The unity of the followers of Jesus Christ in the nation's Capital, State Capitols and Civic Government is a very important matter. This week I would like to focus in on why that is the case — and what the Bible has to say are the specific ingredients that the believer must be cognizant of and practice in order to achieve and maintain unity.
This week we will examine in detail Ephesians 4 verses 1-3 in this quest. Our nation desperately needs the believers in political leadership to be in unity! What results from a persevering unity can and will extremely bless our nation!
Read on, my friend.
In this week's passage under study, Ephesians 4 verses 1-3, Paul makes a huge segue. He uses the word therefore to signal the upcoming implications related to the believer's identity in Christ, which heretofore has been described in chapters 1-3. The first three chapters of his letter to the Church at Ephesus relate primarily to the believer's position in Christ: his or her orthodoxy. In chapters 4 to 6, he begins delineating many outward characteristics in the believer's life that should naturally follow - if you know who you are in Christ it follows that you should live a certain way - your orthopraxy. Does what you believe match up with what you do?
Even more important than not living hypocritically is the revealed truth in and from the first portion of this passage, is what the ingredients are that create unity amongst believers. Notice that as you read Ephesians 4:1-3:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
In a quick dissection of this passage there are five words that Paul mentions under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that are characteristic - befitting - of someone who has been called by Jesus Christ. They are: humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance, and diligence. These five ingredients lead to preserving the unity in and amongst the body of believers in the Capital Community. There is a subsequent bond of peace, not disunity, among believers that results.
Before we examine these characteristics (which will encompass this week's outline) notice first the preamble that describes the way Paul views himself. He calls himself:
For sure, Paul had been imprisoned for his faith, but more than that was his conversion on the road to Damascus where it became known to him that Jesus said of him, that he was "...a chosen instrument of Mine..." (Acts 9:15). In essence the Lord divinely imprisoned him, or better, made Paul His slave. Such is the case with everyone called by Christ to serve Him per Ephesians 1:4: just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. Accordingly, what Paul is about to say regarding the importance of the believer's outward manifestations, or characteristics is underscored by his personal testimony indicating a willing obedience to Christ - an obedience that stems from knowing one's clear calling by God in Christ (cf. John 15:16; 1Cor. 6:20). One leading commentator puts it this way:
God expects conformity within the church, the Body of Christ. It is not a forced legalistic conformity to external rules and regulations, but a willing inner conformity to the holiness, love, and will of our heavenly Father, who wants His children to honor Him as their Father...When we received Christ as Savior we became citizens of His kingdom and members of His family. Along with those blessings and privileges we also received obligations. The Lord expects us to act like the new persons we have become in Jesus Christ. He expects His standards to become our standards, His purposes to become our purposes, His desires our desires, His nature our nature. The Christian life is simply the process of becoming what you are.
This clarification elucidates what Paul goes on to say:
Notice what Paul is doing here: He is modeling the role of the spiritual leader. It is to implore people! The Greek word for implore (deesis) is used 19 times throughout the NT and means, "to urge, entreat, beg, plead or exhort." A good parallel example of this idea is found in Romans 12:1. Paul states, Therefore I urge (deesis) you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. In 2Timothy 4:2 Paul says to his understudy, Timothy, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. In actuality, any spiritual leader who is unwilling to implore other believers to live according to God's righteousness is in essence indifferent and detached from his calling. He isn't doing his God-given job. It is incumbent on all under-shepherds - and any and every follower of Christ - to correct erring believers. It follows that it is incumbent on me to implore those of you who name the name of Christ in the Capital, who are less than diligent to preserve the unity to change your ways and practice what Paul says herein this week.
