Keep the Unity of the Spirit Ephesians 4:1-6

We have now been in Covid lockdown for 100 days. From next weekend many parts of the lockdown are going to be lifted. Some parts of church life will gradually be able to go back to normal. But not normal as it was before. “New normal”. The reality is that until a vaccine or an effective cure is found, in the same way as offices and factories and shops and public transport and the hospitality industries have changed, church life will not just go back to the way it was before. But what might church be like in the “new normal”? In what forms might our activities continue? Worship, teaching, prayer, fellowship, pastoral care, mission, evangelism, work with children and young people, community involvement and prophetic witness? What should the church be like after Covid?
We will find ways all to talk about these questions over the next few weeks. To start with, we need to go back to the Bible and find out what churches are meant to be and to do. Last week I shared with everybody a Booklet of sermons on “What is the church? This week I posted an article on “Church Life After Covid19.” The message for this morning, which will continue next week, explores these important questions. What is the church? And then, what part do we each have to play in the church?
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) once said,
“The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion; some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted. So we must be regular practicing members of the church. Of course we differ in temperament. Some (like you—and me) find it more natural to approach God in solitude; but we must go to church as well. For the church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities, but the body of Christ, in which all members, however different (and he rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.”
The church is “the body of Christ, in which all members however different …. must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.”
We have been finding out in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about God’s cosmic masterplan of salvation. This is worked out in each of our lives as God’s amazing grace forgives our sins and gives us the free gift of eternal life.
Ephesians 2 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
As Christians we share all of these wonderful blessings. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We have so many things in common. We are one body – says Paul. Think about your body. Is there any part of your body you don’t like? Your ears? Your nose? Your feet when they play you up? But is there any part of your body you dislike so much that if you could you would have the doctors chop it off? I doubt it. We read about the first Christians in Acts, “They were like family to each other.” We are the family of God! Christians should never ignore other Christians or treat them as if they aren’t part of the family of the church.
But there is more to being part of the body of Christ. We saw in Ephesians 2 that when any person is saved we become part of God’s new community. We are
no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, (2:19)
This is God’s cosmic masterplan – we are all united in Christ.
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (2:20)
Each of us are the bricks God is using to build a new kind of temple.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (2:21-22)
The old Temples where people went to meet with God were built of stone. The New Temple is made of living stones and God lives in us! We are the church, the Body of Christ and the temple where God lives by His Holy Spirit.
So what part do we have to play in God’s cosmic masterplan? It’s very simple. God is creating a new community, all one in Christ Jesus. All we have to do is not mess things up! Don’t break up the unity of the church. Keep the peace.
Ephesians 4 As 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.
As God’s family and the body of Christ, we are called to live in peace together. To get on with each other. Every Christian has received God’s amazing grace which makes us part of the church, and we are all called to live just like Jesus Himself.
Be completely humble and gentle; not arrogant or proud
be patient, not in a hurry, not demand that everybody else moves at the same speed as we do, but all moving together as one.
bearing with one another in love. Tolerant and not critical. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Love never gives up!
So in the life of the church, we should all
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
We don’t have to create unity in the church. The church is already one. We just have to make every effort not to mess things up by dividing the church. We have to keep the peace.
Paul goes on to remind us that we have so much in common that draws us together – so much which we share as Christians which this lost world does not share.

4:4 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; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We share so many things in common! One word appears seven times in those three verses, and that word is “one”. As Eugene Peterson comments, “Everything is permeated with Oneness.” Paul lists seven things which Christians share.
One Body – the church, the body of Christ
One Spirit – the Holy Spirit who lives in every Christian and makes us together to be the church
One Hope – the hope of sharing the glory of God, the inheritance which is guaranteed for us all by the Holy Spirit who lives inside us as the first instalment of heaven.
One Lord – the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, risen from the dead and ascended on high, King of Kings and Lord of Lords
One Faith – the trust we all place in Jesus for our salvation
One Baptism – the sign God has given us to show that we share in the benefits of Christ’s death on the cross and we also share in the power of his resurrection life.
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are part of God’s forever family the church because we all share the one God and Father of all.
Did you notice how all three Persons in God the Holy Trinity were included there? The one Spirit and the one Lord Jesus Christ and the one Father. Christians must be united as one, because God in Himself is one, unity in diversity.
Seven things which all Christians share and which unite us together.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
That is why all Christians should always Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
New Living Translation 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace can be very hard. Some people are very hard to please!!! We can all find things to criticise and even fall out about! So we need to work hard at preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. God has already created the unity – in Christ. All we have to do is not mess things up! Because when we do we are getting in the way of His cosmic masterplan!
As we seek to discover what North Springfield Baptist Church should be like in the “new normal” the most important thing is that we move on together – maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Some of us would naturally want to rush on quickly. Others of us could well be anxious and afraid. Some may continue to be vulnerable and shielding and we must make sure that nobody is left behind or left out. Maintaining the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
The story is told of two porcupines in the freezing north country of Canada which huddled together to keep warm in the snow. Because they were pricked by each other’s quills, they moved apart. Soon they were shivering again and had to lie side by side again in order to survive. They needed each other even more than they needled each other!
Members of any church sometimes rub up against each other and needle each other.
To dwell above with saints we love, That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know; Well that’s another story!
This time of lockdown has helped us to appreciate each other more. As we go forward, WE will need each other more than we needle each other! We need to work hard to stick together, to move on with God as ONE body, ONE family.

MESSAGE I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.
New Living Translation 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

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