Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

Title: Christian Unity


Text: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3).


Scripture Reading: 

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 

2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 

3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 

6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)


28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 

29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 

32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. 

(Ephesians 4:28-32)



10-29-03



Introduction


Paul doesn't deal with any problems in his letter to the Ephesians.  


All the news was good news from the people at Ephesus, and Paul had the glorious privilege of writing a positive letter to encourage them.  


The theme of his letter is "Christian Unity."  


Paul had established many churches, and watched them grow, so he realized that without unity, nothing else really matters.  


And with unity nothing can defeat the church.


In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul lays the foundation for Christian unity.  


In his last two chapters, he describes the practical results of unity.  


And in chapter four he deals with the heart and soul of Christian unity.  


Today, we are going to focus our attention on the fourth chapter.  


Here Paul speaks of:

1. The behavior of Christian unity.

2. The basis of Christian unity.

3. The benefits of Christian unity.


Paul begins with behavior, because it has everything to do with Christian unity.  


Often it appears that behavior is more important than beliefs, in maintaining unity in the church.  


For example, in our church there are many different beliefs about prophesy, and faith healers, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Rapture, and the gifts of the Spirit, and yet there is unity.  


But I could absolutely destroy this unity by my misbehavior.   


We occasionally hear about church splits, but very few can be traced to bad theology.  


But many church splits can be traced to behavior.  


Therefore, Paul quickly and directly deals with behavior and treats it as the main priority.   


He says, "[I] beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called" (v. 1).  


Being a Christian is a vocation, it is a calling or life's work.  


It behooves Christians to walk worthy of the source of their high and holy calling of God that they have in Christ. 


Christians are called to live for Christ and walk "even as He walked." 


But just in case the church at Ephesus doesn't understand what he's talking about, he spells it out for them.  


He lists seven characteristics of the type of behavior that builds Christian unity.  


Let's look at each of them and see what Paul had to say.


First, he says that our behavior must be compatible with our calling.  


If we are to be one of those people who can help bring Christian unity, we must conduct ourselves in a manner that doesn't reflect poorly on our calling as Christians.  


Since we bear the name of Christ we must never bring that name into disrepute.  


Remember, it doesn't make any difference what you say, if your life doesn't back up your words.  


People will judge you by what they see you do.  


So you can't promote Christian unity if you are unfriendly, if you talk about others faults, or if you are living like everyone else does.


Next, Paul says that we should be humble.


He states in the second verse of our text that we should act "with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love."  


Our lives are to be lived "With all lowliness." 


In other words, your high calling should not lead to pride, but on the contrary, it should lead to a modest opinion of yourself. 


This means unfailing humility, and a deep sense of unworthiness, in every experience and in every relationship.  


We must not be conceited, or egotistical, or proud.  


But how does humility come about?  


It comes from two things.


First, Humility comes from knowing yourself.  


Humility depends on honesty; it depends on having the courage to look at ourselves without the rose-colored spectacles of self-admiration and self-love.  


In simple terms humility comes from knowing who and what you are.  


If you are saved, then you should know that it's by the grace of God, and not because you deserve it.  


So you and I are nothing without God.  


And everything we have comes from Him.  


And anything that is "good" about us is due to the Holy Spirit, who has taken up residence in us.  


If we can just realize this, then it will be easy to be humble


Now here is the second reason for our being humble.  


We should be humble because we know Almighty God and we know the One who died to save us.  


Humility comes from comparing our life with the life of Christ.  


As long as we compare our self with others, we may come out of the comparison looking rather good.  


Friends, there is always someone that you can compare your self to and say something like, "I'm not so fat after all; just look at Mr. So-and-so."  


Or perhaps you might think to yourself, "I'm a pretty good woman; just look at the other women and you'll see that I talk about Jesus more than they do."  


But my friends, we should not be comparing ourselves to others.  


Instead, we should compare ourselves to Jesus.  


It is only when we compare ourselves to Jesus that we can see our own failures.  


None of us will come out well when compared to Him.  


Knowledge of God added to knowledge of self equals humility.


But Paul says that we are also to be gentle.


That's what he said in verse 2.  


