Friday, November 18, 2016

Unity of the Spirit Ephesians 4:1-6 Sermon

Ephesians 4:1-6
The Unity of the Spirit
Sermon Notes
Lynchburg, Virginia

         As we look at Ephesians today, and particularly at the Unity of the Spirit, we should keep in mind both the fact of the matter and the exhortation of the Spirit.
         We are united in Christ. Christ is one and cannot be divided so all those in Him are in fact united. At the end of all things in the Resurrection, we will see that this is true. That is part of the decree and cannot be altered.
         But we also live our lives, day to day, in the church, in this church, in our homes and among the brotherhood. Because Christ is one and we are one in Christ, the Spirit calls us to live out that reality here and now. This unity is accomplished when we love one another.
         The love of the brothers and sisters is manifested most gloriously when we treat others the way that God has treated us, namely better than we deserve. That is easy to say and hard to live. We understand this truth when we think of our standing before a holy God. He forgave us in Jesus and if we had been left to ourselves we would be in trouble. So, we gladly receive His forgiveness and are welcome into His presence.
         But then we want others to treat us the way we think we deserve to be treated. And it is difficult for us to love them if they do not earn our love, or merit our love. We are prone to keep a record of wrongs. That is not endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
         The better way, the Christ-like way, is to keep no record of wrongs, to freely forgive, the way you have been freely forgiven, to think lowly enough of yourself that you are even difficult to offend and to the best of your ability to desire peace with all men. This is the high calling in Jesus Christ.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Paul again reminds the Ephesians that he is a prisoner of the Lord. He is certainly a prisoner. He is a prisoner of the Romans but sees this as secondary. He sees himself as doing all that He does for Jesus. He is imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. He is not ashamed of this and encourages the Ephesians to not be ashamed either. This imprisonment is for the glory of the Lord and also redounds to the glory and benefit of the Ephesian saints.
Paul is going to Caesar and the sentence of death hangs over him. He is like a pastor with a death sentence due to cancer, who’s only concern is to continue to minister to the true needs of the saints.
We should pay attention to this. What follows from Paul are some basic exhortations to practical obedience. We should glean from Paul’s priority what our priorities should be.
We tend to think of a vocation as a job. But that is not what Paul is talking about here. He is reminding us that God has called us to Himself in Jesus Christ. We have been called into the family of God. We have been made children of our Father in Heaven. He is reminding us to be true to this calling. We are to live out our lives in Christ according to the word of Jesus.
This exhortation by Paul is very nearly a command to obey the third commandment. Do not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain. Do not take the name of Jesus upon you and then live out a life inconsistent with His family.

What is the character of this calling?

With all lowliness The Christian life is inconsistent with high mindedness. It is unworthy for Christians to think more highly of themselves than they think of others. Don’t rush past this. We know this language. We know that we are to esteem others higher than ourselves We know that we are not to think ourselves above others. We can pass the test.
But what do we do? It is not only what we say. We can use words that reveal our hearts. But what do we think? How do we judge our brothers? How do we pat ourselves on the back because we think we are relatively better than other people? If we really do think we are better because of our good deeds, then we are not being lowly.
         But you protest. We really are better, aren’t we? I see these people over there who are not being obedient to the Bible. There are Christians who live in scandalous sin. There are unbelievers who do not care what God thinks. Aren’t I better than them? Can’t I pat myself on the back for that advancement?
         Hold on! How did Paul deal with this? He said that he was not even on the same level as the Ephesians. He says that they are way above him. In point of fact, Paul was an Apostle of the Lord Jesus. He was called, specifically by Jesus, and Jesus appeared to Paul in a way that he appeared to no one else. Paul was faithful to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He withstood rebellious Jews.  He was beaten and uncowed. This Paul says he is the chief of sinners. This Paul says he is the least of all saints.
         Can we relate to this? Can we say that of ourselves we are in the same place as Paul the chief of sinners? It is important that we get this so that we can begin to desire God’s blessing on those around us, whether they are Christians or not. Do we really desire God’s blessings on others? Even if that blessing means that they far surpass us in blessings and in the eyes of men? Are you happy when men think your brother or sister, or co-worker, or fellow congregant is more godly than you are? Or, does it ruffle your feathers when others receive blessings you think they do not deserve? Or, do you get angry or frustrated when others are honored above you?
         If so, then you should pray to cultivate lowliness.

