Our foundation for unity is that we are joined together with the Trinity. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22-23)
Two striking truths in Jesus’ prayer are to shape how we think about unity.
First, Jesus gives us His glory. We are partakers of the glory of Jesus Christ. When we see one another in the church, do we see others in the flesh, or do we see people in the spiritual realm? Do we see people wearing garments of glory?
Second, we are perfected in unity because Jesus is in us, and the Father is in Jesus. Let’s ask the question again. When we look at one another, do we see others in the flesh, or do we see in the spiritual realm? Do we see people joined as one with Jesus? Do we regard others as joined to Jesus, as though Jesus stands within them?
The prayer of Jesus is in the Scriptures to inform us so we may conform to the image of Jesus. We are to imitate Jesus in our lives, which is what it means to be His disciple. As disciples imitating Him, we are to strive to be in unity with one another.
The main idea of the message this morning is that we are to “be a mature Christ-centered member of the body of Christ.” A mature Christian is in unity.
The Bible continually reminds us to increase in our maturity as Christians. We begin as born-again Christians who feed on the milk of the word. From there, we progress in maturity until we eat upon the meat of the word. We grow in maturity in character, wisdom, and bearing fruit.
Part of our maturity requires us to be mature in our relationship with the body of Christ by being in unity.
Turn to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:11-16). Here is a passage the expresses very well how we are to mature as a member of the body. As we read this passage, notice all the words which talk about growing in maturity and unity together as a body. Let’s read this slowly together.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians speaks in more detail about how to interact with one another. In our passage, we will see seven truths about our being united together as a body. With each truth, we will see how it is Christ-centered.
Do we consider ourselves to be mature Christians? Is our church immature or mature? This morning, let’s do a self-evaluation. Ask God to show you whether you are mature in being unified with the body. There are seven ways to measure our maturity as a body and as members.
We are immersed in Christ because we are in unity with Him by baptism. Those who are baptized are joined together with Christ’s body.
We are neither Jews, Greeks, slaves or free, American or Mexican, Republican or Democrat, but we are all one with Jesus. Our citizenship changes from being in the world to being citizens in the Kingdom of God. We lose our identity in this world. We are new creatures.
We all drink of one Spirit, which means we are partakers of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes similarly to the church in Galatia. He says,
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28)
We are not in unity as a church when some of us have one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Together, we need to stand in unity as one in Christ.
We are in unity because we are baptized into Christ. We are clothed in Him and wear His righteousness. We are led by His Spirit. Together, we are in unity because we are in Christ.
The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of a body to teach how we are connected.
As a body, we are many members. The body has feet, hands, ears, eyes, and so forth. Individual members of the body are not a body. Each part of the body connects to Jesus, the Head of the body.
As we look around the church, we see many different people. Do not look at one person and say, “because I am not that person, I am not part of the church; they are more of the body than I.” It is a silly way to think.
We are not in unity when we think everyone else belongs, but not me. Some people look at what others in the church do, and they don’t see themselves as belonging. The Bible says, just as the foot cannot say, because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body, we cannot say that about ourselves.
If we are baptized into Christ, we are part of the body. All members connect to the body.
To be a mature member of the body is to be a contributing member of the body.
The Apostle Paul uses hyperbole that creates a humorous picture. Imagine if our entire body were an eye! Or imagine if all we had were ears without a nose or eyes. God beautifully designs the body to have many parts, each with a specific function.
It is silly to think of a body as only a nose or an ear. In the same way, God designs the human body, He designs the church. God places in the church people with specific talents and abilities. We contribute in varying ways. Everyone is to contribute by giving money to the needs of the church (it costs to keep the church warm, to have lights, and to broadcast video on the internet). People serve in the nursery and on the worship team. Many disciple the children in Sunday School. Some help keep the church clean. Others help with administration. The Swap Room and Community Resource room have many volunteers. Are you fulfilling God’s purpose by contributing?
We contribute by serving others in the church. Attending mid-week services contributes to discipling one another. We can pray for one another.
The most important way we can help with the maturity of the church is to disciple others. There is always the need for coming alongside one another to help each other grow in Christian maturity.
The church is God’s means of accomplishing His purpose. God never intends for any Christian to be alone. He wants us to work together. We are involved in God’s purpose and plan when we contribute to the church.
We are not to look around and compare ourselves to others. We need to cherish diversity. The church is not a contest. Some people are particularly good at being compassionate, while others are exceptionally good at being hospitable. Some are great with children, while others are good at working with their hands.