Those who are gentle are so God-controlled that they are continually kind and gracious towards others.  


They are people who often deny themselves, and people who have the Spirit of God living within them in all of His humility.  


Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).  


This is Paul's personal testimony, which may be repeated by every believer in Christ.  


He is saying that when he believed in Jesus, the old nature was crucified, but the new man that he has become in Christ, is living.  


The new believer is crucified with Christ, yet he is spiritually alive, because he possesses life through Christ who lives within him. 


We are also told that we must be patient.


Perhaps we can think about patience like this.  


It's the spirit that has the power to take revenge, but never does so.  


Patience is the spirit that puts up with insults without becoming bitter or complaining.  


This is the opposite of being short-tempered. 


The old nature is so quick to be offended that we need longer fuses. 


The new life in Christ allows us to endure, without retaliation, any wrong that we have suffered, and then, to turn the other cheek


Paul also says that to promote Christian unity, we must be magnanimous.  


As Christians, we must make allowances for one another; we must be magnanimous towards others when their faults are revealed.  


After all, wasn't God being magnanimous to us when He forgave our sins.  


But remember, God could be magnanimous only because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.


The sixth characteristic of Christian unity is that it is loving.


We are able to bear with one another, through life's difficulties and problems, out of Christian love, not because we have a lot of grit and determination.  


The Bible teaches that "love conquers all."  


There are four Greek words for love, but the word Paul uses in verse 2 when he says, "bearing with one another in love," is the highest.  


It means that we must love others so much that nothing they do or say will keep us from loving them and wanting to do good things for them.  


Even though they mistreat and hurt us, we will feel only kindness toward them.


Lastly, Paul says that Christian unity is marked by being peaceable.  


We read in verse 3, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  


We have peace with God only by accepting His Son as our Savior.  


We can feel at peace and live peaceably with others when God's Spirit within controls us.


We have seen that the characteristics of Christian unity are: living lives that reflect our calling as Christians, humility, gentleness, patience, generosity, love, and peace.


The next thing to see is THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.


The way we behave is an important part of Christian unity.  


But for a person to behave in a way that promotes Christian unity, he or she must have a sound foundation to build their life on.  


So someone might ask, "What is the basis, the foundation, on which Christian unity is built?"  


My friends, Paul has the answer.  


In the forth chapter of Ephesians, he lays seven foundation stones.  


They are one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  


I want to comment, just briefly, on each of these foundation stones, and that will be our second point-THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.


The first three stones are one body, one Spirit and one hope.


We read in verse 4: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling."


Christ is the head of the church, and the church is one body.  


The unity of the church is essential for the work of Christ.


When there is unity, there will be oneness, and harmony, and agreement. 


Unity was apparent on the day of Pentecost when the believers "were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). 


The church is a unity in diversity, a fellowship of faith, and hope, and love that binds believers together


The verse said, "There is one body." 


The church is a living thing composed only of living members, i.e., blood-bought, born-again, Bible-believing saints. 


This one body has one Head and many members. 


And there is one Spirit. 


The Holy Spirit is the life and breath of that body, and He was involved in the salvation of each member. 


The last part of the verse states that there is "one hope of your calling."  


Here Paul is talking about the goal that is set before all believers.  


They will be taken out of this world and into the presence of Christ. 


This is the blessed hope.


Let's read verse 5 again: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism."  


"One Lord" refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.  


His lordship over the church is what brings into existence the unity of the church.


"One faith" refers to the body of truth called the apostles doctrine in Acts 2:42.  


Today, we would say that truth is found in the Bible.


When true doctrine is denied it causes divisions.  


There must be a substance to form an adhesion of believers.  


And that substance that binds us together is true doctrine.


"One baptism" is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is real baptism.  


Ritual baptism is by water.  


Water baptism is a symbol of the real baptism of the Holy Spirit, by which believers are actually made one.


Verse 6 stated, "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."  


When I read this verse I am made to believe that Paul was a southerner, because he ends the verse with "you all."  


The subject of this verse is the fatherhood of God.  


He is our heavenly Father, and as such, He watches over us and cares for us.  


