Humanity is deeply divided. We are fractured along many lines – language, geography, race, skin color, gender, religion, ideology, politics, economic status. This division has stirred up hatred and wars. For thousands of years, humanity has been plagued by people hating and harming other people; nation hating nation; racism, wars, holocausts and genocides.
Messiah’s Community, made up of the faithful remnant of Messianic Jews called out of the Chosen People and people called out from the nations is to be different. We are one new man, a new united humanity in which differences of race, language, gender and economic status don’t divide us. We are to be a community among whom peace and love and harmony prevail; a fellowship of shared goals and values. We are to be people who are equally yoked so that we pull together in the same direction.
Knowing this, Rabbi Paul, the very special apostle to the Gentiles, the Lord’s divinely inspired Jewish Representative to the nations, identified himself in this part of his letter to the community in Ephesus as a prisoner for the Lord. As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul was in prison and was suffering for the Lord and for the Lord’s people. When someone is suffering for someone else, it creates a bond between them. Paul uses his bond with the Ephesians caused by his suffering to appeal to them to live a life worthy of the calling they have received. Their calling was an invitation by a holy God to become His children and live with Him in His perfect and eternal Kingdom. Paul wanted them to live that way now – not just in the future when they get to Heaven.
Paul specified some of the ways he wanted them to live:
They were to be humble: not thinking too highly of themselves but trying to think highly of others; esteeming others in the community, thinking about how to advance them and help them reach their God-given potential.
They were to be gentle with each other: not harsh, but kind and reasonable and fair in their dealings with others.
They were to be patient: Christians and Messianic Jews, although saved, are imperfect. We will make mistakes. We will sin. We will say and do things that will hurt others in Messiah’s community.
But, we are recipients of God’s mercy and we are motivated by love, and love looks out for others and forgives others, and so out of love, we patiently bear with others when they make mistakes, sin or hurt us. We help them see where they are wrong and patiently try to correct them. They were to be patient.
They were to be unified: They were to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The Spirit of God had united this faithful remnant of broken humanity to God and to each other. The Spirit of God had brought them into a community characterized by peace – shalom, peace with God and peace with one another. They were to make every effort to maintain this unity and this peace. It was inevitable that things would happen that would jeopardize their unity and their peace. They were not to let that happen. They were to do everything they possibly could to make sure that their unity and peace remained unbroken.
Inevitably situations will happen that will threaten to break this bond of peace, there are even greater reasons to maintain our unity. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Even though there are local communities that are characterized by race or economic status or geography, the reality is that there is only one body, one great community of all of God’s sons and daughters, which we are all part of, and that unites us. There isn’t a Messianic Jewish Community that is separate from the Gentile Christian Church. There isn’t an affluent suburban church and a poorer inner city church. There isn’t a Black church or White Church or Asian church. There isn’t a Baptist Church or Lutheran Church or Presbyterian Church. While there may be many denominations and local congregations characterized by different races and economic realities, the truth is that true Messianic Jews and Christians from the nations are part of one great and eternal fellowship of salvation, and membership in this one body unites us.
There is one Spirit, the Spirit of God. This all-present but invisible Person lives in each one of us, uniting us to God the Father and Messiah the Son, and uniting the children of God to one another. He fills us with life. He teaches us. He guides us. He transforms us all into the same image – Messiah. He empowers each one of us to serve God and live a holy life. There is one Spirit, and He unites us.
There is one calling to one hope. All of us were called to one hope when we were called. All of us were invited to experience the same hope of living forever with the Three-In-One God in the New Jerusalem; to enjoy all the wonders of that blessed kingdom; drinking the water from the river of life which runs through the center of that beautiful city; eating from the Tree of Life that produces a different fruit each month and gives healing and life; all of us will have meaningful things to do, like help God rule the new universe; all of us will be perfectly righteous. There is one calling to one hope, and that unites us.
There is one Lord, the risen Messiah, the glorious Son of God, whom we are all joined to. One Lord who created us; One Lord who atones for us; One Lord who sustains us. There is one Lord who rules us. One is one Lord who even now is interceding for us. There is one Lord who suffered for us, one Lord who died for us, one Lord who was raised for us, one Lord who ascended and gave His Spirit to us. There is One Lord who will judge us but not condemn us. There is one Lord who loves us. There is one Lord who continually graces us. There is one Lord to whom we are all eternally indebted to. There is one good and great Lord whom we all serve. There is one Lord – Yeshua, the Messiah and the Son of God and the only Savior – and our Lord unites us.
There is one faith, one core set of beliefs that we all adhere to. All true Christians and Messianic Jews believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and Earth. We all believe in in Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, the Father’s unique Son, and our Lord. We all believe that Messiah was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; that He descended to the dead and on the third day He rose again; that He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. We all believe in the Holy Spirit, and the one community of all of Messiah’s true followers; the unity of all the sons and daughters of God; the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life – the life everlasting. Amayn!
We might disagree about some of the less central teachings, like the proper way to baptize, or which days to set apart as holidays, or the timing of the Rapture, or even the reality of the Millennial Kingdom – but we agree on the essential teachings of the faith. There is one faith, one core set of beliefs and our common faith unites us.
There is one baptism, one initiation rite into Messiah’s eternal community that we all experience – when we confess publicly to the world that Yeshua is the risen Lord and that He has cleansed us and saved us and we are committed to Him and His Community from that point and forever – and that shared initiation rite unites us.
There is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all, and the all-authoritative and all-pervasive and beneficial fatherhood of God unites each and every one of the sons and daughters of God.
