Summary: Unity is so important that those within the church must strive to maintain it.
Today we are starting a series that will be based on this passage in Ephesians. We are going to think together about unity in the church and what binds us together. Paul says that unity is so important, that we are to pursue it “making every effort.”
In his book The Peacemaker, Ken Sande speaks of this verse and says this about Paul’s admonition to “make every effort.”
“The Greek word that is translated ‘make every effort’ in this passage means to strive eagerly, earnestly, and diligently. It is a word that a trainer of gladiators might have used when he sent men to fight to the death in the Coliseum, ‘Make every effort to stay alive today!’ So too must a Christian agonize for peace and unity. Obviously, token efforts and halfhearted attempts . . . fall far short of what Paul had in mind.” - Ken Sande
This business of unity within the church is a matter of life or death.
A. Without unity, Christians die spiritually.
The giant sequoias of California have very shallow root systems. A tour guide pointed out that their roots extend just barely below the surface. It sounds impossible because we all know trees need deep roots to withstand drought and wind, but sequoias are most unique. They only grow in groves where their roots intertwine and their limbs interconnect with each other. When strong winds blow, they hold each other up. (Readers Digest, May 1989, pg. 48)
This is the way the church is designed. Without the help of others to keep roots firmly planted, with no support from others the individual Christian will soon fall. Like sequoias, we grow tall when we stand together and support each other.
B. Without unity, churches die literally.
“The worst threats the church has ever encountered have come more from within than without. External pressures are like water on a grease fire – causing the church to intensify and spread. Internal strife and bickering are like AIDS – sapping the strength and vitality from the Body.” - Pastor Russell Brownworth
C. Without unity, unbelievers die eternally.
When the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. He was given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive, then support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, so he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired or how many statues were knocked out, but when the land forces arrived and the signal was given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the “saints.”
Likewise, when there is no unity in the church, believers can become so inwardly focused on their differences with one another that we forget our mission and purpose, which is to call men, women, boys and girls to faith in Christ. Indeed, a church that is fussing and feuding is not going to present a very positive, powerful or convincing witness.
Therefore, for our sake, for our church family’s sake, and for a lost world’s sake, we need to make unity among us a priority. With that having been said, what are some things Paul tells us here about unity?
1. Unity is a work of the Spirit.
The unity we are to strive for is a unity that comes about as we yield our lives individually and collectively to the Holy Spirit.
It has been pointed out that the Christian life is an impossible life to live. Yet, this impossible life is what we have been called to.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” - Ephesians 4:1-2 (NIV)
Notice that last line, “bearing with one another.” This line alone illustrates the impossibility of the Christian’s calling. Implied in this command is the idea that as we share life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will find that we will often “rub each other the wrong way.” Inevitably, I will do something that will offend you and you will do something that will offend me. Yet, despite this fact of human nature, we are called to share life together, to worship together, to work together, to walk together. That’s impossible!
Thankfully, the one who calls us is faithful, and will enable us, by His Spirit to do what He has called us to do (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” - Luke 18:27 (NIV)