Friday, 2 September 2016
…endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
These words complete the list of things by which one will be able “to walk worthy of the calling with which” he was called. In order to do this, he notes that we should be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit.” The word “endeavoring” doesn’t really share the sense of the original which indicates “to make speed.” Thus something like “haste to keep the unity of the Spirit” is more in line with Paul’s intent. We should strive with all willingness and speed to ensure such unity.
This “unity of the Spirit” isn’t referring to a possible division of the Holy Spirit, but rather any division of those sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul has been speaking of the church as one body, and that we are all members of one household. Therefore, we should be united in our conduct and our walk because of this.
However, this brings in an obvious difficulty. When doctrine is lacking, or the word of God is mishandled (either unintentionally or intentionally) there can be no true unity of the Spirit. This is seen throughout the epistles and even in the seven letters to the seven churches. In Romans 16:17, Paul says –
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
Therefore, it is understood that such divisions will exist; a lack of unity is inevitable. Paul doesn’t say that this cannot occur. Rather, he instructs that at times it must occur. What he is asking of us in this verse is that we work with all speed to not let this happen when circumstances so dictate. It is our job to strive for felicity among the brethren and to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
This “bond of peace” that he speaks of probably refers back to Chapter 2 –
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace…” Ephesians 2:14, 15
Where there once was the great division of Jew and Gentile, Christ had made peace. If such an immense source of enmity could be ended through His work, then all others are also possible as well. However, it is incumbent on the offender as much as the offended to be willing to strive for this peace; something which is less likely to occur. Someone who holds to a particular incorrect doctrine will often double down on their stand rather than seeing reason. Pride steps in and is unwilling to admit wrong. Thus the bad doctrine is then passed on to others and it becomes a larger and larger separation.
This is why there are so many denominations with so many unfavorable doctrines to contend with. Some are heretical; some are doctrinally unsound; some are simply nutty pet peeves. It is only through a pure and wholehearted pursuit of Christ that these things will ever be set aside. As God is love, Colossians 3 shows us how this will be effected –
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:14
Putting on love is what will unite the Spirit. It must be the highest love, that of love for Christ and His word, which brings this about. If we are willing to put Him first, then the incorrect doctrines will be set aside for purity of doctrine which stems from Him.
Life application: Paul admonishes us to strive for unity, but he never asks us to do this at the expense of proper doctrine. The world of ecumenicalism errs because it puts unity above purity of doctrine. This is a bad place to be. The words of Scripture ask us to have our allegiances aligned properly. Doctrine matters more than false unity.
Lord God, Your word asks us to strive for unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. However, Your word also tells us that false doctrines and heresies are not to be condoned. In the world today, we have placed a spirit of ecumenicalism above the mandate to pursue sound doctrine. This can only lead to a sad end where our hearts are directed away from You. Help us never to make this mistake, but to put our allegiance to You above all else. This we pray as Your word is our guide for our walk in this fallen world. Amen.