Unity in Christ
Revised on 3/2/06
Lesson Text: Ephesians 4:1-6
Preached in Southbridge on 8/8/04
Preached in Worchester on 3/5/06
Thomas Carlyle said, "Ten men banded together in love and unity can do what ten thousand separately would fail to do."
This Morning I would like to talk about Unity.
b) Definition of Unity
The Definition of Unity is:
1: the quality or state of not being multiple. ONENESS (2): a condition of harmony. ACCORD 3: the quality or state of being made one
2) United in the one Jesus
How are we in this room united? Are we united? Well, those of us who are Christians might say well we are united in Christ, by His body and blood shed on the Cross for our sins. And that would be the right answer. That’s true, but what does that mean? And how do we grow in our understanding of unity with one another?
The first thing we need to look at is; who is Jesus? Because the Bible teaches that Christians are united to other Christians in a very special way. United in what is called the body of Christ. But again who are we talking about?
Mat 16:13-16 ESV Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (14) And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (15) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (16) Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus in Matthew 16:13-16 asked the disciples a question, He wanted to know who people said He was and the disciples said “people are saying you are Elijah or one of the other prophets” all kinds of different views. Then Jesus asked who do you say I am? and Peter said you are the Christ the son of the living God. Peter proclaims Jesus’ deity and his humanity. Jesus asked the disciples and important question who do you say I am. We are asked that same question. Who do you say Jesus is?
We need to believe in the same Jesus, the biblical Jesus. If we all have a different Jesus then we are not going to be united in the one Lord, the one faith. Ephesians 4:3-6 says:
Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.
So we can see from this passage that there is only one Lord and we know that this Lord is Jesus Christ. But the question still remains who is this Lord? Who is Jesus?
If we ask this same question today you end up with many different answers.
a) Some say Jesus was just a good teacher or a prophet but that is not what the Bible teaches. The bible teaches us that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was and is much more than that. In John 14:6 Jesus said himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Far from being just a good teacher or just a prophet Christ says that He alone is the way to the Father. That He alone is the truth. That He alone is Life.
b) Some say that Jesus was an angel or some other created being or that he was a spirit and never really walked the earth but again that is not what the Bible teaches. In John 1:1 we are told that Jesus is God, very clearly, people through out history have tried to change and twist the word of God to deny the Truth of Christ’s deity. In Titus 2:13 it states: we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”
John says in John 1:1 that the word was with God and the word was, as to his nature, God and in John 1:14 says the word became flesh. The Word is the pre-incarnate Jesus. Jesus was God in the flesh. Fully God and fully man.
We must believe and put our faith in the one Biblical Jesus if we are to be united in the one Lord and the One Faith.
Does that mean if we don’t all believe in the Jesus of the Bible that we cannot talk and enjoy each others company? No, but it does mean that we are not united in Christ. People may say I believe in Jesus. But who is that Jesus you believe in? It’s not the name Jesus that is important it’s who you believe Jesus was and is. There is only one Jesus who is Lord and God, who is prophet, priest, and king.
It is only in the biblical Jesus that we can find life and find unity.
3) United in what we believe and teach
This next point is related to the first point. And that is that we need to have the same biblical beliefs and teach the same things. That is the foundational things. Those things that are clear in scripture those things that are foundational to the faith.
1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
The word that here is translated agree is the Greek word LEGO and can also be translated speak so some translations say all of you speak the same things. Are we going to differ on some things? Yes, but we need to be united in the major foundational truths of the Bible. God knows that we are all in a processes of learning and understanding. Some people are at a level of fuller understanding than myself. We are all at differing levels, but to deny the foundational doctrines of the Bible because we may not fully understand them is not only unwise but leads to disunity and not unity. For example some of the foundational truths of the Bible are:
a) There is only one God. That’s an undeniable fact. Over and over again we are told that there is only one God Isaiah 45:5 says:
Isa 45:5 ESV I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God;
And Isaiah 46:9 says:
Isa 46:9 ESV remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
and yet this one God is revealed in the scriptures as three persons. The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In John 1:1 the son is called God, in Acts 5:1-9 the Holy Spirit is called God, and in 1 Corinthians 1:3 and other places yet there is not three gods but One.
