Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ephesians 4:1-3 comments: Unity

1 ¶  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 ¶  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;  3  Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

How can you get all Christians together under these terms when all Christians seem to have a different authority? Some use different Bible versions that say different things in key places of  doctrine. Some go by their own conscience or the generally accepted beliefs of their own cultural group. Some base their Christian identity on country of national origin, their racial or ethnic group, a political party, how much money they have, or even their gender as being of primary importance. ­­
You can’t say, well they all believe in Jesus, because many Christians have a different Christ than the one in this Bible. To some Baptists, the government or the president is the messiah or oughta be, to some it’s the thoughts of their own preacher, to others it’s a fairy tale character they were raised on, to others it’s a “Christian” culture and way of speaking and doing things. But, to most of them it is NOT the Christ of this Book. How do you propose to get Christians to follow that simple plan and read it again when the modern fundamentalist church is nothing like the early church? 

God has given us a plan for how we should conduct ourselves as a body which is evident by reading the early history of the church in Acts and Paul’s letters but we, as American Baptist Christians, love big buildings, big works, big media, and big ideas, and then have the nerve to call ourselves a New Testament Church. In America, it’s all about the dog and pony show with pastor as master of ceremonies and the service designed to draw emotion out of a bunch passive spectators who leave the service either emotionally drained or pumped up temporarily, most people not even remembering what the sermon was about a few hours after they are ensconced in front of their televisions.

But, back to these verses. These are a simple plan of action and attitude. Ask yourself if you are capable of following this instruction? Can you put the “I” aside long enough to surrender to God’s demands on the church in the church age? Can you put aside your need to have control and to be in charge or your need to belong and go along to get along to purposefully follow the desire that God has for unity for us?

Paul explains here that while going about the business of the church, what Christ has called the church to do in glorifying God, in spreading the word of the gospel of Christ and in caring for the needs of the people in the church, first, and without, second, we are to do so with a humble spirit, patient with each other, and tolerating each other in love.

There is no room in Christ’s church for control freaks, domineering egos, so-called “take charge” type of people, what used to be called “Type A” behavior. The members of the church, as we will see later in this letter, are to submit to each other and wait on Christ, not to “lord it over” each other or control each other. It is the Holy Spirit that is to teach and guide us and it does so in a gentle manner, as a loving parent guides a child, with the parent occasionally having to discipline to change the child’s behavior.

Churches, both liberal and conservative, are all too often moved forward by domineering personalities whose conviction that their convictions should be the paramount concern of the local assembly, even of all Christians in general, is placed above all other considerations. They will say they are humbly following Christ when everyone around them can see there is no humility involved at all in their leading. They will say, well someone’s got to take charge, when it is the Holy Spirit, not them, that is to be looked for to lead.

Unfortunately, as Paul acknowledged in his letters by constantly pointing out how we are to behave toward each other, that human authority is all too often about who wants to be ‘da boss’ and who wants to follow ‘da boss.’ But it is not meant to be so in the church.

There can be no unity in the church if everyone is not committed to following Christ and putting Self aside, no unity in the church if everyone is not willing to, as we will soon see, submit to each other, men and women to men and women, with women submitting to their own husbands (see not only this letter but Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5 & 1 Peter 3:1,5) to refrain from the confusion and abuses that could be caused by requiring every women to submit to every man generally.

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