CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL FOR UNITY IN THE BODY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
The early church was a remarkable group of men and women. By the power of God they turned the world upside down starting the most remarkable institution in human history….The Church.
But what they did was quite ordinary.
People meeting together to fellowship, eating together, singing and listening to the preaching of God’s word by the elders. Something that was ordinary so many years ago is still the format of churches today. Ordinary people coming together to fellowship, sing, eat at times, and hear God’s Word preached by their pastor. Ordinary people coming together under the Gospel; without hesitation or reservations to proclaim His excellent greatness. This is why we gather together as the saints of old did; we gather because of our Lord and King who glorious saved us from the Father’s wrath. Think about this! When the early church gathered together they were faced with many obstacles from the Roman Empire…..while Caesar was throwing Christians to the lions. During the Middle Ages when there was a great spiritual darkness on Europe, and 20th century communism tried to stamp out any mention of God.
Christians who have been devoting themselves to the Apostles teachings, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. These ordinary people doing life together, despite what the world thinks of them or what might happen to them. Whether that’s in public, or in secret, whether it’s in big stately buildings or a home church, they are worshipping, fellowshipping and growing together. Why? Because Jesus said “I will build My Church.” Matt 16:18. The last thing we were created for was to please man and to be accepted by man. When Christ grabbed you by your feet and pulled your dead corpse out of the deepest sea of sin and death. You were brought into a relationship that not only transforms your life at the moment….. but forever. Just as we have earthly obligations and some of them are good and some can be bad for various reasons.
God expects conformity within the church. This is a no brainier and it should be so obvious to us as if there was a pink elephant standing here on the platform behind me.
When a person hears the word “conformity” some people immediately think their under some form of dictatorship and if they do not comply with the dictators rules and demands they might be put in prison or worse put to death for not conforming. Now, I know that a little extreme and we would call this Nazi Germany; Marxism or the Liberal Government. This kind of conformity is bad and does not end well for people like you and me. But, there is a conformity that is good and it’s for our good and ultimately for God’s glory. Because this conformity leads to life and godliness and most of all blessings that have eternal implications. Look what Paul says after his prayer! (v1) “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,. The conformity that the bible speaks of is an active faith that is obedient to what has already been displayed in our lives through the gospel.
Paul reminds us again that he is “a prisoner of the Lord” This indicates to us… the worthy Christian walk can be costly and Paul is letting us know that it has cost him considerably, because of his obedience to the Lord.
Are you ready for that?
This is an important question to answer, because what Paul tells us next is pivotal to why church is essential. Look what he says with urgency “I urge, entreat or beseech you to walk worthy of calling to which you have been called.” It’s almost as if Paul is on his knees still from his prayer pleading with God’s children to take this life that God has given us through the gospel seriously; By walking in such a way that displays Christ is everything to you and nothing is to hinder your act of worship. See! Paul makes no apology for pleading with the people to do what he knew was right. That’s why we see this word urge, entreat or beseech because it emphasizes a strong desire to do something for what is about to be said. Which is? “The calling to which you have been called” (v1) “Called” here is referring to God’s effectual call on a sinner’s life. It’s referring to God’s sovereign call of His monergistic work in salvation. Monergism is a theological term in which the prefix "mono" means "one" and the suffix "er-gism" (ergon) means "to work" together they mean, "the work of one". This means that salvation is of the Lord alone, not a co-operation of man and God.
The Trinity works in harmony to bring about the salvation of His elect. The Father elects us in Christ, the Son, redeems the same, and the Holy Spirit applies regeneration to the all those the Father has given the Son. This effectual call and work of God is the reason why God can resurrect dead dry bones and give them life. We see this in the book of Ezekiel “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” Eze 37:1-10 This calling is a high calling or as the scriptures say “a Heavenly calling” Heb 3:1. This calling is a “holy calling” 2 Tim 2:9. Paul says what he says here in this text, to remind us of God’s goodness, and to why we assemble together. The receptive Christian is called to do what? “walk worthy” of this calling which indicates to us the importance to our daily conduct in the life of His church. Paul is not saying they were called out of the world because they were worthy. God has called them/us by grace alone and it’s this truth that motivates and stimulates us to walk worthy as His church. The word “worthy” is axios which has the root idea of “weight.” This word is where we get our English word axiom which means “to be of equal weight” Act in a way that fits the great value and glorious nature of God and the gospel and your calling.
Looking to God's infinite worth for our help and satisfaction
is "walking worthy of God.
As the Hebrew writer said, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13:20-21.
It’s living to match one’s position in Christ, as we do life together as His church despite how the world treats and feels about the church. Knowing our position in Christ makes us sensitive to walk in which we have been called privately and corporately. This is why we gather on Sundays and throughout the week. To freely worship God the way He intended us to worship Him. Here, Paul expresses that our effectual call produces a vocational call as God has called us to do something as His church. Walk worthy in unity is a vital act of worship for faithful Christian living and a healthy church. What is God’s desire for every local church? “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 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.” 1 Cor 1:9-10
The unity of doctrine, the fundamentals found in Scripture.
This is your vocational call,
your duty as His child.
What will promote this unity?
1. Eager to maintain unity with Humility
This involves God-awareness and the human perfections of Jesus Christ. In order to understand the great need of humility we first need to recognize our underlying pride that so easily gets in the way. Humility is a freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth. It is a state of mind well pleasing to God; Jesus Christ brings humility into your life? How? As one theologian said “If I try to make myself as small as I can, I'll never become humble. Humility comes when I stand as tall as I can, and look at all of my strengths, and the reality about me, but I put myself alongside Jesus Christ. And it's there, when I humble myself before Him, and I stop being fooled about myself, and I stop being impressed with myself, that I begin to learn humility.”
