This article is about church unity and life in the church.

Source: Clarion, 1999. 2 pages.


...members together of one body...

Ephesians 3:6

If any of the New Testament letters proclaims the unity we have in Christ with God and with one another, it is the letter to the Ephesians. The theme of unity runs throughout it. This letter both proclaims unity and calls us to unity – unity with each other for the sake of Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the unifying agent of all things. Everything in heaven and on earth will be brought together under the headship of Christ. God placed all things under his feet and made Him to be head over everything. He is the centre of God’s plan. In Christ do we find our election, our calling, our redemption.

Believing Jews first were brought to God the Father in Christ, but Gentiles were also included when they heard and believed the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. Both Jews and Gentiles were marked with the Holy Spirit and set apart to be God’s own possession. All the saints share in the one inheritance. In Christ do we find our unity.

Once we belonged to the devil and the world, said Paul. But then God reconciled us to himself. Once we Gentiles were separate from all the blessings of God. We were far away, but now we have been brought near. Christ has made one body of believing Jews and believing Gentiles. He has broken down the wall of hostility and made one new man out of the two. Early Christians liked to talk about “the Third Race.” There were the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church. The Church of Christ was the Third Race made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles. Together they were built into Christ and upon the apostolic foundation. Members of one body, they shared in the promise in Christ Jesus. In Christ we have one Father. The Church is unified – united in Christ.

These are the kinds of things Paul said in the first three chapters of this letter. In the last three chapters, he worked out what the unity of the Church means for the day to day life of the members of the congregation. It means that we will be humble and gentle, patient with each other, bearing with one another in love. Paul put it very powerfully when he said:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

In order to preserve and enhance the unity of the Church, Christ gave preachers and elders “ prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith...” Together we must grow up into Christ.

In the latter part of chapter 4, Paul became very specific about how God’s people must act to preserve unity. We must treat each other well and speak truthfully and graciously to each other. And if we ever have a fight, we must make up before the sun goes down and forgive each other as God in Christ forgave us. For the sake of the unity of the Church, we must love each other. Love is a command.

From telling us how we as members of the Church are to treat each other Paul went on to write about how husbands and wives, parents and children are to interact. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Wives must submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ. For the sake of the unity of the Church – the unity bought with the precious blood of Christ – we must reflect the relationship Christ has with the Church. If husbands do not love their wives with a giving, self-sacrificing Christlike love, the unity of the Church is at stake. If wives do not submit to their husbands in a Churchlike way, then the unity of the Church is in danger.

Similarly in the parent-child relationship. The unity of the Church is at stake in how parents and children interact. Paul commanded the children of the congregation to obey their parents. The fathers must not exasperate their children but bring them up in the knowledge and discipline of the Lord. This preserves unity – the unity of the covenant and of the Church. Alienation arises when children disobey their parents and fathers exasperate their children, and alienation is the opposite of unity.

Even slaves and masters in the early Church were to be good to each other and for each other for the sake of the unity of the Church – the internal body unity and the unity the whole body has with God in Christ.

This unity can only be maintained by using the Word of God as a powerful weapon against the devil who only wants to bring about disunity – schism within the congregation, disunity between churches, alienation from God. As we remain under the Word we remain united. And we must pray. Paul’s closing exhortation in this letter that proclaims unity has to do with prayer. We must pray in the Spirit and keep on praying for all the saints.

We find everything in Christ.

Unity with God the Father.
Unity within the congregation.
Unity in our marriages and in our families.
Unity with other faithful churches of Christ.

 Let us work for unity and pray for unity.

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