Summary: Church unity requires our behaving in such a way as to not grieve the work of the Holy Spirit.
In a church bulletin, a hurried secretary typed “the church was untied,” instead of, “the church was united.” What was out of place? The “I” was!
In our passage for today, Paul tells us about unity in the church. As he does, he says that the unity of the church is a spiritual reality; but also a personal responsibility.
1. Unity is a spiritual reality - vs. 4-6
Paul mentions seven spiritual realities which unite all believers.
One body - we are all identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
One Spirit - we all have the same Holy Spirit, who indwells us.
One hope - we are all in a position, by virtue of our being identified with Christ and indwelt by His Spirit, to live lives that bring glory to God (Colossians 1:27).
One Lord - “There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” - 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NIV)
One faith - This is a reference to saving faith - faith in Christ alone as the key to salvation.
One baptism - “We have all come into the body of Christ only by the Spirit’s work in us - Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” - 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NLT)
One Father - We all have been, through Christ, born into the family of God!
Notice how each of these seven spiritual realities is connected to the persons of the Trinity:
A. The Spirit’s work in uniting us - v. 4 The Spirit reached out to us
B. The Son’s work in uniting us - v. 5 The Son redeemed us all.
Note also the order of things here: First, we recognize Christ to be Lord; then we receive Him by faith; & then we respond to Him with obedience through baptism.
C. The Father’s work in uniting us - v. 6 The Father receives us all.
Paul tells us that the unity of the church stems from seven spiritual realities which are rooted in the Trinity, the Godhead. What is the significance of this? Simply that . . .
Our unity is as eternal and unbreakable as the union of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit!
“The unity of the church is as indestructible as the unity of God Himself. It is no more possible to split the church then it is possible to split the Godhead!” - John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society
The obvious question is, of course, “if this is so, why are there outward divisions in the church? Why are so many churches ‘untied’ instead of ‘united?’”
This is where the “I” comes in! if unity in the church is to be an experiential reality and not just a spiritual reality, then I must accept that . . .
2. Unity is my personal responsibility - vs. 1-3
Note verse one, “I urge you,” literally, “each of you.” Each one of us is to seek to live and serve within the church in such a way as to enable us to fulfill the calling we have each received - to glorify God.
Remember the end of Paul’s prayer (Ephesian 3:21)?
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” - John 17:20-23 (NIV)
How do we each fulfill the calling of bringing glory to God through walking in unity as a church? Each of us needs to accept his personal responsibility to . . .
A. Practice Patience - v. 2
Perhaps you’ve seen the slogan on a bumper sticker or somewhere else, “Please be patient, God isn’t through with me yet!”
This is, essentially, what Paul says is to be our attitude toward one another.
When the communists took over China, they did not abolish the church. They knew a better way to bring about its decline. Denunciation meetings were scheduled to root out “reactionary element.” In these meetings, “all wrong¬doings” were exposed and confessed. This resulted in accusatory sessions which hastened the demise of the organized church in China.
If Satan has to use government officials to halt the work of God’s church, he will, but if he can use the members of the local church , he is even more happy to do so. How many churches have split because of unofficial “denunciation meetings” held among members of the local church?