That is just what the word of God states. God never asks us to reason through His nature we are told it’s true and to believe it.
We are told that the Christ was born of a virgin, that he lived a sinless life.
a) We are saved by grace thought faith in Jesus at the point of baptism. Acts 2:37-38. These are foundational and plain. We have to believe what the Bible teaches.
Jesus, in John 17 is praying to the father and in vs. 20 He says that the prayer He is praying is not only for the Apostles but for all who will believe in Him through their message (all the Apostles taught the same thing from one Church to another if they didn’t there would have been chaos and disunity 1 Corinthians 4:17 says: That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.)
Christ continues in John 17 with his prayer to say that we all might be one. Unity in Christ is linked with what we believe and teach.
1John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
There are basic foundational truths in the Bible that have got to be believed or we are not going to be united in the one Faith.
Does that mean that we are going to agree on all things? No, were all sinful and like I stated before we are all at differing levels of understanding, but on the foundational things we have to agree.
Someone might ask what are some things we might disagree on?
The question, Is it alright for a Christian to drink alcohol or not? There are some who say it’s ok, and others say a Christian should abstain from drinking alcohol. We know that we are not to be drunkards and those who are will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
1Corinthians 6:9-10 says: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God
We can hold differing views on things that are not foundational. Now let me say that the Bible does say that we are to give up our freedoms for the weak brother or sister so that we won’t cause them to stumble and fall. And there are issues on conscience but we don’t have the time to go into that. But it is important that we all have the same foundational beliefs in order to be united together in Christ. And those beliefs have got to come from the Word of God.
4) United in Love for one another
If we all believe in the biblical Jesus and all are baptized into Christ and all believe and teach the same things but we do not have love for one another we will not be united. One of the most important things is to Love. To love one another and others. Paul labors this point in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 often called the Love chapter. He talks about tongs and prophesy and all kinds of miraculous gifts and says if you have all these gifts of the spirit but don’t have Love you have nothing.
1Co 13:1-3 ESV If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
But what is love? What are we talking about? How do we know what Love is? Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 14:4
1Co 13:4-8 ESV Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends.
In 1John 3:16-19 it says:
By this we know love, that he (Jesus) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. but if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
The type of love we are talking about is a sacrificial love not a love of fluffy feelings kind of love. Love is an action word, loves does things not just talks.
When there is a need love goes out of its way to provide for that need. We all had a need for a savior and Jesus went out of his way and suffered and died to give us life and provide for that need.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We are called to a humble, sacrificial, self-denying love.
The scriptures are clear and plain. God is Love and we are to Love as Christ loved. We are to put others ahead of ourselves. We are to put the welfare and needs of others ahead of ours.
You know Jesus tells us how all people will be able to tell who are His. In John 13:35 He says:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
As I was going through the scriptures preparing for this sermon I found quit a lot of scriptures that state that we are to love one another in those exact words. I have a list of these Scriptures that state that we should Love one another. I am not going to read them but if you have a pen and paper you might like to write them down for your own study or if you have a concordance you can look up these words.
1 John 4:12, 4:11, 4:7, 3:23, 3:11, 1 Peter 4:8, 1:22, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 3:12, Ephesians 4:2, John 13:35, 13:34, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Romans 13:8, 12:10, John 15:17, 15:12.
And you know this by no means an exhaustive list but I hope you can see from this list how important it is that we have love for one another. God doesn’t repeat things for no reason.
Over and over again we are told to love one another now we are not to stop at Christians; we are to love everyone, even our enemies but we have been looking at loving one another as an aspect of Christian unity.
But let me ask this; how can we love our enemies if we can’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ? And who can we love a Christ that we don’t know? How can we meet the needs of other Christians if we don’t talk to them or know them or have a relationship with them?
How quick do we leave this building when service is over? How long have I been a Christian and have never taken the time to get to know the Christian on the other side of the room?
We are never going to be able to love our enemies if we can’t love those who are in the family of God. Galatians 6:10
Gal 6:10 ESV So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
a) We have looked at three points that are all connected and have to do with being united in Christ. We looked at:
1) Knowing the biblical Jesus
2) Teaching and preaching the foundational biblical truths
I would like to conclude with Paul’s words:
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
May God bless us all as we seek unity with one another in Christ Jesus.