Phil Cox Phil Cox

Recent Columns

Home page
Recent Columns
Previous Series
Phil's background
Preaching engagements
Creation and science
Contact Phil

Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

Unity is Relationship - Part 3

9th February 2018

Christian unity is not about organizations; it's about love. There is no unity if I don't love my brother in Christ. The New Testament is full of passages telling us how important it is that we love each other. I'll conclude this series of studies with just one more such passage, although I could have chosen several others.

Ephesians 4v1-7
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make 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 when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Paul uses his own sacrifice as the basis of his appeal to Christian unity. He'd travelled around the Middle East and Greece preaching the gospel. He'd suffered much. He'd often been beaten or stoned for preaching the truth, and he'd often been imprisoned. When he wrote this letter he was in prison again. Paul know that the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God were worth making sacrifices for, and the sacrifice he asks us to make is simply to love all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Is that too much to ask?

In all our dealings, and particularly in the church, we should be completely humble and gentle, not thinking ourselves better than other Christians, and not manipulating or abusing them verbally or in any other way. We should be patient and [bear] with one another in love, and sometimes we will need to be. Church isn't always easy, but it should always be kind, gentle and godly.

Here's a beautiful phrase: Paul urges us to Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Arguing, fighting, criticizing, ignoring or insulting a brother or sister in Christ will never make the church a holier or kinder place. Sin always makes things worse. If you want the church to be kind, gentle and godly then be kind, gentle and godly yourself. Our unity is worth every effort. Christ died to give us peace. Don't be the one who ruins it.

And then Paul tells us why we should do our utmost to maintain and improve unity between Christians:

  • There is one body: The body of Christ is the whole church - not the whole church minus the person you happen to find difficult.
  • There is one Spirit: All Christians have been given the same Holy Spirit. The person who annoys you so much has the same Holy Spirit dwelling in him as you have dwelling in you.
  • There is one hope: We all share the certain hope of living for ever in the presence of Christ. That difficult brother will be there for all eternity. You might as well start being nice to him now.
  • There is one Lord: We all serve Jesus Christ. How dare I discourage one of Christ's servants?
  • There is one faith: We all have faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus. Although we may disagree about some details of what it is to live the Christian life, what we agree about vastly outweighs what we disagree about.
  • There is one baptism: Although, sadly, we disagree about who, when and how to baptize, the fact remains that we all understand that Christians should be baptized into Christ. It is our incitation ceremony. And we (almost) go though a ceremony we believe to be baptism.
  • There is one God: The same God created us all, redeemed us all, and gave eternal life to us all. And God deserves a united church.
  • There is one Father of us all: Our heavenly Father wants his children to love each other.

Surely that should be sufficient motivation for us to tolerate, forgive, love, esteem, respect and submit to ALL our fellow-Christians.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.. God made us all different, he has given us different natural and spiritual gifts. He has given us different revelation. He has given us different temperaments, different preferences, different ideas. And He calls us to live in unity.

Difference is good, and love is good, and we need both.