Humility is perfect quietness
Humility points you……… to the life and death of Jesus Christ. Growing in humility follows behind a true knowledge of God. Tim Challies said, “The greater your knowledge of God, the greater your own humility.” Why? It requires us to examine self, against the beauties and perfections of Christ. Its humbling thing to realize the world doesn’t revolve around me and my glory. What is the key to maintain unity within the body? “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition 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.” Phil 2:2-4. What Jesus did on the cross and coming in the likeness of man. He is our example to how we are to care and walk in unity with one another with humility. Prime example! When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:12-17
2. Eager to maintain unity with Gentleness
This is better translated “meekness”........It’s an inward grace of the soul. It’s the temper of the Spirit in which we accept His dealing with us as good....without the arguing or resistance. Basically as gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every situation of life with the freedom or desire… for revenge or justice. A person who is strong and confident of his strength can afford to be tender. James Boice said “It’s a person who is so much in control of himself that he is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.” The Apostle Paul had to remind them by gently rebuking some about the importance of unity for the sake of the gospel. “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor 4:20-21. Paul admonishes some of the church for not behaving as they ought to behave. Will they continue to be stubborn, and require greater discipline in order to bring them back to right living? Or, will you be teachable, and allow Paul to speak with a spirit of gentleness? This same principle applies to you and me!! We are to have that same gentle spirit as Paul and ultimately as our Lord did....even in times of conflict. A church that is humble will be teachable, to be gentle as you do life together.
3. Eager to maintain unity with Patience
This has to do with tolerance and longsuffering. The opposite of longsuffering is “hair trigger temper”, who explodes in fury, rage at the slightest of aggravation. Patience is…. enduring in all situations and putting up with difficult people isn’t easy to do. It’s the quality of putting up with others, even when one is severely frustrated. People who frustrate you is like being around land mines that are waiting to blow up if you make the wrong move. Unity is entering in…. with a calm willingness to accept situations that may irritate you, or cause you pain, for the sake of Kingdom building. The greatest example of patience is found in God with the ones created in His image. “God is slow to anger” Ps 86:15. We always need to remind ourselves of this truth; that God is more patient with us then we deserve.
God is not without wrath but He is slow to anger and most
of all He doesn’t hold grudges.
He expects the same from me and you. The patient Christian accepts God’s plan for everything. He calls us to emulate our Lord’s patience by what Paul said to the church! We must reflect the character of God as Col 3:12-13 says “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
4. Eager to maintain unity with Forbearing Love
This is very important because we know according to the scriptures “love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet 4:8. This is picture of throwing a blanket over the sins of others, not to justify or excuse them away. But to keep the sins from becoming a distraction to restoration, sanctification and growing together in grace.. Forbearing love could only be “Agape love” because only agape love gives continuously and unconditionally. Agape love is unqualified and unselfish. It’s a forbearing love that willingly gives whether they receive anything in return….its selfless and giving for the sake of the body. It’s an invisible goodness and a love that even extends to our enemies and the ability to pray for our persecutors. As Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matt 5:43-44. Longsuffering is an expression of love and this should be marked in the church of Jesus Christ.
5. Eager to maintain unity with Eagerness
This is the idea of being diligent to preserve the unity in the church for the glory of God, through the Sprit in the bond of peace. The ultimate outcome of the above essentials leads to this word “eagerness” “An eagerness” or “to make haste” is where we get the meaning for zeal and diligence. One commentator describes it as “a holy zeal that demands full dedication.” Paul used the same language to strengthen Timothy to leads God’s people. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15. This requires a passion and a zeal for God’s truth and God’s people. Preservation of unity should be the diligent and constant concern of every believer for the true family of God. The church is the only institution entrusted by God; with a message of: Repentance, and Believe in Jesus. The danger sometimes in the church is this… Pride and self-promoting arrogance spreads disunity. But humble, gentle man or woman is like an “embracing breeze.”
To be a God centered; requires that we walk worthy
of this calling in Christ
This is all possible and held together by what? “the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (v4) Literally this means “the Spirit is the cement” that binds people together. A God displaying church emulates God’s character and the truth of the Gospel through the Spirit. We as a church in today’s society need to do the same as they did so many years ago. Ordinary people worshipping God without reservations or excuses knowing they could die for doing so. What is laid out before us is very challenging, because we live in a time that has all kinds of division’s amoung God’s people. Racial issues, social justice issues, political issues, personal differences, and perspectives. All these things and more……threaten the unity that Paul knows is necessary for the church to fulfill her mission on this earth.
The question is…. How can we overcome
our differences? Answer: Eph 4:1-16
viewing each other through the lens of gospel and see this person though whom
Christ died and in whom the Son of God lives. Knowing
that we are of one family should cause us to honor and love one another. Sharing truths about God bind Christians together in the
truest and deepest kind of unity. All
these vocational callings are a clear
demonstration to having a unified local church. Every one of us here in the
body of Christ has a significant task to perform. Not one person here is
insignificant or unimportant. There is no such thing as a
misfit in the body of Christ. Why?
Christ, Himself, is the one who makes sure that we fit together and knit together in the unity of His body. We
are called to be love contributors, not
just love consumers. We
need each other’s love, because Christ
has made us one. We
must never rule ourselves out of the process
of building the church, which Christ instituted to reach the lost with the
Ordinary people doing what we
love to do
as local body of believers. Worshipping our God together
for the unity of one another.