"One, but Seven"
What does unity really mean? Paul wanted this church to understand the core of the oneness of God by experiencing oneness within the church family.
One, but Seven
A. I get asked lots of religious questions. But there is one type of question that is asked of me that causes me concern. What do these questions have in common?
1. How much do have to give? Is 10% a NT Command or just an OT teaching?
2. Do I have to come to worship on Sunday evening or is being here for Sunday school and morning worship okay?
3. I know prayer is helpful, but do I need to set up a prayer schedule?
B. These are not bad questions. I am not judging the sincerity of the one asking, but the common link is the idea of minimum. What is the least I need to do to make God happy with me?
C. Have you ever wondered why Jesus only told the one we call the “rich, young ruler” to go sell all he had and give it to the poor and follow him? Think about that man’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It was about the duty and minimum requirements. The answer Jesus gave was maximum.
D. To the Jews of the OT it often sounds as if God is saying, “If you obey me, I will bless you.” But when Jesus came to this earth, died on the cross for our sins, was raise to life so that we could live forever with him, it now sounds like, “I have blessed you, now – in response to my love and grace – obey me.” Or as Paul would say “walk worthy of your calling.”
I. How’s Your Walk?
A. Paul makes a very profound statement that is easy to miss in this great passage of Eph. 4. Listen to vs 1-3
B. Paul calls Christians to a higher standard. Paul is not about minimal Christianity but living, walking, running with the Lord in such a way that your life reflects who God is and what it means to be church.
C. Paul is not a prisoner for the Lord because he likes prison cells or has a martyr complex. He is a prisoner because he is obedient in every aspect of his life the calling and grace he received from Jesus. Don’t tell me it doesn’t make a difference what you believe. What you believe determines how you behave.
D. My conduct in this life is a living testimony of how I view what it means to be called a child of God. Paul calls upon us to “walk worthy of our calling.” And that calling is for you and I to be united.
II. One, but Seven
A. Paul takes us from this application of what it means to walk worthy to walking in unity. It is not enough to share a common purpose. We must work together to make that purpose a reality. Spiritual unity requires work. For me to “maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” is a decision not an emotional response. I am united with this church family, not because of how much I like you, but because together we follow and love God. In doing that, I end up liking you.
B. The more we love God. The more we follow the teachings of God’s word. The more we look like Christ. The more we are keeping in step with the Spirit. The more we hold on to our hope, faith, and baptism…the more we become one body. READ Eph. 4:4-7
C. Paul lists seven “ones.” One body, One Spirit, One hope, One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and father of all. Seven “ones.”
D. When I examine this list I don’t get caught up in the individual parts, but see Paul writing to explain the whole. I don’t divide up the fruit of the Spirit into parts, I see Paul describing the Spirit as a whole and what the Spirit produces. So instead of asking what is meant by “one Lord, one Spirit, One God, etc.” I want to ask what does it mean to be one?
E. Let me answer that with the words of Jesus found in John 17:20-23. What Paul does is expand upon this prayer of Jesus. Our oneness needs to mirror that of God.
III. Application of One
A. The Hebrew Shema begins with Deut. 6:4 which says, “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text is actually plural. We would say “Elohim.” The Jews did not see God as many gods, but as one God. They saw YHWH as totally unique. The LORD is one but really encompasses everything. There is no other god, yet God cannot be limited to singleness.
B. Jesus is God. The Spirit is God. The Father is God. Yet all are one. How does that work? I don’t know. What it calls for is complete unity of purpose and work. If I am willing to accept that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in complete unity then I can apply what it means for us to “eagerly maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” I can understand that hope, faith, baptism and body are all as much one as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
C. The application is that are so united in purpose and strength that we together seek to grow in God’s will for our collective life. We are the body. We are what the world sees as “God with his flesh on.” We, this congregation, is Jesus to the community around us. Therefore, our unity of doctrine becomes what molds us and drives us as a church to take that message to world.
A. I come back to the beginning. Paul, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you been called.” That is not looking at the minimum. That is not me “going to church once in a while.” Paul is calling on us to give 100% of who we are to this walk.
B. This spiritual walk is not intended to be alone. It is humility, gentleness and a forgiving heart that I walk with you as my family. I am all in.
C. Being a Christians is not something I do. Going to church is not something I do. We belong to each other. We lean up and support each other. We as church are as one as the greatest marriage you have ever seen. That unity, that oneness is God’s gift to us to live a full life.