December 31, 2017

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session


Walking Together in Unity
Ephesians 4:1-16

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We live in a divided world, and it seems increasingly to be so. Where once there might have been allowance for nuanced positions that do not fit neatly into an either/or—or even a third way—there now seems to be a “you’re either with us or against us” kind of mindset in western society.

Unity in this us-versus-them world means absolute solidarity, total agreement, or even complete uniformity of belief and practice, whether we are talking about religion or politics or social issues. This “unity” is achieved through acts of power: decisive leadership giving firm direction, backroom deals and deceitful manipulation if necessary, enforced agreement with established dogma, or harsh public shaming if someone steps out of line.

You’re either with us in all things (blessed “unity”) or you’re against us (accursed “other,” beyond the pale).

Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us a very different picture of unity. It is a unity grounded in the simple one-ness of God yet with a diversity reflected in the complex three-ness of God’s redemptive work: one-and-only-one Spirit who works among us all, one-and-only-one Lord to whom we owe our allegiance, one-and-only-one God who is “over all and through all and in all” (v. 6). Therefore we must walk in this one-ness. Yet God the Father’s work is through the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, who gives manifold gifts to all. Therefore we must walk in this many-ness.

This one-yet-many unity is a gift given to us. It already is. We just need to walk in it, to live it out, to “keep” or maintain it. And we maintain this unity of the Spirit “through the bond of peace” (v. 3), not through power politics or strong-arm tactics, but through Christlike humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in love.

Leaders among us are not to lord it over those whom they lead; they are not “the deciders” or “the doers,” or even visionaries with great personal charisma. They are God’s gifts to us, whose sole task is to equip us to do works of service so that we might fully realize our calling to be Christ’s body in the world, continuing Jesus’ mission in the world: the unity of all things (1:9-10), including the reconciliation of all “others” (2:13-18).

  • What might happen in our world if we fully embraced this radical vision of unity in our churches, instead of the superficial “unity” our world promotes?

—Michael Pahl, michael.mmc@outlook.com

© 2017

Michael Pahl is a biblical scholar with a heart for the church, a pastor with a passion for biblical theology. He is lead pastor at Morden Mennonite Church in Morden, Manitoba. He blogs at michaelpahl.com and mordenmennonitechurch.com.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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