The second half of the book (chapters 4-6) contains a lot of personal advice and practical application based on all the teaching, theology, and prayers of the first half. If all of what we know and all the truth and reality behind it doesn’t change your life dramatically, then you have missed the whole point of Christianity. The Bible isn’t here to make us smarter, but to reveal God to us so that we live transformed lives, presided over by minds that think differently than anything in normal human categories, grounded in the Word of God and rooted in the person of Christ and His sacrifice for us. The entire goal is holy lives, not theological prowess.

In this section of the book, we learn that Christlikeness yields unity, which will in turn results in deeper Christlikeness, which will yield a more perfect unity, which will yield a more precious Christlikeness, which yields…you get the idea.

Why is unity such a necessary ingredient to our lives together as Christians?

 

  1. It’s a test of the Spirit. There is no strength unless the body is corporate. It’s not like a sports team where one person can carry the team or carry the game. It’s not like academics where you’re each on your own advancing in the same direction. It’s like a body, and if the body trips itself up, or pokes itself in the eye, or refuses to feed itself, it faces injury, illness, and death.
  2. Without unity you’re out of God’s will.
  3. Without unity you don’t reflect the Trinity.
  4. Without unity other things can creep in. You are more vulnerable to the world.
  5. Because Christlikeness is necessary.

 

Paul gives us practical advice about how to achieve this unity: complete humility, gentleness toward others, patience of others, always keeping unity in the front of our minds, because there are foundational truths that define us as Christians, and, if nothing else, we can find common ground there.

We are not to think of unity, however, as uniformity. Christians aren’t conformists, nor are we brainless and blind mice following a leader. God has designed right into the Church a many-splendored diversity that is intended to be a strength rather than a weakness. In church we are going to be side by side with people who see things differently, do things differently, and have different sets of ministry priorities. God has done this on purpose for at least five reasons:

 

  1. There is strength in diversity. Homogeneity may be more comfortable, but it leads to brainless conformity and doesn’t push us into all the depths God wants us to go.
  2. We can only learn the lessons of God and true holiness by having to contend with people who are different from us.
  3. The only way to live as if the barriers are broken down (Eph. 2.14-18) is to have to deal with people from the other side of the fence, so to speak. If we only ever worship with “our group,” how will we ever break down our hostilities against the “outsiders”?
  4. Segregation to our own kind dishonors God. God created us to be a varied pallet. It leads to better ministry.
  5. God made different kinds of people to have different strengths. If we only minister with our own kind, we miss all those assets. The inner city churches and the suburban churches need each other. We need to perspectives of both men and women. We need blue collar and white-collar workers. We need Democrats and Republicans, students and elderly, married and singles. These differences create struggles in ministry, but they also contain the path to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 

Christ has earned the right to run His Church as He sees fit, and our job is compliance, not unkindness. He’s the one who emptied Himself and left heaven, died a criminal’s death on the cross, and who ascended to His rightful throne. Consequently, you are to welcome your fellow man. He came from heaven to earth, and even below earth (death) to bring us together. Dare we claim that it’s too far for us to go to reach out a hand to another who is our equal? Refusal or defiance is nothing short of blasphemy.

It is in diversity that God’s people best reflect our great God. It is ministering shoulder to shoulder with those who are different from us that the body of Christ is best built up. It is wrestling with differences (in humility, gentleness, patience, and peace) and learning to find unity in them that achieves for us the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4.15). Only by struggle can we learn the strength and fortitude to rebuff deceit. Only in variation can we fill all the tasks of ministry God has given us to do. And if we keep Christ as our focal point, Paul says, truly we will find that our bonds with each other are stronger than magnesium.[1]As each part does its work, and we all love each other while doing it, we will grow up in all things into Christ.

[1]A new magnesium-based alloy is now regarded as the world’s strongest and lightest metal. Researchers have developed this material using magnesium that is light like aluminum but as strong as titanium alloys (86% magnesium and 14% silicon carbide particles). This material has the highest strength-to-weight ratio presently known to humankind. It also does not corrode.