Endeavoring to Keep
the Unity of the Spirit (Part 1)
To the saints at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Endeavoring means “to make effort” or to “labor” and keep means “to guard from loss or injury…by keeping the eye upon.” Clearly, great energy and effort is required to keep the unity of the Spirit. After all, unity can be lost very easily.
Sadly, unity had been lost in the church at Corinth. Upon hearing from the household of Chloe that there were “contentions” and divisions at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11; 3:3), Paul wrote to them begging them to be united. We read, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. Rom. 2:16; 15:5-6; Phil. 1:27; 1 Pet. 3:8; 2 Cor. 13:11).
Although they were together physically, they were worlds apart spiritually. Paul wrote, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it” (1 Cor. 11:18; cf. Rom. 15:7; 1 Pet. 4:9). Paul made clear that this division was contrary to the design and desire of God. He wrote, “For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:24-25).
Please note that the members were to have the “same care” one for another. They were not to care for one more than another. Earlier in the letter, he declared, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Cor. 4:6).
In like manner, to the saints at Philippi, Paul wrote, “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2; cf. 4:2; John 13:34-35; Jam. 3:17; Rom. 15:5). Repeatedly, in the letter that he penned to Corinth, Paul called Christ into focus. He knew that the only way to keep unity was by fixing one’s eyes and mind on Jesus. In this lesson, we want to see three things as we focus on Jesus.
I Would Do It All Over Again
Winston Churchill’s wife was named Clementine. He affectionately called her Clemmie.
Churchill wasn’t generally considered handsome. He wasn’t athletic. He wasn’t rich. He wasn’t the young man that most moms were dreaming of for their daughters. Clementine’s mother, Lady Blanche Hozier, wasn’t overjoyed at the thought of her daughter marrying Winston. But, despite Winston’s many shortcomings, he possessed the one essential ingredient needed to make marriage work - love. He loved Clementine.
At a banquet late in life, Churchill was once asked, “If you could come back as anyone after you die, who would it be?” He thought for a moment, stood, turned to his wife, and said, “Mrs. Churchill’s second husband.“
I’m sure that Winston got some major brownie points for that. History records that those weren’t just empty words. He deeply loved Clementine. They were happily married for 57 years.
I hope that all of us might say the same thing about our mates, not just physically, but spiritually. If we could come back and do life again, I am sure that we would make many changes. However, there is one thing that we would not change - being married to Christ. Marrying Christ is the best decision that we ever made.
Paul wrote, “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:1-4).
Jesus couldn’t have loved us more than He did. Again, Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:25-33).
We enjoy such a good life with Jesus now and the future promises even greater blessings. In Matthew, we read, “Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:27-29).
If we could do life over again, marrying Christ is one thing that we wouldn’t change. If you are not a Christian, then I highly recommend becoming one. You will never regret marrying Christ. Every imaginable blessing is found in Him (Eph. 1:3).
He That Wins Souls
Is Wise (Part 2)
By inspiration, Solomon wrote, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because Satan Opposes Such
The Bible makes clear that Satan is our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8). Every day, he seeks to defeat us and to enslave us. As soldiers of Christ, we are to be actively resisting him (Eph. 6:10-17). In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus made clear that Satan opposes efforts to sow the seed into the hearts of men (Mt. 13:19). In like manner, the great missionary Paul made clear that Satan hindered his work (1 Thess. 2:18). Satan opposes our efforts because he doesn’t want anyone to be delivered from his kingdom and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13-14).
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because The Early Church Practiced Such
Isaiah prophesied the evangelistic nature of the church that God would establish in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-3). As you know, such was the case from the very beginning (Acts 1:8; 20:20). In fact, the church was evangelistic even in times of great persecution (Acts 8:3-4). Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5). It is interesting that the word “winneth” in our starting text (Prov. 11:30) means to “catch.” As you recall, when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples, He promised to make them fishers or catchers of men (Mt. 4:18-20). Sadly, it has been far too long since some of us have been fishing.
