“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
Over the past week we have commented briefly on God’s “One-derful” plan for unity from Ephesians 4:4-6. It is the plan for unity that has God’s endorsement, and which binds Christians together in peace as we diligently guard it (Eph. 4:3). To summarize, God’s platform of unity consists of the following planks: One Body: Unity of Relationship (the church, Eph. 1:22-23); One Spirit: Unity of Life (new life in Christ, revealed in truth, Jno. 3:5; Jno. 16:12-13; Gal. 5:25); One Hope: Unity of Destiny (an eternal inheritance, 1 Pet. 1:3-5); One Lord: Unity of Authority (submission to Christ’s will, Col. 3:17); One Faith: Unity of Revelation (the gospel is the faith once for all delivered, Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3); One Baptism: Unity of Forgiveness (God’s plan of salvation, Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 10:47-48; 22:16); and, One God and Father of All: Unity of Worship (true worshipers, Jno. 4:23-24). Unity in Christ is possible as we trust and follow the wisdom and word of God (1 Cor. 1:10). Human wisdom leads to hopeless division (1 Cor. 1:11-13). The unity of believers for which Christ prayed honors God, does His will, and blesses every soul who participates in it (Jno. 17:20-21; 14:21, 23-24). May me diligently keep this unity with Christ and His people (1 Jno. 1:3-7; 2 Jno. 9-11).
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NKJV)
Jesus prayed for the unity of those who believe on Him through the words of His apostles in John 17:20. In fact, He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jno. 17:21). The plans for unity men have devised are a far cry from this. Many Protestant denominations advocate some form of ecumenism (or in today’s vernacular, “acceptance” and “inclusion”), both doctrinal and moral. This is unity in diversity, which essentially means we will “agree on the core issues of the gospel and agree to disagree on everything else.” The Father and the Son do not agree to disagree (see John 17:21). Our question is: Who decides what are the core issues of the gospel? You? Me? A church? A council of churches? Someone else? Very problematic. The lowest common denominator prevails in these quasi-unity movements. The apostle Paul said Christians must endeavor to keep (watch, guard) the unity that proceeds from the Spirit of God, and to do so with the uniting principle or bond of peace (v. 3). The Holy Spirit has revealed the gospel of Christ that calls us all to partake of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:4-6). We will find our answers to what Bible unity looks like in the Bible, not in the creeds of churches and the philosophies of men (Col. 2:8).
21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21–22, NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words to His twelve apostles before sending them out to preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6-7). After His resurrection, He would send them into all the world to preach His gospel (Mk. 16:15). Jesus was preparing them for the resistance they would face because of their faith in Him and their work for Him. The gospel produced harsh reactions from faithless family and friends as well as strangers in the first century. (It still does.) Their lives would be endangered and embroiled in controversy. Jesus exhorted them to endure the hatred and persecutions “to the end” to be saved. This helps us understand what Jesus went on to say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, 35-36). Many react to the truth of the gospel with hostility, including family members. Just as He called the apostles to endure, He calls us to love Him more, follow His truth first, deny ourselves, and always fear God rather than people (Matt. 10:37-39, 28). When we choose family (or ourselves) over the truth of the gospel we are no longer worthy of Christ. We will lose our life, not save it (Matt. 10:37-39).
5 They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. 6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. 7 In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. (Psalm 72:5–7, NKJV)
The government of God’s appointed king and his blessings upon God’s people are in view in this psalm of Solomon (Psa. 72:1). As he ruled with God’s judgments, peace, justice, liberty, and righteousness flourish (Psa. 72:2-4). Under such rule, the enduring reverence for God is compared to the temporary presence of the sun and moon. This typifies the Messiah’s rule, who now reigns at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33-36). Through Him, the Father blesses His people with enduring spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, 20-23; 2:13-19). As in Solomon’s day, Christ’s righteous rule prompts us to fear of God. July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. We respect and honor those who accomplished this amazing feat. Yet, the wondrous blessings of redemption and eternal life are infinitely greater. The moon, and all of humanity’s achievements in space, will one day be “no more” (v. 5, 7). But, when the dead are raised and eternity dawns, Christ will deliver His kingdom to the Father, where righteousness will dwell forever (1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Pet. 3:10-13). Our task to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). That is our purpose, our heritage, our legacy.
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).
13 Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. 14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13–14, NKJV)
Jerusalem and Judah were headed for destruction in the days of Jeremiah. Covetous hearts – greedy for power and wealth – guided both prophet and priest to speak falsely to a population that loved to have it so. These religious charlatans “healed” the spiritual ailments of the people with superficial dressings. They proclaimed “peace, peace,” even though hostility toward God and men ruled the day. Even now, religious leaders, with many followers, preach messages that fail to heal men’s soul – even as those souls rush headlong toward eternal ruin. Messages of peace that tolerate immorality are proclaimed. “Peace” is advanced at the expense of divine truth. (Indeed, evil is called good, and good is called evil, Isaiah 5:20.) Jeremiah’s warning remains relevant, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16). No peace can exist where sin reigns. Changing its definitions and ignoring its reality reveals hearts that are greedy for selfish gains, not selfless hearts devoted to the Almighty.
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:15–18, NKJV)
The apostle continues his use of Scriptures to expose the nature and extent of sin. It is crucial to note that Paul is not offering us his opinions about sin. He is quoting Scripture and making an application of them to support his premise (stated in verse 9, “We have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin”). Sins of violence destroy lives and disrupt peace (verses 15-17). Paul uses an abbreviated reference to Isaiah 59:7-8 to reinforce the waste and injustice sin perpetuates. The underlying reason for sin, whether it displays itself through ignorance (v. 11), futility (v. 12), the tongue (v. 13-14), or violence (v. 15-17), is the failure to fear God (v. 18). Psalm 36:1 is used to affirm this observation, “An oracle within the heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.” Irreverence toward God denies His truth, rejects His will, and fights against His ways. All of us have done that at some point. Many continue to still. Our duty is to fear God and obey Him (Eccl. 12:13). Sin abandons respect for God. Rather than choosing the way of peace, sin chooses the way of darkness and death. What choice about sin will you make today?