and meekness- gentleness
with longsuffering- patience
forbearing one another in love- this means putting up with one another. This is not the same thing as rejoicing in the life of the saints. When others treat us well, it is easy to love them. That is not what this is talking about. It is talking about forebearance, putting up with trouble, putting up with those who would otherwise frustrate you. In the life of the church, we are called to love the unlovely. You can really only do this if you have lowliness of mind.

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
         Why are we to walk worthy?
         First of all, to honor our Lord who bought us. We do what pleases Him. We have become His children and so we are to act in accord with His name.
         But to what end? The end of good behavior in Jesus Christ is the unity of the Spirit. He wants us to be united in Jesus Christ. He wants us to be one in Jesus. He wants us to get along with one another. He wants us put up with each other. He wants us to endure with each other. He wants us to love one another.
Bond- band, tie, joint tie like a ligament. What is that bond? What is it that ties us together? What holds us together? Peace. Of course, this peace is the peace of Christ, given to each one of us through the forgiveness of sins. But it is not just peace with God. This peace must expand to hold us together with one another as well.
         We should keep in mind the Lord’s Prayer here. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Do you see the connection? We have peace with God because He has forgiven us our sins. How can we have peace with others? We must forgive them their sins. If you will not forgive sins, then you will not have peace with others. This will cause you enough trouble here on Earth. You will be irritated, angry, bitter, resentful, vengeful and full of wrath. The end of that road is an ugly one.
         Unforgiveness, persisted in, does not end with trouble with mankind. If you retain sins and walk in bitterness of soul, then you will also have trouble with God.
Remember the qualification to the Lord’s Prayer Matt. 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In our lives together, the Lord puts a high value on unity of Spirit. It makes sense that this unity of Spirit develops a unity of mind and action.
Some have complained that our congregation is too homogenous, of the same or similar kind of nature. There is an insinuation in this that we are not diverse enough to include those who make the homogenous claim. But is that true? Are we all the same?
Some are old and some young. Some athletic, some clutzy. Some are healthy and some are suffering. Some have horrid backgrounds and some have a pretty clean slate. Some are white collar, highly educated professionals and some are blue collar workers. We have homeschoolers, private schoolers, online schoolers, government schoolers. Stay at home moms and working moms. We have foodies and junk fooders. We have health nuts and couch potatoes.
What is homogenous about this? I can tell you. They all love Jesus. They all believe the Bible to be the absolute end of the argument. They all embrace the glory of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. They all agree that they must be at peace with God and men and there is no room for disunity in the diversity of the body. That insistence on unity is the homogenous bond of peace.
Through the years there have been a few words that have been buzzwords for disunity in the church. The first is duplicitous, being of two minds. The accusation is that the pastor, elder or teacher speaks out of two sides of his mouth. I suppose it is possible that someone who uses that word is speaking forthrightly themselves but my experience is that the accuser usually has an agenda to attack the man rather than the truth of the man. So, I have grown wary of those who accuse of duplicity and weary of the word itself.
I have a growing antipathy to homogenous. If it were truth, a homogenous body would be one without Spirit and Son, worshippers of unity without triunity, embracers of unity without diversity. But those in the Spirit cannot be such. Those in the Son cannot be such. As Bonhoffer notes, if we love the Christ in the body, then we cannot be homogenous in our walking out of the life of the body. We must be careful, then, to love Jesus in others and not our own distinctions in others. For if we do that, then our unity is in something other than that which is God-ordained and we really do have something to fear. But I believe in better things for you, Providence Church, things that accompany salvation, a unity of Spirit, in the bond of peace, centered in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we start with Jesus, if we walk in His Spirit, then our unity will be manifest by our love for one another and will result in a growing like mindedness that redounds to the glory of God. We will look more and more the same because we will reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. If that be homogeneity, we’ll take it.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 
One Body- That body is the body of Christ. The body of Christ is not divided. All members of Christ are members of His body.
One Spirit- It is also true that there is only one Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Because there is only one Spirit, there must be unity in the revelation and work of that Spirit. The Word revealed by God cannot be of two minds. There is not two words in the Bible. The truth revealed there is cohesive. It holds together. There are parts of Scripture that need study and explaining. There are parts where good and faithful men disagree. But the word is not double-minded. The Word, itself, stands sure. We must get our minds around this.
Now, it is also the case, that most of the Bible is clear. Most of it is not stuck in dispute. Most of it is straightforward and easy to understand. As we move into the latter chapters of Ephesians, this is very clear. The Apostle tells us many things to do. Those commands are not unclear. We must simply obey the words of the Spirit revealed there.
So, we must distinguish those things that talk about the decretal will of God and those things that are related to His prescriptive will for us. Things related to the decree are harder to nail down because they are related to God in His essence. We can know a great deal about the nature of God because He has revealed His nature to us. But God still remains inscrutable in many ways. This is why He sent His Son to live with us and die for us, so that we could know Him. But we who are finite can never attain a complete knowledge of the infinite, not now, not ever. The absolute knowledge of God will always be out of our grasp. We will always be learning, always getting to know Him, more and more, forever. This is an encouraging thought for our lives in eternity. The newness of the knowledge of God will never wax old.
One Hope- God’s forgiveness here and now, what we call being born again, filled with the Spirit, saved. And the hope of the Resurrection, God’s promise of salvation to us that is permanent.

