Unity in the New Testament Church

Ephesians 4:1-16
 
This passage can be logically divided into three parts, all of which relate to the central theme of Christian unity. The first six verses deal with the fundamental unity which exists between all believers in Jesus Christ.
 
Fundamental Christian unity Is to be preserved. This unity of which Paul wrote is not one which the Christian needs to create, but one which already exists and must be diligently preserved. It is based upon our sharing life in one body, the universal church, the body of Christ. 

Unity, although it cannot be created by the Christian, must be preserved by him. This is to be diligently pursued (vs. 3) by an attitude of humility (seeing ourselves as God does, unworthy recipients of His grace). Our humble spirit should be demonstrated by a gentleness and graciousness in our dealings with others. 
 
Unity does not imply uniformity. It does not mean that all Christians will think alike or perform identical ministries. It does imply a common purpose and interdependence within the body of Christ. To every individual within the body of Christ is given a particular capacity for ministry. This capacity (or capacities) is commonly called a ‘spiritual gift.’ Although the particular function involved may not appear to be particularly ‘spiritual,’ the outcome is spiritual benefit to the body of Christ. 
 
Far from undermining the fundamental unity existing between individual Christians,
the diversity of spiritual gifts enhances, even necessitates unity. While in verses 1-6 the basis for Christian endeavor was fundamental unity, in verses 12-16 functional unity is the goal of Christian endeavor. We might call the unity of verses 1-6 positional and that of verses 12-16 practical.
 
The saints are equipped for ministry. What an amazing reversal has occurred. Christians are often not turning the world upside down, but the Scriptures upside down. This passage tells us that the ministry is the saint’s work, not the preacher’s. We say that the preacher is ‘in the ministry’ but Paul says everyone else is.
 

The ultimate measure of maturity is the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second measure of maturity is that of stability. The third measure of maturity is what we might call loving truthfulness.

One final measure of maturity is unity. Our unity grows out of our mutual comprehension of those doctrines which constitute ‘the faith’ and out of our ever-increasing intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
If we are to take this passage in Ephesians chapter 4 seriously, there are a number of specific applications. The function of the pastor-teacher is to equip people for the ministry. The goal of our teaching should be maturity, growth and unity. The work of the ministry is in your hands, not in ‘the pastor’s. We are deficient in our expression of Christian unity, not just within the church, but between churches which have a like faith as ours. The Sunday meeting of the church is not designed for ministry so much as it is for the equipping of the saints for ministry and the expression of worship to our God. Find out your place in the local church and get involved.

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