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Ephesians 4:1-16

 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." ( In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 
(ESV)

One Lord, One Church

Monday of the Last Sunday of the Church Year

25 November 2013

The Church's unity is her Lord. He is the Head of the Church, which He holds in the unity of the Spirit. He is the bridegroom who loves jealously His bride and cleaves only to her, forsaking all others. He is the husband of His people who forbids that they should seek after other gods and pleads with them that they should remain unstained by an adultery of faith. He has granted her a superabundance of His gracious gifts, overflowing in a wild torrent of blessing spreading this way and that from the wells of His Word. One of those blessings are the church's pastors, stewards called to serve the Lord's bride. The stewards do not own or possess the bridegroom's gifts but care for them and dispense them to the bride at His command.

 

Because the pastors confer only what belongs to the bridegroom, they themselves are signs of the church's unity. They shatter the church's unity when they make any claim to owning, possessing, or controlling what is the bridegroom's. Eliezer of Damascus, the steward, never possessed Abraham's goods. What the owner of the house confers upon His servants draws them into the unity which He creates by that very conferral. The abundance is the Lord's. The joy and honor of dispensation belongs to the stewards. There is such an abundance that they will never run out. Christ's generosity bears no resemblance to a federal government agency's! The stewards give away what is the Lord's and the oil and the flour will never run out (1K 17:14).

 

When the pastors faithfully dispense the Lord's gifts to His church, then the church is kept in the true unity of the Spirit. When she is nourished on one bread and brought into life through one baptism then she shall always be one with the Lord and in His gifts. The pastors, the overseers of the church, are the Lord's bishops. They fail the church's unity when they dispense something other than the Lord's goods to the Lord's bride. They may not give what is theirs, for it is poor. In comparison to what the Lord dispenses their own possessions are tawdry and worthless. Their eloquence is nothing if it does not glorify the crucified Christ. Their ability to organize only manipulates, if it does not feed the people of the Lord on the food that comes from Him. But when the bishops speak for Him by giving what is His to His own, then the church is kept in the unity which has its source in the One Lord.

 

Cyprian of Carthage

 

"There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, 'And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Mt 16:18-19).  And again to Peter He says, after His resurrection, 'Feed my sheep' (Jn 21:15). Although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, 'As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld' (Jn 20:21-23), yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Surely the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honor and power, but the beginning proceeds from unity. This one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, 'My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her.' (Song 6:9). Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, 'There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?' (Eph 4:4-5).

 

"This unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood. Let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by treacherous lies. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree, when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus the Church, enlightened with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused. The unity of the body is not separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her Head is one, her Source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness. From her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, and by her spirit we are animated."

Cyprian of Carthage,
 On the Unity of the Church, 4-5
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, keep us in the abundance of your gospel grace through the preaching of Your stewards, that we who are the children of the church might always live in her unity. Amen.

 

For Pastor Ian Pacey, who has been called by Memorial Lutheran Church to be associate pastor, that His Lord would be grant him the Holy Spirit as He deliberates on this call to serve

 

For those who do not have the necessities of life, that those who see to their needs would be able to provide those things that will sustain the body

 

For Mary Hunt, that the Lord Jesus would keep her close to His heart in her last days 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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