Perfect, Christian, unity.
Our text is going to make 2 extremely important points. First, unity comes, not from our efforts, but from the Spirit – maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Within this, we can see that we can destroy the unity of the Spirit by not walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. The second point is that this unity of the Spirit has, what is mentioned here, seven points of oneness. One body and one Spirit…one hope…, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
Do you care about Christian unity? Insofar as you are called, you do! To fight against our natural apathetic shrug of the shoulders, hear some Scriptural admonition:
The One who called you, your Lord Jesus prays to His Father that His Christians may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21). Christian unity proclaims that Jesus is the only way to salvation to a world that desperately needs to hear it. Divisions, schisms, are a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:21). The Holy Spirit, through Paul, reminds you today and he does so often, who you are and whose you are. You are called. Freed (Gal. 5:1, 13, For freedom Christ has set us free; 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers.). Conscience calmed. Peace given (Eph. 2:14, 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,). Sins forgiven (Eph. 2:16, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.). Adopted in the family with access to the Father (Eph. 2:17, 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.), from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph. 3:15). The eyes of your heart have been enlightened, you know hope, you know the riches of Christ’s inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18). Insofar as we are called, we are urged to walk in a manner worthy of the calling. Of course you care.
If you care, then, is this applicable? Is there division between you and another Christian? Is there division in this congregation? Is there division between our church body and other church bodies? Of course there is!
The Holy Spirit grants unity, but there are two main enemies of this unity. Before being ordained, my former campus pastor warned me that there would two specific struggles I would have as a pastor. He said, “You will constantly ask either, 1.) Am I being too much of a jerk? or 2.) Am I being too much of a chicken? Sometimes you’ll ask both with the same person in the same situation. But it must be so!”
The text says the first point this way, have all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. In conversations, as you consider others, what spot at the table do you believe you deserve? “Listen up, folks! I’ve got something important to say. Prepare to be amazed at how amazing I am!” How are you in the gentleness department? How are you at taking into yourself others sins, allowing vengeance to belong to God, and bearing others burdens, willingly and consistently covering offenses and sins?
Point two is put this way in the text: maintain the unity of the Spirit. We are so tempted to think we create unity. One of the easiest ways, we too often think, to maintain peace and unity is to ignore. Ignore the sin – the gossip, the incessant complaining and worry, the addiction, the lack of contentment, the adultery. We see that this was the request, and was bought into, of those who drove the sexual revolution – just ignore what God says about marriage, about sexuality, about manhood, womanhood, and we’ll ignore you and we’ll all be at peace. Ignoring things never stays at that level and now we’re being attacked because ignoring is no longer enough, now we have to celebrate or else.
But the devil not only attacks faith through an attack on holy living, he attacks through false teachers and false teaching. As your bulletin blurb says, Jesus warned about them. Paul met them. More danger comes from them that threatens Christian unity than you can imagine.
Does it really matter if your pastor preaches God’s Word? Does it matter if your church body has joined the sexual revolution and will no longer extol marriage as a life-long commitment between one man and one woman or that there are good, fantastic, gifted differences between men and women? Does it matter if your church teaches that there is not in fact one baptism, but two baptisms, one of water and another of the Spirit? Or that baptism doesn’t save, that babies shouldn’t be baptized because they have to choose for themselves, that God has done everything except it is ultimately up to you to make Him your Lord and Savior, that the Lord’s Supper is optional, you don’t have to do it often, that it’s not really the body and blood of Jesus but symbolic, that you, like God, have the ability to speak things into existence by saying, “I declare that I will get a promotion,” that your best life now is what Christianity is mainly about? Does it matter that there are certain hymns and songs that we shouldn’t sing because they are divisive – Biblically speaking? You see, the Spirit creates unity through the Word of Truth, and all false teachers and false teaching are the things that are divisive. James 3: 14 …do not…be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
We, as a congregation, church body, and individual, should always be open to correction through that pure Word of God and we are thankful for Christians who do have conversations with us based around that pure Word of God. We should desire unity, true unity, and are thankful when we find other Christians who desire the same.
The unity of the church is a gift of God that he establishes through his truth that he teaches us. Church politicians try to establish the church’s unity by politicking. Clever theologians try to establish the church’s unity by getting truth to agree with error. God establishes the true unity of the church by his truth. So we preach it, teach it, confess it. We are sheep of the Good Shepherd and we hear his One voice. The voice that gives us eternal life will also unite us as one body through the and Spirit… in one hope…, from the one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
We all look forward to the Day when true, Christian, unity is perfected. We all just have to remember that Day isn’t until The Day. Yet today, we are all bound together here: confessing the same Creed, praying to the same Father, receiving the same Body and Blood of the same Son of God, and departing in the same peace according to the same Word. God be praised for the foretaste of the feast to come.