Unity in the Body of Christ

by Mike Ratliff

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

While the most common accusation against my friends at CRN is that their expositions cause disunity amongst the brethren, the call from the Word of God is not unity at all costs, but unity within the Body of Christ in the Spirit in the bond of peace. The key to having unity among Christians is not that all claim to be Christians, but that the Holy Spirit bestows oneness within all true believers through which He creates a bond of peace that is godly love for one another.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

In our “Christian” environment today there seems to be little of this going on. I have seen this type of close intimate love within churches of which I was a part. However, I have also seen and been part of some disagreements with many professing Christians that seemed to be on the verge of escalating into fights to the death. What is wrong? Why does this happen? There are the obvious cases of people calling themselves Christian who are in the throes of apostasy. When we deal with these we must be discerning and stand on the truth from God’s Word while relying on the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide us. However, many of our “battles” seem to be over silly doctrinal differences that have very little, if any, value to the body of Christ right now. Those of us who are truly His must take a higher road.

4 There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:4-7 ESV)

All in Christ are of one body and one Spirit. We all have the same hope which belongs to our call. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father of all. If we are having disagreements that bring disunity within this body then it must be coming from an outside source. Notice that this passage says that our God is over all and through all and in all. He is totally sovereign. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He has not lost control. He knows what is going on. Has he allowed accusers, false brethren, or goats, to enter into the visible body of believers for His own purposes? Does God do this sort of thing?

5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Samuel 16:5-12 ESV)

David is not a perfect person. He was fleeing Jerusalem because his son Absalom was seeking his life. This sad situation came upon the house of David because of God’s judgment against him for the killing of Uriah the Hittite and the marrying of his wife, Bathsheba. David was an adulterer and a murderer. However, he was still God’s anointed on the throne of His people. David was a man after God’s own heart. In the incident with Shimei, David shows remarkable spiritual maturity. The others wanted to kill the man, but David saw that God had allowed this and was using It for His purposes, therefore, he would do nothing to his man because he saw that God was in it. Do we do this? When dogs and wolves and goats attack us in ways that seem to be “for no reason whatsoever” when we are in the middle of serving our Lord, how do we respond? Here is our Lord’s example.

1 Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:1-7 ESV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy exactly. He was abandoned, beaten, ridiculed, scourged and crucified. All through this He did not accuse His accusers. In fact, he forgave them on the cross. Are we called to the same spiritual level?

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)

Yes, we are called to not repay evil for evil. We are not to revile those who revile us. Instead, we are called to bless those who abuse us. No, we never compromise the truth, but when the accusations become personal, we must not participate. I am convinced that I have blown this myself more times than I can count over the past several months or even years. I am guilty of repaying in kind. I confess this to you now and I repent of it. I pray that the Lord will forgive me and use me to shine Christ’s light of love into the lives of all of those whom He uses to test me.

What will it be then? Are we to continue in modeling the ways of the world or we going to go to the next level with our Lord? That requires a letting go of our “rights.” It requires a deeper faith. Only those whose faith is right with God can believe Him and obey Him in this. Those with little faith are self-dependent and will defend self against all comers. We must forsake this though. Oh Lord, help our faith! Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts that believe and trust You. In our Saviour on the cross we see our example. We must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. If we will do this then Unity in the Body of Christ will not be damaged, but enhanced. On top of that, we will be further down that narrow way that leads to life. Who will go with me?

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45 thoughts on “Unity in the Body of Christ

  1. Father,
    I repent of my outburst. I saw no end. Lord please give me patience and understanding. I pray for Mike as what we see on this side is nothing compared to what he must deal with on a daily basis. Please unite us once again in love and forgiveness. Amen Deborah

  2. Glorifying Christ in all that we say. We are to defend the truth with a firm stance and not in a wishy washy manner, but that is to be done with humility and in a fashion that brings glory to God. Sometimes I do get angry with commenters but I have to ask myself, “Are you angry because they have hurt your pride or because they are blaspheming Christ?” If it is because they are hurting my pride then I need to shut up. If they are blaspheming Christ, then I need to give the truth according to Scripture in order for Christ to be glorified in humility knowing I don’t know everything. So I by God’s power will go with you!