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because Heaven Rewards Such
In our starting text for this study (Prov. 11:30), Solomon declared that the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life (Prov. 11:30). The word “fruit” means “reward.” Doing what is right, winning souls, has rewards now and eternally (Rev. 2:7, 10; 22:14). Daniel declared, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because Hell Necessitates Such
Those who are not won for Christ will one day be punished with “flaming fire” and “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Knowing the “terror of the Lord” we should be busy trying to persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11; Acts 24:25; 26:28; Heb. 10:31).
In the two installments of this study, we have noticed seven reasons why it is wise to win souls. Based on what we have learned in this lesson, those who aren’t involved in the work of winning souls will have no excuse on the Judgment Day.
He That Wins Souls
Is Wise (Part 1)
By inspiration, Solomon wrote, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30). In a day and age when the Great Commission has become the Great Omission, we need to be reminded of the wisdom of winning souls (Mt. 28:18-20).
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because God Declared Such
This statement didn’t spring from fallible man, but from an infallible God (Rom. 11:33). Likely, those in our world don’t see winning souls as a wise use of one’s time (life). As you know, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish. However, to those of us who are saved, it is the power and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). Our world would call the rich farmer who purposed to lay up goods so that he could eat, drink, and be merry for many years wise (Lk. 12:13-21). However, God called him a fool.
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because Jesus Did Such
Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15, 17). Jesus spent His life doing those things that pleased His Father (John 8:29). As you know, God was well pleased with His Son and twice declared such from heaven (Mt. 3:17; 17:5). On Pentecost, Peter declared that Jesus was “a man approved of God” (Acts 2:22). As you know, Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). We are supposed to be walking as He walked (1 John 2:6).
It Is Wise To Win Souls Because The Soul Demands Such
Just one soul is worth more than the whole world (Mt. 16:26). There simply is no greater work in which we can be involved because of that which we are trying to save. The word that we have been given has the power to save souls (Jam. 1:21; Rom. 1:16). How can we sit idly by with the antidote while our neighbor dies from the snakebite of sin? How can we sit idly by with the water of life while our neighbor dies from spiritual thirst?
Arnold Glasgow observed, “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
As you know, the father is the leader of the family (Eph. 5:23; 6:1-4; Gen. 18:19). As the leader, the father must identify problems before they become emergencies. For example, the father must recognize that the family car has well over 100,000 miles on it and may begin to have mechanical problems. For the safety of his wife and kids, he may have to start thinking about getting a new car. He may get a tune-up on the car or have a mechanic check it out. He may start watching for a good deal on another car. Whatever he does, the time for the father to start thinking about the condition of the family car is before his wife calls from the side of the interstate four hours from home with a screaming baby in the car in one hundred degree heat. Although the father doesn’t want a new car, or for sure a new car payment, he must not wait until the problem becomes an emergency. He must have the vision to look ahead and make the necessary preparation. In like manner, a father must not wait till his teenage son stands before him telling him he has fathered a child out of wedlock or till his teenage daughter stands before him telling him that she is pregnant out of wedlock to do something. He must work diligently to identify problems with attire, associates, and actions long before they become the emergency just described (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Cor. 15:33). No doubt, as fathers, we will not catch everything. Some emergencies will arise no matter what we do. However, we should do our best to prevent as many of them as we can by dealing with problems long before they get to that point.
Elders or shepherds lead local congregations (Acts 20:28). Like the father in the home (1 Tim. 3:4), they too must identify problems before they become emergencies. For example, if there are only two men in an eldership, they may want to begin the process of finding a third elder. After all, they are one heart attack, one stroke, one job transfer, or one diagnosis with cancer away from not having an eldership. Although a third elder might be classified as a want (at the moment), since a congregation can scripturally exist with two elders, it nonetheless can quickly turn into an emergency. Wise are the elders who have the vision to see this and to make the necessary preparation. Elders must make the same preparation when the building and parking near capacity. They must make plans to build or expand. Of course, other problems are always lurking. These problems must also be handled with the great vision.
As Father’s Day approaches, let me challenge our fathers, and those who lead in other capacities, to strive to recognize problems before they become emergencies. Let’s make our Heavenly Father proud by becoming the kind of leaders that He would have us to be.