3 May 2020, 11 a.m


Maintaining Our Unity in Love
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

Characteristics for Unity (v2-v3)
Divine Foundation of Unity (v4-v6)
Journey in Unity (v7-v16)

Reflection Questions

·    Give reasons why the call to “walk worthy of the calling” applies to you as a member of Hermon?

·    What are the actions and attitudes that you have observed in Hermon that promotes or prevents unity?

·   Since unity is essential for growth in maturity in the body of Christ, share how and where you see God leading you to contribute within Hermon.

Transcript:

Last week in preparation for the sermon, Rev Luwin lead us to sing ‘Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds; Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.’

And then during the sermon, Ps Daniel Chua highlighted Moses response to God speaking to him from the burning bush. Moses said ‘Here I Am’.

I was reminded at the service last week, as I ask God to speak, am I like Moses, having the right attitude to say – Lord here I am.

That I’m ready to listen obediently …

As we ended chapter 3, I shared this structural flow of the book of Ephesians.

The first 3 chapters focus on Theology and ends with Doxology.

And what we will see from chapters 4 to 6, is Orthopraxy – right living. And these implications only happen because of chapters 1 to 3.

In order for this flow of Theology to Doxology to Orthopraxy to happen, the attitude of Moses is key.

‘Here We Are Lord’ is the humble and open attitude we should have.

And even when it’s tough, may we seek the Sprit’s help to be the church God wants us to be. 

I’ve taken today’s sermon title from v3 ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’.

I wanted to emphasize that we are called to maintain the unity and not create it.

And I think this is fundamentally important.

It’s not that we are enemies and now have to strive to be united. No, God has already established this unity. All we have to do is work hard to maintain it.

I see this from:

Eph 2:15 … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Through the cross, God has already made both Jews and Gentiles one with Him and also one with each other.

So in thinking about unity, let’s begin from the point that it is already been established. All we need to do is to participate in God’s plan to maintain it.

The impossible part has already been accomplished by God. 

Characteristics for Unity (v2-v3)

“Therefore walk in a manner worthy of your calling’.

Structurally, I see verse 1 as the overall opening of chapters 4 to 6.

And I believe, this phase, refers to everything we know from chapters 1 to 3.

Paul elsewhere says:

Rom 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Thus our calling is our election, adoption and redemption by the grace and mercies of God.

So if we say we are a believer of Jesus Christ, we have been called. Therefore, all the implications of chapter 4 to 6 applies to us.   

Now today’s segment is bracketed by the word ‘love’. We see that in v2 ‘bearing with one another in love’ and then in v16 ‘makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’

This love is agape love. God’s self-sacrificing love. Displayed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. 

So the agape love of God is the good soil that provides the best environment in which we can live out the implications of v2 to v16.

And so Paul says, if we are to walk worthy of our calling, we must exhibit the characteristics that maintain unity. 

5 characteristics we need – humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love and to be eager to maintain the unity.

Humility, gentleness and patience would be internal characteristics of a believer.

While the final 2 characteristics are actions which we do in relation to others.

To bear with one another is to be long-suffering. To be eager is to be proactive, to work hard at taking the initiative.

May I share 3 observations.

Firstly, the way to cultivate these characteristics at a deeper level is when the going gets tough. Smooth seas never make skillful sailors.

We exhibit humility when we begin to consider the opinions of others as equal to our own. Especially when we see ourselves as the subject matter expert during ministry discussions.  

To develop patience, is not when you see your family for only 2 hours a day, but it’s like our current situation, of living 24 hours together in the same house.  

Secondly, for the Ephesian believers, these were not positive traits valued by their society.

It’s Paul telling them to be counter-culture.

And these are characteristics modeled perfectly in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m sure we all would agree, these traits are not highly valued even today.

But this should be how the body of Christ functions.

Church we are to be counter-cultural too.

Finally, notice that these characteristics are only relevant if there are relationships involved. If you are a loner, none of these applies.

But if we are in the body of Christ, it matters.

Friends, being a believer is a personal decision, but it puts you in a community of faith. There is no such thing as a private Christian.  

I believe God wants us to grow in these characteristics. And in Mt Hermon, the best growth structures are – committing to be in a CG and serving in a ministry.

Trust me, these platforms will stress-test all these 5 characteristics.

But it will result in us growing in them.

Divine Foundation of Unity (v4-v6)

2 Fridays ago, there was a nation-wide singing of the song ‘Home’. I’m sure many of us participated. One People, One Nation, One Singapore. 

It is good that we have a sense of unity as Singaporeans. We thank God for this nation.

