Hell’s Foundations Quiver at the Shout of UNITY! (Eph. 4:1-6)
Hell's Foundations Quiver
At the Shout of “Unity!”
“Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before. …Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of… unity!”
Gideon and his 300 men were surrounded by the Midianites. They were outnumbered 135,000 to 300. That’s a ratio of 1:450. Gideon divided the 300 men into three groups of 100 and he gave each man a trumpet and a clay pitcher with a torch inside the pitcher. Those are not the standard issue military weapons! Gideon had each group surround the camp of the Midianites and then the other two groups followed Gideon’s lead.
In the middle of the night, Gideon and his 100 men blew on their trumpets and broke their pitchers which suddenly exposed the light of their torches. Then, the other two groups did the same thing and as they did, they all shouted out: “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
All of this noise and lights and screaming caused the Midianite army to panic. They started running around, like a chicken with its head cut off, crying and screaming. And then Jehovah God did what only He can do. He caused the Midianites to start killing each other! In that whole commotion, 120,000 of the 135,000 enemy were killed.
In another battle, at another time, on another continent, President Abraham Lincoln quoted our Savior by saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matt. 12:25).
There is power in unity.
Family, if there is anything that the Great Dragon, the devil, fears it is unity among the followers of God. Because he knows that there is power in unity. The apostle Paul told the church of Christ at Rome that with them living and teaching the gospel of Christ, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).
There is power in unity.
There was a movie that came out in 1976 titled the Bad News Bears. It starred Walter Matthau. The story goes that a lawyer sues the Southern California Youth Baseball League because they are ultra competitive and would not allow the least skilled athletes to play, one of whom was the lawyer’s son. So, in the settlement, the League allows an additional team - the Bears, coached by Walter Matthau - to play but it is composed of the worst players. Of course, the “Bad News Bears” learn how to play their best and to play united, as a team. The Bears make it to the championship game, although they do lose.
There is power in unity.
If you were coaching such a baseball team and you had a short stop and a second baseman arguing over playing cards, you would yell at them to “knock it off” and “focus on the game.” If the short stop and the second baseman were arguing over who would cover second base if the ball was hit to right field, then you’ve got to handle it differently. Somebody doesn’t know exactly how to play the game.
You can’t study the NT and not draw the conclusion that Jesus wants His people to be united. He even prayed for it in John 17:20-21 just hours before He was crucified. On the other side of the coin, division is condemned in the NT in the clearest terms possible and there is no doubt left as to what the eternal destination will be of those who can’t live in unity with others: Rom. 16:17; Gal. 5:19-21.
ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN OUGHT TO BE UNITED:
First, the apostle Paul condemned the whole concept of denominationalism in 1 Corinthians 1:10-12. At the conclusion of that discussion, Paul told the church of Christ in Corinth: “Just focus on the message of Christ, the Gospel message” (1:17).
You see, when we all obey the same message given to us by the Holy Spirit, when we are born again by the Spirit (John 3:3-5), then the Holy Spirit makes us one and combines us into one body, one family (1 Cor. 12:13).
That means that we are all one family, being led by the Holy Spirit through His revealed Word. We have to be united on what the Holy Spirit teaches. Let me just give you an example, a famous example. In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter says that if someone wants to be forgiven of their sins, they have to “repent” and be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” Then, they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
If we have humility toward God and we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, then we can come to understand what each word or phrase of that verse means. That is, we can understand clearly what the word “repent” means. We can understand what the word “baptize” means. We can understand what the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” means. We can understand what the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” means. We can understand what the “gift of the Holy Spirit” means.
We have to be united to each other, on what the Holy Spirit in the NT clearly teaches. There can be no unity with anyone who does not humbly accept what the NT clearly teaches.
WHY CAN’T WE HAVE UNITY?
There are times, however, when it seems that we are not united. We are not united on everything. Now, Rachel and I grew up in different but related homes. For about eight years, we lived within 90 miles of each other. We even went to the same Bible camp, although we never met, as far as we know. We do not have any disagreements when it comes to biblical doctrine.
But we do have disagreements on other things, things in our home that are matters of opinion, her opinion versus my opinion. Why do we have trouble having unity? Because we are different people. We have different, even if related, backgrounds and we grew up in different homes.
In the church, we do we have trouble having unity? In one word: arrogance, or you might say selfishness. Since we are in 1 Corinthians, let us observe what was causing their denominationalism. Let’s read 3:1-4. What was causing their division? Look at 4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1.
Division in the church happens when people hold their opinions more strongly than they hold to brotherly love. We all have opinions, largely based on how our parents raised us but also how our spouse influences us and experiences we have had over our lifetimes.
Too often what happens, however, is that when there is no Scripture, no &amp;amp;amp;quot;thus sys the Lord,&amp;amp;amp;quot; then we elevate our opinions to the level of God's word. That's what the Pharisees did when their opinion was that if you have to give something to God, then you don't have to give any support to your parents. Let’s read Jesus’ response to that in Matthew 15:6-9.
So the Pharisees were opinionated and intolerant of other views so they created their own denomination - the Pharisees. We might not create a denomination centered around our opinions but we might just withdraw into ourselves and act like no one else is as spiritually minded as we are. That’s how the Pharisees treated Jesus - He could not be the Son of God because He did not respect the Pharisees’ tradition!
