Summary: Church unity is very high on God's agenda. According to God's word we have it! It is to be maintained not created. But how? And what does it look like?
THE CHURCH AS GOD INTENDED - Unity in the Spirit
Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus is a fantastic read. We have already spent some time in it during the month of January this year in which we gave some thought to the astonishing implications of what it means to be children of God the Father.
I read a lovely story this week of a memory a man had of when he was a little boy -- and he and his father were caught out in a terrible rain storm. He remembers his dad telling him to take his hand while he sheltered him completely beneath his huge coat. He couldn't see a thing all of the way, but when he finally emerged from under the coat he had arrived home.
That's how we began the year -- putting our own hand into the great hand of God the Father, and trusting him to lead us on into the year that lies ahead.
But we've seen more:
* We've reflected on the special relationship with have with the Father -- and what the Father is truly like.
* We considered our security in Christ;
* that we are co-heirs with Christ;
* and our unique relationship with one another as the Family of God.
With this as the backdrop Paul now goes on to describe what God has been up to in all of this. In chapter 3 he explains that
God had a secret = a secret plan called a 'mystery' -- and that the 'mystery' was finally revealed = a mystery that had not been made known even to the likes of the great prophets Isaiah or Jeremiah -- something God was waiting to reveal.
And it was this:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,  according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God 's plan was finally revealed -- a plan to make his Church an extraordinary exhibit before the whole angelic world in the heavenly realms -- and to make known his wisdom through it.
and we are an expression of that church!
In our Bible reading and sermon this morning we have a description how God's wisdom is to be expressed in his Church (in our Church too). We will have the opportunity to compare ourselves with the pattern God has given to us in his Word in order to follow it more closely.
READING Ephesians 4:1-16
1. A UNITY TO BE CONSTANTLY MAINTAINED v1-6
Unity among believers is clearly very high on God's agenda, and things can, and do go wrong in the Christian life that threaten to break our unity.
But God has shown us how to keep it.
Paul lists the things we have in common
One body = = the church
One Spirit. = the Holy Spirit
One hope = expectation of heaven
One Lord = not just one Saviour, but one Lord.
[whose authority we submit to]
One faith. =
= one body of truth that has been revealed.
[It is not the mode of baptism that is being presented here]
The one baptism everywhere agreed upon by the church is the baptism of the Spirit, the real baptism of which water baptism is always a symbol.
"One God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all."
The unity we have therefore is not a unity to be created.
It is a unity we already have, and which is to be kept.
Unity does not mean uniformity.
* We are not all the same.
* We have different gifts and different abilities.
But just as an orchestra can play a symphony with a huge variety of instruments, so there is a call for HARMONY within the church.
Our unity derives from the fact that one Father creates the one family; the one Lord Jesus is the focus of the one faith, hope, and baptism, and the one Spirit creates the one body
How is this unity to be kept?
V2. By being completely humble and gentle; patient and by bearing with one another in love and by making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul picks up on the same theme in his letter to the church in Philippi -- 'your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus'.
Humility -- like that of Jesus washing the disciples feet
Gentleness - strength that is under control.
Like that of an ox in serviceat the plough
Patience and bearing with each other