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Unity! Unity!

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
January 7, 2021 7:00 am

Unity! Unity!

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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January 7, 2021 7:00 am

You look around the room and see a wide variety of different kinds of people. All ages and ethnicities are represented. These people have come from unique backgrounds and have very different preferences. Where are you? Right in your local church! Thanks for joining us for todays broadcast as Dr. Boice explains how true unity among believers comes from a much deeper reality than outward appearance.

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You look around the room and see a wide variety of different kinds of people all ages and ethnicities are represented. These people of come from unique backgrounds and have very different preferences. Where are you writing your own local church.

Thanks for joining us for today's broadcast is Dr. James Boyce explains how true unity among believers comes from a much deeper reality than outward appearance. Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly. True unity requires a common identity for Christians from all generations and from all parts of the globe. There is one unifying factor that binds us together as the body of Christ. The church, what is that factor let's listen in for the answer. Biblical numbers don't interest. Many people today. I suppose it's because of an exaggeration of their importance in past years, but any right in past years. They were regarded as important in a number of very significant studies were done, a man named Ethelbert Bullinger a descendent of the great Bullinger of the Swiss Reformation wrote a book entitled number in Scripture it's supernatural design and spiritual significance logbook and within it is a long section of 300 pages in which Bullinger goes through all of the numbers that are used in Scripture and tries to attach a special spiritual significance to each all the way from one you would anticipate the number 666 which you might also anticipate as I said it may well be and I personally believe it is that this emphasis of Bible study was exaggerated laps. It is true that numbers do contain significance in Scripture and sometimes they are used in a way that makes their significance inescapable. I think that is partially true of the passage we come to today in the fourth chapter of Ephesians Wallace beginning in these verses to talk about the unity of the church is given a little summary of the practical application of the doctrine is expounded in the first three chapters in the verses immediately preceding this in chapter 4 and he spoken of unity because he wants to deal with that. The first half of the chapter, but having introduced it now gets his case for the unity of the church underway and in doing so unfolds a seven fold presentation of the church is unity.

These sentences one sentence. For one thing, I suppose that may well be significant in itself, but we can hardly miss the fact that he is giving us this seven full emphasis by the fact that he repeats the word one or unity seven times as he does. If seven is the number of biblical perfection, which it seems the bay, then he is speaking herein. A stylized way of the perfection of the unity which the church of Jesus Christ has. There is one body. He says in one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all the was overall and through all and in all. Interesting that he also uses the word all four times that refers to creation and he may be suggesting a perfection of all things in union with the creator and any right, the apostle Paul here is speaking of unity, and in each of these seven items.

These giving an argument on the basis of which the members of the church in Ephesus and elsewhere should do precisely what he has just stated in verse three that is on the basis of all he is going to say now. Christians should make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. On the first thing he talks about is one body is talking about the church or even though the word church doesn't appear and is concerned by speaking of one body is distress.

The church is unity. Other many images for the church of Jesus Christ, images or metaphors.

This is one of them, but there are others, even in this letter we were studying the second chapter, we saw that in one brief paragraph Mary introduced three of them. He referred to the church as the kingdom ruled over by God. The king is a family which God is the father. He stressed the household aspects of the church by that metaphor is a building or temple.

I which she pictured unity and structure, and the fact that God indwells the church just as he indwells the temple or would be understood to indwell the temple. Later on he is going to speak of the church is the bride of Christ very uses the image of the body. So, no doubt with great wisdom, as well as being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit because the kind of unity that is going to talk about is unity best symbolized by a body is not talking about the church is composed of parts of the same way you might make up a machine of many parts parts that are more or less interchangeable, which in any case have a relationship to the whole juice mechanical. This is the kind of thing he's talking about a body is something that grows and grows from a small salad all of the parts of the body have a relationship to other parts rate exposition of this image is found not so much here in the book of Ephesians, though Paul does development but in first Corinthians 12 where he's arguing against the divisions that were found in the church of Corinth, and in which he says look every part of the body is essential. You can have the hand saying to the foot. I have no need of you or the foot saying to the hand. I have no need of you each part, however humble it may appear bears an essential relationship with all Paul is saying look, the church of Jesus Christ is like that.

