The Church: Walking in Unity (4:2-6).
It is interesting to discover that the very first part of our walk Paul describes involves church unity (Eph 4:2-6). Paul begins with relationships within the church! Our walk starts with how we treat others. This is how the watching universe sees the glory of God displayed in his church.
We have learned in chapter two of the doctrine of unity: Christ accomplished it at the cross, tearing down the wall of division between Jews and Gentiles, creating one new man in place of the two, reconciling us to God and to each other. NOW WE ARE CALLED TO WALK IN THE UNITY CHRIST ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED. What Jesus has done must be believed by the church, embraced by the church and lived out by the church, for the glory of God!
1. Unity Maintained (4:2-3). “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.“ (Eph 4:2-3, ESV). Paul teaches the church HOW to walk in the unity Christ accomplished. Since God has treated us with overflowing grace in Christ, we are now called to treat our brothers and sisters in the church the same way:
- All Humility. The ‘humble recognition of the worth and value of other people’ (Stott). “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This is how Paul treated the Ephesians when he was there (Acts 20:19) [O’Brien]! This describes Christ (Phil 2:3-8). Unity is destroyed when we lack humility; Pride thinks, “I do not deserve to be treated this way…I deserve better.”
- Gentleness. Meekness. Controlled strength – not weakness. ‘consideration for others, willingness to waive one’s rights’ (O’Brien). Jesus describes himself as ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29).
- Patience. Long-suffering. ‘Makes allowance for others’ short-comings – endures wrong rather than flying into a rage or desiring vengeance’ (O’Brien).
- Bearing with one another in Love. We are called to maintain unity by putting up with one another...but in love. The love of God in us will empower us to treat others in this way.
Finally, for this to be a practical part of our daily life in Christ, this must start at the local church level. It is not an insignificant thing even for a small local church to live in love and unity. Rather, it is eternally and universally significant, part of the realization of the eternal plan of God – displaying his glory to the universe!
Having called us to maintain the unity, and instructed us concerning how to maintain the unity, now Paul describes this unity. He gives us 7 statements of unity, arranged around the members of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This is because our unity in the church flows out of God’s unity within his Godhead. Because God exists as a unity of Persons, the church must and can and will be unified.
One body, one Spirit, one hope. “There is one body because there is one Spirit” (Stott). There are many local churches, but one Church; one body of Christ; one unified, multi-ethnic people of God who are filled with one Holy Spirit! Unity already exists; Christ’s people are already filled with the same Spirit. One hope that belongs to our call: This one people of God filled with the one Spirit of God shares the one HOPE, the same future inheritance. There’s not two heavens. Not one heaven for Methodists, one for Baptists, etc; Not one heaven for Asians, one for Africans, etc. God’s one people will be with him…together.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Jesus is Lord, and there is none other. He is the one Head of the church, the one Savior to sinners, the One way to the Father! The one faith is the one set of truths about Jesus held by believers (“the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3); “the doctrinal truths Christians commonly confess” (ESV Study Bible notes). The gospel! And the one baptism is the immersion into Christ accomplished by the Holy Spirit and pictured outwardly in water baptism. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Cor 12:13). One Lord, one set of truths about him, one immersion into him, pictured by one sign.
One God and Father of all… All of this flows from the one Father, who is described in his sovereignty and omnipresence. One ‘all,’ the church.