Let us next examine some of the specific words in this portion of the passage:
This word is found quite readily throughout the NT and refers to the daily conduct of the believer. It connotes day-by-day living and it captures the theme of the remaining three chapters of this tremendous epistle: how a believer walks should match up to who he or she is in Christ (Chapters 1-3). The next word continues to aid our understanding:
This word is quite interesting too. In the Greek it has the idea of balancing the scales. What is on one side of the scale should be equal in weight to what is on the other side. Do you see the connection? In other words, our walk, our orthopraxy (chap. 4-6) should match our theology, our orthodoxy (chap. 1-3). Our daily living should match - be worthy of - our high calling as a child of God and a fellow heir with Christ. The next word worth noting is:
This word relates to being saved. No one is a Christian until he repents of his sins and receives Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. One's faith and repentance to believe in Christ is the flip side of the same coin: God's calling on his life. No one ever comes to God unless he is given the faith by Him to respond in repentance. Such is commensurate with God's calling. Faith and repentance are the necessary components acted upon by the individual relative to the sovereign, effectual call of God to salvation. Notice the following parallel passages that shed further light on the marvelous God-enacted truth regarding the believer's calling and how that calling must manifest itself in proper outward behavior.
Summarily to this point, Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" ( John 6:44). Later in the same passage He reiterates the point, "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father" (v. 65). Paul states elsewhere that, these whom He predestined He also called... (Rom. 8:30). Ending Ephesians 4:1 Paul reiterates this effectual call in the past tense stating:
This emphasizes the surety Paul must have possessed relative to the Ephesian believers' salvation, all of which thereby provides the basis for properly addressing the five behavioral matters that follow. The characteristics necessary to maintain unity amongst believers - of those called of God - are as follows:
Paul's first descriptor that leads to corporate unity amongst other believers is that of humility: with all humility the passage reads. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ ought to be characterized by humility. In order to understand and properly manifest biblical humility, one must grasp the broader theological context of the subject. It is wishful thinking to say, "be humble" and expect someone to step down several notches from whatever degree of superbity they possess. For the believer, humility stems from a clear understanding of the fact that they are the Bride of Christ. At first glance, this thought might seem confusing or disjoined. Let me explain and illustrate it. Paul will state later in Ephesians that God's ultimate desire for the corporate body of believers is something much greater than unity for the sake of unity. It is, that He might present a glorious church to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27 NKJV). In Colossians 1:22 Paul further conveys this same thought, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. In essence then, God is preparing a Bride for Christ, which is the Church. Whereas in the OT Israel is pictured as the wife of the Lord (cf. Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:14; and Hos. 2:19,20), in the NT, the Church is seen as the Bride of Christ - Christ Himself being the bridegroom (cf. Mark 2:20). The significance of this beautiful picture is further portrayed in the book of Revelation regarding the second coming of Christ with His Church. Note that in the following passages:
A. Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
B. Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
C. Revelation 21:9 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Now, what does this all have to do with humility? In one sense, the believers are just along for the ride! Your life is all about God's grace being on display (cf. Eph. 2:6,7)! Our salvation is a pre-orchestrated means by which God is going to glorify Himself by giving us to His Son! When we come to grips with that deeper theological insight, it gives birth to personal humility! Our quest for personal significance must be eclipsed by this profound biblical insight - it is all about God's glory, not ours! That truth should and does prove to be a humbling elixir as to how anyone views himself.
GOOD THEOLOGY IS THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT TO EVER-PRESENT HUMILITY
Christian faith has very little to do with you and everything to do with God. It is all about His glory, not yours!
The second outward characteristic of our calling in Christ, i.e. attributes that need accompany our profession of faith in Christ, is gentleness. Gentleness is a key ingredient to achieving and maintaining unity. The Greek word used here for gentleness is praotes and is elsewhere translated meekness. Praotes conveys the idea "power under control;" the word was used of horses in the ancient world who were tamed, broken and trained. Obviously they remained strong and were spirited, but they were in subjection to the control of their master. The idea of self-control is a close cousin; make no mistake meekness is not weakness. The following is a brief overview of the word as used elsewhere in Scripture:
Gentleness is to characterize the life of the believer: he or she is all powerful relative to the indwelling Holy Spirit, but it is power under control, governed by the edicts of one's Master who relegates His power in and through His called out ambassadors. Unfortunately for unity in the Capital amongst believers, there are too many who name the name of Christ who are void of gentleness. Such creates disunity. There are many excellent illustrations of gentle believers in the Bible. Let us examine some of them and see what more we can learn about this.
