Spirit in Unity | John 17:20-23 & Acts 2:42-47
Topic: New Testament Passage: John 17:20–23, Acts 2:42–47
Christopher Rich – May 22, 2016
The HELPER| Week #5 | Spirit in Unity | John17:20-23 & Acts 2:42-47
Introduction | The Helper Saves, Shapes, Sends, Sustains Unity
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series The Helper. While much of the Holy Spirit can be mysterious and difficult to understand there are aspects of His function and role that can be known from the teachings of scripture. Our hope has been to provide greater clarity helping us see the Spirit as less ethereal and mysterious while also magnifying the significance of the Holy Spirit in our affections and increasing our reliance on the work of the Spirit in our individual and collective lives. He is the author of truth, unity, and maturity. He is the source of all revival bring depth and growth to our church while also providing the presence of Christ in our lives. We saw the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, as a person not a force, fully God, manifesting God’s presence in His creation and working in His story of redemption. The Spirit works to show our salvation from, the just wrath of God in Jesus Christ; to lives as new creations who look less like ourselves and more like Jesus. We have also been saved for a purpose to remain in the world pointing people to Jesus. We will start with the words of Jesus to His people in what His desires are for His people to be united. See how the initial experience of the sending of the Holy Spirit manifesting in a dramatic evangelistic event leads to the formation of a rich Spirit-filled/Spirit-reliant Gospel Community and Explore how the Spirit gifts the individuals to function unified as distinct members of one body.
PART I | World of Disunity | Jude 18-21
Jude 18-21 | 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
We need to recognize the inherent challenges we face in having, experiencing, maintaining, or even desiring unity. We do not live in a united world. People are defined by divisions, distinctions, distortion, and distance. Even when we desire or claim to desire unity our vision is self-centered, not God-focused, so our ideas of unity are as well. Our unity is transitory and temporary at best. We unify around tragedy, but only for a moment. We unify around triumph but it is fleeting. Mostly we unify when it makes us feel better or can improve our experience of our life in the here and now. We lift up unity as an ideal, but have little vision for the “why”. A friend of mine is fond of saying “Unity for ‘unity’s’ sake is dumb.” The question is what are you unified around? You can unify around a lot of things that are not profitable, even some things that are downright destructive or disgraceful.We can easily experience worldly unity that is based around our shared natures/desires (race, affinities, views ). This is worldly individuals united with others to benefit themselves. In the Gospel we see individuals unified by a selfless Christ for the benefit of others in the world. This requires the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we need to have a vision of unity that is eternal and permanent verses one that is selfish and transient.
PART II | Sustained in Unity | John 17:20-23
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus desire for people is they would have salvation from sin, be shaped to look more like him, be sent on mission for him, and be sustained in unity by Him through the Holy Spirit. Where sin separates then salvation in Christ unites. It unites us with God who we have been distant from, it unites us to a true understanding of ourselves where we have had a distorted view of ourselves, and it unites us to others who are also in Christ where there has previously been division. The desire of Jesus is that His people would grow to experience of unity “in Christ” which mirrors the “perfect oneness” Jesus and the Father experience with the Holy Spirit. We are unified by the Trinitarian and loving nature of God. As they are unified we are to be unified in them for a purpose. To display to the world what God’s love and unity look like. Our unity in Christ, by the Holy Spirit is a great witness to the glory and character of God to a world which experiences conflict and brokenness. We are united in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit to display God’s character to the world.
PART III | Spirit Unity creates Gospel Community | Acts 2:42-47
Acts 2:42-47 | 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
God’s people who are saved, shaped, and sent by the work of the Holy Spirit are not left to be separated but unified. These people have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and the result is what? Unity around God’s word, experienced with God’s people, at God’s table (communion/breaking bread), and joining God’s conversation (prayer). It says following their devotion to these things what came? Awe upon every soul.
In Unity they Gathered: They gathered to hear the apostles teaching and study God’s word, to pray together, to sing and worship corporately in the temple. Being reminded they are part of something great. They are not individuals going to attend a service; they are “together” AS the church gathered in a place.
In Unity they Scattered: They are meeting in homes, they are experiencing “fellowship” gospel community as different expressions of one body. Their, God created and Holy Spirit filled, unity is on display in the world and they have “favor with all people.” There is something inherently attractive about Spirit-filled spirit empowered unity which is counter to the world’s experience. What is God doing in the world through their Gospel Community? Are people being individually converted and saved by faith in Jesus? Yes! But it is so much more! These exiled divided sinners are being “added to” this unified body. This led to great joy, gladness in the hearts, and generosity in the actions, of the people who experienced Gospel Unity. This is what a heathy unified church looks like, a family which shares in burdens, and celebrates in joys. Unity is not easy, it hurts, it requires self-denial, it is inconvenient, it is uncomfortable, requires discipline, and it is worth it. Because, it is worth it, and we are called to it, we work in the Spirit to maintain it.
