We Value Unity

Steve Viars November 11, 2018 Ephesians 4:13
Outline

The Four Factors of Stewardship

1. God owns everything – you own nothing

2. God has entrusted you with everything you have

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given – he wants you to increase it

4. God can call you into account at any time and it may be today

3 reasons our church family values unity

I. Because of the Priority of Unity

A. A central aspect of Jesus’ prayer for us – John 17:21

John 17:21 - …that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Ephesians 4:4-6 - There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

B. A means of glorifying God – John 17:22

John 17:22 - The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one…

C. A powerful apologetic to a watching world – John 17:33

John 17:23 - 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.

Proverbs 6:16-19 - There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.

II. Because of the Action of Unity

Ephesians 4:3 - …being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

A. This is not something we have to manufacture

B. It is something we preserve

tarew – keep under guard, hold, do not lose, protect

Matthew 27:54 - Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Timothy 4:7 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…

Ephesians 4:3 - …being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

“The infinitive tapeiv from tarew essentially means to keep, preserve what is already in existence.  It is not the establishment of a new entity, but rather to keep and not lose or destroy something already in our possession.” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians – An Exegetical Commentary, p. 511)

C. This requires diligence

spoudazo – to be busy, eager, make haste, make every effort

2 Timothy 4:19-21 - Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.

1. by solving problems

Ephesians 4:15 - …but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…

Ephesians 4:29 - Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Romans 15:14 - And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

Matthew 18:15-17 - If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 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.

Matthew 7:1-5 - Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

2. by handling anger well

Ephesians 4:26-27 - Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

James 1:19-20 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 

3. by avoiding the tendency to complain

Philippians 2:14-15 - Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…

4. by avoiding divisive people

Romans 16:17 - Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

III. Because of the Challenge of Unity

Ephesians 4:13 - …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.

John 17:13 - But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 

- if you’ve been attending Faith for any period of time, and have mentioned that to a friend, or a co-worker, or a neighbor – you’ve probably received some sort of response...

- just like most organization that have been around for over 50 years, you’ll invariably have a reputation…what you’re known for around town…

- we could probably spend months deconstructing the various strands of our reputation and all the lessons that could be learned…and the appropriate responses to what is said…

- but one of the ones that I frequently hear is a level of surprise at how much Faith is able to accomplish…

- whether someone agrees with what we do or not…or what we believe or emphasize…

- it’s a fairly well accepted fact that we’re not sitting around doing nothing…

 

- I hear that especially from men and women in our town who have experience working with other non-profits or volunteer groups…

- they express surprise or interest or even admiration at how much gets done and how quickly things get done…

 

- that invariably leads to speculation about how projects or initiatives are accomplished…

- and some of the explanations over the years are just amazing…

- you’ve probably heard some variation of this urban legend, but we heard it soon after moving here 31 years ago and have heard some form of it every year since then…

- that Faith gets things done because we send a monthly statement to our members informing them of how much money they have to give…

- it’s like your phone bill or a statement from the cable TV company…and if you don’t pay your bill on time…we threaten to kick you out of heaven or something…I would be surprised if there were many people here this morning who have not heard some rendition of that…

- then there’s those who say – well, Faith is part of a national franchise…like Kentucky Fried Chicken – all churches with the word Faith in their name all connected together…and so they get funding and planning resources and technical support from the home office in Chicago or Kansas City or someplace…

- I assume everyone here knows that’s not true – we are an independent church…and glad to be so…

- there was even a rumor going around FB last year that we had a secret connection to the Koch brothers…and they were quietly funneling massive amounts of resources to us for some sinister purpose I never quite understood…

- there’s lots of examples like that floating around and now that we have the internet and multiple social media outlets…let’s just say there are a lot of experts out there who know more about us than we even do…

- now, sometimes – many oftentimes in our town – the explanations that are offered are actually positive in nature, but they’re focused on some human aspect of our church…

- so someone might say – they have really exceptional deacons…which is true by the way, but that’s not exactly our secret sauce…

- or they point to an individual or a particular family…well, so and so goes there you know…

- or they’re really good at this…or really good at that…

- so even if it’s a positive attempt to explain whatever level of effectiveness we might possess…it’s still focused on human beings or human resources…

- and we would be quick to say that that significantly misses the mark…

- for our purposes this morning we would say it like this – An essential aspect of our secret sauce is a supernatural unity that comes only through the power of our Savior and the work of our triune God.