Matthew 26:47-56 records the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. In this fascinating passage we see the quality of meekness in full display - by Jesus that is, not Peter. Peter was ready to slice and dice. But notice Jesus' response to him in verse 53, "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" Herein illustrated is power under control. Jesus was and is the omnipotent, sovereign King of the universe, but He chose not to use His power on this occasion. Having first stated that, notice now Matthew 21:12, And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Being a meek person does not preclude one from expressing righteous indignation. Ephesians 4:26 states this in sound bite fashion, be angry and yet do not sin. It is possible to be characterized by meekness and righteous indignation simultaneously. The question is what kind of anger do you possess? Is it a selfish anger stemming from a lack of getting what you want, or is it a righteous indignation? How do you keep these Christological illustrations in tension? I synthesize these two illustrations from the life of Christ as follows:
MEEKNESS IS POWER IN RESERVE THAT IS EVER SENSITIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD
Proverbs 16:32 vividly illustrates the value of a gentle - but not patsy - spirit: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Highly self-controlled powerful people are the type of people others are drawn to. There's a confidence in their leadership, in their personhood. They are unifiers.
Additional perspectives of this biblically desired quality are afforded us via the life of Moses. God says of him in Numbers 12:3, (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) At the same time note Moses' perception of self as recorded in Exodus 4:10: Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." Having first stated those self-perceptions Moses had about himself, look at the various passages from Numbers and Exodus wherein he accomplished the following: 1. He Confronted Pharaoh in the Lord's Name 2. He Confronted Israel Regarding Her Idolatry 3. He Confronted the Lord to Forgive Israel's Sin How do you explain this seeming dichotomy? The answer is this: His confidence was not in himself ! It was in God's attributes, promises, and power! The meek person is not concerned about making a name for himself; he is void of selfish ambition. He is not caught up in his self-image, rather:
THE MEEK MAN HAS A SELFLESS IMAGE!
The meek focus on obedience to God and upholding the honor of His name, His attributes, His righteousness, and His objectives. Such is reflected in the lives of the Apostles who gave themselves in total for the advancement of the Gospel.
Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Your degree of meekness is directly proportionate and related to your degree of selflessness. In contrast to gentleness and meekness is sinful anger. Anger always stems from one's inability to achieve or fulfill his selfish desires. Accordingly, when you find yourself angry, ask yourself who am I serving? Gentle people can respond gently because their concern in life is to serve the LORD. It follows that believers whose primary focus is on themselves end up being agents of division in the body of Christ in the Capital Community.
The third characteristic Paul lists relative to achieving and maintaining unity amongst fellow believers in this magnificent passage is the quality of patience.
When Paul is imploring the believer to be patient, he is not saying that we are to be patient with and tolerating of error. As an example, in Galatians 1:9 he adamantly states, As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, he is to be accursed! And in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John quotes Jesus as saying to the Ephesian church, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles..." (2:2). Paul is not suggesting that believers have patience with false doctrine.
Likened to a jellyfish, many are those who are patient and tolerating with everything that comes their way. On the other hand, we know of those in the Capital who for the sake of truth, display no patience with those who are in error. The latter can be likened to a noisy gong or a clanging symbol (cf. 1Corinthians 13:1), i.e. those who are without love. Certainly Paul confronted error head on; but remember too that he penned 1Corinthians 13:1! How Christlike are you in this regard? Do you simultaneously display God's attributes of righteousness and patience? Proverbs 3:3 states this tension best: Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.
The Greek word for patience is makrothumia and is also translated as long tempered and longsuffering elsewhere in Scripture. Sequentially, patience stems from humility and gentleness.
PATIENCE GERMINATES ONLY IN A SOIL CONTAINING A RICH MIXTURE OF HUMILITY AND GENTLENESS
Those who are humble, gentle and patient are acknowledging God's superintending grace in their life. Therefore, it follows that they are in a state of mind to manifest those characteristics with others - just as God has with them. Notice how patience is manifest in the following biblical examples.
