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Unity in the Body of Christ

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:49
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Introduction

Ephesians 4:1–6 CSB
Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

A Bad Experience at Church

I remember vividly a conversation I had once with a person about the church. You see this specific person said to me that they were a believer in Christ but would never attend a church.
Of course, being a pastor and also a strong believer in the calling of the church. I had to ask, why? He went on to tell me that he and his wife had attended church as youngsters and had even started to raise their children in the church.
They were very involved in music and some other things within the setting of their church. He said all was well until an announcement came that their pastor was leaving and the church was being sent a new one. (They were in a denomination that placed pastors rather then hired them)
Anyway, to make a long story short the new pastor was a little overbearing and hard to get along with. This caused problems with this specific family and they left.
They went on to find a new church home, but just after settling into this setting the church split and became very unsettled. Again, this particular family was upset and left due to the problems their new church was having. So, he concluded, “here we are with no church and no desire to ever find one again.”

But Church is The Body of Christ

I went on trying to convince this person of the need for a church home but he would always decline. In fact, later in the evening he pulled some scripture out to challenge me about church. He read me the passage that I just read you and pointed out the words, One Lord, One faith, one baptism. He then asked me, “Do all the churches in this town share one faith and one baptism?
The moment seemed to hang for an hour as I considered how to answer. As I was considering things from their perspective I could see how they had come to think that the church could not possibly be what it claimed to be, the one body of Christ united in Spirit, hope, Saviour, faith, baptism and God.

Church History is a Mess

In fact, as we look over the history of the Christian church we find a battlefield littered with broken denominations, churches and people. In the past decade, the term ‘Worship Wars’ has become familiar in many churches.
Churches where generations wage war over weather God prefers hymns or choruses. Sadly, there are many believers who have departed from their church based on those disagreements.
Why do churches split? In my lifetime, I have not personally been involved in a split but I have watched a few around me. The one thing I did notice as a person from the outside looking in is that the primary issue was not usually about doctrine.

Paul Gives us Instructions on How to Live “in Christ”

Paul begins here in chapter four to tell us about how we live in Christ. He has spent the last three chapters in Ephesians telling us about the riches we have received from Christ, on no account of our behavior or ourselves.
Paul’s instructions here are meant to introduce the entire second section relating to Christian living.
So, these words are especially significant. If you can master these truths you will have no problem with the rest of the lifestyle changes that will come in subsequent chapters.
The words of Paul here are the key to living our lives in a manner worthy of the call of Salvation.

Four Attitudes we are Called to Live

This teaching can be broken into four attitudes the believer is called to act upon in order to live in light of the reality created in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

We should strive for unity through Humility.

Who in this room would consider themselves humble?
If anyone raised their hands, or even considered raising their hands, you lack humility.

Humility is not common

Humility is not a popular word. You will not find many politicians who could include it among their list of attributes.
The great rulers of the business world probably didn’t attain their position by living with humility. Although a recent study of the top CEO’s in the world tells us different. Some of the top CEO’s actually show traits of a humility.
The most famous and beautiful people in Hollywood are probably not famous for their humility.
In fact, one of the key sayings in North American culture today would be “if you want something go out and get it.”
And, “don’t let anyone get in your way.” Or “Grab all the gusto you can get because you only go around once.”

Scripture Teaches Humility

How different is this teaching of Paul’s? If we belong to Jesus Christ that we are to walk worthy of the call we have received. Paul is telling us here that the first way to do this is by walking with humility.
Near the end of Jesus life his disciples began to have a dispute about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The Gospel of Mark gives us the story:
Mark 9:33–35 CSB
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
And throughout Jesus life he demonstrated that humility through his lifestyle.
In the Gospel according to Luke Jesus tells a parable about humility.
Luke 14:7–11 CSB
He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How embarrassing it will be for those who have set themselves up in a position they thought they deserved, when they come face to face with their Saviour to have him say, “You have elevated yourself beyond your station and you must be humbled.”
Far better to live in humility and meet the Saviour and have him raise you up.
If the measure of our spiritual walk is the degree of humility we have, then how well have we done?
If you wonder what the standard of measure is, it is the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, he was the greatest of all servants, he humbled himself to the lowest degree, when we are as humble as Jesus we will be walking worthy of the call we have received.

We should strive for unity through meekness (gentleness)

When you hear the words meek or gentle, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Often it is week, or a pushover.
Some of the greatest men who ever lived have been described as meek or gentle.
Moses was called meek; did that mean that he was weak? By no means, Moses went toe to toe with the Pharaoh of Egypt, demanding that he release his nation of slaves of suffer the wrath of God. But in spite of the humiliating way in which the Pharaoh treated him and his people he never lashed out, he simply kept his cool and kept obeying God.
In more modern days we discover that Abraham Lincoln had the reputation of being meek. In fact, it was that meekness that allowed him to remain cool among the heat of opinions and battles raging around the US during the Civil War. No one would ever consider calling Abe Lincoln a wimp.

