Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit

“…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-3

Paul begins the second main section of his letter to the Ephesians urging his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). That, in effect, is a summons for them to live out their new life as God’s people in Christ. It relates particularly to Jews and Gentiles who now belong to the “one new man” created through the reconciling death of the Lord Jesus (2:15).

It is not surprising, then, that as Paul turns to the practicalities of living as God’s new people in Christ (both Jew and Gentile) that he should begin by urging them to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Formerly alienated people groups are now to live as one.

It is peculiarly the “unity of the Spirit” that his readers are to strive to preserve. The Holy Spirit has formed a bond of unity between them and the Lord Jesus on the one hand, and between one another as well. The Spirit himself is the bond of that union. He dwells in Christ in perfect fullness, and through the gift of Christ, in each one of them. Paul alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 12:13 when he writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”   

This is not a bond, or a “unity”, that we can forge, nor is Paul here calling us to do so. Rather, he is urging us to be “eager” to maintain the unity that the Spirit creates by living together in a state of peace. Discord, animosity and division among Christians disturb the unity created by the Spirit. Indeed, these things work in a way that directly counteracts the life-giving influences of the Spirit. They separate brothers and sisters from one another and grieve the Spirit who indwells them. While not broken, the unity created by the Spirit is nevertheless bruised and his influences hindered.  

How can this be prevented? Paul mentions three personal graces that are essential for preserving the unity the Spirit creates. Humility, gentleness and patience are the three he targets. And it is not difficult to see why. A humble person is seldom a divisive or disruptive person. Neither is a gentle person – one who deals with others with sensitivity and care, not with the bluster or force born of self-will. And patience – yes, how that is needed in bearing with the frailties of others in love, even as they must bear with ours.

How important is the “unity of the Spirit” to you? Is it something you strive to preserve? There is nothing in the world that unites people like it. Most importantly, it is the bond through which we receive the very life of God in our souls. It truly is worth maintaining.

Closing Thoughts:

  • What are some of the things that tend to separate true Christians from one another?
  • Are there barriers to relationships with other believers that you can do something about?

 – Andrew Young