Unity of the Spirit of the One Body of Messiah


I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all. – Eph 4:1-6

I was in Kenya a few weeks ago on a mission to help Christians there understand the importance of Israel to them in God’s plan of redemption. There is a unity of purpose with God through Christ Jesus. Many of the church leaders – pastors and bishops – came up to me to ask of me forgiveness for them thinking and teaching that God had finished with Israel. This week I was at a leadership retreat (SAYF – Sitting At Yeshua’s Feet) with Jewish and Arab believers, and others, as an expression of our unity in the common faith that we have in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When SAYF first began in 2000, the concern then was to bring together as one the charismatics and the non-charismatics. The group that I was part of in Kenya included Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals. I was the only Jewish believer, and I do not belong to any of those particular churches or denominations. But we were all born-again believers, and that is what united us! There is one Body of Messiah; we are many and diverse members across and within the many streams. I thank God that even in our own small congregation of Yeshua’s Inheritance, there is a variety that challenges us, and also that is a witness to us of the truth.

We just finished our study of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation. The Lord was writing to all the churches as being together as one church under His headship and shepherding. The New Testament is written to all believers of all churches, and each of us will have to give an account to the Word of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul writes that we are to have fellowship and to bless all those who love the Lord in sincerity, and who call upon YHVH out of a pure heart. (Eph 6:24; 2Tim 2:22)

God has given Israel as an example to the Church – to Christians throughout the generations. Israel is not an example to other nations, but to the Church. Israel and the Church are the ones in covenant with YHVH God, and He deals with us in similar fashion, and the Scriptures are written to us about all things.

You remember that Israel became divided into two kingdoms: Judah in the south; Ephraim, or Israel, in the north. What we read of the northern kingdom is that they did not allow worship of God in the place which He chose – Jerusalem – and they were completely idolatrous. But, there were real believers in Israel, the northern kingdom. In 1 Kings 18 we have the account of when the prophet Elijah needed to meet the evil king Ahab. There was a servant in Ahab’s council named Obadiah. He hid 100 true prophets of YHVH from being found and killed by the queen Jezebel. All of these persons were faithful to the true God, even though they lived and even served in Israel. They did not move to Judah, but remained in Israel.

The time came that God’s long-suffering ended towards this part of His people, and He sent them into captivity by the Assyrians. The Jews in Judea and Jerusalem trusted in themselves that they were okay with God. But the time came when He told them through the prophet Ezekiel that their sisters – Sodom and Samaria – were more righteous than they: Judah knew of the sins of Sodom and of the northern Kingdom (represented by the capital, Samaria), and why God had punished them; yet they did the same things and more! (Ezek 16:49-52) There were also real and faithful believers in Judah.

As we study the letters to the seven churches, we also see that within each of the churches there were those who heard and obeyed the word of the Lord, and those who did not. All who did were of one spirit in the faith.

Throughout the history of Israel and of the Church, we see that there were always those who thought that they were the true believers when comparing themselves with others among the people. We just saw how Judah thought towards Israel. The first Jewish believers thought that the Gentile believers needed to become Jewish in order to be saved. The Roman Catholics thought that they had become the New Israel instead of God still keeping covenant with actual Israel. Later Martin Luther thought that the Protestants were the spiritual Israel. The Catholics thought that those not in the Roman Catholic Church were outside of God’s grace, and the Protestants thought that all those inside the Catholic Church were not real believers. The Pentecostals came, and thought that unless you speak in tongues you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit, which would mean that you are not really saved. Others thought that if you speak in tongues you are of the devil. The Church of Christ that my wife grew up in thought that they were the true New Testament church, even while teaching that God was finished with the Jews, and also with musical instruments for now. The Closed Brethren think that they are the only believers faithful to Jesus and the Apostles. Many of these believers in these different denominations and camps will not take the Lord’s Supper together because they do not accept each other as Christ accepts all who put their trust and hope in Him for salvation. But it is the Lord’s Supper, not ours; He has invited all disciples and brothers and sisters.

Again, the apostle Paul writes that let each one examine himself if he is in the faith, and not be judging whether the next person is or not. (2 Cor 13:5-6; 1 Cor 11:28-29) Within each of the very many streams of the faith in Jesus – within the Body of Christ – there are those who believe, and those who do not. We cannot trust in our own righteousness by saying that I am okay because I belong to a particular church or denomination; nor because I do not belong to that church or denomination! This is what the southern kingdom of Judah thought towards the northern kingdom of Israel. God is no respecter of persons, and those who think that they see will be judged even more severely than those whom God has already judged.

To be clear here, I am not at all condoning what I believe are Scripturally aberrant institutions and churches, such as the Roman Catholic; but I do believe that there are within it some true believers, just as Obadiah and the prophets were in Israel. Yet the Protestant churches are not exempt from God’s judgments. Free evangelicals, Messianic Jewish synagogues — no one can place their hopes on any other foundation than Christ crucified, and Him risen from the dead. True believers from any of these “camps” should be able to freely fellowship outside the camp in the truth — and bear Messiah’s reproach — take the Lord’s Supper together, and justify God as alone righteous. Through the centuries the record is full of disciples of Jesus who were members of churches which today we call historic or traditional. Some were led by God to remain in them, while others left. Good King Jehoshaphat of Judah wanted to be united with wicked King Ahab of Israel, believing sincerely that all Israel was “family”. Yet we learn from his efforts and experience that ecumenism and political alliances are not God’s way or thoughts for true unity of His people who are estranged from Him.

Through the blood of the cross, God has reconciled Himself to us, and we are reconciled to Him and to each other who believe – across all the streams that come out from and converge into the one river of life. (Rev 22:1-3; Ezek 47:1-12) Let those who have an ear to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. It is a sin to judge God, and to make ourselves the judge of the Body of Christ, the Bride of the Lamb. Jesus is the Judge, and He says that His word will judge us. (Jn 12:42-50) Let us confess and repent of our sins against the Lord and our brethren if we have judged them unrighteously, simply because they belong to a particular church or denomination. At the same time, we can not reconcile with institutions or systems that remain opposed to revealed truth, in so much as we understand.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all. – Eph 4:1-6

I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray for You to take them out of the world, but for You to keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Your truth. Your Word is truth. As You have sent Me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. And I sanctify Myself for their sakes, so that they also might be sanctified in truth. And I do not pray for these alone, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And I have given them the glory which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one, I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me, that they may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me, for You have loved Me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:14-24

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, the many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread. – 1 Cor 10:16-17

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, April 1, 2016 (modified on June 26, 2016), and reposted with permission.