  3. Deborah, hello my sister :-)

    Mike,
    I love Phillipians 3:15 “So let those of us who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also.” Meaning if there is something we don’t agree on the Lord will make it clear to us at some point.

    Not to get off subject at all but I do have a question about something you said above. Did Jesus forgive the accusers while He was on the cross? Or did He pray to the Father to forgive the accusers? Meaning is repentance necessary before forgiveness can be given???

    Love in Christ,
    Rachel

  4. Rachel,
    Yes, I love that passage as well. Jesus forgave them and asked that the Father forgive them. In other words, He asked the Father to not condemn them for the act of crucifying Him and abusing Him and not believing Him. It’s no different than for us. All of us were just a guilty of His crucifixion as those who did it. We all deserve Hell. Therefore, our salvation which comes because we believe and repent and submit unto the Lordship of Christ is God’s work and it involves His forgiving us of all of our sins. He does this because Christ paid the price for our sins. Therefore we get the result of that forgiveness by repenting and believing.
    In Christ
    Mike Ratliff

  5. Hi everyone. :-)

    Rachel, this is so interesting. Jesus “forgave” them according to the meaning of the word used today…meaning He loved them in spite of their sin so much so that He prayed for them as we are told to “love your enemies…pray for them” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28). But at that point, they were still His enemies (in their sin). Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins, but notice He rather prayed for them as forgiveness (God’s forgiveness as demonstrated throughout Scripture) cannot transpire apart from repentance. I believe when we love our enemies that strongly, God honors that prayer both by softening our enemies’ hearts, and healing ours. So in the modern vernacular, He “forgave” them as He loved them so immensely He prayed for them. But God forbid a sinner be forgiven with no inner change, right? We all must repent. May we all love one another so much that we resemble our Lord Jesus!

  6. Missed ya Mike! I wish I could get here more often. You are such a blessing. God bless you. :-)

  7. Our ‘flesh’ does get in the way doesn’t it?!?! Not all the time, but we sure watch it flare up when someone attacks us. You know the one where the Holy Spirit says not to sin in your anger? Well I have never gotten that one down yet………I hate it too. But that is one area I have always had trouble. Just walking away seems to do me the best, because if I ‘blurt’ out at that time……..I will sin every single time. Its not an easy one for me because I believe they are attacking the Lord and not really me, and that makes me angry. We all could use some control and just slap that flesh into submission! :) Good article Mike. Oh, and I don’t quite understand about the name and google thing……..but I do hope all is well with you? We pray for you brother.

  8. Mike, I take it you liked the site we had you check out today?? :) I see it added………we thought it was good. Blessings to you and yours……..

  9. Hello Once Confused,

    So you are saying that we can forgive someone once they repent right? but if they don’t repent (as was the case of the accusers of Jesus) we don’t forgive them but we do pray for them. Once we pray for them on their behalf to the Father, He softens both their hearts and ours. So it’s not that Jesus forgave them while He was on the cross (because they were not repentant, not reaching out for that reconcililiation) but that He intereceded for them to the Father and through that prayer, some may have had their hearts softed, thereby leading to Godly sorrow and repentance and THEN reconcilation with God through Jesus. I am I following you correctly here? (Sorry for the run on sentence!!)

    Your sister in Christ,
    Rachel

  10. I believe we forgive everyone, even if we don’t feel it yet. We pray that God takes the anger and hurt from our heart and eventually we really truly forgive them. If it weren’t for God it would be humanly impossible to forgive some things.

  11. Rachel, in a word, yes.

    Deborah – it is so much harder to love and pray for an enemy with no repentance for something they’ve done to us than it is to forgive one who wrongs us and IS repentant, isn’t it? Remember, God does not forgive us until we repent, but He is a God who is “ready to pardon”. We must be willing and ready to forgive the way God is with us, where both offender and offended are changed and united by the process. We are to forgive “just as” God has forgiven us (where there is a repentant heart). I have found the test of true forgiveness is if your offender will accept it. If your offender has no change in his heart, pray for that change. Forgiveness in the Bible always changes the offender and he always participates in the process.

