How can we maintain the unity of the Spirit?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes unity in Christ: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Christians are called to peace in the one body of Christ.

Paul beseeches us to walk worthy of our calling. We are called to peace in the one body of Christ: "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. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body" (Colossians 3:12-15).

Unity is not optional. We must endeavor " to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Our walk, our way of life, must be worthy of this call to peace in Christ.

Unity is based on love.

Love is the "bond of perfection," the "the bond of peace," the glue that binds the members of the body together in Christ. We love one another as Jesus has loved us. A bucket full of chicken feathers may appear united, but try throwing them in the air.

Love bears fruit: tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, as Christ forgives us. These are ingredients in the recipe for unity.

Unity must be maintained.

We must "keep the unity of the Spirit." Christian unity is not man's invention. It is not created by the formation of central authorities or by the publication of human creeds. These are actually departures from unity in Christ.

Christian unity is a gift from God that must be preserved, kept, maintained. We must be careful that we do not lose the unity of the Spirit.

There is one Lord; there is one God and Father of all.

"For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live" (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6).

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5, 6).

There is one body.

Since there is one God, there is also only one true religion.

And the one true religion cannot be subdivided. There is one body, not two or two-thousand, one and only one. A body is indivisible.

It does not say there should be one body. There is one body. Paul asks: "Is Christ divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:13).

The body is the church of Christ. The Father has placed all things under His authority "and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body" (Ephesians 1:22, 23). Paul wrote to the Colossians: "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24).

Thus the one body in which the unity of the Spirit must be preserved is the church of Christ.

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Romans 12:4, 5; see also 1 Corinthians 12:20).

"For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). This one body is the church, which partakes of the one loaf in the Lord's supper each first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

The unity of the Spirit can exist only in the church of Christ because only He can make all people one. He joins Jews and Gentiles together as one body: "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:14-18).

There are many different churches in the world, established and maintained by men who are not satisfied with the body of Christ. There is great division among those who are outside the body of Christ. If you are a member of some church or religious organization other than the church that Jesus founded, you are not serving God in the one body of Christ. The unity of the Spirit exists only in His body, the church of Christ.

There is one Spirit.

By one Spirit we are united into one body. "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free -- and have all been made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13).

There is one baptism.

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Only by the one baptism can we be one in Christ: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27, 28). Baptism must be a burial (Romans 6:4). We must be "buried with Him in baptism" (Colossians 2:12). We must be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). "For there are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one" (1 John 5:7, 8).We must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). There is one baptism.

In the world there are many kinds of baptism because people are not satisfied with the one baptism into the body of Christ. Because of unbiblical forms of baptism, people are excluded from unity in Christ. If you have not been baptized with the one baptism of the New Testament, you are not yet in the body of Christ, His church. The unity of the Spirit exists only among those who by one Spirit have been baptized into the one body, the church of Christ.

There is one faith.

The one faith is the original faith. Jude wrote: "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

Our salvation depends on that original faith. Titus was to rebuke the Cretans, "that they might be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:13). Paul warned the Corinthians: "Watch, stand fast in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13). Paul told the Colossians that they must "continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast" (Colossians 1:23). Shortly before his death, Paul could write: "I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:6).

In Ephesians 4:11-16 Paul explains how Jesus has given His church leaders to promote the 'unity of the faith'.

First, apostles and prophets are mentioned. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets" (Ephesians 4:11). These are the apostles and prophets of the first century, who together with Christ form the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). This refers to the twelve original apostles. Of Zion we read: "Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14).

To preserve the unity of the faith, we must follow the teachings of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament.

Evangelists, elders and teachers have also been given to the church to preach and teach the one faith.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all 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" (Ephesians 4:11-13).

The 'unity of the faith' is also the unity of the 'knowledge of Christ'. This knowledge comes through the holy Scriptures: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

This "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" protects us from the division that is sown by false teachers, "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" (Ephesians 4:14).

There is one faith. To maintain the unity of the faith we must know the Scriptures well enough that winds of false doctrine will not blow us away like chicken feathers. An elder must hold "fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10, 11).

In the world there are many faiths because people want to believe something different from the one faith that was delivered to the saints once and for all (Jude 3). Outside the one faith, division prevails. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The unity of the Spirit exists only among those who have the one faith of the one Lord, those who have been baptized by the one Spirit into the one body, the church of Christ.

Let us strive to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:3-6). Amen.

Roy Davison


Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)