Summary: Encourage the church to unite together and fulfill it’s purpose.
Just What the Doctor Ordered: Unity in the Spirit
August 17, 2003
A severe rash prompted a man from a rural area to come to town to be examined by one of my colleagues. After the usual history-taking followed by a series of test, the physician advised the patient that he would have to get rid of the dog that was evidently causing the allergic reaction. As the man was preparing to leave the office, my colleague asked him out of curiosity if he planned to sell the animal or give it away. "Neither one," the patient replied. "I’m going to get me one of them second opinions I been reading about. It’s a lot easier to find a doctor than a good bird dog."
George Hawkins, M.D. in Medical Economics, in Reader’s Digest, January, 1982.
Doctors can give prescriptions and treatment plans but it is up to the patient to take the prescription and carry out the treatment plan. There was strife and division in the New Testament church over sharing the gospel with Gentiles and having both Jews and Gentiles in the same church. In the Book of Ephesians 4:1-16 God, through Paul, provides a prescription and treatment plan for handling strife and division in the church, then and now, and paints a portrait of what the church will look like if we follow the Father’s prescription and treatment plan. “Playing Church”, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations, p95 (bottom)
Please stand with me as we read Ephesians 4:1-16.
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."
9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1. God’s prescription for the church: Unity in the Spirit. We need to focus on our spiritual commonalities:
It is obvious to me that the church has not picked up the prescription of Unity in the Spirit. The church is not living a life worthy of its calling because we are not patient with one another or humble and gentle with one another. We typically do not bear with one another in love. The Christian church today is more divided and fragmented today than at any other time in the history of the church. We are divided on methods of baptism, ages for baptism, inerrancy of Scripture, style of worship music, dress code for worship, color of the carpet, color of the walls, my parking space, my seat in the pew and my seat in Sunday School. We have division and strife over change, over tradition, and over personal preference. Some of these issues are worth debating about while others need to be dropped and repented from.
My wife and I were getting on a plane flying back from a Sunday School conference at Glorieta. I was tired and just wanted to sit down. Normally I try to talk to the person next to me to determine if they are a Christian or not. I did not feel like it this time. I was sitting in the middle seat, my wife was in the aisle and an Islamic individual was sitting in the window seat. I really did not feel up to this challenge so I politely minded my own business and began reading. My wife, however, decided not to mind her own business and interceded to a higher authority. She prayed that I would have an opportunity to share the gospel with this gentleman. How dare she intrude. Well, her prayer was obviously much more in line with the Father’s will than my own selfish desire because the gentleman started talking to me. He began asking me spiritual questions and I began sharing the gospel. After sharing the gospel he asked me why Christians could not get along. He said there are so many different groups and denominations and they all seem to be arguing with one another. I had to start explaining that we have some slightly different understandings in certain areas of doctrine but that we all have some very basic and common beliefs. I could not get any further than this though because what he has seen of the church from the outside looking in is a whole bunch of separate pockets of Christians who are unable and unwilling to work out their differences. As a church we need to focus more upon those issues of faith that unite us such as salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It is only after we unite and present a unified front of faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord and Savior of all that the world will begin to sit up, take notice and desire to have what we have.