The Church – Unity
September 27, 2015
A mother looked out a window and saw Johnny playing church with their 3 kittens. He had them lined up and was preaching to them and the mother smiled and turned around to do some work. A short while later she heard the cats bellowing and meowing and screeching.
She ran outside and saw all the cats were sopping wet and Johnny was in the process of dunking the last of the kittens.
She yelled, “Johnny, what are you doing?”
He replied, “I’m baptizing the cats.”
“Johnny, stop that! You’ll drown those kittens.”
Johnny looked at her and said: “They should have thought about that before they joined my church.”
Whose church did Johnny think he was baptizing the kittens into?
Do Unity we ever get that way? Are we kind of similar to Johnny? We look at the church as mine. It belongs to me. It has to be what I want it to be, otherwise, we believe there is something wrong with the church.
Now, on the one hand, this is your church. We say “I am a member of FBC” or “I attend FBC.” But that does not make it your church.
In other words, and I need to be careful here, this is your church and it’s not your church. You don’t rule it, you don’t get to say, ‘well, I don’t like this, so we must change the way we do church.’ It’s not like that. You are one part of many parts. Your part is important, yet so are the many other parts. We are all equally important.
When I’m with other folks and we’re talking about church, I don’t like to refer to FBC as “MY CHURCH,” I often say “the church I pastor. . .” It’s not because I don’t identify with this as my home church, I do! But, I don’t want anyone to ever think this is MY church.
A Lutheran theologian from the 16th century wrote ~ “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” – Rupertus Meldenius
That’s a great reminder for us. Yet what is essential for us? Where is our starting point for a church to seek unity and to hold onto unity? Meldenius reminds us it’s in the essentials. What are the essentials? Glad you asked. Paul gives us some real help. We’ve been looking at Ephesians 4 over the past few weeks and we’re looking at verses 4-6 today. I don’t want you to lose sight of what we spoke about last week, which were the first 3 verses — Paul wrote ~
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
So remember the question from last week was ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE IN A MANNER WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING AS A CHILD OF GOD?
Paul gave us 5 virtues — 5 ways we are to live our lives to show we are worthy. He urges us to live with all —
Maintain the unity in Peace.
18 Before getting to this point, Paul made it clear who the head of the church is . . . He wrote 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. – Colossians 1:18
22 And He put all things under His (CHRIST) feet and gave Him (CHRIST) as head over all things to the church, – Ephesians 1:22
So, we must start with the fact that Christ is the head of the church. We are not! We are privileged to be part of the church and seek to further the kingdom. So, with that in mind, Paul now takes us a step further. He tells us what the essentials are …
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call —
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul is talking about 7 points — 7 essentials we need to agree upon. He starts out stating there is ONE BODY.
It’s important to understand the church is not a company. We are one body. Just as our human bodies are comprised of thousands of cells, there’s only one life. And when you put us all together, we have a gazillion cells in this room. We are all the body of Christ. In a similar way, the body of Christ has an infinite number of expressions. It’s shaped by culture, by the personality of its people, by historical context and many other factors. But the one constant is that the true church all around the globe shares the life of Christ. We are one universal church, one body.
We all have our druthers about things we prefer to see in the church. That’s fine. That’s one reason God has allowed so many different expressions of the church. People are different and we experience God in a myriad of different ways. But just because there are different churches and denominations doesn’t diminish the fact that we are all part of ONE BODY. We need to be very careful not to get hung up on secondary issues that divide. As you know, this happens far too often.
The other Bible believing churches that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ are not the competition. They are not our enemy. I don’t care if they are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, or Independent. I don’t care if they have 20 members or 20,000 members. Our competition is the world around us that says there is no need for God and rejects Jesus Christ and what He did for us through the cross and the resurrection.
Remember, the church is not a building, instead the church is made up of the body of believers, you and me. Every believer is placed into the Body of Christ when we profess faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Next, Paul reminds us there is ONE SPIRIT.
In chapter 1 of Ephesians, Paul said~
13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14
There’s only one Spirit. The same Holy Spirit dwells within every believer so there’s an interconnectedness among us. This is the unifying factor in our being brothers and sisters in Christ. When you’re blood relatives, it’s because you have some of the same DNA running through you . . . well, as Christ followers that same DNA which runs through us is a result of the Holy Spirit filling us with the presence of God, through His grace because of our shared belief in Jesus as the Christ. And it’s the Holy Spirit which produces Christ centered unity. We don’t create unity. It’s a gift from God. Our job is to maintain the unity.
Paul continues by telling us we have ONE HOPE.
There’s also only one hope and that hope rests solely in Jesus Christ. Because we believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, we have the hope of eternal life. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is our hope. We have no other hope. In fact, Jesus is the only hope for the world.