I'm going to urge upon you. The great Christian responsibility of maintaining Christian unity of the great reason for that first great reason for that is found in the very nature of the thing that you are you are a body one body created by God, grown by God because of that you must keep that unity visible before yourselves and before the world.

Secondly, he talks about one spirit. Now that is capitalized in most Bibles, and rightly so. Sometimes when that word spirit as used refers to what we would call the human spirit or the spirit of the thing that's a valid use of the work, but it's not what's involved here is not saying you're all one in spirits the sense that you're all wanting your enthusiasms and goals in all of those things that sometimes make up karate a buddy saying no. You are one because of the work of the one Holy Spirit when he begins to talk about this. He calls our attention if we pause to reflect upon it to what the Holy Spirit himself is done in our conversion sometimes you know when we hear testimonies about people of come to faith, a focus on what are essentially the distinctions of their spiritual experience person will say well I grew up in a nominal Christian home, but I didn't really understand these things in a personal way and when I will often the college I was confused by the secular teaching about me and I groped around for a while and I got into this particular philosophy of that particular philosophy and then finally through the witness of a friend college classmate. I was brought to a Bible study and I began to get back into the faith in Jesus reach me in that way another person will say I came from utterly secular background. To begin with but God reached me through a track that I found sitting on the seat of the plane as I was flying at one occasion and that got my mind thinking along these things in.

I became a Christian. That way people when they get there testimonies give a wide variety of testimonies and we are inclined to think as we listen to those that there is this is true. A wide and very exciting variety with in the body of God's people. When Paul says here that there is not only one body, but one spirit is undoubtedly calling upon us to think of is the way in which the Holy Spirit works spiritually in the lives of all who come to faith in Jesus Christ. We can talk about differences in the particulars of our conversion when we begin to talk about what the Holy Spirit did what God the Holy Spirit did in our hearts to bring us to faith in Christ all of our experiences identical as an awakening sin whereby we are conscious that all is not right between ourselves and God that we are in violation of his laws hostile to his holy character and under his wrath.

There's the work of regeneration by which God in a supernatural way places the new life of Christ within our hearts so that things change, were no longer the men and women that we were before. There's a work of faith which follows up on that being the fruit of the spirit because having been made alive in Christ. Now, having understood what he did on the cross for our salvation. We are drawn by that same Holy Spirit to place our faith in him we said yes, she's the Savior. He's the one I want to trust. Following that there's a work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification and sanctification is the same in the sense that what the Holy Spirit is doing and one the Holy Spirit is doing in all were told in the book of Galatians about the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control is not only spirit is doing in us all. You see when we begin to think as we must along the lines that Paul would have us think here is he talks about church unity we say look, isn't it marvelous that regardless of what background we come from, or how we have come the Holy Spirit, one Holy Spirit of God has done in each of our lives that which unites us in our Christian faith.

The first thing he talks about is our hope, one hope in which we were called hope is a word that has suffered in our English speech so that today doesn't mean quite what it meant. In earlier days when it was used to translate this idea in the New Testament hope today usually means something uncertain, something we hope for maybe wistfully, maybe not really expecting, but certainly it. It suggests nothing of stability or shortness of certainty and yet that's what's involved in the biblical idea if you been to the general service you know that there is a portion of the funeral service in which we speak of are sure and certain hope meeting resurrection from the dead. Sure and certain hope. That's the biblical idea its future. That's true, and yet it's not uncertain just because we don't at this precise moment, hold it in her hands. You might say. At that point. Why does Paul speak of hope as something that should unite the church of Jesus Christ matter-of-fact when we begin to think about the future and our understanding of what future events will be isn't it more often the case that those ideas divide the church rather than United. We have people who think there's going to be a millennium, and people who think there will be no millennium, and people who think Christ will come before the millennium.

People who think Christ will come after the millennium, and when you throw in the tribulation gets even worse got pretrip and post-trip in trip and it gets very very complicated. You could divide up all the church of Jesus Christ. Along those lines, and many people have eliminated tester fellowship. How can Paul speak of the Christian hope in this context well when he is speaking of the course is not those details of eschatology, which in the course of church history have come to the blind, large bodies of the Christian church but rather those things upon which we are all agreed, in which he taught and which we are to hold in mind as we live the Christian life here also say it's not only that there is one body and one spirit there is one hope to visit Jesus Christ is going to come back and there's going to be a resurrection of the body and Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for all the know him and were going to spend all eternity with him. That's the thing we look forward to.

