Let’s strive to ‘keep the unity of the Spirit’

by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer

Friday, May 18, 2018

Recently, I heard Dr. Chuck Register from our Baptist state convention staff preach a message from Ephesians 4:1-3 in which he spoke of the biblical plea for spiritual unity within the body of Christ. Building on some of his admonition, I would like to encourage and challenge North Carolina Baptists to be a Christlike influence and model the spirit of unity within our Baptist associations, churches and even our Southern Baptist Convention. 

Recent events have revealed that many conservative Southern Baptists are divided over doctrinal interpretations, issues within the local church, a generational gap, racial and diversity issues, and more. 

Yet, in spite of our divisions often because of differences in opinions and personal preferences, the apostle Paul strongly appeals to us in Ephesians 4:3 to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The effort which God’s Word calls us to invest in order to keep the unity is effort that requires work and even exertion on our part. Yet the interesting thing is that the unity Paul speaks of is one that we can’t muster up on our own. According to Galatians 5:16, the unity of the Spirit can be observed in us if we are walking in the Spirit.

While this spirit of unity is a supernatural work, it is also one that we must strive to obtain by yielding our will to God’s Spirit. Ephesians 4:3 brings to mind Paul’s letter to the Romans in which he wrote, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

So how can we possess and live out this unity? The context of Ephesians 4 provides us with the answer in verse two. It involves humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love. I believe each of these attributes builds upon the other. It’s hard to be gentle, patient, tolerant and loving if we are not manifesting the kind of humility Christ exemplified as stated in Philippians 2:5-8.

What does humility involve? It involves having a humble opinion of one’s self by crushing our own pride. It also involves having an appropriate degree of Christ-awareness and an appropriate degree of self-awareness. Keeping those two perspectives in balance will go a long way in helping us maintain a humble attitude and move us closer toward unity.

We would do well to remember what is of supreme importance to followers of Christ. Our attitudes and spoken words should be under the control of Christ instead of our old fleshly nature. What is most important to us should be what brings the most glory to the name of our Lord and Savior and builds up the body of Christ. 

As you prepare to attend the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas, I pray that you will examine your motives before you use unkind words and express negative opinions about another brother or sister in Christ. I urge you to live by God’s truth as stated in Ephesians 4:1-3. Strive for unity in the bond of Christian love even when others around you are ignoring God’s command in this passage of Scripture.