#07 Attain to the Unity of the Faith

Good morning, brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our Lord be with you!

Equipping of the Saints for the Work of Service

Koinonia is the fellowship of believers.  In Old Testament language, it is pictured by “brothers living together in unity” (Ps 133:1), in New Testament language, it is depicted as life together in “one body”.  The church is the body of Christ, composed of many parts, with every part of the body equipped for works of service.

 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)

Jesus gave to the church “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”.  These are workers of God, not workers of men.  They are not working for the saints but are equipping the saints.  To equip (original katartizo) has the connotation of “to mend” or “to complete”.  In the gospels, this word is translated as “mend” in the context of a fisherman mending his net:

Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. (Mt 4:21)

If the nets have holes, they must be mended so that the nets can be used to catch fish.  If there is insufficient preparation for works of service, then the equipping must be made complete, so that the workers can do their work.  The worker’s responsibility is to equip the saints, so that each person can do his part well.  A healthy church does not employ outsiders to do God’s work, rather, the whole body should unite together to do God’s work.  The work of God is to build up the body of Christ.  It is not some religious activity used to attract others to follow a religion.  If we do not understand the truth regarding this, we will have different approaches to ministry.  To illustrate this point, take for example our church’s Christmas Eve worship service.  Our church never holds a “Christmas Eve party”, only a “Christmas Eve worship service”.  A Christmas Eve party is a religious event, using the name of Jesus Christ to have social gatherings, raffle drawings, talent shows, Santa’s gift-giving, and other similar activities.  On the other hand, a Christmas Eve worship service is a time to worship the Lord and celebrate the birth of Christ through the reading of Scripture, the singing of hymns, and the preaching of a message.  The Christmas Eve party advertises religion, while the Christmas Eve worship service builds up the church.

Attain to the Unity of the Faith

The building up of the church is not for the purpose of a grander building or a larger attendance, but it is to “attain to the unity of the faith”.  “Faith” (original pistis, a common word in the New Testament, referring to faith or the content of one’s faith) represents the substance of faith, and what we believe in.  One of the characteristics of koinonia is that believers have the same beliefs and hold to the same convictions.  These beliefs are not mere theology or doctrine.  They come from knowing Jesus Christ the son of God.  How can one know God’s Son?  By receiving the revelation of the Bible, because the Bible “testifies about Jesus” (Jn 5:39).  If we are to attain to the unity of the faith, we must study the Scriptures together.

The Bible is not a book of theology, nor a list of doctrines, but it is the word of God.  Some people think that they can understand the truth by studying theology or memorizing some doctrines.  That is the foolish thinking of foolish people.  If you believe such a person, you are even more foolish than he is.  We have studied theology, and we know the doctrines, yet we put them aside only to use them for reference, because we trust solely in the word of God.  If God’s people want to know God’s Son, they must trust in the word of God.  To be adequately equipped to do God’s work, we must strive to understand what the Bible teaches.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

“To be adequate” (original artios) and “to equip” come from the same root word, both having the meaning of “to mend” or “to complete”.  Whether you want to be equipped for “the work of service” or “for every good work”, you must trust in God’s word.

Praise God that in the Father’s eyes, we have already been made one in Christ Jesus.  Even so, we ought still to continue to “attain to the unity of the faith”.  Jesus and his disciples placed utmost importance on teaching the truth.  People come from different backgrounds and live different lives, so it is not enough to just believe in the same God, we must also study God’s word together.  The church can only attain unity when each member of the body aligns himself with God’s word.  Brothers and sisters, a church that upholds the truth has unity, a church that does not uphold the truth does not have unity.  Maybe you wish to unite the church by holding seminars for psychological self-help or to tackle social issues.  If you think that such events can build unity among the people, you will find that it is a futile pursuit and nothing more than a fool’s dream.  The church is a body of faith and can only reach unity if she walks in the truth.

Do not yield to false brothers

The word koinonia comes from the New Testament.  It means “common being”, a word that depicts a group of people sharing life together in Christ.  These people are all “in Christ” and have all believed in Christ (hereafter termed “Christ-believers”), and not just believed in a religion (hereafter termed “religious people”).  Christ-believers are in Christ, but religious people are not in Christ and have no part in salvation nor do they have new life.  Christ-believers are true brothers, but religious people are false brothers (Gal 2:4), with all the dangers that false brotherhood could entail (2 Cor 11:26).  Christ-believers are God’s people, but religious people are not and are merely onlookers (Ex 12:38).  They are called “the rabble” in the Bible and caused trouble in the desert (Num 11:4).  The greatest difference between Christ-believers and religious people is that Christ-believers have new life that is from God, and they hunger for God’s word, “like newborn babies, (who) long for the pure milk of the word” (1 Pet 2:2).  Religious people have not been born again and do not have new lives, and thus have no appetite for God’s word.  They may have been attending church for many years, yet have never read the Bible for themselves.  They are only interested in listening to sermons with funny anecdotes or practical life applications, but get annoyed when you try to teach them biblical truth.

These people are false brothers.  They have worldly ways of thinking, worldly ways of speaking, and worldly ways of doing things.  But they immerse themselves within the church and are fluent in religious language.  They use such language in the fellowship meetings, during Bible studies, and around the table at mealtimes.  They say things that sound true but are actually false.  Regarding these false brothers, Paul admonished the church to “not yield in subjection to them for even an hour”.

But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. (Gal 2:4-5)

“False brothers” and “gospel truth” cannot coexist.  If you allow false brothers among you, then the truth of the gospel will not be in your midst.  If you do not allow false brothers among you, then the truth of the gospel will be in your midst.  A church that desires to attain to the unity of the faith cannot yield to false brothers.  “Not yielding to him” does not mean to exclude him, but to ensure that he is not permitted to distort the truth, and to point out the errors of his ways.  We should still treat him with love, with the hope that one day he may believe in Christ and be saved.