Exploring The Ironies of the Unity of Faith And The Gifts of Christ: Ephesians 4:1-8

In the second post on what will probably be a series on the ironies of the claims of the new COG America group [1], I would like to point out some of the particularly rich ironies of their claim to follow the doctrine of the “unity of faith” found in Ephesians 4:4-6 [2].  While these particular verses may seem unremarkable on their own, when they are included in their proper context with the verses immediately preceding and following the verses highlighted, the irony becomes particularly glaring.

Keep The Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace

Let us, in order to get the full context of this irony, let us review Ephesians 4:1-8.  Let us break the passage into three parts and then examine each of the three sections in turn, remembering that the doctrine the people at COG America wish to focus on is the middle one, without any mention of either the verses immediately before or immediately after, which will become more important as the whole context is revealed.

Ephesians 4:1-3 reads as follows:  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  What do these verses mean with regards to the COG America?  We must remember first that this is a new group that has broken off of an existing one in a power struggle with leaders in search of positions of authority that are beyond the authority of councils of elders who disagree on political matters (I speak as someone who knows some of these people personally).  These people agitated for months to get their way and when they could not, instead of showing gentleness and lowliness, humility and longsuffering, they left in a huff as soon as they were sure they had enough money to ensure their lifestyle did not suffer a bit.  How can these people then turn around and preach about unity and longsuffering when they do not practice it?

Ephesians 4:4-6 continues this discussion within the same context of working together in unity:  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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, and in you all.”  Now, this is one of the most moving passages of unity in all of the Bible, and yet its depth of meaning and importance is entirely hidden to one who has not sought to practice unity with others simply over political disagreements, and who will either rule or ruin but will not submit to godly authority.  As a lifelong member of the Church of God community, I lament and abhor the divisiveness we show, the tendency to fracture and fragment among hundreds (maybe even thousands, at this point) of groups.  I lament our inability to work together with others because of concerns over power, because we all are indeed brethren.  Anyone in whom God’s Holy Spirit is working, anyone who passionately believes and understands the Bible and seeks to apply it thoroughly and consistently is my brother, and everyone else is a potential brother, someone who will in the future be joined to the one body Christ is building in which only He and Our Father know belongs precisely where and how each member fits in.  Regardless of our organization, we are one body, and those who recklessly divide other organizations over their own selfish ambitions can never understand what it means to be one body unified in love and harmony in the worship of our common Father in heaven and how the brethren of God long to dwell in peace and harmony with each other in spirit and in truth.

Ephesians 4:7-8 continue the theme of verses that this COG America organization would appear not to understand:  “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore He says:  “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”” [Quotation taken from Psalm 68:18].  What does this mean?  Part of Christ’s gift to humanity, in grace, was the deliverance of mankind from the slavery of fear.  Christ’s gift of freedom was a freedom from being a captive of those who wish to dominate and rule over others, from those who use power to make themselves feel secure and special, somehow higher than the laity and separate from them, for whatever insecurities they suffer from on an equal playing field.  As has already been discussed elsewhere [3], the system of government set up by this organization appears to be one with a great distance between the ministry and the laity, meaning that at least metaphorically its leadership wishes to take members captive to supporting them and bolstering their own egos by providing the desired answers to various doctrinal questions but not have any meaningful role of ministry that they themselves are being trained to accomplish.  How can such people who deny God’s gifts to the laity think themselves competent to speak of the gifts Jesus Christ gives to man when they deny how He commanded His church to be run (Matthew 20:25-28).

How To Do Better Ourselves

Let us not be content merely with condemning what other people do, as offensive as it may be.  How can we ourselves better promote and practice the unity of faith and demonstrate the workings of the gifts of Jesus Christ within us, as this passage commands?  Let us examine some of these ways briefly.

First, we must make sure that we are not acting from motives of pride and selfish ambition.  We cannot fully know the motives of others (except in the way those motives are shown in actions, and that is only in part).  We must consider the well-being of our brethren, in whatever organization they may be (or none at all) as above our own need for power and prestige.  We must be willing to support and encourage all believers, rather than continually seek to build our own power base through the development of cliques and factions, as has commonly been the case in our collective history.

In addition, we must not deny the unity of our faith.  In whatever lamentable state of division we find ourselves in, we cannot forget that we are one body joined together by the spirit, and God will eventually bring back all of His children into one sheepfold where we will all recognize His voice and the voice of our shepherd and elder brother Jesus Christ.  Whatever division we now see is merely temporary, a prelude to an eternity of unity.  But in order to enjoy that unity we have to prepare for it by seeing ourselves as united in spirit now, if not in organizational affiliation.  We have to view our relationship as brethren more important than the physical and emotional benefits we gain from position and prestige in physical organizations–something the ministers of COG America seem unable to recognize from their actions.

Finally, we must recognize that the gifts of serving others are given to everyone who has God’s spirit, each according to the design and will of God, for His purposes.  God did not design us to be divided into classes of ministry above as lords and aristocrats, and the members below as peasants and serfs, but rather God designed us all to be kings and priests in His kingdom, to serve each other in love.  We cannot do so when we are more concerned with our power than with our responsibility and obligation to serve.  One cannot serve faithfully and in love while angling for power and inciting political struggle.  One can only serve when one loves one’s brethren more than one loves being called a pastor or evangelist.  Let that be said about us.  Perhaps then we may find ourselves able to be less fractured and divided.

[1] http://www.cogamerica.org

[2]  Doctrine Focus

Our personal example and ability to answer questions about the faith is part of being a witness (Acts:1:8).

We want to teach and regularly review the following:

(see http://cogamerica.org/page4/Doctrine.html)

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/just-what-is-the-ephesians-4-model-for-a-healthy-congregation-anyway/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Exploring The Ironies of the Unity of Faith And The Gifts of Christ: Ephesians 4:1-8

  1. Rich Traver says:

    The root cause of our problem has not been fully identified, though alluded to in many places. It is (in the opinion of an elder) the spurning of the “Servant Leadership” initiative, which formed cracks in the ministry between those who recognized our problem and those who refused to amend their authority positions in any manner. They changed the objectionable name to “Godly Leadership” so that they could re-define the matter to conform to their pre-existing government concepts, so’s not to have to change anything other than what they called it. The Texas move idea further widened those cracks (as the posed Campus was a base of enhanced authority and prestige). I am putting finishing touches on a new article on “The Nicolaitan factor” which will expose our long time faulty thinking. You are on track so far. Others completed include: “AUTHORITY and submission” and “Breaking with Diotrephes”. RT

    • I have alluded to this as well in other places (most explicitly, regarding “servant leadership,” in my entry on this blog entitled: “L’etat C’est Moi or Lex Rex, Two Approaches to Authority”–please seek it out), but the root cause is so elusive because it is unrecognized by those who share it. I look forward to reading your articles on this problem as well.

  2. Pingback: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: So Happy Together | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: A Friend Of The Savior Is A Friend Of Mine | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Book Review: The American Church: A Baby Church? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  6. Pingback: Book Review: Change | Edge Induced Cohesion

  7. Pingback: Book Review: Mastering The Basics: Ephesians | Edge Induced Cohesion

  8. Pingback: Some Thoughts On Growing In Grace And Knowledge | Edge Induced Cohesion

  9. Pingback: What Other Sermons Were Books? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  10. Pingback: Someday We’ll Be Together | Edge Induced Cohesion

  11. Pingback: Walls Of Separation | Edge Induced Cohesion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s