Christian Unity Glorifies God
‘Earnestly endeavor to observe the oneness of the spirit.’
1. How did the first-century Christians in Ephesus bring glory to God?
THE unity of the Christian congregation in ancient Ephesus glorified the true God, Jehovah. In that prosperous trading center, some Christian brothers evidently were wealthy slave owners, while others were slaves and probably very poor. (Eph. 6:5, 9) Some were Jews who learned the truth during the three months that the apostle Paul spoke in their synagogue. Others previously worshipped Artemis and had practiced magical arts. (Acts 19:8, 19, 26) Clearly, true Christianity drew together people from many backgrounds. Paul recognized that Jehovah was glorified by means of the congregation’s unity. The apostle wrote: “To him be the glory by means of the congregation.”
2. What threatened the unity of Christians in Ephesus?
2 However, the blessed unity of the Ephesian congregation was threatened. Paul warned the elders: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:30) Also, some brothers had not completely left behind the divisive spirit that, Paul warned, “operates in the sons of disobedience.”
A Letter That Highlights Unity
3, 4. How does Paul’s letter to the Ephesians emphasize unity?
3 Paul realized that if Christians are to continue cooperating in harmony, each of them must make an earnest effort to promote unity. God inspired Paul to write a letter to the Ephesians in which unity was a theme. For example, Paul wrote about God’s purpose “to gather all things together again in the Christ.” (Eph. 1:10) He also likened Christians to the different stones that make up a building. “The whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah.” (Eph. 2:20, 21) Furthermore, Paul highlighted the unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians and also reminded the brothers of their common origin. He referred to Jehovah as “the Father, to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.”
4 As we examine chapter 4 of Ephesians, we will see why unity requires effort, how Jehovah helps us to unite, and what attitudes will help us to remain united. Why not read the entire chapter so that you will benefit from the study even more?
Why Oneness Requires Earnest Effort
5. Why can God’s angels serve in unity, but why may unity be more challenging for us?
5 Paul entreated his Ephesian brothers ‘to endeavor to observe the oneness of the spirit.’ (Eph. 4:3) To understand the need for effort in this regard, consider the case of God’s angels. No two living things on earth are completely alike, so we can reasonably conclude that Jehovah has blessed each one of his millions of angels with uniqueness. (Dan. 7:10) Yet, they can serve Jehovah in unity because they all listen to him and do his will. (Read Psalm 103:20, 21.) While faithful angels have diverse attributes, Christians in addition have various defects. This can make unity more challenging.
6. What attitudes will help us to enjoy cooperating with brothers who have defects different from ours?
6 When imperfect people try to cooperate, they can easily have difficulties. For example, what if a mild-tempered brother who often arrives late serves Jehovah along with a brother who is punctual but easily loses his temper? Each might feel that the other’s conduct is lacking something but might forget that aspects of his own conduct are equally inappropriate. How could two such brothers serve together in harmony? Note how the attitudes recommended in Paul’s next words would help them. Then reflect on how we can promote unity by cultivating those attitudes. Paul wrote: “[I] entreat you to walk worthily . . . with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”
7. Why is it vital to work toward being united with other imperfect Christians?
7 Learning to serve God in unity with other imperfect people is vital because there is only one body of true worshippers. “One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons.” (Eph. 4:4-6) Jehovah’s spirit and blessings are linked to the one association of brothers that God is using. Even if someone in the congregation upsets us, where else can we turn? Nowhere else can we hear the sayings of everlasting life.
“Gifts in Men” Promote Unity
8. What does Christ use to help strengthen us against divisive influences?
8 Paul used a common practice among soldiers of ancient times to illustrate how Jesus has provided “gifts in men” to help unify the congregation. A victorious soldier might bring a foreign captive home as a slave to provide his wife help with chores. (Ps. 68:1, 12, 18) Similarly, Jesus’ victory over the world provided him with many willing slaves. (Read Ephesians 4:7, 8.) How did he use those captives, so to speak? “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith.”
9. (a) How do “gifts in men” help to maintain our unity? (b) Why should every member of the congregation contribute to its unity?
9 As loving shepherds, these “gifts in men” help to maintain our unity. For example, if a congregation elder notices two brothers “stirring up competition with one another,” he can contribute powerfully to the unity of the congregation by offering private counsel “to readjust [them] in a spirit of mildness.” (Gal. 5:26–6:1) As teachers, these “gifts in men” help us to build firm faith based on Bible teachings. Thus they promote unity and help us advance to Christian maturity. Paul wrote that this is “in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” (Eph. 4:13, 14) Every Christian should contribute to the unity of the brotherhood, just as every member of our physical body builds up the others by helping to supply what is needed.