The following Triumvirate go together. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. They all point to Jesus Christ. He is the Lord. We have faith in Him. We are baptized into Jesus.
5 One Lord- This is the Lord Jesus. So, it marks out the fact that there is one ruler of all but we must also note that this verse is talking about Jesus, not just God. He is saying that Jesus is that one Lord. Jesus is ruler of all creation. Because there is only one Lord, no other so-called lords are really lords at all. Only Jesus is the ruler of all.

one faith- Our faith is planted solidly on the Son of God. Thus, we are not a people of faith. We reject that modern, liberal interpretation. We do not have faith in faith. We do not have faith in religion. We do not have faith in Buddah, or Allah, or a numerous host of idols. Our faith is faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Faith in anything or anyone else is a hopeless faith.

one baptism- Because these three go together, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, only Christian baptism is true connection to the unity of the Spirit. Baptism is being named Christian. It is being washed in the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. It is being born into the kingdom of God through the waters of life. It is being identified with the bride of Christ, the Christian Church. No other washing will save. There are not multiple baptisms. All true baptisms are baptisms into Jesus, naming in Jesus, being saved by Christ.

6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. This is where the Apostle has been going all along with his line of reasoning. There are not multiple lords. There are not multiple faiths. There are not multiple churches. There are not multiple Spirits. There are not multiple truths. This is true because there are not multiple gods in the world. There is only one God. He alone is our Father, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sender of the Spirit.
You may think I am spending too much time on this. Don’t we have it already? No, we don’t. Our culture is beating us down on this. They say that there are many truths, many gods, many spirits, many faiths, many ways to be saved. They do not want us to be exclusive, claiming salvation only in Jesus.
You children growing up in this church are going to be hit with this from every conceivable direction. The mainstream media is going to lie to you every chance they get. In movies, on television, on the internet, on the radio, in print, they are going to say that Jesus is not the only way. They are going to say that Christians are unloving because they keep others away from peace and comfort in their faith, in their lie. But you must remember what you have learned here. You must remember your catechism. You must remember your Bible, one Lord Jesus, one faith in Christ alone, one baptism into Jesus and His Church, one Spirit that leads according to the revealed word in the Bible.

How many Gods are there? There is but one only the living and true God.

I pray that God will write this upon the doorposts of your hearts such that it can never be removed that God is very interested in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We have some difficult things to talk about this afternoon. Things that threaten our unity, our peace. But we should be endeavoring to keep that unity and doing so through the bond of peace. How do we do so?
With all lowliness and meekness. With longsuffering, that is patience with one another and putting up with one another, even putting up with one another’s sins, because we love each other.
Eph. 4:2   With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;  3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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