How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

Is Your Church United or Untied? – Part 3 [Ephesians 4: 4-6]

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Ephesians 4: 4-6

Let’s continue our look at unity in a house of faith and among believers as we continue to delve into what the Apostle Paul has to say to us in Ephesians 4.

“There is one body and 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, who is over all and through all and in all.”  [Ephesians 4: 4-6. NIV]

How many times do you see “one” in those verses?  I’ll wait. . . . Go ahead and count. . . . There are seven. I don’t know the answer to the following, but is it possible that Paul’s total number of “ones” being seven to signify our relationship with each other may be on purpose – to signify holiness, the perfect number representing completeness in God. It sounds like a possibility, doesn’t it?  Do you see in this passage a separation of any sort for God’s people? Not at all. There is an emphasis on unity, on “one-ness.”

I grew up in Washington State in the United States. When I was in Youth at church, the Sunday School teachers didn’t know quite what to do with us youth – which primarily consisted of just the pastor’s daughter and me. We went through three Sunday School teachers one year – not because of our behavior, but due to the questions we asked. They felt quite inadequate, and they didn’t know what to do with us! When I was a Senior in high school, I was placed in the Men’s Class. In that class, there were many discussions, but there was one that I really remembered, even after fifty years. The men were discussing the Book of Revelation and its meaning. One older man held to a view of “pre-millennialism” in the last days and another older man believed in “post-millennialism.”  And each doubted the salvation of the other!

Why is there this kind of conclusion to a discussion? One can certainly hold different views but without calling the judgment of God upon the other, can’t we? Where is the unity?

Consider changes in our beliefs as to what is sin or what is right and wrong that have occurred in my lifetime of 70 years. Can you name some things that were looked down upon in churches in the past but are no longer considered “sin” today? Playing cards of any sort. Bowling. Billiards or shooting pool. Dancing. Going to movies (my wife never went to movies before she met me). How about women going to church without a hat? Or women wearing pants? Were you aware of those times?

Is it possible that some of what we believe is wrong is cultural? In the United States, a Baptist may smoke a cigarette between Sunday School and before Worship Service begins. However, in Argentina some years ago, that person would be banned from a Baptist church. Yet, it’s okay for a person to drink alcohol in moderation in Baptist churches in Argentina and some parts of North Carolina where I now live. But not in Washington State, Oregon or other parts of North Carolina. It’s cultural. I heard from a missionary once that there is a country in Africa (I don’t recall which one) in which drums were used in worship services in the northern part of the country, but in the southern part of the country, drums in a worship service were a sacrilege. Again, cultural – and not based on scriptures.

Let’s admit that some of our church practices have evolved over the years, but regardless, there should be unity among believers even amid those changes and differences.

Do you remember the story I told at the beginning (Part 1) about St. Peter and the hall of doors in heaven? Think about this: how many Pentecostals are there in heaven? [None.] Now keep reading; don’t close me out yet. How many Roman Catholics are in heaven? [None.] How many Baptists/Methodists/Lutherans/etc. are there in heaven? Again, the answer is “None.” There will only be people of faith, and denominations will have no meaning in heaven.

What matters is, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” [John 3: 16]. No mention of denominations – just those who believe.

There may be theological differences within a church or among churches. That should be okay. There may be cultural differences. That should be okay as well. There may also be some relationship differences – and that’s NOT okay.

Relationships are important among believers in a church and among churches.

“One of [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
“Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'” [Matthew 22: 35-40. NIV]

It is still all about relationships. According to this passage, a loving relationship with God is first. A loving relationship with your fellow humans is second. Is there a knot in the “tie that binds”? Are we united or are we untied in our relationship with others? Let us bond together with the Gorilla Glue of peace.

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