ crucified and him saying, "This is what I did for you. Now I'm calling on you to live for me. What are you doing for me?” What aspect of your life is conforming to this high calling that you have through Christ crucified? Is my attitude, and then ask it minutely, "Is my attitude about this brother in Christ, or that brother is it worthy of the calling that I've received? Is the movie I'm watching on Netflix worthy of the calling I've received? Is the way I'm spending my time and my money worthy of the calling that I have received?"
Sacrifice for the Body
I look on the Lottie Moon Christmas offering as a subset of living a life worthy of the calling, we have received. By the way friends, we are halfway to our goal, praise God. Isn't that encouraging. We're halfway there, but we're not going to make it all the way there without sacrifice. I would urge each person if you gave to Lottie Moon last year, calculate the percentage difference from our last year goal, which is $130,000 to our this year goals of $150,000. It's a certain percentage more. And then give that amount, more than you gave last year. It's a sacrifice, that's what the calling is. And so, your financial giving to missions is part of living a life worthy of the calling you've received. So everything comes under this.
Prize the Unity of the Church
Secondly, prize the unity of the church more than you ever have before. Be very careful not to have crosswords or dark thoughts about other brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, be forgiving. If there's anything you need to forgive, then forgive. If something's happened and you've done something wrong, seek forgiveness, keep short accounts with one another. This is especially true in marriage, so husbands and wives give and receive forgiveness and “maintain unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace with each other.” It's the most important relationship in this church.
Be Prepared for Opposition
Thirdly, expect consistent satanic attack, on the unity of your marriage in this church. Expect it, don't be surprised. And take on these attributes of humility, and gentleness, and patience, and forgiveness with each other that's needed.
Work to Build Up the Body
And finally, let's work hard at the positive good works that build the body of Christ. I was so blessed, yesterday, to be part of the youth raking effort. And just to see you, young people, a number of you I've spoken to and some I haven't had a chance to thank, but thank you for being there and serving some senior adults or other folks that have a hard time looking after their homes, that actually maintains unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace when you go rake at someone's yard, when they can't do it. So when you visit someone in the hospital, you're doing good works that maintains unity in the spirit through the bond of peace. So do those good works. Let's be rich in good works.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for this rich text there's a lot in here. We thank you for the things that we've learned in it. Father, I pray that you would make FBC Durham more unified than we've ever been before that we would be perfectly united in mind and thought help us to give and receive forgiveness to be humble with each other, especially help husbands and wives to do that, build that unity at the home and at the church and Lord help us to reach out with the Gospel to this community. Help us to share the Gospel plainly at this time when people can hear it from us. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.