One People of God

Ephesians 219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 2:11–22 (ESV)

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage, Paul reminds his readers that God’s plans and purposes are to create one united people of God. He speaks of the former division between Jew and Gentile, which he refers to as “the circumcision” and “the ununcircumcision”. In Christ, the former distinctions and separations are removed and there is “one new man in place of the two”.

The Church is the result of the union that has happened through Jesus Christ. No longer are there distinctions based on sex, social standing, race, nationality, or any other. All who belong to Jesus are the people of God. When we gather today in anticipation of the gathering of all believers in the age to come, our unity and worship should reflect the truth of what Christ has called us to be: one people joined together as the people of God.

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The Wise Seek Peace

James 318 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:13–18 (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Divisiveness in the Church, among God’s people, is never good. James calls it “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Titus 3:10 tells us to warn the divisive person and then have nothing more to do with him. It is a serious issue and can render a church ineffective in ministry and cause harm to the name of our Savior. By contrast, the wise and understanding are meek, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. This is what the body of Christ is called to be.

Much of the fighting that takes place in churches is over minor things that we should be able to find room to disagree on. Yes, we should stand against false teaching and unrepentant sin, but we must not make every small thing into a big thing. Beware the person who thinks everything is of equal importance and is ready to go to war to defend every fine detail. The fighting will never cease because you will never have full agreement in every matter. And the fighting will soon consume you.

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The Need for Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:10–17 (ESV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity among Christians is so important. It is important if there is to be spiritual growth within the church. And it is important if the church is to have an effective ministry to a lost world. Unfortunately, division is a common reality in our churches and it happens for many reasons.

In Corinth, one of the reasons believers were divided was over leadership. This may seem strange, but if we think about it, we see that this is still common today. In Paul’s day, they were saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos”, etc. In our day, it is not uncommon for Christians to brag about and think that their pastor or church is superior to others. “I go to this church” and “We have this many members.” Or, “My pastor is so and so” and “My pastor is popular and writes books.” This way of thinking is divisive and hurts the work of the Church. We should be united in our love for Christ, his people, and proclaiming his good news. Let us focus on those things that unite us.

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A Divisive Message

Luke 1251 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:49–53 (ESV)

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Many have the mistaken idea that Jesus and his message were so kind and gentle that there was no way to have any other response than to love him. However, that is simply not true! Jesus rubbed many people the wrong way. That is exactly why they crucified him on a cross!

In our passage for today, Jesus told his disciples that his message would be divisive. It would even divide families. Jesus came proclaiming that all people are sinners and must repent of their sins. All people must believe and trust in Jesus for salvation. There is no other way. So, you are either with Jesus or you are against him. There is no middle ground.

As Jesus’ disciples in the world today, we are called to proclaim the same gospel message that he preached. We must call people to repent and turn to Christ for salvation and warn them that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. Just as in Jesus’ day, many are offended by such a message and wish to silence it. The gospel, while offering forgiveness and life for all who believe, is also a message that causes division. If you desire to live for Christ and proclaim the message of salvation, it will not be long before you face opposition. Do not be surprised and do not be discouraged. The same thing happened to Jesus.

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Working on Forgiveness

True Forgiveness

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:15–18 (ESV)

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage serves as a basic template of how to handle sin and forgiveness between two believers. The first step is to speak directly to the other person. If that does not work, then getting one or two other believers involved to help is step two. The final step is to bring the matter to the entire body of Christ, the church. If that fails, the person who refuses to repent and who continues to allow sin to cause division is to be removed from the fellowship of believers.

It is important to understand that the removal of a person is a last step. The person should be given every opportunity to turn from his sin and the offended party must stand ready to forgive. Unrepentant sin that causes division between Christians is a serious matter and can have a damaging impact on a church and its ability to be a witness to the world of the redemption found in Christ. This is why such sin must be dealt with and not ignored. Have you ever been part of a church suffering from great division? Chances are the church has let unrepentant sin go unchecked.

Is there a division between you and a fellow believer? Has someone offended you or have you offended someone? Have you gone to the other person to try to work things out? If not, go to the other person. Do not let sin continue to drive a wedge between the people of God. We must be an example of love and forgiveness so we can preach the message of the gospel to the world.

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Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity is a wonderful thing. When the people of God are working together, it is pleasant and brings great pleasure. The psalmist uses two images to illustrate the goodness of unity. It is like the precious oil used to anoint a priest that runs down from his head to his beard and to his robe. The oil spreads over the entire person. It is also like the dew running off of Mount Herman, the highest peak in Israel, and onto Zion. Zion is a dusty and much smaller mountain, but it is where the temple sits. The dew from Mount Herman gives refreshing moisture to dry Zion.

If you have ever been in a church where unity is not present among God’s people, you may have a good understanding of this psalm. Without unity, the people of God cannot prosper and thrive. It takes unity to allow the body of Christ to function as it ought to and accomplish what it is designed to. This is why there is such a great emphasis throughout the New Testament on this vital issue. We are called to love one another, forgive one another, and live in unity as we serve and build one another up. May we dwell in unity and experience its great pleasures.

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