And if we look forward to that in all lower members of the body of Christ, all of experiences, workable Holy Spirit in quickening and regeneration and faith in sanctification.

All are going to be there one day around the throne of grace, so that should be very powerful in producing unity now because it one day when we stand in the presence of God Almighty, looking upon the face of Jesus Christ the Lord of the church one day when that takes place we are going to be standing there, shoulder to shoulder with people from other denominations and other nations and other races. Another experiences live in that day. All of these things are dividers now will fade away. Certainly should influence the way in which we think about our division about why were not going to deny the things that we think are important and turn our backs on the understandings of doctrine, which we believe God is given we will nevertheless be free to reach out across denominational and other barriers to join hands with those who are like us professors of faith in Christ desirous of serving him.

I suppose there are two kinds of people in the world.

People who make distinctions by dividing the world into two kinds of people and those who don't. Some people divide the world up along these lines, I say, look, we are here to preserve the faith, and that means we are here to raise the barriers as high as possible other people. I am one of them.

Once I look this is what we believe where we have others who trust in Christ we are here to lower the barriers as much as possible and show that we really are one in the spirit and the Lord which brings us to the next section, Paul is said in verse four there is one body and one spirits and one hope those three go together. Don't they work of the Holy Spirit to graft us into the body and give us that hope.

Verse five introduces something else. Here's another set of 31 Lord 181 baptism and those ideas are all clustered around the Lord Dante just as the first three were clustered around the Holy Spirit one Lord know to hear people talk of the church of Jesus Christ. You would think there were many lords. One says I follow Jesus that causes me to do this and this excludes you and somebody else will say well I don't follow Jesus. The Jesus I know, I follow Jesus that causes me to make these distinctions and these distinctions exclude you so it goes right.

Many lords is only one Lord, Lord, is stored. Jesus Christ really are following him really are open to what he's doing then there must be a force for drawing all of us together, former pastor of this church was only here for two years. Back in the 1920s.

John D.

McNeil great Scottish preacher and evangelist sometimes use to imagine the conversation that would've taken place between a man who had been born blind story is told in John nine and the other blind man. It was healed by Jesus and story is told in Mark eight difference between the two stories is that in John nine, Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on the ground, making clay and using it to anoint the man's eyes and he said go wash in the pool so I will not didn't happen in the case of the Manna story is told in Martin O'Neill imagines these two getting together and beginning to discuss how it is. Jesus healed them and the man who had been healed without the spittle would tell his story and the man who had been healed with the spittle would begin to tell is nisei now, but you left out the part about Jesus spitting in the dust, making clay and placing the clay upon your eyes. I don't know anything about spittle in Boston. Clay man from Mark would reply all said the man from John nine. It has to be that way because that's the way Jesus gives site to people you know you must've just forgotten that he spent in the ground. He made play put it on your eyes the center to wash the poolside all elements that I would maybe just spoken received my sight.

The first man digs in his heels. He says that his rights Jesus heals by Clay and if you haven't had that experience rather well I'm beginning to doubt whether you can really see and I was the founding within that early church of the Luddites in the anti-mother nights to revisions is what happens is that we got our eyes on the modes of God's working rather than upon the God who works I think there's justification are many divisions.

Certainly there are justifications for different understandings of things because were sinful we see imperfectly and were never going to see eye to eye in all things but you know when those divisions rise up to divide Christians from one another in any substantial way. The problem is not that we are seeing the doctrines of Christianity to clearly the problem is that were not seeing them clearly enough get them out of proportion.

