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The Basis of Christian Unity

October 24, 2018 • Life for Leaders

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.

Ephesians 4:3-6

 

We have seen in recent Life for Leaders devotions that we are to live out our calling as God’s people by being zealous to preserve “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). Unity matters so much because it is a result of Christ’s death on the cross and because the oneness of the church figures centrally in God’s plan to unite all things in Christ (1:10; 3:10).

People sitting in a circle next to a food truck.Yet unity among Christians is more than just a means by which God is healing the cosmos. It is also a reflection of the very nature of God, the church, and the faith of those who know God. Immediately after urging us to make every effort to preserve unity, Paul writes, “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.”

The original Greek of this passage makes the connection between church unity and core theology even more obvious. The word translated as unity in verse 3 is henotes. The word translated as “one” in “one body and one Spirit” is hen. So, the oneness (henotes) of the church, that which we are to pursue eagerly, is a reflection of the one (hen) body and the one (hen) Spirit, not to mention the one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.

My mind jumps quickly to the obvious inconsistency between this vision of oneness and the reality of the church today. Yes, we are a divided body. It often seems that we who call ourselves Christians do not even share the same hope and faith. This is indeed a problem—one I can’t begin to address here—except to offer two closing reflections.

First, no matter how much we Christians might differ on matters of theology, ethics, and church order, we still have the same God: the one Spirit, the one Lord, and the one Father. This fundamental truth cannot be changed by our confusion.

Second, no matter how confusing our actual situations might be, we should, nevertheless, be zealous for the oneness of God’s people because this oneness reflects the character of God. I’m not suggesting this is easy or that it’s always clear what this means in practice. But God’s own nature, not to mention the clear exhortation of our text, urges us to make every effort to keep the unity of our Christian communities as a reflection of God’s own unity.

Something to Think About:

How do you respond to the list of “ones” in Ephesians 4:4-6?

Given the diversity of Christian theological beliefs throughout the world today, does it still make sense to speak of “one hope” or “one faith”? Why or why not?

How might you contribute to the unity of God’s people today?

Something to Do:

Meditate prayerfully on the “ones” in Ephesians 4:4-6, allowing each “one” to stir within your mind and heart. Pay close attention to what you’re thinking and feeling as you do this.

Prayer:

Gracious God, all praise be to you because you are one. In the mystery of your nature, you are Father, Son, and Spirit. Yet you are profoundly one, three in one. My mind cannot fully comprehend this. Yet I acknowledge it with wonder and worship.

O Lord, may your unity be reflected in your church. May we be united in hope and faith, in ministry and mission. Where there is division in your church, we pray for the unity that you alone can forge through the Spirit.

Lord, my ability to make a difference in your larger church is quite limited. But I can work for unity in my own church, in my fellowship with other believers, in my small group, my family, my choir, my mission team. Help me to live so as to reflect your unity in all that I do and say, so that your church might be drawn together as one. Amen.

 

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
We’re All in This Together: Teamwork and Unity

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Ephesians

2 thoughts on “The Basis of Christian Unity

  1. Unity in the Church is something that God has laid on my heart for the past 15-20 years. Back then, as a homeschooling mom with three small children and a fourth on the way, I was eager for conversation with other women, other homeschoolers. I found an incredible group of women on the forums of a Christian homeschool curriculum company, and there we discussed art, literature, film, theology, poetry, and our BHAGS–Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

    But as we discussed theology, our differences became obvious: most were evangelicals like me, some were mainline Presbyterians and Lutherans, and some were intrigued by Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Most of the women there, myself included, experienced a “crisis of denomination” rather than a “crisis of faith.” With much discussion of the Scriptures, worship, prayer, and theology, we explored the different aspects of our denominations (or lack thereof).

    Of that core group of 15 women, half became Catholic, one became Eastern Orthodox, one (myself) became Anglican, two walked away from the faith, and the rest stayed with their evangelical roots. But what God impressed upon me more than anything that no matter our differences, we worship the same Lord Christ, and as long as we agree on the “majors” of the faith in the Apostle and Nicene Creeds, we should be “fighting” on the same side against our common enemy. Satan loves division. I’m sure he gloats over the hundreds of different denominations in Christendom, all of which are certain they are the only “right” one.

    We need to set aside our “minor” differences (whatever is not included in the Creeds) and join together in unity to love everyone, serve others, and fight evil. We are on the same side, and we need to unite under the banner of Christ to love and serve unstintingly through the power of the Holy Spirit until Christ returns. That’s what these verses in Ephesians 4 remind us to do, and we’d best get to work.

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Susanne 🙂

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