Endeavoring to Keep Unity
Robert Wurtz II
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. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV)
Our passage is a snapshot of God’s will for the churches of God. Paul is writing to Ephesus, the premier church in Asia Minor, to remind them of the importance of walking worthy of our calling. This means we are to imitate Christ in all that we do. Paul then moves into a pastoral mode and calls the church to humility, gentleness, patience and love. He then brings these things together begging us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. These are powerful words that are far reaching. We are learning what God wants from the churches. Simply put, He is calling us to unity and love. This is not always easy. This is why he uses the word ‘endeavoring’. Actually, the Greek word is much stronger and means to ‘make haste’ or ‘to be deligent’. This requires special attention and special effort. Why? Because the enemy is the sower of discord and is always looking for ways to destroy the love and unity in the churches of God.
The Unity of the Spirit
It is important to understand that when we talk about unity among the saints we are referring to the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). This is important. It is impossible to gather together two or more individuals and have them come into unity unless there is a common basis of that unity. All individuals must be submitted to God and His will or there will be division. A basic point to make is that the Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. When that same Spirit dwells in us, causing us to will and to do God’s good pleasure, we are enabled to come into unity. Self-will is the great enemy of unity. Genuine unity can never happen if the individuals involved are not being led by the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) This is not a unity where everyone agrees with man, but with what the Spirit is wanting to do. The Holy Spirit is in charge and when we get in unity with Him as individuals we will all be in a common unity.
That they May Be One
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are… (John 17:20-21)
Understand that God is a plural unity. The Jews learned this in the Shema. Deut. 6:4 reads literally, Shmai Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad. That translated means, Hear O’ Israel the Lord your God is ONE. The Hebrew language has two words that can be translated “ONE”: echad and yachid. Whereas yachid (yah-keed) refers to the number one (i.e., absolute one), echad (ek-kawd) refers to a composite or a plural unity (like the Trinity). God is three persons and one substance. Jesus teaches us that His desire is that believers be as the Hebrew term ‘echad’ (plural unity) even as He and the Father are ‘one’ (plural unity). This means we have to come together in agreement with what God has said in His word and with what He is wanting to do. This is a powerful prayer by our Lord. Imagine that we would be in unity in the way that the Father, Son and Spirit are in unity.
In the above prayer of John 17, Jesus prays. . . “that they may be one, as thou Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me.“(v.21) This is an awesome consideration. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in absolute unity of mind and purpose. Each one must contain an identical nature. Each one must be holy, righteous, just, love, etc. If not, unity would be impossible. So as we consider this we can understand that to be one with each other we must walk in the Spirit in absolute submission to God and His will. To do this we must walk in the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.
Carnality is the Enemy of Unity
It is ‘possible’ for those that are truly in Christ to live in a ‘state’ of carnality and bring disunity to a congregation. If we allow ourselves to be pressed into this world’s way of thinking we can function as if we were carnal- or as mere men. (Romans 12:2, 1 Cor. 3:3) This is when division begins. Yet the cure is always the same-repentance. God has very big plans for His churches. These plans must be born in heaven and revealed in the earth. Each individual must be sold out to God’s plan and purposes. There is no place for self-seeking in the Kingdom of God. Self-seeking will cause division. Anything that does not promote the unity of the Spirit is a source of division. One may find a means of bringing a group of fully carnal men and women into unity and yet we may know that a group of Spirit filled men and women may be in unity- but it is impossible to bring a mixture of carnal and spiritual men and women into genuine unity. They are operating under different spirits. The two cannot walk together because they are not agreed. (Amos 3:3) This is why any two must gather together ‘in His name.’ If they gather together in their own name there cannot be a unity of the Spirit and Christ will not be present. But any place where there exists a conscious dependence on Christ and a willingness to surrender to His absolute headship- unity is possible.
The danger of drama
Carnal people love drama. Think about how many TV shows and movies are based upon drama. As human beings we desire to know things and even to share things that we know; but there are some things that we do not need to know, they are on a ‘need to know’ basis. Selah. In Eccl. 1:18 Solomon writes, For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Not all knowledge will bring sorrow, but the more secret things that we know about people, the more danger we are in. Pretty soon a person can accumulate so many secrets about so many different people that he/she will despair even of life and if the people in question are Christians the person ‘in the know’ is liable to conclude everyone a fake and lose their faith. I call this ‘toxic information’. Sometimes the best thing we can do is stop a person by saying, “I’ve heard enough.” We don’t need all the ‘juicy details’. Why? We have to protect our own hearts and minds. “The wise man gains an insight into the thousand-fold woes of the natural world, and of the world of human beings, and this reflects itself in him without his being able to change it; hence the more numerous the observed forms of evil, suffering, and discord, so much greater the sadness (כַּעַס, R. כס, cogn. הס, perstringere ) and the heart-sorrow (מַכְאוֹב, crève-cour ) which the inutility of knowledge occasions.” (K&D) Knowing secrets about people can be devastating to all parties involved. This is why we should not probe for information about people. Some things are a shame to even talk about. (Ephesians 5:12) The more the stuff gets spread around the more destructive it is.
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. (Proverbs 11:13) G.W. North once said that, “when we are told something in confidence we should immediately choose to forget what we are told because if we don’t we will end up sharing with others things we were told in confidence- even in our preaching. Some will do it only they withhold the names of the parties involved. It is still breaking confidence.” (para.) To prevent this we have to determine not to ever remember the thing again unless God should specifically bring it before us. To tell the information is to sow discord. And discord is the enemy of unity.
Paul writes, 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. This means that we must make a conscious decision not to go on speaking of things that are contributing to the disunity of believers. The enemy likes to take things and run with them until the Holy Spirit is grieved and God is no longer moving in our midst. We must be careful about what we say, pondering how the words might effect the church we are part of. We must consciously decide that we will not traffic in secrets, but with all lowliness and gentleness will bear with one another in love. In this way we will cultivate an environment where God can move in the meetings as each person is able to worship and seek the Lord in peace.