Study Guide: The Spark and Sustainer of the Church

Sunday September 4, 2016 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

One need not look very far to see examples of discord, hostility and disunity within humanity and even within creation. Culture wars, political wars, theological wars and military wars abound. What, we might ask, is the source of all this hostility? And, more importantly, what is the source of true peace, true unity, true harmony? Paul tells us in Ephesians that Jesus is the one true peace. Jesus IS our peace and the Holy Spirit is the unifier. A new president or policy or military leader or social activist will not bring peace. Only when people accept the one (Jesus) who IS peace, who IS harmony will true unity come.

Extended Summary:

In the beginning God created the world. Every facet of creation would be one part to the whole. Every distinct thing was intricately created for its purpose within the whole. The beauty of God’s unity and diversity is reflected in creation and humans have the freedom to choose the harmony that God created within creation.

Discord, disunity and hostility are the result of humanity choosing their own way rather than living within the beauty of God’s harmony.

Ages ago there were angels, with Lucifer as their leader, who decided to opt out of God’s harmonious creation. And somewhere along the way they convinced humans to rebel against the true harmony God intended. Now, humans sing their own song. We go our own way and discord rises.

But God did not and does not give up on God’s original intention for true unity.

Unity is a significant purpose for the incarnation. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that Jesus came to bring unity: “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Eph. 1: 9-10) Jesus comes to reconcile the whole creation to himself. To bring unity to ALL things in heaven and on earth. Jesus brings unity and harmony. Furthermore, Jesus himself is the unifier. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph. 2: 14-16)

Jesus creates ONE new humanity out of the two. On the cross, Jesus puts to death hostility, discord and disunity and brings forth one new humanity. Jesus doesn’t just help us harmonize, he IS our harmony. Jesus doesn’t just teach us about peace, he IS our peace. Jesus is the masterpiece. If we’re living in Jesus, we will live in harmony! Jesus is the unity of the human race!

But we still live in a world of discord. In a world that doesn’t yet acknowledge the one new humanity, the church is to be a witness to the truth that Jesus IS our peace. The church is the witness to Christ. This is why unity within the church is of paramount importance – because it is a witness for the rest of creation!

Ephesians 4 tells us, “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 is telling us to live a life worthy of our calling, our calling as one new humanity. We walk consistently with this calling when we make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. We don’t create the unity of the Spirit – Rather we maintain it! When human beings try to bring unity, it’s usually a temporary tolerance if that. The Spirit’s role is to take everything that belongs to Christ and apply it to our lives. Therefore, the Spirit is the sustainer, working in our hearts to create unity among humanity.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Is there anything in your life that hinders you from living in unity and harmony with the body of Christ? Perhaps you have unforgiveness toward a brother or sister. Perhaps a seed of bitterness has taken root in your heart… Take time for a prayer of examine. Ask the Spirit to examine your heart and reveal what might hinder you from unity.
  2. Jesus is the ONE to whom we pledge our allegiance. But so often we pledge our allegiance to various causes/people/desires/nations. Because transformation takes place from within, take a moment to reflect on your life. To where or what do your allegiances lie? Do material objects have your allegiance? Prestige? Money? Political leaders? Your nation? Ask the Spirit to reveal these things to you and then, as a symbol of submission, imagine yourself surrendering those various allegiances before Jesus.