Based on a talk by Richard Condie, vicar of St Jude's Anglican church in Melbourne, Australia, at the Keswick Convention 2013
Ephesians 4 is a marvellous passage of Scripture. It emphasises the unity of the church. However, the church is currently riven with division – in denominations for example. I'm an Anglican, and we're experts on this. So too, on a practical level; barely is there a church without a story of major conflict and broken relationships.
In verses 4-6 of this passage, we see what the basis of this unity is. There is one body, one faith, one baptism. There is also one God –the passage also shows the Trinity, mentioning the one Spirit, the one Lord, and the one Father. Paul is saying that these things are true of every believer. Like Gal 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus", this reminds us that we are all one.
I'm the vicar of St Jude's in Melbourne, and we're blessed with a great diversity of people in our church. Doris is a member of our church. She's old and disabled. She's suffered for much of her life. She's got little education and little money. But she's regular at church and Bible study. Tim could not be more different. Tim is a specialist professor of international law, and a special adviser to the International Criminal court in the Hague. He's intelligent and articulate, and a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Amin is a recent refugee from Iran. When he came here, he was held in an immigration detention centre, where he heard the gospel for the first time. He became a believer and was baptised a couple of months ago. Zichao, is a smart Chinese/Singaporean student, who gave his life to Christ in our church.
Soris, Tim, Amin and Zichao are all brothers and sisters in Christ. They are held together in an unshakable and indissoluble unity. Isn't that wonderful? That's what binds you and me together too.
Unity is not always easy. Verse 3 tells us we are to 'make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace'. The words have an urgency about them in the original Greek. There is an air of impending crisis in these words. You can't hear these words and not care about the schisms in your denomination or the quarrels in your church. Unity is worth fighting for, and every effort to defend. Those broken relationships are worth working at, so the glorious unity we have in Christ might be shown to the world.
In verses 7-12 we see that the wonder of this picture of unity is not in its uniformity or in its bland sameness or conformity, but it is unity characterised by diversity.
God has given many, many different gifts to his people. That list in verse 11; the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers; doesn't include the musicians, sign language interpreters, or the people tweeting on twitter. If a person is a believer, he or she has received a work of grace to perform a service for building up of the body of Christ. Each person is playing their vital part.
Have you ever thought how your humble gift of serving morning tea, or helping a neighbour, or playing your recorder, or whatever gift it is, works with the other gifts, to bring about maturity of faith to the body? I know in my church, the person who stands in the front door and welcomes people with a great smile, is contributing as much to the building up of the body of Christ, as the preachers who've laboured on the Bible text all week.
The real basis of demonstrated unity is to do with the knowledge of God, and the measure of the fullness of Christ. Mature unity, that is worth striving for and standing up for, that we should make every effort to secure, is maturity that is doctrinally sound, stable, like solid ground.
As verses 14 and 15 emphasise, we need truth in love. Not love without truth. When you meet troubles, you need truth and love. When we're fighting for heart and soul of our denominations, we need truth and love. When dealing with personal division in the church, we need truth, with love. That is the way we will be held together in the body of Christ, in this glorious picture of unity, in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Let's do everything we can to build up the unity of the church, with truth and love.
Let's pray. Father, we want to lift before you those parts of the church that are by schisms rent asunder and by heresies distressed. We lift our denominations to you, our church leaders to you, our congregations, our own personal relationships. We ask for the healing balm of your spirit, the bond of peace. We pray you would be glorified in us as we use your gifts. I pray this heavenly Father, in the name of your Son and in the power of your Spirit, amen.