Who Are We? One Church

ephesians_5687cIn the Nicene Creed we confess that we believe in one church. Paul, in Ephesians 4:1-6 both assures you of the unity of the church and challenges you to display that unity. The unity of the church includes a lot of diversity. Sometimes the unity seems to vanish in diversity. Yet, if God’s Word tells you to pursue unity, if Jesus prayed for unity in his high priestly prayer, you need to pay attention!

Be one because you serve one God. You belong to the one God and Father. You share in the great confession of the Shema. Without that confession there is no problem in many different cults and religions, each selecting its own god and worshiping him or her. We have our contemporary pluralistic religion. Instead, you belong to the one God and Father, Ephesians 4:6. To divide needlessly insults the Father, who has formed you into his people, his temple.

You believe in one Lord Jesus Christ. One Lord gave his life for you. He is the unique Savior, and thus the church must be one. Christ has reconciled a holy God with sinful people. That reconciliation has to become progressively visible. Baptism is the act that seals our union with Christ and with his body. There is only one baptism, and the unity of the church should reflect that. Part of the reason we take less seriously than we should the unity of the church is that we have individualized worship too much. Matthew 5:23-24 speaks not only to resolving personal differences, but also to the corporate character of worship. “Faith” probably refers to the act of believing, the trust which is the means by which you are united with the Savior in his death and resurrection, Ephesians 2. Yet it also includes the idea of the faith, the body of what we believe. The Word does not call us to sacrifice truth on the altar of unity, nor to have a lowest common denominator religion. Maintain the truth, draw lines where they need to be drawn, but do so with love, humility, and grace.

The one Holy Spirit has brought you into the one body of Christ. Because the Spirit focuses, not on himself, but on Christ, his presence summons the church to reflect the unity of Christ. Note the emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12-14. He mysteriously enters you, works faith in your heart, and draws you to the Savior. But we sometimes immaterialize the Spirit and his work. The Spirit was active in the original creation and in the re-creation. “There is one great misunderstanding that can nullify all we learn about the unity of the church in the Father and the Son. It is the ‘spiritualizing’, or even the ‘vaporizing’, of the Holy Spirit.” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, p. 80). The presence of the one Spirit means far more than a feeling of camaraderie. It includes active obedience, using your gifts for one another.

Dedicate yourself fully to the one God. Pour your life into reflecting the unity of your God. “Make every effort” is a weak translation. Give yourself eagerly, totally to maintaining the unity of the Spirit. Put effort into getting to know fellow believers, both within this congregation and more broadly. Be willing to talk with one another, pray with and for one another, and serve one another. Look to the Godhead. The three persons are not carbon copies of one another. They eternally serve one another, their rich individuality complementing one another. Notice the diversity of gifts described in Ephesians 4. To use Paul’s analogy of the body not being made of one part, while we may be most comfortable with a federation of noses eager to sniff out heresy, we need most the parts that are least like us. Welcome and rejoice in those who are unlike you in many ways.

As you listen to the prayer of Jesus, bear with one another. As he neared the end of his earthly ministry, facing his suffering and sacrificial death, Jesus prayed for you, and he prayed for the unity of his church. Paul summons you to reflect you heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). Humility, serving one another, and above all, love, must mark your life, Ephesians 4:2. Don’t just resignedly put up with someone with whom you disagree, but positively encourage and help him or her. You cannot refuse to love your brother and still love your Lord. Pray for fellow believers, recognizing God’s grace that has touched their lives (see the early part of most of Paul’s letters), and let them know that you see God at work in them and are grateful for them. Ask how you can help and encourage them. Practice this kind of humble service in your homes. You cannot come from an argument at home into the presence of the Lord in worship without compromising the unity of the church.

One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father. As one created in the image of the triune God, as individuals, and as a body re-created in that image, pour your life into serving, into building up, the body that the Father chose, that the Son died for, and that the Spirit effectively calls together as one people.