There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)
God has revealed His platform for unity in Christ. It is not ecumenism. It is not unity in diversity. It is not all-inclusive and all-accepting. The first plank in God’s “One-derful” platform of unity is “one body.” Paul identified this “one body” in this Ephesian letter. He wrote that Christ is “head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). One head, Christ. One body, the church. The fullness of Christ is found in His body (church), not outside of it. (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Furthermore, Christ reconciles sinners (Jews and Gentiles) “to God in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14-16). Unquestionably then, the church is composed of those who are reconciled to God. (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Yet again, Christ is the head of the church and “the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Undeniably, those who are saved are in His body, added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47). (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Christ loves His church and died for it (Eph. 5:25-27). (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Every Christian has a relationship with God in the “one body” of Christ (the church). And, we share a relationship of brotherhood with fellow Christians in the one body (church) of Christ. His one body – one church – is the relational unity we have with God and with His fellow Christians.
19 Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19–21, NKJV)
This compelling moment in the life of Jesus draws our attention to some thought-provoking and faith-building truth. First, the Lord is impartial. He does not act out of favoritism (Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34-35). Jesus did not command the crowd to part merely because His family wanted to see Him. Note: The doctrine that Mary has special access to her Son Jesus is not support by the Scriptures. Mary was a disciple of Jesus, just as others (Acts 1:14). Praying to Mary is a futile, fabricated fallacy that elevates a human to divine status. There is to be no nepotism or other forms of partiality in the Lord’s church (Jas. 2:1-4). Such favoritism elevates flesh and blood above the mutual spiritual relationship we share in Christ. Secondly, Jesus clearly defined His spiritual family as those who “hear the word of God and do it.” When we refuse what the Scriptures say, we are refusing to be in a family relationship with Jesus. Let us receive and obey the word of God so that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brethren (Heb. 2:11). After all, Jesus is over the house of God (the church), not us (Heb. 3:6).
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:13–16, NKJV)
The blood of Jesus brings the nations near to God (Eph. 2:11-12). Access to redemption of the soul from sin in Christ is available to the whole world – both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17). This was a joyous message to Gentiles in the first century, and it continues to be so. Peace with God is not dependent upon your physical ancestry, but upon your faith in Christ (Rom. 4:16; 9:6-8). Christ is the means of our peace with God and with our fellow man. The law of Moses, which identified sin for the Jews, also presented a barrier between the Jews from the Gentiles (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:22-25). The death of Jesus abolished (vanquished) that barrier as it “broke down the middle wall of separation” (v. 14). The new man that is created in Christ is not fashioned after the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” (v. 15), but after Christ Himself. The “one new man” signifies the unity of the body of Christ, His church (v. 16). Thank God we have peace with God in the church by the blood of Jesus (v. 13).
31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:31–32, NKJV)
Instead of being anxious about material needs, the Lord teaches His disciples to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Lk. 12:31). It is important to understand what the kingdom is – and what it is not. And, it is crucial to see that it is God’s pleasure to give the kingdom to those who seek it. According to Jesus, the kingdom is the His church, which came during the lifetime of His contemporaries (Matt. 16:18-19, 28; Mk. 9:1). The gospel of the kingdom converts the lost, who is transferred into the Son’s kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). Indeed, Christians are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). The kingdom we seek was not postponed. The kingdom we seek is not an earthly kingdom of 1,000 years duration. The kingdom we seek is not situated on a renovated earth of the future. The kingdom we seek exists today. It is a kingdom that is “within you” by the power of the gospel (Lk. 17:20-21; 8:10-11; Jno. 18:36-37). Christ has made Christians a kingdom, and we are companions in it (Rev. 1:6, 9). God has given us the kingdom. Now, we must live as faithful citizens of it, and God will supply all we need.
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. (Acts 4:32, NKJV)
By this time the Jerusalem church had well over five thousand men, plus women and children (Acts 4:4). Although there were vast differences in their ethnic backgrounds, their occupations, their languages and much more, these thousands of believers had “one heart and one soul.” One Bible commentator observed, “As in a living body only one heart beats, and as it is animated by only one (soul, jrp), so it was true of this great body of believers” (R.C.H. Lenski, Acts, 186). Their common faith was the church’s pulsing heart and breath of life. This is manifestly distinct and different from the denominated landscape of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Furthermore, the Jerusalem church’s unity was marked by generosity. Their commonality was not communal living or communistic socialism (private property rights were not being forfeited, Acts 5:4). Instead, they were unselfishly fulfilling the needs arose among them (Acts 4:34-37). Their unity of faith is an enduring example for every church of Christ to imitate (John 17:20-21).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).