Essential Unity

Note from Jesus

Dear Member of My Body,

Paul emphasized in several of his letters to churches that My church is My bodily presence in the world (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-30). When I lived on earth in a physical body, I brought the touch and truth of the Father to a broken and confused world. Now, as My body, you are called to do the same thing.

You are a member of My body. The concept of being a member of an organization called a church is foreign to the New Testament. Such a concept is also foreign to My teaching. When My apostles used the term “member,” they were talking about a member of a body. Each member is a vital part of a living body. How you treat others in My family, what you believe, and how you use your gifts impact My church in significant ways. How you live these dynamics either helps or hinders the church to live and serve as My bodily presence in the world.

When Paul wrote the verses below, he used the emotional leverage of his imprisonment. In this way, he reminded My disciples in Ephesus and Asia Minor of the importance and urgency of three things:

  • Living with a definite character that reflected My character,
  • Agreeing on essential doctrinal truths centered in Our — Father, Son, and Spirit’s — nature.
  • Using their spiritual gifts to help My body to impact the world with My character and compassion.

As My Asian disciples applied these three principles, My body on earth reflected and continued My ministry. These three things would help them resist false teaching and would restore My presence to the world through their lives as My church. However, these three practices were most effective as each member — each “body part” — did its work based on faith in a shared doctrinal core and lived with gracious compassion for each other.

Verses to Live

Paul wrote Ephesians to give My disciples a glorious view of the Father’s intention for the church. In today’s verses, Paul emphasized that essential unity among My disciples must have three dimensions. My people need to have unity based on gracious character (paragraph 1 below), unity rooted in faith essentials held in common (paragraph 2), and unity as My bodily presence through using their gifts (the remaining verses). As in all things in My church, love — which Paul mentioned three times in these verses — is to be the overriding principle for everything you do. Unfortunately, the evil one can give My life, My message, and My church a bad name when My followers emphasize only one or two of these principles to the exclusion of the others or when the motivation is not love. Please know that all three are important if you are to be My presence to the world through My church!

As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were all called to pursue one hope. There is one Lord Jesus, one living faith, one… washing through baptism, and one God — the Father over all Who is above all, through all, and in all.

This God has given to each of us grace in full measure according to the Anointed’s gift as the Scripture says,

When He ascended to the heights,

He put captivity in chains;

And in His triumph, He gave gifts to the people.

(Well, when it says “He ascended,” then that must mean that He had descended earlier to the lower levels, that is, to the earth. The One Who descended is the same One Who rose from the dead to ascend far above all the heavens so that He could fill all things.) It was the risen One Who handed down to us such gifted leaders — some emissaries, some prophets, some evangelists, as well as some pastor-teachers — so that God’s people would be thoroughly equipped to minister and build up the body of the Anointed One. These ministries will continue until we are unified in faith and filled with the knowledge of the Son of God, until we stand mature in His teachings and fully formed in the likeness of the Anointed, our Liberating King. Then we will no longer be like children, tossed around here and there upon ocean waves, picked up by every gust of religious teaching spoken by liars or swindlers or deceivers. Instead, by truth spoken in love, we are to grow in every way into Him — the Anointed One, the head. He joins and holds together the whole body with its ligaments providing the support needed so each part works to its proper design to form a healthy, growing, and mature body that builds itself up in love.

(Ephesians 4:1-16)

Response in Prayer

Father, forgive us. We have been short-sighted children. Sometimes we grow weak on truth and end up compromising Your will. Sometimes, dear Father, we’ve gotten so hung up on our version of doctrine that we’ve forgotten to treat each other with gracious compassion. Other times, Father, we’ve forgotten to use our gifts and have gotten caught up in just going to church and being a member of a religious group. I am sorry that we so easily forget that each of us is a vital body part of Jesus’ bodily presence. Open our hearts to recognize the importance of being the second incarnation of Jesus to the world, this time through the church. Please forgive us — and please forgive me in particular — for our short-sightedness, our contentious spirit, and our lack of involvement in Jesus’ body, the church. While I cannot speak for everyone, O God, I do pledge my heart, my life, and my all to live out Your call to gracious compassion toward my brothers and sisters in Christ. I commit to center My faith in Your work and Your identity as Father, Lord Jesus the Son and Anointed One, and the Holy Spirit. I pledge to focus my attention doctrinally on the truths that center on Your identity. I also want, dear Father, to use the gifts You have given to me to bless Jesus’ church and help it minister as Jesus’ presence in my world. I ask for this forgiveness, and I make this pledge in Jesus’ name. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.