When you hear the word unity, what comes to mind? A football team? A harmonious work environment?
Sadly, what usually doesn’t come to mind is the Church.
It’s sad because the most united team or family in existence should be the Church.
Why? Glad you asked!
The Church is united together by more than a game or shared interest. We are united through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus! This bond is so intense that Scripture describes it as being one body.
Just think about how your body works. If your physical body didn’t work together, you wouldn’t be able to do much. The Church is the same, when we strive for unity, we are more effective for Kingdom work.
When you look at Ephesians 4:1-6, you see Paul describing what true unity within the body of Christ should look like.
UNITED BY OUR CALLING
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” Ephesians 4:1
Right at the beginning, Paul challenged the Ephesian church (and this applies to all believers today) to walk worthy of their calling.
The idea of ‘to walk’ is important to note because it doesn’t represent a stroll in the park. The use of walk is translated to how a person conducts their life. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul described the beauty of the Gospel. Now, Paul is wanting his readers to know how the Gospel should be lived out.
You can’t separate the two ideas Paul lays out in the book of Ephesians. When you begin to understand the Gospel, it should lead you to live out the Gospel and affect the way you conduct your life.
Paul doesn’t just say to walk out your calling, but to live worthy of it. This calling Paul refers to is the same calling mentioned at the beginning of Ephesians. God called us to Himself for salvation by His grace through Jesus. Not only have we been called, but we’ve been blessed with ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:3). We have been called into communion with God and, therefore, have received every spiritual blessing through union with Jesus. The weight of your calling cost Jesus His life, now go live worthy of that calling.
And that’s for every believer. Not just pastors or teachers, but every believer.
But, Paul isn’t challenging us with something that he’s exempt from. He described himself as “a prison for the Lord”. Even though proclaiming the Gospel sent him to prison, Paul did not consider himself a prisoner of Rome. He lived a life completely surrendered to God. This same sacrificial obedience applies to us today. Maybe obedience doesn’t look like going to prison for sharing your faith, but maybe it means making some uncomfortable choices.
Because this call applies to every follower of Christ, we are united in that calling. Each believer is united in the common experience of God’s divine grace and call on our lives.
UNITED BY OUR CONDUCT
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
In the first verse, Paul explained why we should walk worthy, but here he explains how to walk worthy. He begins to describe the qualities that are unique to the Church. These characteristics are important because they describe the characteristics of Jesus.
As the Church, we should be like Jesus. Our conduct should reflect our calling.
- Walk in humility. For unity to exist, we must remain humble and care about the good of others.
- Show gentleness. This doesn’t mean to walk around timid or defeated, but to conduct yourself with self-control when you care for others.
- Love one another, with patience. When you exercise impatience, you are really displaying a lack of love towards others. To show a patient-type-of-love like Jesus, we must pursue others in love despite of differences, personality annoyances and, dare I say it, political parties.
- Be a peacemaker. Keeping peace is not a passive task, it takes us being actively committed to unity. Remembering that we do not create unity, but maintain unity. God has already united us and with the help of God, we must keep peace and unity within the body.
When we begin to mirror Jesus individually, our lives and relationships are impacted. When our individual pursuit of Jesus transforms us, we then, are corporately transformed into a Church that looks more like Jesus.
This type of unity can only be accomplished through the help of the Holy Spirit by keeping the Gospel at the focus of all we do.
UNITED BY OUR CONFESSION
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
In these few verses, Paul lays out the foundation of Christian doctrine. These ideas are essential to our faith and unites us as believers in our confession of them.
Just like football teams have mantras or families have traditions, these few verses layout what unites the Church.
- One body. Each believer, even though diverse in back ground and gifting, make up one body. Together, we are united as one body in Christ.
- One Spirit. It is through the work of Jesus that we have access to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit unites all believers and empowers the Church to maintain that unity.
- One hope. We were once people without hope, now in Christ we are united. The Church shares the single hope of life eternal with Jesus.
- One Lord. This is not only important for believers today to confess, but it was profoundly anti-cultural for the early Christians. When they would confess “Jesus is Lord” they were denying the idea of Caesar as lord. This statement could literally lead to death.
- One faith. By standing in one faith, it is an acknowledgment that we confess these truths together, in unity.
- One baptism. We are united to Christ and one another through the shared experience of baptism. God brought us from death to life and we participate in water baptism to confess that to the world.
- One God and Father. Now that we have been brought from death to life, we are part of the family of God. We are no longer orphans, but children of God. We share the same Father, therefore, are united together as brothers and sisters. No matter of cultural background or ethnicity, we are one big family through adoption.
The Church is united by more than a shared hobby or interest, we are united in Jesus. It is through our calling, conduct and confession that we are united as one body. When we work towards unity, not only are we an example to a world filled with discord but we are a testament to the goodness and faithfulness of God.
Church, the world should know us by our unity.
by Emily LaGrone