Jesus gives us hope that we are not alone, because He sent the Spirit to be with us. He gives us hope because we trust that He has destroyed death.
As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 15:55, “Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?”
You see, we have victory!! We know the end of the story. We know, we trust, we believe, we have faith that Jesus defeated death . . . and that victory wasn’t for Him, it was for us. And that gives us great hope. We are confident death no longer has a hold on us because we have everlasting life with Jesus Christ in heaven.
Paul moves onto verse 4 telling us we have ONE LORD, ONE FAITH and ONE BAPTISM.
We serve only one Lord, Jesus Christ. We have one Lord – and His name is Jesus!
Luke wrote ~ 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12
We may not think Paul saying, “There is only one Lord” is that big of a deal, but it had great meaning in the 1st Century. The Romans were very tolerant of religion and had a slew of gods. More than could be counted.
But nobody could proclaim to be Lord and King other than Caesar, so when people referred to Jesus as Lord and King, that was punishable by death. The Christians didn’t see Jesus as one of many gods, which Rome was fine with, the Christians saw Jesus as the only God. If Jesus was not Lord of all, then He was not Lord at all.
We are called to serve only our Lord, Jesus Christ. There are no other options on this. If we think we can serve other gods, we are sorely mistaken and are worshiping idols. If we serve the same Lord, then we should be able to walk together in unity.
Paul goes on to say we have ONE FAITH . . .
Because there is only one Lord, there is only one faith as well. And we have one common faith. This one faith rests squarely on Jesus Christ. This is the truth that was given to His church. There’s no middle ground. Either your faith is in Jesus Christ or it’s not. There are no kindas or sortas available. Jesus said, “if you’re not for me, then you’re against me.”
Faith in Jesus Christ should unite people like nothing else. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you can bring to the church. We’re all equal. Nobody gets special status and exemptions because of anything they bring to the church. We must understand “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” We are all equal before the cross, nobody is better than their neighbor, Christ died equally for you and me.
We can easily be reminded of faith through John 3:16 ~
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There is only one faith that can save us and that is faith in Jesus Christ alone.
And ONE BAPTISM — —
This is where the believer is baptized into the body of Christ after accepting Jesus. This is a signal to the world that we belong to the family of God.
In Galatians 3:26-28, Paul tells us ~
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:26-28
This is a great reminder we are all one in Christ.
There is unity in the body because each and every one of us has been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit who comes to reside permanently in our lives. When we say YES to Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. When we say YES to Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit and that Spirit permanently stays with us.
While some people disagree about the proper way to baptize people, I believe One baptism describes the baptism of all believers into one body, which is the result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit when one becomes a follower of Christ. So, water baptism would be an outward sign of the inward faith we have in Christ.
Now we move to our final verse, Paul’s reminder that we have ~
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There’s one God and Father. Once we accept Christ into our lives we become part of his forever family. And it’s a family like no other. Our oneness is ultimately focused on our heavenly Father who is over all, in all, and working through all.
Think of it this way. We’re children in the same family. Loving and serving the same Father. We’re on the same team commissioned by our Father to work together for a common cause – the cause of Christ!
Why, then, are we called to be unified? What’s the basis for unity in the church? Why should we make every effort to keep this unity? Because we’re all part of one body; because one and the same Spirit dwells every Christ-follower; we all have one common hope; one common Lord; one common faith; one common baptism; and we all bow in worship of the same God and Father.
In the church, both universally and in our local bodies, we spend far too much time focusing on our differences. And when we do that, we destroy the unity that God has established among His children. But perhaps even more tragically, we also deny the unity of God Himself. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are certainly birds of a feather. And if we are to be part of God’s family, then we need to follow His example and focus on the things that unite us rather than the things that divide.
A couple of years ago, there was a major issue on the Miami Dolphins football team. Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin played for the Miami Dolphins and had every reason as teammates to be friends, but they were not. Incognito harassed and bullied Martin. He called him a racial slur in a voicemail. He even threatened to kill him and his family. Incognito claimed all of this was just locker room talk. It’s the way guys talk to one another in the NFL.
Apparently, Martin didn’t get the memo. Martin was being paid $1.2 million per year. He left his lucrative job citing emotional issues and fearing for his life.
These two men had more reasons to get along than to have a toxic relationship. Consider all the reasons they had to be friends.
They were both football players. On the same team. Had the same coach. Both were offensive linemen. Both were starters. Both wanted to win. Both are big dudes. Both were millionaires. Yet somewhere along the way one or both of them forgot all that they played for the same team.
Likewise, Christians get into trouble with one another when we forget what we have in common. Paul tells us here in our text what the essentials are that we should find unity in.