    I have been in the position where I had to pray for an enemy (one who wronged me with no repentance) and within minutes God replaced all the human mucky feelings I had with His heart for that person. Wow! It is only by His Holy Spirit that we can love a person who hates us. To this day I have to deal with that person, as yet with no change in her heart. I love her nonetheless in my actions, and when my heart begins to fail me again, I pray. He has NEVER failed me! It has been a great tool for growing in the Lord. The less fun things usually are what make you stronger in Him. All things work together for good for those who love God. :-)

    Blah, blah, blah…sorry Mike! :-)

  12. Deborah – open repentance on a blog. Praise the Lord, you blessed the Father.

    How can two walk together unless they be agreed? Unity in the Spirit and even attempting to keep peace is commanded. But unity among others who dismantle the most sacred truths revealed in the Scriptures is not only not possible, it is forbidden.

    Some dialogue with a view toward correction – yes. But unity with false teachers and even heretics – never. But humility in all things realizing that Christ and His Spirit has opened our eyes, it is not we ourselves. Praise His Name above all!

  13. Amen Sharon,
    Yes, Even if they don’t ask or seem to care. We are the offenders also. No one is perfect. Even if they are gone from this earth suddenly. Even if it was something in your childhood. Once you hit that the road to forgiveness all kinds of things will pop up as if God is saying. Do you even forgive this? You might feel the pain forever but God still puts the forgiveness in your heart. He gives you a heart of compassion.

  14. My 1st husband abused drugs and I had to remove my children and myself out of our home about every other weekend. He was very mean when he got high or drunk. He loved to torture me mostly with words but not always. One night when I was 28 and just prayed to our God and asked him to Please just do something I can’t take this anymore. My husband died the next day. Isn’t that a wake up call! I really felt guilty about that one.

  15. Deborah,
    You precious sister, I am sorry you had to go through that. I hope you don’t still feel guilty about your husbands death. The Lord had an appointed day for him as he has for all of us. It sounds like you were delivered. Peace from the Lord Jesus Christ to you.
    Your Sister in Christ,
    Rachel

  16. Rachel,

    Thank you sister. I wasn’t looking for pity as I can really find enough of that in myself sometimes. :)
    It is really the road the Lord put me on. I have to believe that because that is were I find the forgiveness to anyone who ever abused me. God allowed it for a reason. :)

  17. Paul,

    Thanks for your prayers. I think all of us share in the “anger” thing when we are walking in the flesh. I believe God will use our circumstances to force that sometimes so we will see that if we react one way we will be consumed by our emotions and go into bondage to our flesh, or if we go the other, we will submit to His Lordship and meekly obey Him by not striking back.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  18. Deb,

    Thanks for sharing that. I know it’s horrible, but as Rachel said, all die at God’s appointed time for them. Just keep your focus on the Lord and obey Him in all things. Repent when He commands. We are His servants, we don’t call the shots.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  19. Unity? With what and whom are we uniting with? Liars? Deceivers? The abominable? Blasphemers? Apostates? Heretics? Those of the circumcision and after the flesh? Ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing? Now Christians should tolerate honest disputes on things concerning doctrines in areas that are mysteries from people who through their making an honest attempt to literally and contextually interpret scripture are going to come up with different things. But people who deny the truth just so they can follow after their own lusts of the eye, lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life should not be counted as the body of believers but rather as tares that the enemy has sown among the wheat. The Bible specifically calls for us to separate ourselves from them; to “come out of her my people, lest you partake in her plagues!” If Christians fail to do this, then we become abominations, stenches in the nostrils of God, ourselves because we will have rejected God’s Commandments to follow after our own hearts. Now as Arminian I disagree with you (and with CRN and their fellow travelers) on plenty of things, but this is definitely one on which we agree. http://healtheland.wordpress.com

  20. healtheland,

    Do you see what we have done? We do agree on more than we care to admit don’t we? Thanks for sharing that my brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. Amen Deborah! The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. He allows things for His purposes. :-)

  22. Deborah, I also stand with the others: you didn’t “cause” someone’s death. God is sovereign – over death and yes, as you pointed out, even abuse. It all ended when He put an end to it once and for all. Praise the Lord that He had mercy upon you and upon your children. I’ve had a painful trial recently myself and the “all things” in Romans 8:28 has become very important to me. Meditate upon that if you have not recently done so.

