RCC Sunday Bible Study “God Creates His Church with Diversity in Unity”
I feel that our Sunday morning study group at RCC has great Bible based conversations each week. I know not everyone can make it to take part, so I will do a blog post periodically to unpack some of the material we cover in our Sunday morning group. You’ll get the most from these posts by checking out the links to scripture and reading the other links as well.
The message in worship on November 25th wrapped up the “Creation Series”. We examined Ephesians 4:1-16 in the final message. The Apostle Paul wrote to early Christians about the kind of Godly humility, gentleness, patience and love it takes for a Church to become a fully mature and healthy community. All people in the Church are growing toward becoming a family where people are built up into Christ’s image and not torn down. Paul teaches the Ephesians that a life which lives up to the greatness of Jesus protects the unity of God’s people by maintaining peace amongst the believers. The Church is called to be one in hope, in faith and in baptism as we are partakers of a God that is one: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
Then in the same Ephesians passage, Paul contrasts the call to unity with the understanding that each individual believer has been given grace in variety from Christ. (Verse 4:7) This is the truth that in salvation Jesus gives each believer a role to play in the Church. He gives the depiction that Christ actually designs diversity into Church leaders to teach and guide believers in becoming more spiritually mature. We see in 1 Corinthians that Christ designs diversity into the Church itself. (1 Cor. 12:14-20) Jesus uses all Christians in unique ways for His purpose in building the community surrounding Him. It’s a beautiful picture of what Church is supposed to be: Unified yet diversified.
I love theory, and the Ephesians passage is a great one which proposes the ideal outcome. It proposes a Church where there are no divisions, no arguments and no factions of people who seek their own interests. However, practice proves the worth of all theories. When we study the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians we learn about the difficulties in unity and diversity in the Church at Corinth. While Paul gives the Ephesian Church the “formula” for Christian harmony in the reference above; his writing to the Christians at Corinth show their Church to be experiencing great trouble with unity and diversity in actual Church life.
Paul shows part of his eyewitness to the division in the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 3:1-17. He finds at least three groups of people who have committed themselves to three different men as “the revelator” of the faith. Instead of these “people-praisers” saying, “I follow Christ” they were saying “I follow Paul”, or “I follow Peter”. Paul rejects the notion that he or any other teachers are follow-able over Christ. When the sole interpretation of the faith is attributed to one preacher, pastor or teacher, Paul says those following them are immature in the faith and in need of being re-taught the basic tenets of being Christian. The truth; a preacher, pastor or teacher is nothing more than a called servant of Christ in the Lord’s quest to bring the world to himself. Paul says any leader who founds faith or Church on anything other than Christ will see that foundation crumble when tested. The Corinthian Church had great potential to crumble.
The teaching in the book of Ephesians exists because of the reality we see in the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians. Most likely the Ephesians experienced similar struggles with harmony in varying degrees. (Ephesians 4:1) Sometimes we are led to believe that Christianity is an attempt at perfection; ultimately it is. Except any semblance of perfection in Christianity is only gained through accepting and following Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:12)
I love theories because they are clean, logical and sensible. You can hypothetically see how a theory works. Unfortunately people (all of us) happen to struggle with messiness, irrationality and foolishness. The general sense amongst the Sunday morning group was that we never arrive at the “perfect” representation of Church that Paul described in Ephesians 4:1-16. “Attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” is a process we as Christian communities engage on this side of Heaven and realize fully on the other side. (Ephesians 4:13) Absolutely essential is Christ’s humility, gentleness, patience and love which Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:2. It is the prescription for unity and diversity to the Corinthians, Ephesians and the post-modern Church of the new millennia.