Regardless of race, language or religion, we are One Singapore.

Paul, here in v4 to v6, tells the Ephesian believers that they have an even deeper connection of unity.  And this connectivity touches even us today in 21st Century Singapore.

Across every local faith community, in different nations and in different periods of history, we are One.

One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God.

Four observations here:

Firstly, Paul begins with one Body. It’s a natural link to the previous verses, but also I see this as an emphasis.

Based on what we have already learnt, the body, refers to the church both local and universal.

So in the context of the Ephesian believers, Paul is referring to the local faith community that comprises of both Jews and Gentiles.

May I appeal for those who profess faith and are above 21, but who have yet to been baptised or reconfirmed in the faith. Please give this consideration. 

Notice that the One Body is linked to One Baptism.

As of now, you have not yet become part of this ‘One body’.

Why? Because you have not confess publicly that Jesus is Lord and you have not submitted yourself, under His Lordship by being a member of His church.   

So, if you are in this category, please consider the truth from Ephesians 4.

Secondly, even as the repetition of the word ‘One’ stresses the idea of unity, we see that this unity is centred on certain truths.

There is a basis for this unity. The basis is the truth of Scripture in these 7 descriptions.

And so with regards to unity in God’s Kingdom, one commentator says “we must affirm that there are differences that are honourable but not vital; there are believers with whom we differ on matters important but not essential …. What we are not permitted to do is unite ourselves with those who have abandoned these truths affirmed in Scripture.”

So may these 7 truths be our criteria for participation in the wider unity of God’s kingdom. 

Thirdly, the foundation of our unity is found in the Trinity. There is one Spirit, one Lord (Jesus Christ) and One Father. This is link in part to the earlier point. We cannot be united with those who do not worship our Triune God.

So God cannot be mother. Jesus cannot just be human. And the Spirit cannot be uttering special knowledge that is contrary to what Jesus has taught. 

Thus we have statements like the Apostles Creed that describes for us the One faith that we believe.

The other aspect of our Triune God, is that the Trinity is the strongest foundation that exist.

It’s unbreakable, it’s outside of time – eternal. The God-head is in perfect relationship and unity with each other. 

So we can say, we are maintaining the unity of the church that is at its core, unbreakable.

That’s a great comfort and assurance, as we grapple with disagreements, tensions and conflicts in the daily life of the church.  

Finally, One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

This tells us of God’s sovereignty, his omnipotence and omnipresence.

Maintaining of the unity in the body of Christ is thus possible because of who God is.

Now because we all have the same Heavenly Father, it means we are all part of the same family.

You may have a different skin colour, you may have a very different perspective of things from me. But we are siblings-in-Christ.

Remember, for unity to flourish, unity must be planted in the soil of agape love.   

In practical terms, could this mean we have affections for everyone in Hermon since we are part of the same family?

And thus, we are willing to be more open and accepting of any who want to join our CGs? 

 

Journey in Unity (v7-v16)

After telling us the characteristics for unity and the foundation of unity, Paul now goes on to describe the journey in unity.

And he describes for us also some outcomes of this journey.

First point is Christ gives the gift of grace for the journey.

I submit quite a few of us see the church like taking a coach ride to Malaysia.

The leaders are the bus driver, the co-driver, the tour guide.

While the members are the passengers who have paid good money to be served.

Instead, our CG material gives a good illustration. It says, we need to look at church more like a symphony orchestra. Each of us is playing a different instrument.

And based on the music scores, we come in at the right time.

So together we make music by blending together into a wonderful harmony.

Thus v7, v12 and v16, gives us a picture of a spiritual orchestra. Each of us playing our part. 

•             v7 ‘but grace was given to each one of us’,

•             v12 ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry’,

•             v16 ‘the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly’

A missing instrument adversely affect the harmony. A non-functioning body also will affect the rest of the body.

Thus we need to realise because we are inter-dependent, the journey in unity requires all of us to play our part.

And what part we play, is based according to God’s gift of grace.  

Now because of the fact that we receive out of the measure of Christ gift. It also means God does give to some a greater capacity to serve.

So the implication for us then is that of stewardship. 

If you are not yet serving the body of Christ, well it’s possibly because you are unaware of how God’s gift to you, can edify the body. May I invite you, speak with our leaders today.

If you are already serving, find the time to calibrate your level of service today. Discuss it with those in the same ministry.

Since God has given us the enabling grace to serve, it behoves that we serve at the best of our abilities.  

