A CALL TO UNITY

(cf. Colossians 3:12-16)

Ephesians chapter 4 deals with 2 issues which are crucially needed in the modern church as a whole, and those are, unity and the giftedness of every believer as a called, gifted, and full-time minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those are the 2 major truths of chapter 4. But it is noteworthy that Ephesians is the outcome of an expanded outline of Colossians, and Colossians was written to the Lychus river valley where 3 churches (Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea) were all started by a layperson named Epaphras. Gnostic false teachers came and disrupted the fellowship of those churches, and Paul sitting in prison wrote a letter to these 3 churches particularly, which is expanded in Ephesians (as a cyclical letter) to all the churches in western Turkey, better known as Asia Mino.

So it is chapter 3 of Colossians which is Paul’s original outline starting in verse 12 where Paul, with all the power of the Word of God, addresses the disruption prevailing in these 1st century churches. If we think we have disruption in our churches today, we don’t know what disruption is compared to the 1st century. Believers are on the verge of being completely destroyed in their faith. And it is in this difficult time of confusion and disruption the Word of God comes to them with power, as it speaks to all of us today in our problem of disunity. Paul exhorts, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” – these are Old Testament titles of the people of God. As Jesus is the beloved of Father, so are we (the church) the beloved of the Son. “put on” is a common Pauline metaphor like a Christian should take off the “old man” and “put on the new man”. So here he’s going to say “put on” – it’s a clothing metaphor which means make these attributes of Christ-likeness obvious and visible in your life. Have these characteristics of the mind of Christ in you is just another way of saying that. Notice this list here: “a heart of compassion” – think seriously about loving one another, and have deep feelings for one another; “kindness” – is a wonderful word which has a parallel in Ephesians 4:32 which basically means be tender-hearted to one another. It’s a great verse on how we have to treat each other, tender-heartedly. We all live in glass houses. If we start throwing rocks, nobody will have a house left. It’s kind of if you look for the perfect church, and you find it you’ll screw it up. So get over it. We all live in imperfect churches, and we all work with imperfect people. “Humility” – is a surprising word for the Stoics because they saw it as a weakness. Another for word for humility is meekness, and in the Bible there are only 2 people called ‘meek’, Jesus and Moses, and none of us are. Don’t you ever think that God’s got a good deal when He got you, and i don’t care who you are. Humility is recognizing the condition that we’re in, in this fallen world. None of us have all of the understanding and plans of what the will of God is. That’s why we believe as a group, no matter how messy it is, when we combine all the gifts, and all the prayers, and all the understanding of the congregation, we’ll have better chance of finding the will of God. Because the whole is always greater and better than its individual parts. Humility is also teachableness – not always having to be in the front row; not always having to have your opinion taken or not taken. We’re too stinking sensitive, we think we’ve got too many chips on our shoulders. the question is, if it’s a biblical chip, let’s go to the wall and die for it. If it’s a personality chip or a personal preference chip. let’s get over it, for Christ’s sake.

Gentleness has the idea of a domesticated beast, like a big stallion. How do you control it? You don’t break the spirit of that horse. You channel the strength and spirit of that horse to the purposes of the rider. And that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit wants to do with you. He gifted you. He’s the one that made you. Psalm 139 says, “but we are physically and emotionally the work of God for His purposes”. We need to be not broken, but channeled for His purposes. Let our strength that He gives us flow in the direction that He’ll receive honor and glory and not ourselves.

Patience is the idea of patience with people. And people get on our nerves all the time, because we are all different. We all see things differently. We all have differences. We all have different backgrounds, different cultures, and different education, but what characterizes us as a group is kindness, gentleness, humility…almost sounds like “the fruit of the Spirit” of Galatians 5. We all come believing we know the will of God; we all come believing we understand the will of God. there’s a seriousness with that, there’s a passion with that, but the truth is all of us can’t have the will of God, because we don’t agree. So we hope, together we can pool our giftedness, and find the will of God, but we’ve got to treat each other with respect!

Verse 13, “…bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” – is like us having a statement of assets and liabilities. There’s what people owe you and what you owe people. Now what God in Jesus Christ did was, He took your liabilities, and He washed them with His own blood. And now He says to you, to your assets (the due what you think others should pay you, what think others owe you, and what you think others should do for you), because Jesus has accepted you with all of your faults, failures, and sins for a greater purpose, He now asks you to erase those assets due you, so that you can walk in peace, and joy, and humility, and kindness, and gentleness, and patience, and long-suffering together. We all have glass houses with cracks. And none of us can measure up to the standard of the glory of God in Christ. We were all forgiven by God in Christ Jesus, now He asks us to forgive those people who have wronged us. Please, let us not be ugly to one another. Let us not get so factious as to cut the throat of anybody or everybody who disagrees with us. Please do not tear up the church over your own personal preferences and biases, because this is the blood-bought people of God. “Whoever has a complaint against anyone, let them forgive each other, just as the Lord forgave you so also should you”.

Notice as it continues, “Beyond all these things put on love…” – satan may have counterfeited every aspect of the Gospel, but he can’t counterfeit love. Because love is the root and the fruit of a relationship with Jesus. “This new commandment I give you, that you love one another even as I have loved you” (i.e. John 13:34). We all know John 3:16 but have you read 1st John 3:16 lately? “As Jesus laid down His life, we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”. “…put on love which is the perfect bond of unity, and let the peace of Christ rule (umpire) in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful!

I submit to you, indeed there are hurt feelings inside the fellowship, and if we do not reconcile those hurt feelings, soon quickly they go subconscious. If they go subconscious they become a detached, movable, and transferable irritability that falls on everything in the church. If you don’t deal with that hurt feeling now, it will metastasize into an emotional cancer that will destroy you. It will not destroy the person you’re mad at. It will destroy you. Give it to God, and He will deal with it appropriately. God help us!