    Mike, a follow up comment to your great post. A wise Bible teacher I had, as they taught through Ephesians, said that we don’t create the unity between Christians, God does through His word and His Spirit. We are to preserve the unity we have, but we don’t create it. This is an important distinction that I’d never thought about before. so many today want to create unity between this group and that group and man can to a certain extent create a concensus. But the unity that God gives as a gift to His children is far better. It can be compromised by our sin, but not ultimately destroyed because God is the Author of it.

  23. Is it just me or have you changed your blog look? Is that you, Mike? Mike? Are you there?

    Oh well, this doesn’t look like PTT but I’ll have to wait and see. Do the emergents have you tied up? Have your detractors finally found your lair? Have my pre-trib sentries highjacked your layout?

    If I see Rick Warren as a guest editor I’ll be forced to flee!

  24. Julie,

    Amen! You are exactly right. God creates the unity amongst His people. We don’t do that. And we all know what happens when people artificially try to create unity with people who aren’t believers at all.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  25. Rick,

    Yes, it’s me. I wanted to change my template so I could use a different header. Well, this one doesn’t even take headers or widgets, etc. However, I like it and it focuses things more on the blog and not so much on me and what wonderful photos I take. :-)

    All,

    What do you think? Should I go back to my old template or keep this one?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  26. Mike,
    I like the old one, but only because I’m a creature of habit! I’m adaptable too! (And I love the pictures! :-) )

    Julie,
    What a great insight and well put.

    Rick,
    hahahahah! No, it was my premil sentries and your next when I sent my posttrib sentries to JL!! :-)

    Love Your Sister in Christ,
    Rachel

  27. I like the other one better, but it is akin to getting used to another TV clicker when they change the channels. Don’t you just hate that! Don’t worry, Mike, we’ll all still vist here to read your wonderful posts on your postmodern layout!

  28. I’m curious if people think that the unity described in the Ephesians and Colossians passages can only be produced by the Holy Spirit. The church I belong to exemplifies the love and forgiveness described in Scripture, but then they also have a casual attitude about holiness, so there’s not much to be offended by (if it’s cool by you, it’s cool by me). This seems to me to be a more subtle form of the flesh.

  29. Mike, the prodigal returns. Kill the fatted calf! We love you, Mike, and the way the Lord uses you. We just get attached to this KJV format. And all God’s people said “AMEN!”.

  30. healtheland – nice balance to the article showing the other side. There is a time for departing from those who name the name of Christ but whose fruits don’t follow their words.

    Deborah – I feel for you. All those trials make us stronger, but your trials kick my trials’ butts. I feel ungrateful complaining about my problems when someone like you comes along and puts it in perspective. God bless you and your family. :-)

    Rick – you are very, very silly, and I am beginning to really like you.

    Amen Julie! The more I face the more I see that I am better for the junk that God allows. It is when I feel alone and at a loss that I lean on Him more…and then the relationship just gets richer. Satan must hate that!

  31. David,

    I believe that it can only be Spirit-driven. Yes, there can be fleshly unity based upon a common goal, etc. You are right about it being a subtle form of the flesh.

    By-the-way, what have you done to have every comment you leave here go directly to the SPAM bucket? :-) Sometimes I catch them, like this one, other times I see them just as I hit the button.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  32. Sharon
    That was a very long time ago! I am almost 55 years old. lol Those children are grown up. :)
    Thank you though sister and Bless your heart

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