PART IV | Spirit Unity Maintained | Ephesians 4:1-6
Ephesians 4:1-6 | I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Unity requires endurance. For true lasting unity to be enjoyed it has to be based on something that is ultimately eternal. It means we have to be reminded what it is that unifies us in the first place. Memories of experiences fade, emotions are fickle, our intellectual understandings fluctuate. We need to be sustained in unity by something greater than all of these. Endurance of unity in Gospel Community, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, but it is not effortless. We are not perfect people, our sin is covered/paid and no longer enslaves, but it can still impact and hinder. Here we see the church, urged to walk. Keep walking in unity with humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another because God know our natural inclination is to be proud, roughly, impatient, and quick to disengage. We are to be new creations, dwelling together with other new creations in the new creation the church. As such we are called us to be “eager to maintain” our unity. We cannot hold ourselves together, but as Spirit filled individuals living as members of one body we are all called to participate in the maintenance of our unity and peace. This means all of us in Christ in this church, share in the same salvation, sanctification, and mission. It means there are seasons where we don’t ‘feel’ unified or called to be in Gospel Community but we are called/urged to continue walking in unity eager to maintain peace. When we want to check out, disengage, or divide I don’t believe it is because Gospel Community has been tried, pursued vigorously and found lacking; but where it hasn’t been tried or ignored. You are created and redeemed for a purpose lived out most clearly in the body of Christ.
PART III | Spirit Unity creates and gifts a Body | 1 Corinthians 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 12:1-14 | Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
Before considering spiritual giftings, Paul wants the church to be reminded of their former spiritual condition and the great gift they’ve already been given and by the Holy Spirit to call out to Jesus as Lord. Faith in Christ is a spiritual gift. When we consider the gifts of the Spirit we usually focus on “tongues, prophecy, and healing” But in the new testament you find several other lists of “gifts” in I Cor 12:28, Rom 12:6-8, Eph 4:11, and 1 Pet 4:11. While a few are repetitive and some seem more “miraculous” (like tongues, prophecy, and healing) most are much more “practical and pastoral” including: teaching, helping/serving, exhorting, leadership, giving, speaking/preaching, and even administration. Nearly all these lists include an allusion to the church and individual gifting in relationship to “the body” of Christ. Put simply there is not an understanding of spiritual giftedness that is not tied to being part of the body. Every person gifted by the Spirit is to be part of the body; and every person in the body is uniquely gifted by the Spirit.
The church isn’t a bus where the leaders are driving and everyone else is sleepily along for the ride. The church is a body where each member is function in and with their gifts. All we’ve been giving by God is in the body for the “common good.”
We are not a crowd meandering down a road aimlessly we are one body moving together with purpose.
The world values diversity and says out strength is in our diversity and we receive individual and group glory as much as we celebrate our unique differences and function with greater independence. Yet this does not lead to greater joy or human flushing. The gospel says we’ve been created diversely and gifted diversely and God gets glory when we recognize our gifts are best used when we lay down our individual agendas and function as one united body in Christ where we experience the joy of unity in one Spirit.
Unity is not uniformity. Praise God for that! The desire is not that we all look the same, but we look more like the selves God created us to be faithful following the call and commands of Jesus. “There are varieties” of gifts, service, activities. Each is given by God, each is empowered by God, each is used by the members of the body for the common good, and each member is gifted. This is why an expanded understanding of the Spirits gifts are necessary to realize the unique value and necessity of each member of the body. There are no appendixes in a healthy body. Everyone God has brought to be part of Damascus Road Church in Marysville has be brought for a purpose. We can’t have parts that don’t function or our useless. There isn’t a part of the body that isn’t necessary. I’ve never asked why do I have fingers or ears. They all do something and contribute to my life as a body. So when you consider how God has gifted you and sometimes how he’s wired you to be remember your gifting is not for you it is for the body. Our body is called to be a witness to the love of God found in Jesus Christ, through our Spirit susitaned unity and our Spirit empowered evangelism. If you’re in Christ, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and are not function in unity with the body then it hinders the impact this body will have on this region.
How has God gifted you? How are you using it for the “common good” of the body? What does your participation in the “maintenance” of unity look like? What is the body missing out on because you’re not engage with it?
We don’t want to be a church that is just our best untied version of ourselves as individuals. We want to be a church that knows our unity is not based on our personal strengths, giftings, or preferences. We are a church who is to display the “perfect” oneness of our God, by the unique work of the Holy Spirit to draw a people together who have been saved by Jesus’ work, are being changed by Jesus’ grace and are living on Jesus’ mission equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirt brought together as one body to simply Trust Jesus.
The First Gospel Community was defined by their devotion to God’s word, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. As we transition we want a few moments to be set aside for you to pray, not as individual but as part of the body. Pray asking God that he would unify the church in this body, in this city, in this county to display the love of God in Christ, and that you would have the clarity of your unique and specific role as a member of the body for this time and the strength to walk in a manner worth of your calling.
If you are a Christian and trust Jesus alone for salvation, we invite you to come to the table share in communion with our church. As you take communion this morning; consider the cup of wine or juice remember Jesus blood shed for you to cover your sins. When you take the individual piece of bread and dip it in the cup remember it signifies His body broken for you, so you could be a part of a whole and holy body.
More in The Helper
May 15, 2016Spirit in the World | John 17:12-19
May 1, 2016Spirit in Us | John 16:5-15 & Acts 2:1-4
April 24, 2016Spirit in Salvation | John 15:23-27 & Acts 2:37-41