Peninsula Community Church
Unity in Diversity
January 4, 2015
Ephesians 4:4-7 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
As we move to our next set of verses, we are once again confronted with the subject of unity. Paul does this by emphasizing the oneness that is at the core of Biblical Christianity. In these few verses, we find an amazing duality of thought. Paul focuses on the unity of the body but he also gives room for diversity in carrying out these core values. It is for this reason that I have entitled this message “Unity in Diversity.”
As we begin to look at this passage it might be beneficial for us to define the terms “unity” and “diversity.” The word unity is defined as “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” The word diverse means “showing a great deal of variety; to be very different.” So when we say this phrase “unity in diversity” here is what we mean. We can be united as a whole and yet maintain the qualities and personal giftings that are uniquely ours.
As most of you know I love football. If you know much about football you know each football team has one goal and one purpose in mind and that is to win games. Football is a good illustration of unity with diversity. First of all there is one head coach with multiple staff coaches who are assigned specific responsibilities for the team. You then have players who have been trained at specific positions in order to accomplish specific tasks. Teams win games when each person, both coaches and players on the team, understands their role and the goal of the team. When each player does their part by playing their individual position with excellence they win games. Nick Saban, the coach of Alabama, was asked about winning games. His reply was that we do not set out to win games, we set out to play as a team and to excel in everything we do. If we do that we will win games. That is unity with diversity. Of course they failed to do that on New Years Day and the result was that they lost big time.
As believers, one of the biggest challenges for us is to focus on what unites us rather than what divides. Unfortunately, it is too easy to focus on the elements that divide rather than looking for ways to bring unity and oneness in the body. Let me also say I am not purporting an ecumenical concept where anything goes or anything is fair game. So, with that in mind let us look at what unites us according to the passage before us. To accomplish this, Paul outlines seven pillars around which every believer in Christ must unite.
Paul states that the first of these uniting principles is that there is one body. While there is one singular body of Christ, the amazing thing is that there are many different expressions of that body. To understand this principle we must understand that Paul is referring to what has been defined as the universal church and not one local body. Think about it for a moment. I am so glad that there is a local expression of the body of Christ called Peninsula Community Church. However, it is not the complete body. Look around this area at all of the different expressions of the body of Christ. There is Bayshore, Salem United Methodist, High Tide, Eagle’s Nest, Crossroads, and The River to name a few. There are conservative churches and there are liberal churches. There are white churches, black churches, Spanish churches, and Asian churches. The one thing that unites us is that we are a part of the larger context of God’s body. The point here is that regardless of where we attend we are a part of the body of Christ. There are a multitude of churches but there is only one body in Christ. This also applies to the local body as well. We must unite around the unifying factor that we are a part of the larger part of the body.
Secondly, there is one Spirit. The motivating factor of unity that makes us the body of Christ is the Spirit that is in each of us. Apart from the Spirit there is no means for us to be united. But the Spirit comes to unite believers as one body in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me.”
It is to be noted here that there are not multiple spirits; there is only One Spirit. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 when he acknowledges that we have various gifts and abilities but they all come from the same spirit. If we are not careful, we will present ourselves as if we have some advantage over others or that we are better than someone else because of our particular understanding of the Spirit. The result is division and disunity.
Thirdly, Paul states that we are called to one hope that belongs to our calling. This is the reward that is ours in Christ. What is our calling? It is to be effective believers. The hope we have through Christ is that we will be effective followers of Christ. In our calling we look beyond the present day to a time where we will live with Christ and one another for eternity. Therefore, when we are united in hope, we will understand that everything we do is eternal in nature. It also reminds us that the people we have trouble getting along with here will most likely be our neighbors for eternity.
Fourthly, there is one Lord. It is amazing how this has become such a controversial topic in our current society. More and more people believe that there are multiple entrances into heaven but as believers we are confident in our faith that there is only one Lord and one way to enter heaven. It is in the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord that we have access into the kingdom of God and not by any other means.
Because there is one Lord, the fifth pillar is there is only one faith. When you look on the landscape of the modern church one would assume that there are multiple faiths but that is not the basis of unity in the church. The fact is we do not have multiple faith systems but we have nuances of belief. I love what I recently heard Bill Sammons, Jr. say about his dad, Pastor Bill Sammons, Sr. He stated I remember someone trying to get my Dad into a theological debate about a specific scripture and he replied along the lines of: “I don’t know. I just know there is a lot in this Book that I DO understand that I can’t seem to live out, so I will focus on that.” Here is the point that is being made. We tend to argue over the minor issues which create division and disruption in the body of Christ. When we argue over the minors we create issues and division that was never intended within the church.
Sixth, we have one baptism. The critical thing here is not so much the mode of baptism for there are several modes. For example, there is immersion or sprinkling. There is infant baptism and there is adult baptism. The issue here once again is not the mode as much as it is the purpose. You see baptism is an outward expression of the inward work of Christ in our hearts. You see baptism does not save us but it serves as a testimony to the work accomplished in us. Baptism looks backward at the work Christ has done and is therefore the evidence of the work of Christ in us.
Seventh there is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. This one is similar to the one Lord. What Paul is doing is acknowledging that the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are actively involved in the unity of the church. When we have a proper understanding and view of who the Trinity is we will be less likely want to argue and bring division.
One of the things we have witnessed in our modern era is that people are trying to convince us that there are more than one God and more than one way to to make it to heaven. We have lost the power of serving one God. It is no longer an acceptable proclamation that there is one God and one Lord. People are quick to debate you on the validity of this statement. The problem is that when we begin to water any of the above down we will fall short of God’s intent. Several years ago I was asked to participate in organizing an event called “Jesus Alive 2000.” Things were going well until the chairman of the committee began to take a turn that at least two of us on the committee felt was unhealthy. They wanted to remove the name of Jesus from the prayers and statements that would be made during the course of the event. Each prayer and sermon was to be presented prior to being given so that it could be edited for possible statements that would offend someone of another faith. Imagine this, Jesus was not invited to His own event.
Here is the bottom line. Our believe system is an opportunity to serve God and be united in Christ. This is done without competition because we don’t compete when we serve together. We look for the good in others. We celebrate each others specific gifting and abilities. We must unite around the five pillars of unity and not allow the other issues of life to divide us.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom