No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, "I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter." Please use these sermons as the Lord leads, but nothing on this site may be used for profit without my expressed, written permission!
MAINTAINING THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
Part 1 - THE PLEA FOR UNITY
Intro: In verse 1 Paul calls the church to remember where we came from and all that the Lord has done for us in Christ. He uses the word therefore to call to our minds all that He has taught us thus far in the book of Ephesians. He has been writing about doctrine, precept, and belief. Now, he turns his attention to duty, practice and behavior. The phrase at the end of verse 1 that reads, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, is worth another quick glance.
The word vocation refers to a calling; or a career. It refers to a persons lifes work. The calling we received from God to come to Christ by faith was not a call for a weekend getaway. It was a call to live a radically changed life for the glory of God. We are called on to live differently because we now know Jesus. We are live lives that are worthy of what we have been given in Christ. The word worthy means, to balance the scales. We are to live lives that prove we belong to the Lord. We are to live lives that glorify Him in the world. We are to live such weighty lives that we balance the scales with God.
Having told us what God expects of us, Paul now moves to tell us how to bring this to pass in our lives. He teaches us in these verses how to walk the worthy walk. One of the clearest ways the church can prove the reality of what it teaches is by living out the essence of what Paul talks about throughout the book of Ephesians.
He mentions it in verse 3, and again in verse 13. It is the idea of unity. The word means agreement. It simply means that we are to walk together as one in the Lord. Let me just pause here and say that unity is Gods goal for His church.
The book of Ephesians is about Gods grace that reveals itself in our salvation. As a part of that process is the idea of unity.
Consider the following truths.
* The Father chose us unto salvation, Eph. 1:4.
* The Son redeemed us with His Own blood on the cross, Eph. 1:7
* The Spirit seals us for all eternity, Eph. 1:13
Notice these verses that speak about the issue of unity:
If the Lord is that interested in the unity of the church, then we should be interested in it as well. In verse 3 of our text, we are called to keep or maintain the unity of the church. I want to spend some time looking into the teaching in these verses. The fact is, we are not always unified. We are not always on the same page. We are not always pulling together for the glory of God. Too often we each have our own agendas that compete against the good of the church. This text is a plea for unity.
I want to take these verses and share some challenges I see in them. I want to preach about Maintaining The Unity Of The Church. These verses teach us how to walk together as a redeemed family, the way God intended. Lets talk about Maintaining The Unity Of The Church. We will begin today by looking at verse 3, which talks about The Plea For Unity In The Church.
I. THE WORDS OF THIS PLEA
Paul says endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Several words in that verse merit our attention.
I. The Words Of This Plea
II. THE WITNESS OF THIS PLEA
The church as no greater testimony than when we are united in Jesus in spite of our differences. By the same rule, there is no greater slander against the cause of Christ than a church family in which the members are at odds with one another.
Listen to what Jesus said:
We are a diverse bunch of people. We are different one from another in every way you can imagine. Physical differences, intellectual differences, economic differences and spiritual differences all compete against the unity we are expected to have.
Yet, with all our differences there is common ground. When we came to Jesus, the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts.
When He is in you and He is in me, He can cause us to move passed our differences to walk together in unity for the glory of God.
When we are at war one with another, we have lost our testimony with the world. When we walk out of unity, we are telling them that we are no different that they are. Down through the ages the world has formulated treaties, agreements, held conferences and signed accords all in an effort to bring peace. Every single treaty signed by men since the dawn of recorded time has failed. Why? There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked, Isa. 48:22.
The world cannot find peace because they have no ground for peace. We are to be different! The Spirit of God dwells inside every true believer to guide, direct and cause us to produce the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23, which always leads to peace within the church. When we walk in the peace we have been given through the Spirit, we magnify the Lord Jesus and show the world that there is something different about us.
In verse 2 Paul speaks about humility, gentleness, patience and loving tolerance. Everyone of these spiritual characteristics flows out of genuine love one for another. Every one of them comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit within our hearts. We will flesh those thoughts out in greater detail over the next few weeks. For now, we need to know that Gods will for His people is that we walk in unity, all pulling the same way, for the glory of the same God.
I. The Words of This Plea
II. The Witness Of This Plea
III. THE WISDOM IN THIS PLEA
Walking in unity does not mean that we always have the same ideas about the same issues. We may have differences of opinion from time to time. That is both healthy and good. There needs to be a diversity of thought and not an intellectual or spiritual totalitarianism that dictates what every single person is allowed to think and believe.
Nothing shows the world that we are different from them in our walk anymore than our being different in this specific area. When they see us at odds, we can forget the Gospel, because we will not reach them for Jesus. But, when they see us walking in unity, as it is manifested in true humility, gentleness toward one another, patient endurance of one another and loving tolerance for our differences, it will do more to reach the world than any outreach program ever devised by man. Our unity says that we are real! They may reject our truth, but they will not be able to get passed our unity.
Chuck Colson, in his book The Body, says this about John Calvin: Calvin, who saw that the Devil's chief device was disunity and division and who preached that there should be friendly fellowship for all ministers of Christ, made a similar point in a letter to a trusted colleague: Among Christians there ought to be so great a dislike of schism, as that they may always avoid it so fast as lies in their power. That there ought to prevail among them such a reverence for the ministry of the word and the sacraments that wherever they perceive these things to be, there they must consider the church to exist...nor need it be of any hindrance that some points of doctrine are not quite so pure, seeing that there is scarcely any church which has not retained some remnants of former ignorance.
Calvin was simply reminding us that we are all wrong at some point in our living and in our theology. If we are right about Jesus Christ and the Gospel, that is common ground from which we can operate together.
Its wrong for there to be a division between you and me just because we disagree about some point of doctrine. It is wrong for us to allow our personal opinions and preferences to drive wedges between us. It is wrong for me to hold so sternly to my views, and my rights that I damage the church of the living God. We must never sacrifice truth for the sake of unity. I am not preaching unity at all costs. I am preaching that we are to allow the love of God, placed in us by the Holy Spirit, to reign supreme in our lives and in our church, Ill. Rom. 5:5.
In the 17th Century an Archbishop by the name of Marco Antonio de Dominis wrote this: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. This Latin phrase roughly translates to, in necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in everything charity. That little saying speaks volumes! There are some truths that must be defended to the death, even at the cost of unity. There are some things that are open to interpretation. We are to give liberty to others in those areas and not judge them for their actions or beliefs. In everything, whether we can stand together, or whether we must separate over our difference, every action is to be motivated by the love of Christ in us for the other person!
Conc: As a church we have seen our share of disunity over the past few years. With a few exceptions, most of that has gone away. However, the scars of that turmoil are still visible. Some people who used to be here are no longer with us. The church has suffered financially. We have also suffered spiritually and emotionally. Yet, I am still saved. How about you?
If we are saved, the Holy Spirit lives within both you and me. If we allow Him to fill us with His presence and power, He will bring us to a place of absolute unity of purpose for the glory of God. When He does, we will see the Lord work around here is ways we could never imagine.
As need to gather as a church and ask the Lord to forgive us for our part in the disunity of the past.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift, Matt. 5:23-24.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven, Matt. 18:21-22.
1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith, Luke 17:1-5.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you, Eph. 4:32.
Tonto and the Lone Ranger were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden both sides were filled with Native American warriors on horses, dressed for battle.
The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, What are we going to do?
Tonto replied, "What you mean we, Whiteman?
Thats the way some in the church think, but it ought never be that way. We are in this thing together and all we have is the Lord and one another. There must be love. There must be peace. There must be unity! Will you come and pray that God will help us to work together to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?