These great spiritual realities are the source of our unity and our peace. They outweigh any differences of race or gender or economic status. They overrule our offences that might break the bond of peace and disrupt our unity.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I have been trying to practice this more and more. Once a month I have a breakfast with a diverse group of pastors – Lutheran, Brethren, Baptist, Independent; blacks, whites, Gentiles and Jews. Several years ago we made a decision to be involved with the EACH, a network of evangelical churches and organizations that has come together to unite the evangelical Church of Metro Detroit and build it up and bring the Good News to those outside the Community of Salvation in Metro Detroit. Even though we don’t agree with every teaching or practice of every church or organization that is involved, we decided to join EACH. After all, how can you maintain the unity of the Spirit if you don’t have any relationship with your fellow pastors or churches? More recently, I have been involved with Bridges of Love, which may develop into an even larger and more representative expression of Messiah’s Community in Metro Detroit. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
God’s sons and daughters, the saved, the redeemed, the chosen ones – called out from a dying world, have God-given causes which create a profound unity. But we are also individuals who are gifted by God with a variety of abilities. The Creator designed the universe with diversity within unity – unified principles of but diversity within design. If I were trying to create and populate a world with creatures, I might have come up with a butterfly – but it would have been one kind of butterfly – maybe a yellow butterfly. How many butterflies has the Creator made? Estimates range from a low of 12,000 species to as many as 28,000 unique species! With all of them, there is a unity of design, but differences of shapes and colors and sizes. They live in different habitats, and eat or lay eggs on different kinds of plants. They have different kinds of habits – but they are all butterflies – amazing, miraculous, beautiful, beneficial.
God works the same way with His children – diversity within unity. He provides us with tremendous unity, but graces individuals with different abilities. This particularly applies to leadership gifts within Messiah’s Community. But to each one of us grace has been given as Messiah apportioned it. This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people.” (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Messiah came from Heaven and descended to the Earth, and descended even lower, to Sheol, to the place of the dead. But praise the Lord, He rose out of Sheol, and then ascended through the clouds and the various levels of the heavens to the Highest Heavens!
Why? What motivated Messiah to leave Heaven, descend to the Earth, die, and then ascend back to Heaven? Why make this unique and dangerous and painful trip? The answer is to fill – to fill what was empty because of Satan, sin, the sin nature and death. Because of the rebellion of the fallen angels and the Fall of Man, the universe had become devoid of a relationship with God; empty of spiritual life. It was a vacuum of love and peace and blessedness.
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe – to fill it with glorious and honorable sons and daughter who are in a right relationship with the Creator; to fill a dark, damaged, broken universe with light and love and peace and happiness and blessedness and eternal life.
Messiah’s journey from Heaven to Earth and back again is part of God’s amazing plan to fill an empty universe. But, Messiah’s journey is only part of that plan. The risen Messiah is in Heaven, at the right hand of God. But, fallen people who need to be filled with life and salvation are still on Earth. Messiah wants to reach them, but now He uses saved human beings to help Him fill the empty universe. And He gifts people to help Him accomplish that great task.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Messiah apportioned it. There are a variety of gifts, but they all come from the same source – Messiah. You may not have the same gifts or the same degree of giftedness that someone else has, but that’s OK, since Messiah has the right to give gifts as He desires. We need to respect the Lord’s will and the Lord’s choices when it comes to giving gifts. Don’t resent that someone else may be more gifted than you are. Don’t be jealous of the gifts of others. Be thankful! We are all part of the same great community. The gifts of others benefits you and the rest of us! Be content with the gifts Messiah has given you, and be thankful for the gifts He gives others.
Also, consider this: giftedness is not the final determination of reward. Better to faithfully serve with fewer gifts than unfaithfully serve with more.
The inspired Rabbi quoted Psalm 68 to strengthen his point that Messiah is the one who has the right to gives gifts to His people – just as the Lord gave gifts to His people earlier in our history. This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people.” (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) In this fascinating song, the Lord is described as present with the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt. He was our great leader. He traveled through the wilderness with us. He fought with us against our enemies and conquered them. The wealth of the enemy became the Lord’s. He then gave the enemies’ land and people and animals and gold and silver and other precious things to us. He brought us into the Land of Israel, settled us there and made us prosper. Then He returned to Heaven.
Paul applied this Psalm to the risen Messiah. Yeshua also is the Lord who came down from Heaven to be with us. He too fought for us, doing battle with the forces of darkness by taking on a human body, resisting every temptation and dying on a cross. Because of His sinless life, God raised Messiah from the dead. So, because of His incarnation, sinless life, atoning death and resurrection, He defeated our greatest enemies – Satan and the demons, sin, the sin nature and death!
And, just as some of Israel’s enemies, like the Gibeonites, became Israel’s captives and served us, Messiah has taken captive those who were His enemies – people like Saul of Tarsus, and turned them around and gave them to serve His people – His New Covenant Community. What great spoils of war He has given us!
Some of the gifts that Messiah gives His Community are people whom He has graced with special leadership abilities that greatly benefit us. So Messiah Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. We don’t have time today to go into detail about these gifts of spiritual leadership. Lord willing, we will do that next week.
What are the purposes of these gifts of spiritual leadership? Lord willing, we will cover that next Shabbat as well. But here is a preview: To equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Messiah may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Messiah. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Messiah. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
May this become more and more true of us in 2014:
May we live a life worthy of the calling we have received.
May we be completely humble and gentle; patient, bearing with one another in love.
May we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
May we be blessed with good spiritual leaders.
May we maintain the unity of the faith and all believe the same true, core teachings.
May we all have the same understanding of who the wonderful Son of God is.
May we all become spiritually mature men and women, with Messiah as our example of spiritual maturity.
May each one of us use the gifts we have been graced with to serve the Lord and build up His Community and reach the lost.