Jesus is the Best Example of Gentleness

The greatest example of meekness is Jesus of course.
Over and over again he is put to the test.
The Pharisees showed up and called him the servant of Beelzebub, but he didn’t retaliate.
When they arrested him in the garden he stilled Peter’s hand of vengeance.
When they brought in false witnesses to lie about him he stood in silence, when they brought him before the most powerful official in the land to accuse him even the governor was amazed at his personal control.
But no one mistook Jesus as a weakling, in fact Jesus was the one who stormed the temple courts when the people were being cheated and abused by the moneychangers.
Jesus was the one who stood up for the woman caught in adultery when all the good religious people were ready to do her in. Jesus was hardly a weakling!

We Should Strive to be Gentle

I have been in many church meetings where a little bit of gentleness would have gone a long way.
The next time you find yourself getting warm under the collar that would be a good time to start praying for a little bit of meekness.
Anyone can blowup all over the place, but Paul says that God judges our spiritual walk by the manner in which we conduct ourselves when we are under attack.
What would church be like if every believer lived the reality of their faith and chose to bite their tongue rather that always making their opinion known?
What if we chose gentleness as a daily rule? Are we walking worthy of the call we have received with God?

We should strive for unity through longsuffering and tolerance.

Longsuffering is a compound word, which means just that. Long. Suffering.
In Isaiah 53 we read that the promised messiah would be oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.’

What if Jesus Gave Up

When you think that you have had just about enough consider for a moment what would have happened if Jesus had said just that.
What if he would have said, ‘That’s it, I don’t deserve to be treated like this.’ He would never have stayed with his disciples, he would never have tolerated the abuse of the Pharisees, he would have given up on spending time with sinners, and he would have never gone to the cross.
Are you ready for a radical though? As a believer in Jesus Christ you have surrendered your right to claim your rights.

Bearing with One Another

Related closely to the idea of long suffering is the idea of bearing with one another in love. The word we might use to summarize this concept is the word tolerance. In any relationship, there is friction. In a marriage, there are differences of ideas and personalities, but if a marriage is going to work there must be tolerance, and if it is to work well, there must be tolerance demonstrated with love.
In every church, you will discover little differences, things that are distinct or different. Sometimes they seem quaint, or endearing, sometimes they seem much more intimidating, but by in large the majority of these things that divide the Christian church are peripheral issues which have no bearing on the unity which God has set up. They actually show our diversity as Christians.

Diversity is a Good Thing, Not a Dividing Thing

One person may worship with a pipe organ and piano; another may worship with electric guitar and a set of drums. But if both have put their trust in Jesus, they are part of the same body the one body that Paul speaks of here, and the issue of worship is secondary to the unity of the Spirit.
One person may read only from the King James Version of the bible, another may use a new paraphrased version. But if they both have trusted Jesus they are a part of the one body and are one in the Spirit.
The fact is we are all different, but we have been made one. We may have different personalities and respond differently to the challenges in life. We may have different leadership techniques and different tastes in music, but in Christ we are one.

We should strive for unity through the bond of peace.

Finally, Paul brings us to the logical conclusion of these instructions, urging us to keep unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I think it is important to make note of something that scripture brings up when it comes to dealing with right behavior and attitude.
The oneness is always laid at our own feet. We are naturally inclined to want to change the attitudes of others, or to make them behave differently.
But Paul doesn’t even bring the other party into this picture; he puts all the emphasis on you. YOU, endeavor to keep the bond of peace.
Romans 12:18 CSB
If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Conclusion

The model from which Paul draws his teaching should be familiar to you. What is required for a believer to walk worthy of their calling?
Well we have been called to be holy and blameless before God, we have been called to be children of God. Should it surprise us that when we walk in the reality of our calling we will resemble Jesus?

Jesus is the Perfect Picture of What Paul Teaches on Unity

Think about it. Jesus was the perfect picture of all these areas. He was the humblest of men, he was meek and gentle, and he was longsuffering and willing to bear with us in love. The unity we now have in the Spirit, the bond of peace that has been created is the one Christ made.
When I began today I was telling you about a friend of mine that was struggling with the question of the reality of the church. Well the answer is this.
The true church shares one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism and one God and father. If that is the reality we possess isn’t it time we begin to live in it. Instead of trying to get our way, why don’t we seek the ways of Christ?
Jesus Christ makes us One, even though we have differences.
Big Idea: We are all one in Christ Jesus, the church is diverse and complicated, but it’s the body of Christ, called to be holy. This means we must learn to be diverse and accept our brothers and sisters as one.

Your Being Called to Change

What area in life is God calling on you to change?
Do you need to adopt an attitude of humility towards your fellow believers?
Do you need to be gentler, and control your words, thoughts and actions towards others?
Perhaps you need to be reminded that we are meant to be longsuffering and patient with one another. Or maybe we need to pray that God would allow us to tolerate a brother or sister in love.
I know these things are very hard to except and even harder to realize but when we seek to live the reality that God has brought us into, the testimony of the church will be witnessed by the world, and our friends and neighbors will better understand the reality of what God has done.
The hardest part of this message is getting it past our ears and into our attitudes, but the result is worth it.
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