THE PURPOSE OF UNITY
Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.
Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.
The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).
Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,
In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).
So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.
These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.
In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.
We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?
Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.
But Paul goes further, “13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”
So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.
Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.
Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.
And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.
Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.
The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.