We fail to recognize adjusters. There is one body and one spirit and one hope so. There is one Lord, we are all his servants, if indeed we have been made alive by his spirit and brought into the church which is his body, while Paul goes on only one Lord, but one faith I learned faith in Paul's writings can be used in an objective or subjective way. Subjectively, it means sorry experience. We all experience faith is no salvation apart from faith. That's true, of course, that's probably not what he means. Hear the word faith is also used objectively. That means the content of that which we believe or in which we have faith that is the gospel. That's what Paul is saying saying just because we have one Lord, so also do we have one faith is that we don't believe diverse doctrines where the core of the gospel is concerned, we believe that God Almighty send his son the Lord Jesus Christ to become like us a man to die on the cross for our salvation, and is through faith in his work not in anything that we knew but in the fact that he died for us and so our sin is imputed to him and punished in Christ by his death and his righteousness is imputed to us so that we stand before God clothes and what Jesus Christ is not what we are that one gospel is the thing that joins Christian people across all of the barriers of time and all of the barriers of nationality and race and sex and everything else we can imagine. I would even go further than that. We sometimes so stressed the distinctiveness that we have the overlook the fact that even among Christians who are most warlike in their attitude. Other Christians there is an overwhelming consensus on the essential doctrines all I guess there's room for division over different forms of baptism and that almost has to be over different understandings of church order because of you're going to have an organized church. You can have it in two different ways of things I suppose are inevitable but they are much, much less important than the great doctrines that we profess together to see if we have one faith, then we ought to be able to stand up and say that before the world, shoulder to shoulder with one another and so give United testimony to God's work in Christ, one baptism. Baptism is divided the churches.

It's interesting, isn't that Paul should include here is obviously not talking about modes of baptism, whether you sprinkle, which we Presbyterians think is a preferred way or by emotion which the Baptists think is the only way you see it's not the modes of baptism that Paul has in mind. But what baptism signifies, which is public identification with Jesus Christ unifying thing is rather given by my sister. I don't care how you are baptized. I don't care whether it was in a church or in the stream whether it was a little bit of water or a lot of water. Have you been publicly identified with Jesus Christ. That's the case, you say, then before the world were identified with Jesus Christ. We get the thing so much out of proportion that we fight about those tiny little differences we come to verse six and that's the seventh item last of all, the first three have been centered around the Holy Spirit. Second three have been centered around Jesus Christ, the son third when refers to the father first person in the Godhead. God and father of all, one God, who was over all and through all and in you all. This is a good point to ask a question about the order of the seven unities if they are grouped around the Trinity as they obviously are. Why is it that the apostle Paul puts the Holy Spirit first, the Lord Jesus Christ second and God the father third. We talk about the Trinity is always the other way around. Upon himself generally puts it the other way around.

I believe in one God father son and Holy Spirit. Here he says spirit son and father. Why is that I think it's clearly because the apostle Paul is arguing from the effect to the cause. He said in verse three make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. That is the unity which the Holy Spirit has given visible in the church of Jesus Christ. We start with the body with the Holy Spirit is done by creating church in the world which is his theme throughout the epistle you asked Max to see if this is what we have. If this is the effect where did it come from, how did the church get to be the church. What sets the church off from other early human organizations and the answer is it's the work of Jesus Christ. These are the people to follow Christ lives of the people for whom Christ is Lord and Savior so he moves from a discussion about the Holy Spirit.still, what the Lord Jesus Christ has done and ever that point we raise the question, yes, but why the Lord Jesus Christ do that and who planned that particular glorious way of salvation answer is that all of this flows from God the father, the one God who is over all and through all and in you all.

John Stott talks about the Trinity as the basis for church unity and sums it up like this. There can be only one Christian family. Only one Christian faith, hope and baptism and only one Christian body because there is only one God father son and Holy Spirit can no more multiply churches.

You can multiply God's is only one God, then he has only one church is the unity of God inviolable, then so is the unity of the church. I suppose if these points have not had their proper effect on us, which is what Paul intended them to do at least this last one should strike home say when Paul says I am there is one God and father of all that was overall and through all and in you all he is saying, look whatever else you say about the church.

The church is God's church is God's people. It is God's work and it exists for God's glory so keep that in mind what your vision that much vision.

You won't find it so difficult to keep or make visible the unity of the God himself is already worked into the very fabric of our experience together as Christ body spray all our father we read verses like these, and we are both exhilarated and cast down, we see the glory of the church in your work in establishing a were also distressed just by those divisions that are there, though their distressing but by our own role in divisions. As with an exalted sense of our own understanding or importance. We put down others who are equally members of that one holy apostolic church father forgive us for that.

We can't in our time by ourselves overcome all of the wrong divisions that are visible in the world, but we can certainly by your grace be kept from making more of them and perhaps also by your grace begin to tear down some of the unnecessary walls. It was grace to do that we pray not for our sake, for Jesus sake, our Lord. Amen.

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