“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:15-23)
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Jesus’ Great Fear.
It is my belief that as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane he gave voice in his prayer to one of his great fears.
We can find this fear in the passage we read from John 17.
What was it?
Was it his impending arrest?
The fact that he would be beaten, mocked and scorned.
Was it the fear of rejection, of betrayal, of desertion?
Of having to go through all this alone?
Was it his death?
He would be crucified and dead in less than 24 hours.
None of these things were his great fear.
They were each in their own way frightening but Jesus knew he could face the coming hours and day, and that with God’s help he would do what he had to do.
Jesus’ great fear had nothing to do with himself
and what he would soon face.
His fear had to do with his followers.
In particular, Jesus was afraid that his followers would become divided and would sooner or later start fighting with each other,
separating themselves from each other.
Why did Jesus fear this?
For two reasons:
First, the church divided would not be able to stand.
Not only would the church suffer but individual Christians would be hurt by disunity.
Nothing is more destructive for the church universal or local than disunity.
Second, the witness of the church, its very reason for being, would be destroyed by disunity.
What is, after all, the primary reason we are to be one
Jesus says simply that we need to be one in order that the world might believe.
And so Jesus prayed for his followers then and now for the church that would one day be as well as for our church today.
That we might be one.
That we might stand united against the evils of the world.
That we might in unity nurture, support, build up, encourage and minister to each other.
That we, united in mission and ministry, would reach out to a divided and hurting world with the unifying and healing word and love of God in Christ.
That was his prayer.
And this is our goal
That we might be one even as Christ and God the father are one.
It is important for me to emphasize that our unity as Christians is built upon the unity of God in Christ.
In fact, our unity is but a reflection of that which exists in God and is made clear to the world by what God has already done.
(The following is taken from the Life Application Study Bible)
This is made plain by Paul in Ephesians when he lists seven already existing unities.
Paul’s appeal for unity is given a foundation by the statement that there is “one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling” (v. 4). There follows what appears to be an early confession of faith: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (v. 5-6).
One body. The Body of Christ is, by definition, unitary, and those who are made a part of the body share a common existence. Earlier, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “You are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), insisting that although the church has many different kinds and types of members, it is nevertheless one (1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-26). In Ephesians, this metaphor is carried further, and the universal church is identified as the Body of Christ (1:23; see also Romans 12:5; Colossians 3:15). In this “one body” Gentiles and Jews become one (2:16).
One Spirit. To the Corinthians, Paul stressed that the many gifts present among them all came from the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4, 11). In fact, he insisted that the Spirit was the common administrator of our baptism, and consequently Christians “drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Through a single Spirit we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). The “unity of the Spirit” mentioned in verse 3 is built upon the existence of a single Spirit.
One hope. In God’s call, one hope is held out to Christians, and this can be none other than the hope of the resurrection (1:18; see also 1 Peter 1:3 and Colossians 1:5, 27).
One Lord. Although unspecified, this can be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. As the early Christian confession preserved in 1 Corinthians 8:6 states, he is the one “through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” This article of faith came to be tested severely in the early centuries of the church, when Christians were forced to choose between Christ, the Lord, and the emperor, who in the imperial cult was worshiped as lord. Echoes of this are seen especially in Revelation.
One faith. Here “faith” is used in the sense of the wealth of belief shared by all Christians; and more than likely, its essence was the confession that in Christ God had come in the flesh ( 1 John 4:2-3; Jude 3).
One baptism. As noted earlier, through baptism Christians came to drink of the “one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13), and this rite of initiation enabled them to become clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26 and Romans 6:3). It is worth noting that when the Corinthian fellowship began to dissolve, Paul grounded his appeal for unity in their baptismal experience (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).
One God. Christians inherited from Judaism the central belief in the one God, who was Father to all (Malachi 2:10) and who brooked no rivals (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 6:4 and Isaiah 44:6-8). Belief in one supreme God–what theologians would call “radical monotheism”–became an article of their confession (1 Timothy 2:5). In the confession preserved in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul says, “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” The oneness of God became central in Paul’s thought as he argued for one way of justification for all humanity, both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:30). Here God is said to be “above all, through all, and in all.” This is an affirmation of God’s supremacy over all things as well as an expression of the conviction that God is present in all the affairs of the world, working through them and in them.
By now I hope you see how important the idea of unity is,
and how important it is for us to model this unity in our life together.
We need to, in Paul’s words, maintain the unity of the Spirit,
to maintain what is already a reality.
The question, of course, is how can we do this?
How can we live out this unity in our lives?
How can our church be united in mission and ministry?
How can I be united with the other people of my church,
even those brothers and sisters in the faith that I may not like?