Christian Unity Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
I want to comment, just briefly, on each of these foundation stones, and that will be our second point-THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.
The first three stones are one body, one Spirit, and one hope. We read in verse 4: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling."
Christ is the head of the church, and the church is one body. The unity of the church is essential for the work of Christ. When there is unity, there will be oneness, and harmony, and agreement. Unity was apparent on the day of Pentecost when the believers "were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). The church is a unity in diversity, a fellowship of faith, and hope, and love that binds believers together.
The verse said, "There is one body." The church is a living thing composed only of living members, i.e., blood-bought, born-again, Bible-believing saints. This one body has one Head and many members.
And there is one Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the life and breath of that body, and He was involved in the salvation of each member.
The last part of the verse states that there is "one hope of your calling."
Here Paul is talking about the goal that is set before all believers. They will be taken out of this world and into the presence of Christ. This is the blessed hope. Let's read verse 5 again: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism."
"One Lord" refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. His lordship over the church is what brings into existence the unity of the church."One faith" refers to the body of truth called the apostles doctrine in Acts 2:42. Today, we would say that truth is found in the Bible. When true doctrine is denied it causes divisions. There must be a substance to form an adhesion of believers. And that substance that binds us together is true doctrine.
"One baptism" is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is real baptism. Ritual baptism is by water. Water baptism is a symbol of the real baptism of the Holy Spirit, by which believers are actually made one.
Verse 6 stated, "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." When I read this verse I am made to believe that Paul was a southerner, because he ends the verse with "you all." The subject of this verse is the fatherhood of God. He is our heavenly Father, and as such, He watches over us and cares for us. Since there is only one Father, He is not the Father of unbelievers. Sonship can only come through Christ.
The unity of believers produces a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers. He is Father of all those who are His through faith in His Son. My friends, there is only one God, and He is not Buddha or Allah. The One God unites us into the one family of God.
Paul says four things about the one God.
1. He is Father of all--that is, He created all.
2. He is above all--that is, He controls all.
3. He is through all--that is, He sustains all.
4. He is in all--that is, He is present everywhere.
The last point to the message is the BENEFITS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.
It is to be expected that someone might ask, "Why all the fuss about unity? Does it really make that much difference? What are the benefits of Christian unity?" The last five verses of this chapter list the benefits of Christian unity. Here is where we learn that unity in the church does make a difference--a big difference. Let's look at what happens when there is unity in the church.
First, conduct changes. Let's read verse 28 again. "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."
When there is unity, there is a change in conduct. No longer do we ask, "What can I do?" but rather we ask "What can I share?" When we are united in letting the Holy Spirit fill us, and united in allowing the hope of heaven to challenge us and united in allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to guide us, our conduct is changed.
Second, our conversation is clean. Verse 29 says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth." It's difficult, if not impossible, to be in unity with God and His people and still have a filthy mouth. An ancient proverb says, "The heart of man is a well, and the mouth of man is a bucket, and that which is in the well of the heart can be determined by what is in the bucket of the mouth."
What Paul is saying in verse 29 is this. Don't use foul language, for any reason. Corrupt speech comes from a corrupt heart, and pure speech comes from a pure heart. Corrupt speech is like rotten fruit or a decaying fish. Corrupt speech will contaminate the thoughts of others. But speech which is good to use will build up others. We must watch our words and be careful that our speech is "always with grace, seasoned with salt" according to Colossians 4:6.Our speech should convey a blessing, not blight. If a rotten word is found in the mind, shut it off at the mouth.
My friends, you have been set free from the old life, so why live in those old sins anymore? Anything evil from the old life that is brought into the new life will give the devil a beachhead. Paul names such things as lying, losing your temper, stealing, corrupt speech, bitterness, and an unforgiving spirit. These sins invite Satan into your life, and they hurt you, and they harm the church, and they grieve the Spirit of God. Is it worth it?
Next, we see from verse 30 that when there is unity commitment will be deepened.The verse reads, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."When we live each moment aware that there is only one Holy Spirit by whom we have been born again, we want to do nothing that would grieve Him.
One of the benefits of Christian Unity is that we reach a level of Christian commitment beyond which we will not grieve the Holy Spirit. In verse 31 Paul said, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." He is saying that, if you want unity, you must eliminate the conflict. Unity gets rid of conflict. Conflict comes from "the sins of the spirit."
Paul has dealt with the sins of the flesh (stealing, foul language, etc.). Now he deals with the sins of the spirit--or you could call them Christian sins. These are identified as "bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Malice is wickedness, hatred, spite, meanness, and nastiness. But praise God, when we are one in Christ we are free from all these types of disruptive behavior.
Finally, Paul says in verse 32 that kindness will be practiced.
We all know how to be kind, don't we? To be kind means simply to be thoughtful and considerate of others.
When the Roman soldiers, who were on guard at Jesus' crucifixion, were dividing up His clothes, they came to His coat and they discovered that it was seamless. If they tore it, it would be ruined. Therefore, they decided to keep it and to cast lots for it. The seamless robe of Christ has become a symbol for the unity of the church. Henry Ward Beacher prayed that the church might be one again, like the seamless robe of His Lord. This very appropriate symbol is a thing of great beauty for those who are believers. Strife and divisions within the church have been ugly efforts to tear into pieces the sacred garment of truth.
The Crucified One must look down sadly at the miserable conflict between those He died to redeem. His look of love and sorrow is reminiscent of His prayer, "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 17:23)