God's Kingdom Ministries
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Chapter 12: Humility and Unity

Paul’s prayer for the church in Eph. 3:14-21 ends with an “Amen.” The apostle then starts afresh, introducing himself once again to his audience in Eph. 4:1, 2,

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.

Paul does not claim to be a prisoner of Rome, but “the prisoner of the Lord.” He understood the sovereignty of God and knew that his present circumstance was ordained by God. No doubt he often thought about his calling and how God had told him, “I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). Likewise, in a later vision, “The Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11).

Hence, Paul knew that he would not be killed in Jerusalem, not by the authorities there nor by the team of assassins who had sworn to murder him (Acts 23:12). Paul was arrested in Jerusalem at Pentecost of 58 A.D., and he finally appealed his case to Rome two years later. He was taken to Rome, arriving in 61 A.D., having survived the shipwreck on the island of Melita (Malta).

The apostle was released after 2 years in Rome, allowing him to make his final missionary journey to Spain and to Britain, where he preached the gospel on the site where St. Paul’s Cathedral now stands in his memory. In all of this, Paul remained a “prisoner of the Lord,” for he also considered himself to be “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:1).

Being Worthy of the Calling

Paul’s exhortation “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling” speaks in a parallel manner to the epistle of James. James discusses “works” that exhibit and prove one’s faith. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and it is therefore a sovereign act of grace. Such grace comes with a calling, giving purpose in one’s life. Having been “bought with a price,” we were redeemed to serve a new Master. 1 Cor. 7:22-24 says,

22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise, he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

To serve Christ is to have a new calling. Each particular calling is unique and comes with various giftings—tools that enhance that calling by the power of the Spirit.

Paul exhorts those who have faith to live a life that is worthy of their calling. In other words, their works ought to match their faith. It is not that works justify anyone but rather that a change in one’s manner of life exhibits faith. The message of James, then, does not contradict Paul’s gospel. Both apostles understood the importance of faith and works. James does not say that one’s works justify anyone, nor does Paul say that works are to be discarded.

Characteristics of this calling are first “humility and gentleness.” Humility manifests in many ways, but overall, it is the antithesis to pride or arrogance. It literally means, having a realistic opinion of oneself. Humility should not be confused with low self-esteem, which is, perhaps, just as destructive as pride.

The great A. W. Tozer said, “Humility is the root of all grace.”

As for “gentleness” (prautes), it is defined as having a mild disposition. Paul pairs it with humility. While humility is an inner quality, gentleness is its outward expression. In other words, we can hardly claim to be humble if we take offense at those who are abrasive. By pairing these, we see the parallel to our calling and its outward expression—walking worthy of that calling. In other words, be humble and walk worthy of your humility by having a gentle disposition.

To walk worthy of our calling is not only to be humble and respond to others with gentleness, but also is a matter of showing patience with others—“showing tolerance for one another in love.” The Greek word translated “tolerance” is anecho, “to bear with, to forbear, put up with, endure.” By pairing patience with tolerance, the apostle implies that some believers are difficult to endure, because they are not yet good at walking in a manner worthy of their calling.

Most of these abrasive believers see themselves as defending truth (their opinions of truth) and so they do not connect it to a spirit of pride or a lack of humility. Yet such people are part of the church. Those who are humble must show love to those who are prideful. Those who are gentle must bear with those who are abrasive or prickly. This is “not fair,” of course, but as long as the humble are chosen as leaders in the church, the arrogant believers will not be able to subvert the work of God.

In fact, this has been the chief problem in the church as well as in all of society. Whenever elders and bishops lacking humility have been chosen on account of their eloquence, their ability to raise money, or even their leadership skills, the church has had problems. In fact, it was this very problem that destroyed the truth of the restoration of all things (400 A.D.). Virtually all church historians agree upon that fact, as I showed in chapter 12 of Creation’s Jubilee.

Preserving Unity

Eph. 4:3 says,

3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Here Paul speaks of “the unity of the Spirit,” not the unity of the church itself. As the church progressed in history, the leaders met in various Church Councils to decide whose doctrinal opinions ought to be imposed upon those who disagreed. Their focus was to maintain uniformity of doctrine through established creeds, not to preserve “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Council meetings became increasingly vitriolic and bitter, and “the bond of peace” was sacrificed on its altar. Because so many lacked humility and gentleness, they fought, bribed, and threatened others who had differing opinions. Too often Church Councils established the unity of the church in the bond of force. In so doing, Christianity became a religion, much like a political institution, rather than the model of Christian unity that the apostles had envisioned.

Paul then defines “unity of the Spirit” in Eph. 4:4-6,

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

When Paul speaks of “one body,” we understand that this refers to the church as a whole, rather than to a specific denomination—as so many of them claim. In my opinion, there is no single denomination that encompasses the totality of the body of Christ. To think otherwise is to lack “tolerance” (Eph. 4:2).

In fact, God Himself does not look at one’s denominational membership to determine whether or not one is part of the body of Christ. Some denominations contain higher percentages than others of the body of Christ, but none of them encompass all believers.

In the end, even the disunity of the spirit of denominationalism was prophesied in Scripture. This is seen especially in the story of King Saul, whom God appointed king when the people demanded a king like the nations (1 Sam. 8:5). They wanted a man to rule them, rather than have God Himself as their King. This established the pattern of religious denominationalism, which characterizes the church to this day.

Saul was subsequently crowned on the day of “wheat harvest” (i.e., Pentecost), as we see in 1 Sam. 12:17. He became the main prophetic type of the church during the Age of Pentecost prior to the coming of Christ as “David.” The spirit of denominationalism has thus dominated the church for many centuries, for each year in the reign of Saul was a type of a Jubilee cycle (49 years) in church history. In fact, where events in the years of Saul’s reign were dated, we can see direct parallels in the Jubilee cycles of the church.

There was a short time when the church was in unity (Acts 2:46, 47), even as Saul’s reign was good for the first year. He began to have problems in his second year (1 Sam. 13:1, KJV), even as serious cracks began to form within the church in its second Jubilee cycle.

Paul also links “one body” to “one Spirit.” Most assume that “Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit, especially since most translations capitalize the word Spirit. Unfortunately, biblical Greek letters were all capital letters, as lower case had not yet been invented. So translators were left with a choice as to how to translate various words. In this case, was Paul referring to the Holy Spirit or to man’s spirit (as in 1 Thess. 5:23)? It is unclear.

It seems to me that “one Spirit” implies the unity of the Holy Spirit, which is so obvious that the point is hardly worth mentioning. On the other hand, “one spirit” describes believers who are unified in purpose, even as Christ was one with His Father (John 10:30). This is the main point that Paul was making in this passage.

In other words, Paul was telling the church that in spite of differences of opinion among them, they all are united in their spirit, having been begotten by the same Holy Spirit by whom they became sons of God.

Though our souls differ widely, being fleshly and being incapable of receiving the deep things of God, our spirits are perfect and cannot sin because they are begotten of God (1 John 3:9). Hence, the spirits of all who are begotten of God are in a state of perfect unity, even if that unity is only poorly exhibited in daily life.

If we recognize the unity of the spirit of all who have been begotten of God, then it will be easier to be humble, gentle, and tolerant toward others. We will not view dissenters and abrasive believers as enemies but as part of our own body. Is this not the ultimate basis of humility and love?