​Holiness Strengthens Unity

From TableTalk

by Matthias Lohmann

What does the pursuit of holiness have to do with church unity? More than many Christians might think. Church unity will grow if we are serious about the pursuit of holiness. Or to put it the other way around: if we neglect the pursuit of holiness, the unity of the church is threatened.

Church unity is the big theme of Ephesians 4. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul first challenges Christians to be “eager to maintain the unity” (v. 3) and then explains that Christ has given to His church shepherd-teachers, among others, with the ultimate goal that “we all attain to the unity of the faith” (v. 13). In the third section of Ephesians 4, beginning in verse 17, Paul goes on and exhorts the Ephesians to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” Christians should put off their old self and instead should “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24).

And then Paul goes on to show how the pursuit of holiness will help to do what he called for in the two previous sections of Ephesians 4—namely, to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3) and to “attain to the unity of the faith” (v. 13).

Christians should avoid falsehood that hinders the growth toward the unity of the faith. Instead, they should speak the truth on which the unity of faith can grow (v. 25).

Christians should avoid behavior that harms others (such as stealing). Rather, they should be working so that they can share with others (v. 28). Such acts of kindness and generosity will certainly strengthen church unity.

They should avoid corrupting talk that is so often the cause of church division and instead should speak words that build others up and thus strengthen the unity in the body (v. 29).

Finally, Paul writes in verse 31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Again, it’s obvious how all this will destroy church unity. Instead, he calls Christians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” them (v. 32).

All these challenges are ultimately a call to holiness. If Christians pursue holiness, it will strengthen church unity. On the other hand, when Christians neglect the pursuit of holiness, the unity of the church is severely threatened.

God’s Word calls us to be holy as God is holy, and Christ wants His church to be one as He and His Father are one. Both in holiness and in unity, the church should reflect the triune God.

In this way, the church will be a display of its Lord and God. May this be true of our churches.

Rev. Matthias Lohmann is pastor of the Free Evangelical Church in Munich, Germany, and chairman and founder of the German gospel partnership Evangelium21.

Holiness Strengthens Unity

Fairfield Church, PCA

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