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Walk In Unity

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians celebrates the miracle of the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church consists of all those who believe in the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. This Church is known only to God because true faith is hidden in the hearts of people. Luther celebrates this wonder in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “In the same way He {the Holy Spirit} calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” You were called by the Holy Spirit to be a part of this Body of Christ. The Apostle now urges you to walk (live a life) consistent with this high calling.

All believers are joined together in the unity of the Spirit. This is a unity created by the Holy Spirit. The Church is a creation of God the Father who “chose us in Him {Christ} before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4). God made us alive together with Christ: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). The mystery of this salvation is that both Jews and Gentiles are made one in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-16). The unity of the Spirit describes what we are as believers–one body in Christ, and what we have–one Spirit. This unity created by the Spirit is described in Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

A Miracle Of Faith

This unity is not produced by man’s efforts or through outward organization. The emphasis today is on achieving organizational unity often at the cost of faithfulness to the Word of God. The unity we enjoy is not brought into existence or preserved by synodical resolutions, by liturgical customs, by external rules, or by loyalty to an organization. The unity produced by the Holy Spirit exists because, as believers, we are one body, and we are united in the one true faith. Our unity is a miracle of faith.

God wants us then to live a life that reflects the reality of this unity “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We cannot bring this unity into existence, but we are to endeavor to retain or preserve this precious unity of the Spirit. The Greek indicates that we are to hurry or to hasten, that is, to be zealous or eager, to take pains in order to keep, guard, or preserve this unity of the Spirit.

The Lord in this section explains how this unity of the Spirit is preserved. It is noteworthy that the attitudes of pride, arrogance, and impatience with others tears down the unity created by the Spirit. History shows that doctrinal questions are often made worse by egos, by remembered wrongs, or by a lack of patience with the weaknesses of others. Too often church controversies are exacerbated by a conflict of personalities and personal attacks. There is a very real danger in the midst of controversies to show little concern for the body of Christ and the unity of the Spirit. These wrong attitudes are excused as a contending for the truth. Sometimes even those who are right are right in such a way that harm is done to the body of Christ.

These verses in Ephesians 4 call for a true denial of our sinful selves. We are to be clothed with the lowliness or humility of Christ who humbled Himself to the point of the cross. We are to be filled with a gentleness or meekness which gladly serves others. We are to be people who are long-suffering and who are not put off by the failures of others. And finally we are to bear with or put up with one another in love. It is the love of Christ that ties all these attributes together. It is the love of Christ that enables us to be diligent in seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit.

Care In Controversy

Doctrinal unity is very important. Later in this chapter we are urged “to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:13-14). But doctrinal unity is not an end in itself. The purpose of this unity is that “speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ” (Eph. 4:15-16).

We need to remember that preserving the unity produced by the Spirit involves lowliness, gentleness, long-suffering, and bearing with one another in love. These attitudes are to be found within us as fruits of the Spirit and not demanded of another. It is important to rejoice in the oneness we share in Christ’s body, the Church. The Holy Spirit needs to give us the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5) which preserve this unity especially in times of controversy.

August Pieper wrote in his foreword to Volume 10 of the Quartalschrift: “Dogmatic training perhaps makes one orthodox, but it also easily makes one orthodoxist, intolerant, quarrelsome, hateful, and easily causes division in the church . . . The study of Scripture makes the heart narrow to actual false doctrine and heresies, but broad toward various human expressions and presentations. It does not accuse of false doctrine unnecessarily; it teaches us to bear and suffer in love with the mistakes of the weak. It keeps the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” He concluded, “Through new immersion in the Scriptures, we can infuse the church with new vitality, new life, new youth.” (The Wauwatosa Theology, Vol. I, pp. 117-118–emphasis mine)

In these last days may the Holy Spirit give us humility and gentleness with patience that we may show tolerance for one another in love. We celebrate the unity of the Spirit in the miracle of the one, holy, Christian Church.

(Quotes from the New American Standard Bible–NASB)

–John Schierenbeck