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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Purpose of Unity

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Ephesians 4:13-15
...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ...

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 7

Puritan Catechism
Question #37 - What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

Answer - At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory (1 Cor. 15:43), shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment (Matt. 10:32), and made perfectly blessed both in soul and body in the full enjoying of God (1 Jn. 3:2) to all eternity (1 Thess. 4:17).

Devotional Thoughts
Why is it that the church should long for unity? Why did Christ pray that we would be unified? Why does God hate those who cause division among the brethren? What is the purpose of unity?

Many want unity because unity means peace. Unity brings with it the absence of strife, fighting, competition, and rivalries. When we are unified we are all on the same side, working together to accomplish common objectives. We are standing behind one another. There is encouragement and support. But are these the real reasons that we should want unity?

Others say, rightly so, that if there is strife or division, any lack of unity, then the cause is sin - and of course we want to hate sin and the fruit it bears. That is why unity must be faith-based, founded solidly upon Christ and the gospel. Any other foundation will fail and be washed away in the storms and trials of life.

But has this answered our question? What is God's purpose for unity?

I think we find the answer here in Ephesians 4:13-15. As Christ has appointed men in His Church to lead and serve, giving them as gifts of grace to the church so that the saints might be equipped for the work of the ministry for the edification of the body, He has done so in order that the church may indeed be unified. And we see then the results of unity as we have begun to examine five results of proper church growth.

Unity of the faith - THE FAITH - opens the door for an increasing intimacy with and knowledge of Christ. The more we know Christ and the more we love Christ the more we are conformed into His image, the more we are matured. The word used is that we through knowing Christ are perfected, that is we are sanctified. We are made more and more holy, more and more like Christ, more and more fruitful, and more and more obedient.

Then as we are sanctified we soon realise that we have grown up in Christ! The verse that answers our question - what is the purpose of unity - is verse 14:

that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting

There is our answer. There is the purpose of unity. There is why we should desire and strive to be unified in the faith. It is for our own protection.

Think through this with me. I hear all the time from people who have been in churches that fail to make disciples. These churches just don't do what they are called and commanded to do. They are glad that people come to faith in Christ but there is no prayer, no discipleship, no mentoring, and no real teaching.

As Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., used to preach, too many churches have one plan: Win 'em, Wet 'em, and Work 'em. They take new converts (baby Christians) and baptize them and try to plug them in to work in the church - usually in a position that other, more "mature" believers find loathsome or beneath them.

But the church fails to make disciples. There is no feeding going on. No real care and concern, no true fellowship or accountability. And think about this - how many of us would take a baby and send them to work tomorrow to work at our job in our place? You think that the baby would show up much less know what to do?? They are BABIES for crying out loud.

And yet we have grown so lazy and so complacent and so apathetic and so disobedient and so self-centered in the church that when we see the zeal of a new believer we mistake that zeal for ability and we send them to do a grown ups job.

Mind you, I mean no offense whatsoever to newly re-born Christians. It is just a matter of truth that they, at this stage in their development spiritually, are just that - infants! They need nuturing. They are not equipped to do the work of mature believers. God intends and purposes for those who are mature in the faith to teach those who are new and young and immature. In fact, when Paul wrote to Titus he told Titus that one of the characterstics of a sound church is that the older more mature believers will invest themselves in the younger less experienced believers.

And what happens? What happens when we send a child to do a man's work? What happens to the faith and the spirit of that new Christian? They soon burn out. They soon become overwhelemed. They cannot find the answers they need to the questions no one is hearing them ask. And that is sad and sinful on the part of the elders and the conrgegation!

When we fail to have true unity built on the gospel and when we as a result are not being matured and sanctified, then the result is that these new Christians end up being tossed around by every wind of doctrine, every fad and program and whim available out there for new believers to stumble upon or be enticed by.

Babies cannot usually discern the difference between right and wrong or between sound and unsound doctrine. They must be taught. And while we mistake a newborn's zest for eternal life for maturity we hand over the work of ministry not to seasoned equipped saints, but we force it upon those who are spiritually incapable of doing what we want them to do.

Books come and go, fads blow in and out, and those who do not know any better get caught up in the moment - and without a guardian, without a mentor, without a discipler, they can get worked up over false doctrine and not even know that they are embracing lies! False teachers are smooth. They are tricky. They fool even mature believers if we don't keep our guard up. And we who are older in the faith should be walking in unity with those who are younger, walking in unity founded upon the common faith that we share, walking in unity so that we might protect them from error or heresy!

There are deceitful plotters out there wanting to make a few bucks off gullible people. And sometimes those who are the most naive are simply too young to know the difference yet! Who watches our for them? Who guards them? Who protects them?

Unity, true unity is the means God uses to protect His children from error. When we stand together it is more difficult to scatter the flock. The sad truth is that a lack of unity is a symptom of a lack of love and if we fail to love each other then we may not even realise that there are believers in our midst who are in danger from error and false teaching. Unity provides us with the opportunity to defend our flock, our congregation, from those wolves that seek to steal, kill, and destroy!

To close, I am reminded of a great illustration from wildlife for this lesson. Have you ever seen footage or pictures of a herd of bison that are being attacked? When a pack of wolves attacks and tries to prey on the young, the older buffalo gather in a circle and keep the young ones in the middle. They stand shoulder to shoulder and lower their heads - armed with horns - and defend the herd from the attackers. That is the purpose of unity.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Feed My Lambs and The Children's Shepherd by Charles Spurgeon

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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