- in other words, We Value Unity

 

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Ephesians chapter 4…page _____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- we’re in the middle of stewardship month, which is our annual opportunity to consider all that God has entrusted to us, and whether we have been faithful to the trust…

- now I hope by this point you have committed The Four Factors of Stewardship to memory

1. God owns everything – you own nothing.

2. God has entrusted you with everything you have.

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given – he wants you to increase it.

4. God can call you into account at any time and it may be today.

 

- this year, as part of our annual theme of Being Careful How We Build…we’re doing a verse by verse study of Ephesians 4:11-16…because this is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible on what a church is supposed to be doing…and we’re emphasizing these primary points from the text:

1. We value equipping.

2. We value unity.

3. We value doctrine.

4. We value service.

 

- we’re organizing this around the theme of The Values of the Body of Christ

- let’s read our passage now and find [We Value Unity] 3 reasons our church family values unity.

 

- read Ephesians 4:1-16

 

- so, 4 reasons our church family values unity

I. Because of the Priority of Unity

- let me ask you to hold your hand in Ephesians chapter 4…we’ll be back here in a little bit…

- but please turn back to the gospel of John chapter 17…[page ____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]…

- I think many of us would say – if Ephesians 4:11-16 is about what a local church is supposed to be, and do – it is surprising how much emphasis is placed on unity…

- think about all the things that aren’t mentioned in the passage that on a human level we would think are absolutely essential for a human entity to function, or grow, or thrive, or be effective…most of what we might expect isn’t anywhere to be found but instead we have this repeated emphasis on the priority of unity…

- well, if we would say that about Ephesians 4 – we would say that to the power of ten when it comes to John 17…

- this is Jesus’ high priestly prayer…at the end of the last supper just prior to Judas betraying Christ in the garden…

- you can’t overstate the intimate nature of this conversation…Jesus is preparing to go to the cross to die in our place for our sins…

- He is facing the agony of crucifixion…and the greater agony of being separated from His Holy Father while He bears the weight and penalty of our sin…

- it’s amazing that we have access to a prayer like this…and even more amazing to hear Jesus pray for us…people like you and me…and to focus a surprising amount of attention on our future unity…

- please listen in, beginning at verse 13 of John 17…read John 17:13-26

 

- so why does our church family value unity?

A. A central aspect of Jesus’ prayer for us – John 17:21

- John 17:21 - that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

- one of the primary reasons we are able to accomplish what we do is because there is very little time wasted in fussing and fighting with one another…

- and it is very important for us to recognize this morning, and affirm, and celebrate that to whatever degree that is true – it is because Jesus asked His Father to give that to us…and then he died on the cross to make it possible…

- that is why it would be so awful for any of us to ever become proud about any aspect of what might be occurring amongst us that is good…

- because we recognize the source of our unity as being our Perfect Savior Himself…

 

- now if we said – well, why would this be such a priority to the Lord?...there were many, many topics He could have prayed about at that moment…

- one answer is just to look around at the divided world in which we live…

- the level of disunity in many different arenas in our country and our world is hard to overstate…political division, cultural division, ethnic division, class division, national division…the volume of all of that is turned up about as loud as it could be…

- and think about all of energy, and time, and resources that are wasted in those endless battles…

- and then you have a church…of diverse people, common, ordinary people – but they possess a quality that is so elusive to our world…unity – remember what Paul said – Ephesians 4:4–6 - There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

- that God-given, blood-bought, Spirit engendered unity that exists among us is…

B. A means of glorifying God – John 17:22

- John 17:22 - The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

- that is an incredible gift – and an incredible assignment…

- our oneness as a church family – is to be a picture of God’s oneness in the trinity…

 

- and one of the many questions for each of us is – do you value unity, and contribute to unity, in a way that gives others the right opinion of the unity that exists between members of the godhead?...

