...Sadly, down through history the church has remained unified
when it should have divided and it has divided when it should
have remained unified.
It has remained
unified when it should have divided because when
professing Christians deny the gospel, deny cardinal doctrines
of the faith, or tolerate sins that the Bible condemns, there
needs to be division, not unity. When denominations debate
homosexual marriage or whether clergy can be practicing
homosexuals, true believers need to separate themselves, because
such matters are not up for debate if you believe the Bible.
On the other hand, there have been many sad divisions among
Protestant churches over minor matters where unity should
have been preserved. Often these divisions stem from personality
conflicts or matters of opinion on which Scripture is not
precisely clear. For the church to divide along racial lines is
to violate the core principle of unity between the Jews and
Gentiles for which Paul was imprisoned.... But, unity among true
Christians is a big deal. We should not divide over minor
To preserve the
unity of the Spirit, we need to practice the qualities that
Several of these qualities—love, peace, patience, and gentleness
are listed as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), showing
that we must walk in the Spirit in order to grow in these
graces. There are five listed in verse 2:
A. To preserve the unity of
the Spirit, we need humility.
Paul says “all humility and gentleness” to show that we can’t be
half-hearted about it. Humility is literally, “lowliness of
mind.” The Greeks did not regard it as a virtue. It is, of
course, the opposite of pride, which is at the root of every
sin. Pride is the number one enemy of harmonious relationships.
Humility is the recognition that all that we are and have are
due to God’s grace. As Paul wrote (1 Cor. 4:7),
‘What do you
have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
humility means being Christ-sufficient, not self-sufficient. The
proud person trusts in himself. He thinks that he can do it. You
often hear, “you’ve got to believe in yourself.” No, the humble
Christian trusts in Jesus. He knows that if he believes in
himself, he will fail big-time!
Second, humility does not mean dumping on yourself. Rather, the
humble person recognizes that God has graciously given him
certain abilities that he is to use for God’s glory and
purposes. So, with Paul we can say,
“Not that we
are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming
from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5;
see also Rom. 12:3).
B. To preserve the unity of the
Spirit, we need gentleness.
The King James Bible translates it as meekness, which we
often associate with weakness. But that is not the idea of this
Greek word, which is difficult to translate with a single word.
It has the idea of “strength under control.” It pictures a
person who controls his temper and does not retaliate or seek
revenge. ... Jesus used both humility and gentleness to
“Take My yoke
upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in
heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29)
Jesus was tender
with the bruised and broken soul, but strong and forceful with
the proud, self-righteous Pharisees.
C. To preserve the unity of
the Spirit, we need patience.
The word literally means, “long-tempered.” It is the opposite of
a person with a short fuse. Thankfully, God is patient towards
us (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). It is the first-listed quality of
love (1 Cor.13:4). To preserve unity, we must be patient with
D. To preserve the unity of
the Spirit, we need tolerance [forbearance].
I prefer the older NASB translation, “forbearance,” because
tolerance has come to mean throwing out all absolute moral
standards and not judging anyone for any sin. Clearly, the
Bible spells out absolute standards of right and wrong and calls
us on lovingly to confront or correct those who persist in evil
or serious doctrinal error. But “forbearance” or “tolerance” in
the right sense means bearing with someone’s shortcomings
or quirks. It means giving the other person room to be different
in non-moral areas. Pride makes us think, “Anyone with half a
brain could see that my way is the best way to do this.”
Tolerance says, “That’s not my preference, but it’s okay.”
E. To preserve the unity of
the Spirit, we need love.
Don’t just “tolerate someone.” Do it “in love.” Love seeks the
highest good of the other person. ...
diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
deliberate effort. It has the nuance of haste or speed, which
suggests that we are not to allow disunity to fester. We are to
go after it quickly. As Paul says,
“So then, we
pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of
one another.” (Rom. 14:19)
pursuing both imply exerting the effort to preserve this unity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace.It won’t happen automatically
while we’re passive.
Peace is the quality that binds us all together. Jesus said
(Matt. 5:9), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called sons of God.” “Bond” is used (Col. 2:19) to refer to the
ligaments in the body, that hold the bones together. Paul uses
it to refer also to love as “the perfect bond of unity” (Col.
3:14). As Paul has already stated (Eph. 2:14), Jesus Christ
Himself is our peace. When Herules as Lord of your life and as
Lord of my life, we will enjoy peace between us.
© 2008 by
Steven Cole. Used
Personal note from Berit: These
Biblical guidelines recognize our human weaknesses, faults and
failures. Though we long to live in total and consistent
obedience to our beloved Lord, we stumble and fall. But all the
more, I thank Him for faithfully convicting me of my sins,
reminding me of the cross, bringing me to repentance, and
restoring to me the joy of His presence.
"If we say that we have no
sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1
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