Summary: The Church can overcome any division, conflict, or challenge when we: 1. Humbly submit ourselves to God 2. Be rooted and established in his love 3. Allow God's overabundance of love to empower us to see and love others as he sees and loves them.
It has been an interesting month. Just in the last month we have had multiple natural disasters and other national and world related issues/events:
Earthquake – hit Mexico City
Hurricane Harvey – Hit Texas
Hurricane Irma – Hit Florida
Hurricane Maria – Hit Puerto Rico
Escalating tensions with N. KOREA
NFL – civil rights, free speech, respect for national symbols, disrespect for military and their sacrifice, protest President Trump, etc.
What do each of these situations have in common? Each situation has a group of people that have a need whether real or perceived that requires an expected response by someone else. When the expected response is not received then we have an unmet expectation which fosters hurt and greater division. If the need is great enough then the person with the need pursues it with greater passion and when the expectation continues to be unmet then the hurt and division increases.
We have division in the church that we have decided to live with. It is called denominations. We have debated over issues within the church and when we cannot come to agreement we separate from one another and gather with people that look like us and think like us. That is not how the church ought to be. That is one of the reasons I love the Chaplain Corps. We have chaplains from various denominational backgrounds but instead of focusing on our denominational differences we focus on what we have in common, Jesus Christ. Instead of having a congregation that looks like us and has generally the same shared life experiences we have congregations that represent various ethnic groups.
This morning we are going to learn from Paul “a way” to meet one another’s needs within the church and foster unity rather than division.
To do this we will look at Ephesians 3:14-19 but we need a little context before we do.
Context of Ephesians
Date: 60 ADish
Location: written in Rome while in prison
To: Church at Ephesus
• To teach about the church as the body of Christ, composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers
• To exhort believers to conduct themselves properly toward one another because of their oneness in Christ
• To equip them for spiritual warfare
H. L. Willmington, Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), 704.
A Prayer for the Ephesians
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Eph 3:14–19.
This is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. It applies to the church today, to you and to me.
1. PAUL’S POSITION
First, let’s start with Paul’s position.
a. I Kneel
Paul says “I kneel”. Right now everyone on the side of those kneeling during the national anthem are saying to themselves, and some out loud, “See! That’s right! Preach it to ‘em!” Hold on. Paul is not prescribing a physical position for prayer. He is prescribing a heart attitude. An attitude of humility. Paul is humbling himself in his heart. Many times this may also then translate to a physical position of kneeling, bowing the head, lying prostrate, etc. This type of “kneeling” is not “kneeling in protest” but rather “kneeling in submission.” And right now those that are on the side of “Stand for the Anthem or else” are saying “See! That’s right! Preach it to ‘em!” Notice I’m not telling you which side I am on. Because it is not about a “side”. As soon as we identify a “side” to be on we are wrong because we are supposed to be in a position of humility submitting ourselves to the needs of others as EPH 4:12 says,
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
b. Before the Father from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
The second aspect of Paul’s position is that he is kneeling or humbling himself before the Father. He says in ROM 12:3,
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to you.”