Summary: It is essential that Christians be unified if we are going to glorify Christ, build each other up and share his message with the world.
July 13th, 2003
Restoring Unity in our Community!
The Early New Testament church was known for its love. That’s why it grew so incredibly fast. People were attracted to the love which changed Christians so much.
Now, Satan knew that thousands of people were being drawn to Christ through this love, so he attempted to destroy the church. At first, he tried to splinter it from the outside. In A.D 64, he moved the Roman Emperor Nero to blame the Christians for a terrible fire in Rome. Hundreds of Christians were arrested, covered in animal skins and torn to death by dogs; some were crucified, coated in tar and lit on fire. Satan incited many other powerful men to persecute, imprison and murder Christians for years. Thousands died for the faith, but the Church continued to grow; more and more people joined when they saw the love and dedication of Christ’s followers.
So, Satan tried another tactic: splinter the Church apart from the inside. If he could get Christians to fight with each other, to stab each other in the back, not only would the Church fall to pieces, but unbelievers would smell the hypocrisy from 100 yards and steer clear. He has had much more luck with that tactic: Destruction through Disunity. Leveled through a Lack of Love.
How successful has Satan been with St. Paul’s? Has he caused Destruction through Disunity? Has he Leveled us through a Lack of Love? Well, think of it this way: What is St. Paul’s known for in our community? a. Teaching b. A building c. Rigidity or d. Love? When people say “St. Paul’s” do they picture a family of believers bonded together in Christ, working together in love to bring him to a dying world? Or, do they see an assembly of spiteful squawkers who love to tear each other down behind the back?
I’m not entirely sure what they think, but it’s a very important question. If we cannot lovingly unite, we cannot do Christ’s work of glorifying God and reaching the lost. We’re wasting our time! We must make sure that we are united as a congregation, as families, as friends. If not, God will take his work elsewhere regardless of our beautiful building.
The Church in Ephesus faced a similar challenge, to stay united so they could do God’s work. Satan had already started to divide them. Let’s listen to Paul’s words to them to help us Restore the Unity in our Community.
We start with…
I. The Conflict
Look at verse 13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,”
Paul talks about the hostility between two groups of people in the Ephesian church. Those two groups were the Jews (those who were near) and the Gentiles (those who were far away). The Jews were the physical descendants of Abraham whom God had delivered from slavery in Egypt and given the Promised Land, modern day Palestine. They were God’s chosen people. The Gentiles were everyone else, those who were not descended from Abraham. These would be people like the Romans, the Greeks and the Egyptians. Most of us are Gentiles, descended from Gentiles of European descent.
At the time Paul wrote this letter, the Jews and the Gentiles did not get along very well. The Jews had the Ten Commandments and the special laws of God. They prided themselves on the stress and strain they went through to keep these precious laws. And they loathed the ignorant Gentiles who mostly lived self-indulgent lives. The Gentiles, on the other hand, got sick of hearing the Jews preach on and on about their law, especially because many Jews dreamt up clever ways to circumvent God’s laws. It annoyed the Gentiles that such people called themselves “God’s favorites.”
The reality was that both were guilty of sin and both needed Jesus—The Gentiles because they lived how they wanted and rarely cared what God wanted, the Jews because they knew better and disobeyed God anyways—the Gentiles because of their self-indulgence; the Jews because of their hypocrisy. Like Paul writes in Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!” Two guys jump out of a plane; both of their parachutes fail. It doesn’t matter if one lands high up on a mountain, the other way down in a valley; both are going to splat.
How it grates on God’s ears to hear us dividing because we think that we are better than the lady two rows in front of us. How it annoys him to see us rating our ministries as though one person’s work were more important than another’s. How it annoys him to see us exploiting the mistakes of others so that no one will notice our faults. How quickly we, in an attempt to satisfy our demonic cravings for blood, devour gossip or cling to one side of a two-sided story. How arrogant to ignore the fact that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This foolishness divides the church, and the stench of hypocrisy drives people away.