Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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How do we Keep the Unity of the Spirit?

Ephesians 4:1-3  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Saints, Slaves, Prisoners
Christians are called saints or holy ones.  We are those specially set apart by God to represent Him here in this world.  We are also called slaves.  Before we were saved we were slaves to sin and after we are saved we are slaves to righteousness or God according to Romans 6: 17-23.  But Paul was something that very few of us are.  He was a prisoner of the Lord.
When Paul was making his last trip to Jerusalem, prophets told him not to go because he would be imprisoned.  He knew that they were right about his being imprisoned, but they were wrong about whether he should go.  He knew he would be imprisoned, but that ultimately he would be carrying the Gospel to Rome and even to Nero because of his captivity.  Men meant it for evil, but God meant it for good just as Joseph told his brothers after his imprisonments (See Genesis 50:20).
As a result of his imprisonments, he also had time to write letters that are benefiting us today.  It is possible that these letters would never have been written apart from his imprisonments.  Paul took his imprisonments as opportunities not as obstacles.  While men put him in jail, he considered Himself to be a prisoner of the Lord, not a prisoner of the Romans.
What was Paul’s Concern?
We know we are saved by grace and not by works.  Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we who are saved have nothing to boast about.  Yet, the saved do represent the Lord on this earth and we are told that men will know we are disciples by our love (John 13:35).  While we are not saved by our works, true salvation is a new birth that should work a change in us.  That major change is love.  Since Cain and Abel it has been easy to hate and to kill and destroy.  But the Lord wants his people to be different.  He wants us to love one another.  He wants us to be unified since that is the work of the Spirit.  Satan divides and conquers.  The Lord saves and unifies.  Satan wants others to die for us that we might have some kind of peace through intimidating power as seen in our international wars and gang conflicts. The Lord died for us in order to change all that.  I realize that only true disciples can really appreciate this command to love one another, but do those of us who claim to be disciples really exhibit this love as we ought?  It should result in unity in our Christian relationships.
There are some qualities that we need to accomplish this.  They are spiritual qualities.  They are not representative of the way we think naturally.  Those qualities are lowliness, gentleness, and long suffering.  In addition, being patient with people who exasperate us is what bearing with one another in love probably means.  If we were able to exhibit these qualities, I am sure that we would be able to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Often when we talk about keeping the peace we do it by giving up Truth.  However, I do not think that Paul wants us to give up any God-given convictions or Truth, but he does want us to be patient with those who disagree with us.  We need to give people time to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.
Control of the Spirit vs Control of Christians
As Paul goes through this practical section of Ephesians, he makes it quite clear that what we say and how we say it is important.  He says that each of us is to be filled by the spirit.  That is we are to be like a hand puppet that is completely controlled by the hand that fills the puppet.  We are no longer controlled by wine (the wrong kind of spirit), nor are we to be controlling others.  We are to be controlled ourselves by the Holy Spirit which means that we are controlled by the Word of God (See Colossians 3:16).
I am personally convicted that if we grieve the Holy Spirit by the things we say and do we will never enjoy the blessings of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit.  A life controlled by the Holy Spirit might land us in jail; and I for one am not ready for that so I have a ways to go to be Christ-like or even Paul-like.
The Questions that I keep Asking
I realize that there is a battle going on between the wicked spirits and us according to Ephesians 6. I keep wondering if I am fighting the right battles and the right enemy.  Why are Christians known for fighting each other rather than being known by our love? Do we need to ask ourselves if we have really been “born of the Spirit?”  Or have we just signed up for what we consider to be a good philosophy and a better lifestyle.  To whom are we slaves?  Who does have us in prison?
Bruce Collins
Meditation for the week of October 4, 2015

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