- and our Lord went on to pray and explain that this can be…

C. A powerful apologetic to a watching world – John 17:33

- John 17:23 - 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.

- is there any higher priority than that?...anything that we should value more?...

- the unity in the church family could be [please follow the argument] proof that God sent His Son…

- and proof that God loves us…

 

- this is why, by the way – we would read a statement like this in the book of Proverbs…Proverbs 6:16–19 - There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.

- some people ooze division – and if allowed to, they can destroy a family, destroy an office, destroy a neighborhood, a sports team, or even destroy a church…

- if allowed to, they spread strife among brothers…

- no wonder God hates that if such behavior undercuts the message the Lord wants to send to the world through the example of His unified people…

 

- so Jesus prayed for our unity, and then He walked up Calvary’s hill and died to make it possible…

- now let’s go back to Ephesians 4 and see what Paul adds to this discussion…we also value this quality…

II. Because of the Action of Unity

- please lock onto Ephesians 4:3

- Ephesians 4:3 - being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

- the verb that is used here is profoundly important…

A. This is not something we have to manufacture

- there is an enormous difference between having to make something, and having to preserve it…

- would we all agree with that?...sure…

- for example – let’s take brats…one of my favorite subjects, especially if we’re talking about brats from D&R…

- by the way – I recently learned that some people, when they heard me talking about D&R, thought I was talking about the Deportment of Natural Resources…

- sometimes I think we ought to give a general knowledge test to every person coming into our services and if you don’t know where D&R Meats is on Creasy Lane…then you can’t come to church here…[because you’re obviously out of reach of God’s grace – although that might be a bit strong…]

- so anyway…back to brats…D&R has like 6 different kinds…

- and if you told me this morning – I have to manufacture my own brat from scratch…I would be in big trouble…I have no idea what’s in them…somehow they get all of that into some kind of tube that somehow disintegrates when you cook it or eat it…I don’t understand all the details…so if I have to make one from scratch – it’s not happening…

- if on the other hand you say – our dear friends at D&R have already made them…all you have to do is go pick one up…and preserve it…that’s a whole new ball game…

- and I am living proof I am capable of that assignment…

 

- on more times than I can count…I took a brat out of the store in their white butcher paper…

- and I carried it safely to my car…I didn’t drop it, I didn’t lose it – I preserved it…

- then I put it on my front seat and drove it home…no problem whatsoever…

- then I put it in the fridge…carefully preserving it…

- then I carried it to the grill…and I heated it up to perfection…just to when it started squirting hot grease which, by the way, is how you know it’s done…

- then I put it on a fresh brat bun, slathered it with mustard, and relish, and some cheese and assorted garnishes…then I…stopped caring about preserving it….which I realize constitutes a slight breakdown in the efficacy of this illustration…

 

- but the point is – having to manufacture something from scratch is much harder than simply preserving something that was already made for you…

- thus – biblical unity is like brats from D&R…feel free to tweet that…

 

- so we don’t manufacture it…but…

B. It is something we preserve.

- the original word here is tarew – keep under guard, hold, do not lose, protect

- here’s a couple of other places in the NT where this word is used…

  • Matthew 27:54 - Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
  • 2 Timothy 4:7 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

- the words “keeping guard” in Matthew and “kept” in 2 Timothy are the same as “preserve” in…

  • Ephesians 4:3 - being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

- one commentator said – “The infinitive tapeiv from tarew essentially means to keep, preserve what is already in existence.  It is not the establishment of a new entity, but rather to keep and not lose or destroy something already in our possession” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians – An Exegetical Commentary, p. 511)

 

- all of this leads to a very important question, doesn’t it – regarding the unity Jesus has manufactured for our family…are you seeking to watch over it, to keep it and not lose, to do everything in your power not to destroy it…and do you have that kind of impact in other areas of your life as well?...

- and if you would say:

a. often I feel like doing the opposite (thank you for being honest)

b. this takes a lot of focused effort…which is why Paul also says…

C. This requires diligence

- Spoudazo – to be busy, eager, make haste, make every effort

- remember when Paul said this to Timothy at the end of one of his letters…

- 2 Timothy 4:19–21 - Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.