Noah simply amazes me! He is the first guy I want to talk to when I get to heaven. We can extrapolate from Genesis 6:9 that Noah was obedient to God (6:22 & 7:5) for 120 years in building the Ark! There were no oceans or lakes when God assigned Noah the task. There was not even any rain! But yet in obedience to God's word, he faithfully and patiently followed God's blueprint for building a massive ship known as the Ark. And while laboring daily over its construction, Noah faithfully preached to his neighbors regarding God's coming judgment. Hebrews 11:7 states in this regard, By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his house-hold ... Keep in mind it was not until 120 years later that he experienced the fruit of his labors! But all the while he patiently pursued the objective God had given him!
FOR THOSE CABINET, SENATE AND HOUSE MEMBERS WHO MOAN ABOUT NOT YET BEING ABLE TO CHANGE D.C. (AFTER BEING HERE FOR A TIME MEASURED IN MONTHS OR SEVERAL YEARS) MAY I COMMEND TO YOU THE LIFE OF NOAH
But then again, how can one not fall to the temptation of impatience if he is not regularly plugged into a Bible study with other Members who can encourage him to persevere in patience?
In Genesis 12:2 God promised Abraham that his descendants would be a great nation, and yet he was not given a son, Isaac, until after he was 100 years old! During this long period of waiting on God, Paul states of him, Yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God (Rom. 4:20). Are you growing stronger in your faith as you wait on God for Him to fulfill His calling in and on your life? Maybe He can't use you yet because you're not yet spiritually mature enough - as measured by your impatience. Keep in mind what the writer of Hebrews said of Abraham: Having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (6:15).
Moses made the cognitive choice to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:25-27). Here is a man who deliberately left the Ritz Carlton for a 40-year hike in the desert! Moses endured. He didn't bail out on his calling even though his calling was much more difficult than any calling to our nation's Capital is! In obedience to God, he patiently trusted Him with the purpose and direction of his life!
In the OT book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah is instructed by God to be obedient to Him - but realize going in, states God to him, that no one will listen to your message! God said to him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations... Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD" ( Jeremiah1:5-19).
JEREMIAH WAS NOT DISMAYED BECAUSE HE WAS COGNIZANT OF HIS CALLING. CAN THE SAME BE SAID ABOUT YOU?
Jeremiah was a patient man! As for Isaiah it was the same way. The nation would not listen to him or turn from their sins. James 5:10 states regarding these men of God: As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As a Member of the Cabinet or Congress, are you mindful of the prophet's patience? Are they an example to you of the patience of the prophets of old?
Jesus is our ultimate example of patience. Hebrews 12:2 states that we should be fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Herein illustrated is great patience showing tolerance: relegating one's self to God's ultimate purposes for His glory, no matter the personal sacrifice or cost. States one leading commentator in this regard:
The patient saint accepts God's plan for everything, without questioning or grumbling. He does not complain when his calling seems less glamorous than someone else's or when the Lord sends him to a place that is dangerous or difficult. He remembers that God the Son left His heavenly home of love, holiness, and glory to come to earth and be hated, rejected, spat upon, and crucified - without once returning evil for evil or complaining to His Father.
Beloved Members, can that be said of you? Are you patient in regards to Christ's calling of you to D.C.? Patience is a main ingredient to the achievement and maintenance of unity.
Here is the last character quality Paul mentions that is tantamount to achieving and maintaining unity in the body of Christ. As believers, Paul says, we need to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Diligence is the persevering application of the aforementioned characteristics that we have been studying. Why should we be diligent? Because the sum total of practicing the aforementioned characteristics is the key to maintaining unity in the body of Christ.