Cultivate New Attitudes
10. How can immoral conduct threaten our unity?
10 Did you notice that the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians shows that practicing love is the key to attaining unity as mature Christians? Next, it shows what love involves. For one thing, following the way of love rules out fornication and loose conduct. Paul urged his brothers not to “go on walking just as the nations also walk.” Those people were “past all moral sense,” and “they gave themselves over to loose conduct.” (Eph. 4:17-19) The immoral world in which we live threatens our unity. People joke about fornication, sing about it, watch it for entertainment, and practice it either in secret or openly. Yet, even flirting, which may involve acting as though you are sexually attracted to someone you have no intention of marrying, can move you away from Jehovah and the congregation. Why? Because it so easily leads to fornication. Also, flirting that leads a married person into adultery can cruelly separate children from parents and innocent partners from marriage mates. Divisive indeed! No wonder Paul wrote: “You did not learn the Christ to be so”!
11. The Bible encourages Christians to make what change?
11 Paul stressed that we should drop disruptive ways of thinking and instead cultivate attitudes that enable us to live in harmony with others. He said: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his [the old personality’s] deceptive desires; . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:22-24) How can we ‘be made new in the force actuating our mind’? If we appreciatively contemplate what we learn both from God’s Word and from the fine example of mature Christians, with effort we can acquire the new personality “created according to God’s will.”
Cultivate New Ways of Speaking
12. How does speaking the truth promote unity, and why is it difficult for some to be truthful?
12 Speaking the truth is vital for those who belong to one another in a family or in a congregation. Frank, open, kind speech can draw people together. (John 15:15) But what if a person lies to his brother? When his brother realizes it, the bond of trust between them will be weakened. You can understand why Paul wrote: “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are members belonging to one another.” (Eph. 4:25) A person who is accustomed to lying, perhaps having started when he was a child, may find it hard to start speaking truth. But Jehovah will appreciate his effort to change and will help him.
13. What is involved in putting away abusive speech?
13 Jehovah teaches us to promote respect and unity in both the congregation and the family by setting firm limits on the way we speak. “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth . . . Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.” (Eph. 4:29, 31) One way to avoid offensive speech is to cultivate a more respectful attitude toward others. For example, a man who speaks abusively to his wife should strive to change his attitude toward her, especially as he learns how Jehovah honors women. God even anoints some women with holy spirit, giving them the prospect of ruling as kings with Christ. (Gal. 3:28; 1 Pet. 3:7) Similarly, a woman who habitually screams at her husband should be moved to change as she learns how Jesus restrained himself when provoked.
14. Why is expressing anger dangerous?
14 Closely related to abusive speech is failure to control anger. This too can separate people who belong to one another. Anger is like a fire. It can easily get out of control and cause disaster. (Prov. 29:22) One who is justified in expressing his displeasure must carefully control his anger to avoid damaging valuable relationships. Christians should work at being forgiving, not holding a grudge and not talking about the matter again. (Ps. 37:8; 103:8, 9; Prov. 17:9) Paul advised the Ephesians: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:26, 27) Failure to control one’s anger would give the Devil an opportunity to sow disunity and even conflict in the congregation.
15. Taking what does not belong to us can have what effect?
15 Showing respect for the property of others contributes to the unity of the congregation. We read: “Let the stealer steal no more.” (Eph. 4:28) A general sense of trust has developed among Jehovah’s people. If a Christian were to abuse that trust by taking what is not his, he would damage that happy unity.
Love for God Unites Us
16. How can we use upbuilding speech to strengthen our unity?
16 The unity of the Christian congregation is the result of all being moved by love for God to treat others with love. Appreciation for Jehovah’s kindness motivates us to make an earnest effort to apply the counsel: “[Speak] whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers. . . . Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:29, 32) Jehovah kindly forgives imperfect people like us. Should we not likewise forgive others when we see their imperfections?
17. Why should we earnestly endeavor to promote unity?
17 The unity of God’s people glorifies Jehovah. His spirit moves us in different ways to promote unity. We surely would not want to resist the spirit’s leading. Paul wrote: “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit.” (Eph. 4:30) Unity is a treasure worth protecting. It brings joy to all those who share in it and glory to Jehovah. “Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.”
How Would You Answer?
• What attitudes promote unity among Christians?
• How can our conduct promote unity in the congregation?
• How can our speech help us in cooperating with others?
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Those from many backgrounds are united
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Do you understand the dangers of flirting?