This morning I preached on Ephesians 4:1-6 where I stressed that when unity is present in a local church, it is a mark of love and spiritual maturity. Conversely, when we find schisms, a lack of unity and division in the body, it denotes a lack of love and spiritual immaturity within the body of Christ. Having been a pastor for 28 years, I appreciate unity in the local church very much.
In 4:1-6 Paul proclaims that main idea that we are called to preserve a unity that reflects the very nature of God himself. First, in 4:1-3 he appeals to believers to live in unity. First, he appeals to his readers in verse 1 to walk or live in a manner worthy of their calling, a calling which he developed in 1:3-14 in declaring the spiritual blessings that were theirs in Christ, which are the result of the grace of God that saved them (2:4-10). Then in 4:2a, Paul expresses three virtues that we demonstrate in such a life: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience.” The term humility looks at a complete absence of pride. We know that God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble and God looks with favor upon those who demonstrate such humility. The term gentleness is a term which is the opposite of self-assertion. Such a virtue in the local church never argues for their own way. It is devoid of rudeness or harshness. The term patience is that disposition that never gives up because it endures no matter what the circumstance. It holds up no matter what. These three virtues lead to great unity in the body, especially when carried out in the manner that Paul states in 4:2b-3. He employs two participles of manner declaring: “showing tolerance for one another in love” (2b) and then “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (3). This first participle of showing tolerance stresses bearing up under a heavy load and here it is fellow believers. These three virtues, when expressed with tolerance are really carried out in the realm of love, and this leads really to the second participle, “being diligent to preserve unity.” We do not create unity, Christ did that (2:11-22), we preserve it. The realms of each of these are critical: love and peace. Unity exists in the body when the realms of love and peace are present because in those realms we are able to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience.” When these are not present however there is disunity.
In closing, Paul in 4:4-6 declares the basis of all real unity: God himself. Paul listed 7 components of unity as observed from God and his relationship to his church. It isn’t hard to see the “unity” in all 7 components:
- “one body”
- “one Spirit”
- “one hope”
- “one Lord”
- “one faith”
- “one baptism”
- “one God and Father”
Just as God is one unity yet a plurality of person, so too the church is many persons yet is to preserve its unity. When believers live godly lives there is unity and peace in the local church.