THE UNITY OF BELIEVERS ON THE HILL IS CRITICAL TO THE HEALTH AND DIRECTION OF THE NATION
Unity amongst believers is critical because biblically speaking, it accomplishes at least three things. Could it be that the reason Congress has been branded as a "Do-Nothing-Congress" for so many years is because the believers lack unity amongst themselves? When the following three aspects of unity are manifest amongst believers in political leadership, it facilitates a chemistry that is good for achieving things that are to a nation's benefit. Here are the theological reasons why unity is so important and why God blesses those who are diligent about achieving it:
In Ephesians 4:4-6, Paul goes on to say the following reasons why unity is so important: There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. If the body of Christ is to be the representation of Christ in the Capital between His First and Second Advent, then it need reflect God's nature of oneness amongst other believers and to all onlookers. Oneness reflects the nature of God: God Himself is three different personages of the same numerical essence (a classic description of the Trinity). It is hugely incongruous to imply that a disunited body of believers is today a representation of Christ; disunity reflects not His divine nature. Unity reflects His divine nature! Accordingly, in the Capital Community the unity of those who are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation is a very serious matter. The following passages serve to drive home this idea:
1. Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
There should be no disunity regarding all believers' ultimate purpose and aim: the faith of the gospel refers to that compendium of truth relative to the Christian faith (cf. 1Cor. 15:3,4; cf. Jude 3; Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:7). Followers of Christ who have other priorities that eclipse proffering the Gospel will inevitably bring disunity to the body in the Capital simply because they view their purposes differently than from what Scripture says they ought to be. For the believer to have a higher agenda above God's agenda is misdirected and disuniting. 2. Philippians 2:2 Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. This passage too underscores the necessity of the body of believers possessing unity in purpose. Unity in purpose reflects both God's presence and His divine nature. Jesus states in John 17:22, as He communicates with God the Father, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one."
In John 17:23 the gospel writer records the preceding portion of Jesus' high priestly prayer. But John records what Jesus goes onto say, I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
THE UNITY OF THE BODY TESTIFIES OF CHRIST'S REALITY IN THE UNREGENERATE PERSON'S HEART!
Accordingly, the unity of the body in the Capital is extremely important relative to the effectiveness of our overall witness to unbelievers. If we are perfected in unity, God promises us that the Capital Community will know that God sent Christ to be the payment for their sins.
Notice back in Philippians 1:27, the term striving together (sunathlountes). Sun is a prefix meaning "together" or "with." The root, athlountes is familiar to us all. We get the word athlete from it. It is used as such elsewhere by Paul in 2Timothy 2:5. Paul utilized the gladiatorial spectacle to communicate the ferocious tenacity we need possess in standing together to proclaim the gospel. Unity is extremely important! We need to maintain it on the Hill amongst believers!
Ephesians 4:13 states, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Herein the issue of unity relates to spiritual maturity. Those who would separate themselves from the body of believers possess not spiritual maturity in their disobedience to Scripture. Hebrews 10:25 states, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some... The unity of the body is not only a matter of obedience to Scripture but it is God's design for achieving spiritual growth in your life. In Ephesians 4:14 Paul states (from the context and flow of the passage) that one of the results of unity is that we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming. The word for craftiness (panourgia) carried the idea of "clever manipulation of error made to look like the truth." Unfortunately, there are many who are children today in the body of Christ as illustrated by their independence for the larger body of believers: to be absent is to be disunited. Show me a "believer" who rejects unity and forsakes the assembling of believers together and I will show you someone who is easily swayed by every wind of doctrine, or who becomes impatient.
To the opposite, Ephesians 4:16 goes on to say what happens with a committed body of believers. They practice their spiritual gifts with one another and build each other up! Note how this is communicated metaphorically by Paul: From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Herein is a wonderful, God-designed benefit for those who are committed to unity amongst other believers. They can be encouraged over the long haul.
The unity of believers in any Capital Community, be it D.C., a U.S. state Capitol, or a federal foreign Capitol, is a very important matter relative to the health and preservation of a nation. It is when believers are united in the leadership of a nation that a nation is in a position for God to bless it in ways that are exceedingly abundantly - beyond what you might ask or think. It therefore becomes a matter of importance to discover what Scripture says are the main components of unity, its attainment and maintenance. This passage speaks to that in a powerful way. Those ingredients are humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance, and diligence. When practiced by the believer, they lead to corporate unity amongst the body of Christ in the Capital Community or anywhere else. May God help us to develop each of these character qualities.