“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
What is unity? I’m not so sure I know what it is, but I sure know when it ain’t! Biblical unity is oneness of purpose. It’s simply putting my own agenda—preferences, opinions, demands, expectations—on the back burner to allow God’s purpose for his family, the church, to be my first and consuming passion.
That doesn’t mean you and I won’t have different opinions, desires or preferred ways of doing things; it just means those differences are not going to become issues that divide and distract us.
Unity is not uniformity. In fact, in Ephesians 4:7-12 Paul talks about the variety of spiritual gifts given to us as individuals. That means there is great variety and diversity in the body of Christ—by Divine design. But in the diversity of those gifts, as well as diversity of personalities and passions, God gave leadership gifts to certain people (Ephesians 4:11) to coach and coax that diversity into singleness of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Why? So we can reach,
“Complete unity…and the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
Now how do we get to that kind of unity? In Ephesians 4:2-3 we are asked to cultivate six virtues: Humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance in love, effort and peace.
If spiritual oneness is going to be a reality in your fellowship and mine, it will have to be a place where I make it my job descriptions to live out those six virtues so compellingly and attractively that I become the primary source of a unity pandemic.
Now make no mistake: That will not be easy. That is why Paul said that we must exert to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit…” Unity doesn’t come easily. The drift is always toward division—it is easy to float into that eddy. It takes effort and endurance to go against the current to stay in harmony with one another.
The word effort means to be diligent, to be zealous, to make haste to do something, in this case, being eager and fully dedicated to maintain the unity of the Spirit. It refers to a holy zeal to guard our Christian unity. Why do we need holy zeal? Because Satan’s number one goal is to divide you and me. That’s why each of us needs to take the responsibility for the spiritual unity of our church.
Without these six virtues, it really does no good to talk about unity. But, as we see in Ephesians 4:16, when these virtues of unity—humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance in love, effort, and peace—are lived out in our fellowship, “The body will build itself up in love as each part does its work.“
And other than the salvation of a lost soul, I would argue there is nothing more precious to God than seeing his family completely, indestructibly united in love. That is why Jesus spent a goodly part of his last hours praying desperately for it (John 17:20-23). He knew that without unity, we would fall apart. But if we could get it together, Jesus knew that nothing could stop us. Vance Havner once said,
“Snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them get together they can stop traffic.”
If we get together in unity in our church, we’ll stop traffic in our community. And that’s God’s desire for us.
“Believers all belong to the same Lord, and are thus one with each other. Therefore anything that denies our oneness with each other denies our oneness with Him.” ~John MacArthur