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The Unity Of The Spirit

Ephesians 4: 3:
"Being speedy to keep the oneness which the Spirit produces in the bond of peace."

Some four or five items are mentioned in these verses,
but they must be seen as one admonition reaching its climax in the words,
"endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Verse 3)

Paul urges us to practice those basic Christian virtues, which conserves this unity.

These are listed in verse 2:
"...lowliness (humility), meekness (gentleness to men and submission to God),
long-suffering (patience), and loving forbearance
."

The failure to cultivate and practice these graces have been at the root of many a church squabble,
and have been most destructive of the spiritual health of such churches.
The spiritual health of this body is dependent upon the harmonious functioning of every member.

We are to "endeavor" to keep the unity of the Spirit...
The word for "endeavor" is from the Greek word
from which we derive our English word, "speed."
It speaks of the burning eagerness or the blazing zeal by which one would carry out some proposed activity.
And that activity here is the keeping of the unity or oneness which the Holy Spirit produces.
This eagerness is a blazing zeal that thaws the ice of isolation
and warms cold hearts with such unity.

"Endeavoring" suggests the inward effort that is required in keeping unity.
It combines the ideas of haste, eagerness, and zeal.
Each member has a personal responsibility to "endeavor" to keep the unity.

If we are to "endeavor" to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,
then we must avoid everything that would mar it.

Gossip will mar it.
Gossip must be stopped.
Gossip can easily separate friends.
Surely, we can find something better to talk about than the weaknesses of others.

Envy must be laid aside.
Many would like to see good things done, but would not, if done by a new member or a young person.
If any of us are affected by envy -- we must shake it off!
We cannot afford it!

Remember, the dove-like character of the divine Spirit.
A dove will not remain in the sound of loud clamor.

Paul declares that we should show "great diligence eagerly."
Why?
This is not to produce a unity or to create a unity, and it is not to try to arrive at a unity,
but it is to "keep the unity."

The unity is already present.
It is the keeping of the unity or oneness, which the Holy Spirit produces.

The unity to which God is calling His Church is distinctly defined and definitely declared.
It is not a union of denomination or a council of churches.
It cannot be legislated into being, nor can it be brought about by the mechanics of organization.
Such unity is not an intangible, uncertain thing, but is dependent on definite Biblical principles.

It is a unity, which is produced by the Holy Spirit, and by Him alone.
Man cannot produce this, as much as he may try.
But we have much to do with that which requires the harmonious, effectual working of every member.

God is not asking us to make unity, but to keep the unity that already exists.

Just what unity we are to keep; we are also told.
"The unity of the Spirit" created and indwelt by the Holy Spirit in the church,
and in the body of Christ, is a spiritual organism in which there is oneness of mind, heart and will.
It is a spiritual fellowship of those who share the same life, purpose, and power.

This Spirit-made unity is that which every Christian should determine to keep
with purposeful, determined, and watchful endeavor.
Every Christian should do his utmost to keep a zealous custody (stewardship)
over this Spirit-fashioned oneness.

The word translated, "to keep," means to cherish or to guard carefully, so as to keep or maintain.
This word is present tense.
It speaks of a continuous effort as well as of a present possession.
We are already in possession of this oneness, and we are to give diligent effort to maintain the oneness.

That oneness of the Spirit must be maintained, guarded and watched
lest the cold winds of uncertainty blow out the flame.

The New Testament always puts it this way.
The unity itself is inevitable among all those who have been quickened by the Holy Spirit
out of spiritual death and have been given new life in Christ Jesus.

We must be careful that we do not allow anything to disrupt the unity
or in any way to interfere with it.
The emphasis is entirely upon the word, "keep."

Paul rejoices in this staggering fact, that these people who were once Jews and Gentiles
are now one in Christ Jesus.

And so are we.
We share the same life, and we share the same Spirit.
We believe the same things, and we are trusting the same Person,
and we know that He has saved us all the same way.

All these differences are gone.
We are one!
We remember our lost estate, our lost condition, and our utter helplessness and hopelessness.

We are united in our common trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
who has purchased us at the cost of His precious blood.

So, we are ready to listen to Paul's great urging that we keep with great diligence,
the unity into which we have been brought by the operation of the Spirit of God.

We have and we will face choices in a given situation.
And we can decide in one way, and that way is bound to lead to discord.
Or, we may decide another way that will lead to preserving oneness in the body.
Which way will we choose?
We must choose the way that will keep the unity.

Though you may have been wronged, you still can do what you can to keep "the unity of the Spirit."

We can keep the unity by following the pattern of the worthy walk Paul describes.
We do not need more church conferences on unity, but we do need to encourage one another
to live the kind of life that is lowly, meek, longsuffering and forbearing in love.

There is only one way we can possess these virtues and walk Christlike -- self must die!
So long as self is at the center of life,
and as long as personal feelings and prestige have top priority, the worthy walk is unreachable.

If self is first, God's teachings are not adorned or followed, a believer cannot be at peace with other believers,
and the body will not experience oneness.
But these things will happen when self dies.

The Holy Spirit uses peace as a chain to bind together all the redeemed people of God and makes them one.
Were all churches and church members concerned to "keep the unity of His Spirit,"
a bond of peace, strong as the everlasting firmament, would encircle them.

Peace springs from love, and love from humility.
People can be at peace with each other because they love each other.

The result of a worthy walk is unity -- spiritual oneness.

We are called to "keep the bond of peace," that is to acknowledge
that we cannot let go of one another, since God keeps us together.

To know of the guaranteed and indescribable oneness of all true churches and Christians
is a great source of hope and the greatest possible impulse to work for unity.
We must live with the defined standard for unity that we find here in Ephesians.
And we must humbly acknowledge our failures to do so.

An incident in the life of Lord Nelson contains a lesson for us as Christians.

On the day before the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson took Collingwood and Rotherham
who were at odds with each other, to a spot where they could see the fleet approaching them for battle.

"Yonder," said the Admiral, "are your enemies;
shake hands and be friends like good Englishman
."

And this we must do like committed Christians.

"We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand.
And together will spread the news that God is in the land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
And will guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride.

All praise to the Father, from whom all things come.
And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son,
And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one,
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
And they'll know we are Christians by our love
."

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com for