Let’s me give you another angle of stewardship from v8.

v8 is a quote from Psalm 68:18. In that Psalm, God is the victorious king marching before Israel up into Mt Zion. And God parades His defeated foes and receives gifts from men.

So Paul is implying that Jesus Christ is the conquering and victorious Divine King who has defeated sin, death and Satan. Now Christ give gifts to men.

Have confident Paul says, because what Jesus the victorious King gives is efficacious.

At the same time, because Jesus is King, we will have to account for everything that He has given us. So we need to be responsible stewards.

What a gracious God we have. He gives us gifts of enabling service so that we can maintain the unity that Christ has bought with His blood.

Now in an orchestra, there is a conductor. And each instruments, have section leaders.

Off stage, a host of team leaders make sure everything is provided so that the rehearsals can happen and the actual performance is realized.

Paul says, God’s gift to the church are the Apostles, the Prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints.

With reference to  Eph 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.

We can say that the legacy of the apostles and prophets is now the Scriptures which we have in our hands.

And this sufficiency of Scripture is summarized in a familiar passage:

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So today, to maintain the unity, God’s continued gift to the church would be in the offices of the Evangelist and the Pastor-Teacher.

2 things we can observe:

Firstly, all the offices have a commonality among them. That is, they focus on ministering the Word of God.

And if we believe 2 Tim 3:16-17 to be true, then, it is so wise of God to gives to the church these gifts. For then everyone will be equipped for every good work.

Here’s where we need to see the ordination of our brother Luwin as significant.

God has raised up a Pastor-Teacher from within our family. It means God has good works for Hermon to do.

Secondly, we want to re-align our understanding of the focus of pastoral leaders and ministry staff.

If we are understanding Ephesians 4 correctly, then God’s gift to the church in human resources would be in the area of equipping.

So the DNA of our leaders and staff should be that of equipping others through God’s word.

This implies then, an appropriate expectation that they are formally trained.  

When we use our skills future credits, we expect the course trainers to be certified, not just self-taught.

So may we all seek equipping for the good work God has purposed for Hermon.

 

The Second major point, is that our journey in unity results in the body of Christ being built up

The equipping of the word ministry produces maturity. And maturity is reflected in 3 areas given in v13.

•             Wisdom – ‘until we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.’ Our faith is not an emotion, it’s based on the truth of the Gospel. And we believe that all of God’s promises are found in Jesus the Son of God.

•             Stability – ‘to mature manhood’. This is directly contrasted with v14. Adults are not like infants who are unstable and easily deceived.

•             Christlikeness – ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Stature speaks of the weightiness of a person, the consistency and integrity. So maturing is Christlikeness permeating throughout every pore of our body.

Note also with me the word ‘until’ in v13. It means it is a work in progress. Full maturity in Hermon will not happen along the journey.

And since we individuals make up Hermon, the church cannot mature if we do not ourselves mature. 

So because this maturing is about the body of Christ, then it means we must not leave anyone behind.

It means it cannot be only the right arm become stronger while the left remains weak. It means we need to take care of every member of the body.

I believe, if we remember the characteristics for unity in v2 and 3, I believe we will pace our journey well and the progress will be even.

 

Finally in our journey in unity, we must sustain it well.

Let’s look at v15 to v16. May I highlight the word ‘grow’. This journey in unity and maturity must be an ongoing process, it cannot stop.

And here Paul says to grow 2 key things must happen:

Firstly, we must be speaking the truth in love.

Though this phased is most commonly translated as ‘speaking the truth in love’, some have argued that because it is a verbal adjective, it is more than speaking.

And so a suggested translation is ‘confessing the truth in love’.

To ‘confess the truth’ means there is integrity between what I say and what I do.

And I believe if we are confessing the truth it would make us think twice before we speak.

But at the same time, it will give more weight when we do speak. For our words are backed up by our actions.

Secondly, we must recognize the source of our strength for the journey.

The word ‘from whom’ shows us that Christ is the source of strength and unity.

As the Head, Christ gives 2 things. Firstly the gift of serving grace to each member.

Secondly to the church, Christ gives Word ministers to equip each member.

Thus Christ as the head of the body, provides all that is necessary.

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.

So to sustain growth in unity and maturity, may we be confessional and connected to Jesus the Vine.

Conclusion

Hermonites, we have appropriated Psalm 133 as our Psalm. Psalm 133:1 says Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Remember our 2019 anniversary canvas bag. I hope you are still using it. 

As we carry the bag, not only can we say Amen to Psalm 133:1, from today, because of Eph 4, we now know how to maintain this unity. 

Church, may the truth from God’s Word, bind us closer together.  Amen

 

 

 

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