By Rev. Lance Filio
Finally, we arrive at the peace section of the whole epistle. Paul after closing his grace section with a benediction proceeds to exhorting his congregation on the way grace is lived out. Peace or shalom, a life of spiritual well-being comes to us in ways we can demonstrate the reality of God’s presence which means living in his love.
What does it mean to live in God’s love? Paul mentions several ways. First, he exhorts them live in humility and patience. Second, he calls them to bear each others burden. And lastly, Paul reminds them to remain united collectively under his peaceful reign.
Then after giving them these imperatives to love, Paul reminds them again the basis of such love. It is God’s love and his abiding presence extends to his people, his church. As there are seven is unity in God’s being, Paul calls us to unity with God’s people. Paul states for us seven things regarding this unity: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father.
Let us hear God’s instruction of his Word today Lord’s Day and let us receive them with faith. Let us pray…
The Imperative to Love
Verses 1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Paul now moves forward with everything he taught them so far. He calls them to walk in the manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. He spends the previous three chapters encouraging them in every way so they realize how dependent they are on God not only for their accomplishing redemption but also applying it in their lives.
Indicatives are statement of facts while imperatives are commands to obey. The way to understand the imperatives here is to view them as commands grounded in the indicatives. We do them because of of what God has done. God commands us to accomplish these imperatives not by our strength or wisdom but because God continues to apply everything he accomplished in each one of us. We are called to walk in the manner worthy of the gospel because in the gospel, God elects, redeems, and applies salvation to his people. God blesses his people the blessing of God’s grace and supplies them the benefits of God’s peace.
Paul lists three ways the congregation are called to walk as Christians who receives grace.
The first imperative pertains to humility and patience. Humility means level-headed thinking. Patience means allowing others to grow and mature. Paul includes gentleness with humility and patience. Gentleness means meekness or the attitude of forbearance. It means not insisting on your way but allowing others to reach maturity by helping them grow with you. These are the same traits Paul lists as part of the fruit of the Spirit. These are the attitudes of a mature Christian.
This mindset allows for the second imperative to become a reality. Paul calls Christians to bear one another in love. Rather than pushing each other to grow, we are to pull each other by encouraging one another. Humility is key at this point because we need to know our place in the body and sober judgement is required. We need to assess our strength and weakness and serve other with our strength and allow others to serve us in our weakness. No one is expected to stretch themselves beyond their capabilities. Belonging to a body means everyone functions to serve each part. And Paul exhorts us to perform our service to one another with gentleness and patience. Why? Because maturity does not occur at the same rate and pace as with every one else. We need to bear another in love. Love, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, is patient and kind. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong.
Acting this way leads to the building up of God’s people in the church. In the next section from verses 7-14, Paul explains how God builds up his church but now he tells us the attitudes that makes it all work. Paul expects to behave according to the virtues the Spirit provides and it is the only way the unity in the Spirit is maintained. This is the third imperative. Love for another comes from the Spirit of love. We love because he first loved us. By loving one another, we identify ourselves as disciples of Christ. It is not by number of disciples who follows us. Christians, let us love one another.
The Indicatives of Love
Verses 4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The loving communion of God with his people is the basis of our unity with each other. God is the source of our love for another. Paul explains how belonging to one body means we are possessed by the same Spirit. The body here means each of the believers gathered together as one local visible church. Each believer makes up the whole body as components of each part. On the contrary, the Spirit here is the third person of the Trinity and since the Spirit is divine, he cannot be divided. And since the Spirit does not have components nor parts, he dwells fully in all of his divinity to each individual parts of the body.
This one body with one Spirit builds up the body towards one hope. That hope expects the consummation of God’s new creation in Christ. The God who is Father of all comes to us with one Lord, one faith, one baptism. They come to us with the rest of the persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. We cannot have the Spirit without the Father and the Son because the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. So whatever hope the Spirit leads us to, we are assured to receive them because the Triune God makes sure we possess them.
In Christ, we have one faith and one baptism. Faith here means the faith we receive as sound doctrine. It is the objective kind that points to Christ. We share in this faith because we embrace the same truth that leads to our baptism. Baptism here means our visible inclusion to the body of Christ. We share the same confession of faith and the same membership by baptism, the same hope, and the same Triune God. We have more things in common that Paul wants us to realize and sharing these much means we share also God’s love with one another.
ZCRC (Imus), we are united in God’s love by his communion with us. We are called to live in harmony with one another, bearing one another in love, serving one another with humility and patience. May the Lord continue to commune with his people. Amen.