Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-3 that in order to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus, members of the church body must work diligently to keep the spirit of peace which holds us together. Why? Why is the unity of the church such a major doctrinal concern for Paul? If it is “work,” and especially if it is a work in need of “diligence,” then there must be something larger at stake when unity in the church is failing. Why is unity important in the church body? Allow me to offer three biblical reasons from Ephesians 4.
1. Unity of the church body testifies to the unity of the GodHead.
“One Spirit… One Lord… One God and Father of all,” (Eph. 4:4-6) Unity in the body of Christ should testify to the unity of God’s eternal Three-In-Oneness. God is One. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are unified in purpose and in essence, as should be mirrored in the church body.
When the body of Christ operates in disunity, it paints a false picture of God to the world. However, churches comprised of members who get past their introspectiveness and submit themselves to the vision and direction of the church body promote a more accurate picture of the GodHead to the world they are called to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Unity of the church body testifies to the unity of the gospel message.
“One hope… One faith… One baptism,” (Eph. 4:4-6) Unity in the body of Christ should testify to the unity of the gospel message. There is not more than one hope for salvation. There is not more than one object of faith who can save. There is not more than one baptism which identifies a born-again believer as a follower of Christ.
When believers in the church body are divided, it communicates to the world that the message of salvation in Jesus Christ is subject to amendment and/or discontinuity. The unity of the church body must model the unity of the gospel. No wonder Jesus was so adamant when He prayed “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent me,” (John 17:21). Our lack of unity as Christians affects the world’s understanding of the testimony about Jesus Christ.
3. Unity of the church body affects the church’s ability to be productive for the kingdom of God.
“There is one body,” (Eph. 4:4) Imagine one head, but two bodies. Two bodies who disagree over the direction the head is revealing to go and in which way it is leading them. One body pulling south and the other body pulling north. The result is embarrassing. Counterproductive. Pointless. Directionless. Such is the church who is divided. The Head (Jesus Christ – see 1:22) reveals direction through the hierarchy of leadership He has called into position. When parts of the body refuse to follow the revealed direction of the Head, the result is always catastrophic.
Thank God, Paul says there are not two bodies; there is but one. The body of Christ must work together to follow the direction of God’s instituted leadership. Where the head turns, the body follows. Where the leadership directs (as long as it’s not unbiblical), the church body follows. Anything else negatively affects the church’s ability to be productive for the kingdom of God.
In a church age infected by the cancerous plight of introspective, preference-and-tradition driven faith, the body of Christ is in grave danger of misrepresenting God to the world. We must be diligent to keep the spirit of peace that binds us. Otherwise, we risk painting false pictures of the Godhead, the gospel message, and the nature and productiveness of Christ’s mission through the church.
I am honored and blessed to be a part of a church who is unified in essence and purpose. There is a fire catching quickly at ABC which is consuming the underbrush of human pride and leaving only the mighty towers of God’s gracious vision and productiveness. What an honor to serve a church body that is learning what it means to “walk worthy of the calling we have received.”