For us to be in unity, every person needs to contribute to the body. We need to consider others as being placed by God in the church for a reason. God deems every person as valuable to the body. Each member here completes the body of Christ. We need to self-evaluate if we are fulfilling our calling.
In the same way that we consider one another as contributing members, placed intentionally in the body by God, we need to recognize our need for one another.
Imagine our eye saying to our hand, “I have no need of you.” It’s silly to think that one of our body parts could say to another body part, “I have no need of you.”
It is silly for us to think we do not need anyone in the church. Every person of every age is of value to each of us. If we do not see the value of others, it is our fault, not theirs.
We glorify Christ when we need one another because we are saying we need what Christ has done in that person’s life. If we believe in the sovereignty and providence of God, which we should, then we need to live knowing God places each person in the body for a reason. Jesus is working in their life, and the work Jesus is doing is valuable. When we reject others, we reject Christ’s work in their lives.
We are immature when we live as a Christian as though we do not need others. We are mature when we see each member as valuable to the body.
Paul speaks about bestowing honor upon the less honorable members. The way we ought to think of this is that we cover for one another. In some respects, we are a team. We are to make up for each other’s weaknesses. We are to show grace and not parade the flaws and weaknesses of others. Neither do we kick them out of the church or ask them to leave because they fall short. Instead, we need to come alongside those who fall short and help them be successful.
Are we caring for others as though God has given them to us?
When we think about people in the church, do we think of them as being divinely placed? This passage teaches us that God has so composed the body. God is behind putting all of us together. He brings us together to make us care for one another.
We are in unity when we see one another as ordained by God to belong to our body. Whenever possible, we are to come alongside every member and help those who are lacking. We need to help the weaker link to become stronger.
Otherwise, we will be divisive. We will look down on others as lacking, rather than seeing them as God sees them. Every member of the body is a child of God. Just as we help our children mature, we need to help everyone in the church become mature. We are in unity when we have the same care for one another.
We need to have the affections of Jesus. Jesus loves His sheep, and we are to love them as well. Jesus cares for us. Jesus has sorrow when we have sorrow, and He rejoices when we rejoice.
We need to belong to one another on a very personal level. We are in unity when we are aware of people who are in pain or when they are having success.
Emotional involvement is draining. Often, we have more than enough emotional turmoil in our life to take on the emotional turmoil of others. But, God calls us to share in our lives together.
We need to ask ourselves, am I emotionally involved in the lives of others in the body? Do I attend on Sundays but have no involvement with others in the church during the rest of the week? True Christian maturity requires us to live as one body.
The analogy of the body is incredibly helpful. We know what it is like when our hand is hurt. We stop what we are doing and seek to get our hand healthy again. Similarly, we need to be willing to put a pause on personal needs when others are not doing well. We need to care for one another.
Next Sunday, we will have a baptism in the church. Let’s endeavor to come together to celebrate one of our young people who is giving testimony that he is part of the body.
Be in unity by being emotionally involved with one another.
The Apostle Paul ends his argument about being part of the body by making a statement. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
It is a spiritual truth that gives us encouragement. God wants us to see that we are knitted together as one. We are together the bride of Christ.
How did you do on the test?
Is Jesus our identity? Are we immersed in Christ?
Do we identify with the world, or do we identify as belonging to one another? Who is our family? Is it not our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Are we contributing to the body?
Are we demonstrating our need for one another? Or, do we live as lone ranger Christians?
Do we see the body as God’s design? Do we look at one another as divinely placed in our church?
Are we going deep with one another by being emotionally involved in one another’s lives?
Are we belonging to the body of Christ?
A measure of our maturity as Christians is not how much Bible knowledge we have. A measure of maturity is the extent that we seek to be in unity with one another.
As we have spent the last eleven weeks looking at the big picture of Scripture and how it speaks on unity, we need to value unity as essential to our walk with the Lord. We need to endeavor to be at peace with one another. We are to give to one another sacrificially. We are to commit to helping one another to be mature Christians. Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-16 once again.
Christian maturity requires participation in the body.
Let’s spend this upcoming Christmas season, a season of celebrating that God sent His Son to purchase our redemption to bring us into unity with Him, as a season of contemplating how we may be in unity with one another. Jesus died to bring us peace with God. And, Jesus died so that we will be in unity with one another.
MAIN IDEA: Be a mature Christ-centered member of the body of Christ