SO, HOW DO WE HAVE UNITY DESPITE DIFFERENT OPINIONS?
Let’s go back to Ephesians 4:1-6…
Let’s observe a few points here. To “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called” (4:1) means, staying united with each other. Now, look at what Paul says we need to do to have unity:
1. Have humility. Do you remember how Paul defines humility in Philippians 2:4? “Regard one another as more important than yourselves.” I have to be careful and remind myself that your opinion might be just as valid as my opinion. If the Bible is clear, we need to be united with the Bible. But in those myriad of areas where the Bible is not clear, we need to leave each other the freedom to have their own opinion. That takes humility. We don’t have to agree on every thing!
2. Have gentleness. That means don’t be rude. Don’t be condescending. Don’t be snarky or sarcastic. Don’t act as if the other person does not have a valid opinion to offer.
3. Be patient. Yes, some opinions are more closely aligned with what the Bible teaches than other opinions. Not everyone has the same knowledge. Paul will criticize the Corinthian Christians for not recognizing that (1 Cor. 8). So, be patient with others. Maybe they’ll come around to your opinion; maybe you’ll come around to their opinion. Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t even have to have the same opinion! Just don’t push defending your opinion until you make it a matter of doctrine and commit the same mistake the Pharisees did.
4. Be tolerant of one another. Recognize that we will have differences of opinions because we have different backgrounds and we often see things differently.
Do you know what was going on in the United States from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945? Les Horvath of OSU won the 10th Heisman. Norman Krasna’s &amp;amp;amp;quot;Dear Ruth&amp;amp;amp;quot; premiers in NYC. The Green Bay Packers beat the NY Giants 14-7 for the NFL League Championship. Duke beat Alabama 29-26 in the 11th Sugar Bowl. Pepe LePew debuts in Warner Bros. cartoon “Odor-able” Kitty.
Do you know what was going on in the world at that time? The Battle of the Bulge. The last major German offensive campaign on the western front during World War II. Half a million Americans fought in that battle and 19,000 died.
During the Battle of the Bulge, do you think Les Horvath was concerned about those soldiers? Do you think those people who went to see Norman Krasna’s “Dear Ruth,” were praying for the soldiers in Germany? Do you think those who watched the NFL Championship or the Sugar Bowl or Pepe LePew loved those soldiers? I think so. But they were living different lives than the soldiers who were fighting and dying in Europe because they were impacted differently by the war.
I have often mentally compared this pandemic to a battle. There are those who are on the frontlines - our medical personnel are on the frontlines. We have others who are not in the medical field but deal with the effects of the virus almost on a daily basis. Those individuals in our own church family tend to be more cautious about opening up the church. Individuals who have health concerns also tend to be more cautious about going out in public, even coming to church.
But, the farther removed we are from the battlefield of the virus, and the healthier body systems we have, the less likely we are to be concerned about going out in public, about coming to worship. Please don’t think I’m bragging when I say this but I’ve never had the flu. So far as I remember, I’ve never missed a day of work because I was sick. I’m sure I have; it just wasn’t serious enough for me to remember it. I’ve never missed a Sunday or Wednesday night preaching and teaching because of illness. I attribute this to genetics. It’s not that I eat healthier than others or that I exercise more than the average person. I think it’s just genetics. So, I, personally, would not have a problem with continuing to worship even throughout this whole quarantine. Can you tolerate me having that view, based on my own experience?
5. We must love one another (Eph. 4:2). I pointed out earlier that Paul critiques the church in Corinth for being arrogant. In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul says simply, “Love is not arrogant.” If we love as Jesus loves, we will not be arrogant toward each other and we will maintain unity. Love means I want what is best for you. I want you to grow in Christ. I want you to grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord. I love you so I will tolerate you having a different opinion from me. As long as we can agree on what the Scriptures clearly teach.
6. Love one another. Now, last but not least, in face probably the greatest challenge of all is in verse 3. Paul says we are to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” “Be diligent to preserve unity…” That verb translate “be diligent” means to “strive, to make every effort…”
Look at a few other translations:
“Do all you can to continue as you are, letting peace hold you together.” (ETR)
“making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (NET)
“force yourselves to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (BDS)
“Do not spare efforts to consolidate, with ties of peace, the unity that is the fruit of the Spirit&amp;amp;amp;quot; (BLP)
7. The framework for unity is found in verses 4-6 which we can summarize as “anything the Bible teaches.”
I wish to read together one last text as we talk about the need for unity: Romans 12:3-6. We need to have a sober, realistic view of ourselves and our own limitations. We need to recognize that we are all members of one body. And there is power in unity.
THE BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY:
Jesus shows us in His prayer in John 17:20-21 that unity on the apostles’ doctrine makes us one. Solomon taught in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that there is reward in unity; there is help in unity; there is warmth in unity; there is power in unity.
“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity&amp;amp;amp;quot; (Psa. 133:1)
That’s why I say that “Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of unity!” Family, when we work together and we pray for each other and we combine our financial resources together, we can work to crush Satan under our feet. The last thing Satan wants in Swartz Creek, MI is for the church of Christ to be united! He quivers at our unity! Let’s make sure we keep him on the run!
Take home message: Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of unity! Satan quivers at our unity! Let’s crush him under our united feet!