… bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond ofpeace.
The thoughts expressed here in the end of verse 2 and verse 3 of Ephesians chapter 4, are meant to constitute one unit with what begins in verse 1, with the admonition to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. The admonition reaches its climax in verse 3 with the imperative: endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Unity is the theme that dominates this section of Scripture (4:1-6).
The unity that Paul has in mind here is not one that is achieved through any external or ecclesiastical union; it has nothing to do with pacts and treaties, or even denominations. It is a heart unity that concerns relationships and attitudes. The humility, meekness, and patience that we demonstrate toward one another in the body of Christ, leads to our being able to bear with one another in love. Bearing with one another involves taking a long-term view of your fellow Christian – looking beyond his or her immediate faults, to their position as Christ’s image-bearer. This is how God views us – though we as Christian are indeed, ‘works in progress,’ in Romans 8:30, it says: Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. God sees us as completed works in Christ, so much so, He pronounces our final destiny – glorified – in the past tense; this means that our glorification is accomplished, as surely as we are called and justified.
The imperative to bear with one another in love is made to the end that we would endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit. Realizing that God has inaugurated our unity in Christ, and our reconciliation was won through His sacrifice, Paul describes this as the unity of the Spirit, literally describing this unity as the product of the Holy Spirit. He goes on in vss. 4-6 to argue that that this unity is as indestructible as God Himself. Yet despite all this, in the same breath, he urges us to maintain it! What can this mean? How can we as humans maintain something which is wrought by God Himself and indestructible?
The answer is that it is our responsibility to endeavor … that is, make every effort possible, employing our will, sentiment, reason, physical strength and total attitude … to bend every effort so as to display oneness in our local congregation, as well as more broadly in the body of Christ. To maintain the church’s unity means to make efforts to maintain it visibly, to seek to preserve it in concrete relationships of love. As believers we have this great responsibility to utilize everything within our power to keep this visible unity.
Every Christian, is necessarily going to be burdened by the Holy Spirit for Christian unity to be expressed. We should all be eager that some visible manifestation of unity be expressed, provided that we do not sacrifice fundamental Christian or Gospel truth in order to achieve it. As to how Christian unity is to be expressed, there will be some difference of opinion, but I do not believe that authentic Christian unity is maintained through structure and programs, but rather through character and action. Rather, as believers universally and mutually recognize the image of Christ in one another, and are substantively loving one another, instinctively and in spite of differences, then are they “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Be eager, energetic, and enthusiastic about your church fellowship! Just as you would guard a precious family heirloom, so jealously guard Christian fellowship and unity from any sinister influence that would seek to destroy it.