- there’s our word – make every effort…Timothy, get the lead out…

- that’s the way we ought to think about our responsibility to preserve the unity Christ has purchased and provided for us…we ought to be busy about that, eager, to make haste and every effort…

 

- now, you might say – well, specifically how do we do this?...that is a great question…

- there’s truth right here in this passage to help us…

 

1. by solving problems

- this is surprising to some people…but biblical unity is not ignoring problems in the church family – quite to the contrary, it requires a commitment to solve them right away before they get out of control…

  • Ephesians 4:15 - but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
  • Ephesians 4:29 - Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

- sometimes the most edifying, and unifying thing that can be done in a church is for to speak to right person, in the right way, at the right time about a problem with the goal of coming to a biblical solution…

  • Romans 15:14 - And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

[if time, tell about one of my first weeks at Faith, observing a young married woman from our church driving around town with another fellow – and Pastor Goode’s approach to addressing it…]

 

- this is why Jesus said:

  • Matthew 18:15–17 - “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. “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.

- biblical unity is not ignoring problems – it is dealing with them Jesus’ way…

- [if time, tell of the church who had a married, influential leader who decided to develop an inappropriate relationship with another young lady in the church – everyone knew – no one did anything – was that a unified church?]

 

- and I realize someone might say – but isn’t that judging people?...good question…we’re not supposed to judge, right?...or wrong?...we better check…

  • Matthew 7:1–5 - “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

- so biblical unity is not – you agree with me, or I agree with you – biblical unity is – we both choose to agree with Jesus…

- He purchased our unity, and provided our unity…and then He commanded us to be diligent to preserve it…

- now, how else do we do this?...

 

2. by handling anger well

- another important verse in this neighborhood is…Ephesians 4:26–27 - Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

- in some churches, it is practically impossible to make any kind of decision because if you try to have a meeting, there will be some episode of sinful anger…

- in all the years I’ve been involved in congregational meetings, and pastor/deacons’ meetings – I can’t think of an episode of sinful anger that was left unaddressed…

- now people are passionate at times and they should be…but they are also diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…they work at this…they also believe in following James admonition - James 1:19–20 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 

 

3. by avoiding the tendency to complain

- divisive people are complainers, and divisive people are gossips…

- in other words, they are quick to figure out what they don’t like about something

– and then invariably they start talking to everyone in the world except the people they ought to be talking to…

- that’s why Paul told the Philippians…Philippians 2:14–15 - Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

- I’m assuming that you allowing the Word of God to help you examine your heart and life?...

- I am very thankful for the level of unity that has always existed among our church family…very little time and effort has ever been wasted on the tendencies we’re talking about right now…

- in part because people are working so hard at what we believe the Lord wants us to accomplish…and having such a great time doing it…that we don’t have much time to grump…

- but I am sure I’ll be speaking to at least a few folks who by their life or by their tongue do not value unity…they’ve not been good stewards of the unity that has been purchased and provided by the Savior…

- and if that’s you this am – we would invite you to repent…

- you might even need to ask the forgiveness of others in your life for one or more of these matters…

- or ask someone to sit down and help you understand what is going on in your heart that is producing these kinds of behaviors…

- and to hold you accountable for change…

- one other aspect of this is…

4. by avoiding divisive people

- Romans 16:17 - Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

- you might want to examine the news outlets you watch or listen to – and ask yourself, is that helping you be a person who is diligent about preserving the unity in the bond of peace…or breed discontent and dissension and disunity?...

- if you hang around the crock long enough, you’re going to start smelling like a pickle…

 

- now, isn’t it great that none of us needed to hear this message?...because each and every one of us has already arrived at being the perfect unifier and we have a perfectly unified church?...

- well, that was said tongue in cheek…

III. Because of the Challenge of Unity

- Ephesians 4:13 - 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.

- question – have we all attained to the unity of the faith?...

- so what does that tell us – do verse 3…over and over and over…

 

- do you remember also what Jesus said in His high priestly prayer?...

- John 17:13 - But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

 

- and then He went on to pray for our unity

- what’s the connection?...

 

- a unified church is a joyful church…

 


Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video