The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians
Ephesians 4:1-6As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. _____
Uniting the Divided Church
Boston College Professor Peter Kreeft once said this, "Denominationalism is a scandal and nowhere in the Bible does it say that it is the right thing to do."
Eph 4:1 I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received
There are many ways for us to define the word calling. There are different callings each of us have. We are called to be holy, we are called to be blameless, we are called into the family of God, we are called to do good works, we are called to believe in Christ. Today however, we want to look at another calling in which we so often miss. What I am referring to is the items found in Mark 1:17 when Jesus said, "Come and follow me, I will make you fishers of men."
We may have various interpretations on that verse alone, yet one thing is clear. Jesus calls every disciples to fish for people. Why did he say that? Because before one can lead a person to Jesus Christ, he needs to first build up his credibility as someone whom another can lay down his trust on. The question is how. Reading Ephesians 4:2, we get an answer from Paul.
Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love
Notice how Paul wrote verse 2. He did not say partially, he did not say often, nor seldom, nor sometimes, Paul said completely. Always. Be completely humble and gentle, patient, and loving. As we look at verse 2, we are given a clue on the first pointer on how unity can be achieved.
(1) Bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-26 says "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
Pointer one is a very basic thing to remember. The sad thing is, we often fail in this one. When? It's when we over-philosophize stuff. It is when we believe that a single difference is enough to ruin the entire relationship. We can agree on a hundred things but we only need one thing where we disagree upon and that is enough to wreck the entire relationship. Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, prominent figures of the Reformation had a chance to meet one another to discuss their newly founded doctrines that would for centuries, leave a scar between Protestantism and Catholicism. In their discussion however, they found themselves agreeing on everything that has been said except one thing: the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Many Christians do not know this thing that happened between Luther and Zwingli. Luther believed in Transubstantiation, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Zwingli opposed Luther's view and contended that only the Spirit is in the Eucharist. There's no Transubstantiation taking place. It took these two giants of faith only one single issue that would again, for centuries, leave a scratch in the Protestant faith. Because the two leaders couldn't agree on a single thing, Luther went on his way as the leader of the Lutheran Branch while Zwingli founded his own Reformists branch.
Love my friend, is the most powerful arsenal that can bridge a broken relationship. Mark Twain once said, "Kindness is the language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear." "Love", says Philip Yancey, "is that one thing that disarms even the toughest army." Why do you think Jesus would put more emphasis on love more than anything else? When he was asked about the top two greatest commandments, both of them talked about love. By the time Jesus was leaving his final reminders to his disciples, he gave them a new commandment: to Love one another as He has loved them. Colossians 3:12-14 says "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." 1 Corinthians 16:14 says, "Do Everything In Love."
Eph 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Paul didn't wrote unity in flesh, not unity in philosophy, not unity in anything else. Here we see the emphasis of Paul when he wrote about unity. It's not the unity of the spirit. It's the unity of the Spirit with a capital S. How? Through the bond of peace. One of the greatest example we can look at Philosophically is the Trinity. Looking at the Trinity from our point of view, it does not seem that the Father has everything that the Son had, nor do the Son have everything the Father has. How do we know that? The Father didn't have a physical flesh. Only the Son was given that. In the same way, the Son didn't know everything that the Father had in mind. This is easily proven when one reads Matthew 24:36 in which Jesus confessed, "About the day and the hour when the world will end, no one knows not even the Son of Man."
With this at hand, why is the Father and Son still bonded together? The Son may have all the reasons to tell the Father to part ways because they share different thoughts. The thing is however, they share the same Spirit. Not spirit, but Spirit with a capital S. This leads us to a realization that there is a need to seek unity. If the Trinitarian Godhead would be united despite their differences, why can't we? Are we greater than God to live with pride? Thus, this is pointer number 2.
(2) Seek for Unity through the Spirit
George Whitefield, the father of the Protestant Methodist movement once said this,
"Father Abraham, are there any Episcopalians in heaven?"
"Any independents or Methodists?"
"No. No. No."
"What then do you have?"
"Son, we don't know those words here in heaven. All that we know is that Christians come here."
Here is a Protestant minister who saved England from the revolution that destroyed France, another colossus of faith, who made it clear that denominationalism is not the right thing to do. For many conservative Christians, this statement from Whitefield will gather many criticisms. This essentially will lead us to the third pointer.
(3) Understand Where They are Coming From.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Test everything and hang on to the good." 1 John 4:1 concurred, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
Allow me to present to you dear friends, three tests for truth.
a. Logical Consistency - the statement should stand up to logic.
b. Empirical Adequacy - the statement should be anchored in facts.
c. Experiential Relevance - the statement should have a positive effect on man's view of life.
The argument between Sola Fide (Faith Alone) vs. Faith and Good Works is one of the most sensitive topics to talk about. This having said, I will leave out my personal opinion on this one but I'd like to give advices to Christians who believe in either of the doctrines: Ask questions. Questions are very important. Number 1, it opens up all assuptions. Number 2, it provides an entry point for a discussion.
At face value, these two things doesn't match at all. As we dig deeper however, you're gonna realize something extremely amazing. I will leave the thrill for you to find out (although I have already shared this to those who were there in the Bible Study). You will be surprised when the assumptions have been unearthed... and it's not a negative one, it's a positive one.
Matthew 7:1-5 recorded an important saying from Jesus. It says this, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye"
What the verses are saying is simple. If we judge without sufficient grounds for judging, you can be sure that you're gonna find youself on the losing end. Judge justly. Be willing to look at both sides of the coin before judging. You will be surprised by what you see in doing this.
Finally, pointer number four is this:
(4) Focus on the main thing: JESUS.
Eph 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Pope John XXIII, also referred to as the Pope of Peace, convened the Second Vatican Council and spoke sternly about ecumenism. For the first time in centuries, the Roman Catholic Church changed it's position from being anti-protestant to accepting them as their brothers. Despite throngs of objections, the Pope made sure that the divide be remedied once and for all. They are our "fratelli separati" says Pope John XXIII, "separated brethrens." They may not be Catholics, but they are still Christians. We are ONE just as God is ONE.
Many Christians do not know this either. That the universal call for unity has sprang out from both sides of the river. Protestants call for it, Catholics call for it. Is it really possible that only the members are the ones who are hard-headed and hard-hearted?
When one reads Matthew 16:13-18, we see this:
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Check this out dear friends. Jesus built his church not with large tomes of doctrines. He built his church through one simple confession: That He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God who has come to redeem us from our sins. Colossians 3:15-17 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
We cannot live a life of gratitude if we live each day attempting to crush Christians who do not share the same denomination as we do. Peter Kreeft claimed that denominationalism is a scandal because it makes us focus more on ideology rather than Jesus. Remember dear friends that while you are able to change the mind, it is impossible for you to change the heart. Only Jesus Christ can change both the heart and the mind of a person. Let your light shine before men... so that they may see the things you are doing and praise our Father in Heaven.
In Summary, here are the pointers we need to remember if we want to heal the wounded church:
1. Bear the fruit of the Spirit
2. Seek for Unity through the Spirit
3. Understand where They are Coming From
4. Focus on the main thing, JESUS
...The Epistle in HONOR of the LORD...
Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:3- Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one
Grace and Peace be with you.