By Frank Jamerson
When we think of unity among God’s people, we usually think of doctrinal agreement. While this is important, much of the division that exists is a product of lives that are not committed to Christ. Many are more interested in their own cause than they are in the cause of Christ. Many have just enough religion to make them miserable. Someone said that some brethren have been “immunized.” When the doctor wants to immunize you against a disease, he gives you a little of the disease by vaccination. This protects the patient against the real disease! Some brethren have been “immunized” against the real thing, by having just a little of it! True spiritual unity cannot exist between those who are committed to Christ and those who have simply been immunized.
The apostle Paul said, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Notice that he discusses the “manner of life” before he discusses the facts (doctrinal facts) that are necessary for unity. We need to pay special attention to the kind of lives that Christians must live in order to maintain the “unity of the Spirit.”
We will come back to this passage at the end of the article, but notice with us other passages in the book of Ephesians that discuss the “walk,” or manner of life, that should characterize followers of Christ.
We are to “no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (4:17-19). Gentiles, non-believers, are not the only ones who can “harden their hearts”! When brethren choose to walk in lasciviousness and uncleanness they can be as hardened and darkened as any unbeliever. Brethren who “walk as the Gentiles” cannot be united with those who “walk worthily,” even if they agree on doctrinal issues.
We are also to “walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell” (5:2). God’s love was demonstrated in His forgiving attitude. What if God forgave us like we forgive one another? He does (Matt. 6:12)! “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you” (4:31, 32). Just think of all the division that could have been avoided if brethren had demonstrated the right manner of life! Minor problems have been nurtured into major issues because of an unforgiving spirit. Brethren who have worked together for the truth, and still agree on doctrinal matters, have been divided because of a lack of love and forgiveness.
Those who are in Christ are not to partake in fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, idolatry, etc., but are to “walk as children of light” (5:8). When our “manner of life” is worthy of the gospel we will “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them” (5:11). Again, how can unity exist when some want to participate in or condone the “works of darkness” while others want to walk “as children of light”? We cannot agree with or condone the works of darkness and reprove them at the same time.
The writer of Ephesians also said, “Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:15, 16). The expression “redeeming the time” means to “buy up the opportunity.” Every Christian needs to use his opportunities to grow spiritually, to reprove the works of darkness and to teach the way of truth to those who know it not. When every member of the church is doing this, we will have attained the unity in our “manner of life” that the Spirit teaches.
Now, back to the first three verses of the fourth chapter. Paul there described “walking worthily” as walking with “lowliness” (humility), “meekness” (gentleness and submissiveness), “longsuffering” (long temper), “forbearing” (restraining or holding back) in love, and “giving diligence” (due attention) to keeping the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” A “bond” is something that binds together. It is “peace” that holds together the unity that the Spirit teaches. James said, “For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy” (James 3:16, 17). Men with a contentious spirit are not “easy to be entreated” and are not “walking worthily of the calling” with which they were called.
The next article will discuss the facts of unity, but brethren may agree on the facts and still not attain the “unity of the Spirit” unless their manner of life is that described by the Holy Spirit.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 12, pp. 368-369
June 16, 1983