Grow Up: Unity Once Again

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:11

If you've been reading these Daily Reflections for a while, you may recall that in September we spent several days reflecting on Paul's exhortation to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (4:3; see, for example, "The Theological Foundation of Christian Unity.") Now, ten verses later, we come upon unity once again. (Both 4:3 and 4:13 use the Greek word henoteta, which means "unity, oneness.")

Yet, there is a difference in perspective between verse 3 and verse 13. In the earlier verse, unity is something provided by the Holy Spirit, something that we Christians are to keep or maintain. In verse 13, however, unity is something that we are seeking to attain. It is a quality of the growth of the body of Christ. It is a mark of Christian maturity.

Though the emphases vary, there is no contradiction between the perceptions of unity in verse 3 and verse 13. Consider, for example, the analogy of marriage. When I conduct a wedding, I conclude by announcing to the couple that they are now husband and wife. Indeed, God has created a deep unity between them. Yet, what exists truly in the moment of their wedding is something that needs to be fleshed out in a life of faithful marriage. In many cases, I have said to couples I'm marrying something like this: "Now, live out the unity God has created between you as husband and wife. Be in reality what you really are in Christ."

As members of the body of Christ, we are united in him by the work of the Spirit. This is bedrock truth. Yet, it is truth that we need to experience, that we need to live into, that we need to demonstrate to the world through our actions. Thus, as God's people do the works of ministry for which they have been gifted and trained, and as the body of Christ grows up, we will grow into greater, deeper, wider, and more genuine unity.

As we continue our reflections of this passage from Ephesians, we'll delve more deeply into the nature of our unity. For now, let me encourage you to consider how this passage instructs, encourages, and even admonishes you. As you let God speak through his Word, you may consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If unity is something created by the Holy Spirit, how can the church grow into unity? Do you tend to think of church growth in terms of the unity of the church? Why or why not? Why does unity matter so much to the life and growth of the church?

PRAYER: Gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this passage from Ephesians emphasizes the unity of your church, both as something provided by you and as something we grow to attain. Clearly, unity matters, not only to Paul as he writes Ephesians, but also to you. I remember, Lord Jesus, your prayer for your disciples: "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one–I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:22-23).

May this prayer be on my lips and in my heart, Lord. May I seek the unity of your church, preserving what you have given, helping your church to grow into experienced, embodied, demonstrated unity.

To you be all the glory, Triune God. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.