Since there is only one Father, He is not the Father of unbelievers.  


Sonship can only come through Christ.  


The unity of believers produces a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers.   


He is Father of all those who are His through faith in His Son.  


My friends, there is only one God, and He is not Buddha or Allah.  


The One God unites us into the one family of God.  


Paul says four things about the one God.

1. He is Father of all--that is, He created all.

2. He is above all--that is, He controls all.

3. He is through all--that is, He sustains all.

4. He is in all--that is, He is present everywhere.


The last point to the message is the BENEFITS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.


It is to be expected that someone might ask, "Why all the fuss about unity?  Does it really make that much difference?  What are the benefits of Christian unity?"


The last five verses of this chapter list the benefits of Christian unity.  


Here is where we learn that unity in the church does make a difference--a big difference.  


Let's look at what happens when there is unity in the church.


First, conduct changes.


Let's read verse 28 again.


"Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."


When there is unity, there is a change in conduct.  


No longer do we ask, "What can I do?" but rather we ask "What can I share?"  


When we are united in letting the Holy Spirit fill us, and united in allowing the hope of heaven to challenge us, and united in allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to guide us, our conduct is changed.


Second, our conversation is clean. 


Verse 29 says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth."  


It's difficult, if not impossible, to be in unity with God and His people and still have a filthy mouth.  


An ancient proverb says, "The heart of man is a well, and the mouth of man is a bucket, and that which is in the well of the heart can be determined by what is in the bucket of the mouth."


What Paul is saying in verse 29 is this.  


Don't use foul language, for any reason. 


Corrupt speech comes from a corrupt heart, and pure speech comes from a pure heart. 


Corrupt speech is like rotten fruit or a decaying fish. 


Corrupt speech will contaminate the thoughts of others. 


But speech which is good to use will build up others. 


We must watch our words and be careful that our speech is "always with grace, seasoned with salt" according to Colossians 4:6. 


Our speech should convey a blessing, not blight. 


If a rotten word is found in the mind, shut it off at the mouth.


My friends, you have been set free from the old life, so why live in those old sins anymore? 


Anything evil from the old life that is brought into the new life will give the devil a beachhead. 


Paul names such things as lying, losing your temper, stealing, corrupt speech, bitterness, and an unforgiving spirit. 


These sins invite Satan into your life, and they hurt you, and they harm the church, and they grieve the Spirit of God. 


Is it worth it?


Next, we see from verse 30 that when there is unity commitment will be deepened.


The verse reads, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."


When we live each moment aware that there is only one Holy Spirit by whom we have been born again, we want to do nothing that would grieve Him.  


One of the benefits of Christian Unity is that we reach a level of Christian commitment beyond which we will not grieve the Holy Spirit.


In verse 31 Paul said, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice."


He is saying that, if you want unity, you must eliminate the conflict.


Unity gets rid of conflict.  


Conflict comes from "the sins of the spirit."  


Paul has dealt with the sins of the flesh (stealing, foul language, etc.).  


Now he deals with the sins of the spirit--or you could call them Christian sins.  


These are identified as "bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  


Malice is wickedness, hatred, spite, meanness and nastiness.  


But praise God, when we are one in Christ we are free from all these types of disruptive behavior.


Finally, Paul says in verse 32 that kindness will be practiced.  


We all know how to be kind, don't we?  


To be kind means simply to be thoughtful and considerate of others.


Conclusion


When the Roman soldiers, who were on guard at Jesus' crucifixion, were dividing up His clothes, they came to His coat and they discovered that it was seamless.  


If they tore it, it would be ruined.  


Therefore, they decided to keep it and to cast lots for it.  


The seamless robe of Christ has become a symbol for the unity of the church.  


Henry Ward Beacher prayed that the church might be one again, like the seamless robe of His Lord.  


This very appropriate symbol is a thing of great beauty for those who are believers.  


Strife and divisions within the church have been ugly efforts to tear into pieces the sacred garment of truth.  


The Crucified One must look down sadly at the miserable conflict between those He died to redeem.  


His look of love and sorrow is reminiscent of His prayer, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved Me." (John 17:23)


Amen.



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